Exploring Saint Boniface, Winnipeg: Discover One Of Manitoba’s Most Exciting Neighbourhoods

The Saint Boniface Winnipeg neighbourhood is one of the most culturally-rich and beautiful areas of the city. Here’s everything you should see.

The Saint Boniface Winnipeg cathedral facade among trees
Saint Boniface Cathedral – Photo credit: Kevin Wagar

An old friend of mine recently sent me a message asking for a favour. Friends from Quebec were embarking upon a cross-Canada road trip and aimed to spend a few days exploring the attractions in Winnipeg.

Knowing that I’ve been a lifelong resident of the capital of Manitoba, they asked if I could offer up some suggestions on the city’s most exciting places to visit. Being from Quebec, he had a strong interest in the city’s fascinating Francophone culture and history. They also loved cycling, so recommending a place that made for great bicycle touring would be a plus.

“Have I got a place for you,” I messaged back.

As an avid cyclist myself, I can often be found pedalling through Saint Boniface, Winnipeg. This exciting neighbourhood on the eastern banks of the Red River is home to the largest Francophone community in Western Canada.

About Saint Boniface, Winnipeg

Boy walking across Esplanade Riel to the Saint Boniface Neighbourhood in Winnipeg
Esplanade Riel Bridge – Photo credit: Kevin Wagar

Saint Boniface was founded in 1818 by Bishop Provencher for the British colony’s French and Métis residents, but its history dates back thousands of years.

Before the fur traders and mercenaries were brought to the region to protect Manitoba’s first community, the up-and-coming Red River Colony, as it was originally known, the land upon which Saint Boniface sits was the traditional territory of the Ojibwe Nation.

Even now, Saint Boniface has one of the highest concentrations of Métis, an Indigenous culture that evolved during the fur trade era, the Métis developed a distinct cultural identity, blending Indigenous traditions with French, Scottish, and other European influences.

Saint Boniface was the birthplace of the famed Louis Riel, who led two rebellions advocating for Métis rights. And despite facing discrimination and marginalization, the Métis have asserted their unique heritage and contributions to Canadian society. The Métis Nation continues to be an important part of Canada’s cultural identity.

This unique and fascinating neighbourhood is at the heart of Manitoba’s French history and culture. It has its own unique identity that any first-time visitor to Winnipeg should explore. Saint Boniface, Winnipeg is full of great destinations to see on two wheels or two feet.

Things To Do In Saint Boniface

So with that, here are the 12 things to do in Saint Boniface that I suggest for my friend’s friends from Quebec — or anyone visiting Winnipeg — to enjoy while in, what locals call, St. B.

Cross Esplanade Riel

Beaautiful Esplanade Riel Bridge crossing the Red River in Winnipeg's Saint Boniface Neighbourhood
Esplanade Riel – Photo credit: Steve Lyons

Designed by famed Manitoba architect Etienne Gaboury and constructed in 2003, Esplanade Riel has become an iconic fixture of the Winnipeg skyline. From the heart of downtown, the bridge — which has a wide and very accessible pedestrian and bike path — crosses the Red River and takes you from The Forks to the entrance of Winnipeg’s French Quarter in the Saint Boniface neighbourhood.

Esplanade Riel, named for Louis Riel, takes just a few moments to cross but offers sweeping views of the Winnipeg skyline and the banks of the Red River.

Say Cheese

A cow statue above a fromagerie in Saint Boniface Neighbourhood
Fromagerie Bothwell – Photo credit: Steve Lyons

One of Canada’s leading cheese makers, Bothwell has been crafting all-natural, artisanal cheese since 1936 in the southern Manitoba village of New Bothwell. The company’s only standalone shop outside of its home base is in Winnipeg’s Saint Boniface.

Fromagerie Bothwell has a wide selection of made-in-Manitoba gift baskets that you can take home or enjoy in one of the city’s beautiful local parks. It’s also the best place to find the perfect poutine cheese curds.

Indulge Your Sweet Tooth

A woman eats a chocolate at Chocolaterie Constance Popp in Winnipeg
Constance Popp Chocolaterie – Photo credit: Steve Lyons

Renowned chocolatier Constance Popp moved her store from the Winnipeg neighbourhood of St. James to St. Boniface in 2014 to be closer to downtown. “I also wanted to be in this particular neighbourhood,” she told me on a recent visit. Saint Boniface is “a fantastic neighbourhood. I love being here.”

You can find all sorts of tasty treats at Popp’s shop, including the Manitoba-themed prairie cow pies, the Manitobar, a Winnipeg Jets chocolate hockey puck, and even a chocomonument of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Popp has also recently produced a special chocolate treat that pays homage to the famous Job Switching scene from the 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy.

In the second season’s opening episode, the show’s star Lucille Ball and her pal Ethel end up fighting a losing battle against a conveyor belt of chocolates. The remake of the classic scene is a hoot and the heart-shaped dark chocolate filled with salted caramel and sea salt — is delightful.

Saint Boniface Culture

Le Musee de Saint-Boniface Museum is home to a terrific collection of artifacts celebrating Manitoba’s Francophone and Métis communities. The museum is housed in a former Grey Nun’s convent that is the oldest remaining structure in Winnipeg; originally built in 1844.

The museum also houses a permanent exhibit on Louis Riel as well as an impressive bronze bust of the Métis leader on the museum’s front lawn.

Louis Riel Tour

Controversial distorted statue of Louis Riel in Winnipeg
Controversial Louis Riel statue – Photo credit: Steve Lyons

To many, Louis Riel is considered to be the father of Manitoba. And if want to explore the enormous impact that this Métis leader had on both Winnipeg and Canada as a whole, there are numerous Riel spots to visit in Saint Boniface.

Along with crossing the bridge that bares his name and visiting the impressive Saint Boniface museum display, be sure to check out his gravesite on the grounds of the beautiful Saint Boniface Cathedral. The tombstone is in a serene spot at the northern edge of the cemetery and is paired with an informative plaque about Riel’s life and legacy.

Another important Louis Riel monument is the controversial statue of him now situated behind the Universitie de Saint-Boniface. The abstract statue, originally unveiled in 1973 on the grounds of Manitoba’s Legislative Building, shows Riel twisted and naked, portraying anguish and bondage.

In 1991, the controversial statue was replaced at the University by a more traditional statue of Riel represented as a statesman and St. Boniface college students gladly accepted the removed monument as part of the 175th anniversary of the founding of the college.

Saint Boniface Cathedral

Louis Riel Gravestone at Saint Boniface Cathedral
Louis Riel gravestone at Saint Boniface Cathedral – Photo credit: Kevin Wagar

Impressive by day and gorgeous at night, the current Saint Boniface Cathedral was built in 1971 after a fire destroyed most of the original structure. Also designed by Gaboury, who designed the Esplanade Riel Bridge, the new church juxtaposes old and new with the modern building being built within the remains of the 1908 basilica.

A church has existed at this location since 1818 and is sometimes referred to as the “Mother Church of Western Canada.” Wandering the grounds of Saint Boniface Cathedral at night and taking a seat within the stoned ruins is a magical experience.

Grab a java

Window with the words Postal Cafe in Saint Boniface Winnipeg
Postal Cafe – Photo credit: Steve Lyons

Located in the basement of an old red brick building at the centre of beautiful Provencher Boulevard, Cafe Postal is a quaint and cozy spot that makes for an ideal place to rest your feet and breathe in the beauty of Saint Boniface, Winnipeg.

More than once, my Winnipeg cycling companions and I have taken a much-needed break here and enjoyed a mid-day latte and sugary snack.

Saint Boniface City Hall

Old red brick building under a blue sky that was the Saint Boniface Winnipeg City Hall
Saint Boniface City Hall – Photo credit: Steve Lyons

Designated a national historic site in 1984, Saint Boniface City Hall was home to the Saint Boniface civic government for nearly 70 years before its amalgamation with Winnipeg in 1972.

Today the town hall houses Tourisme Riel, which offers twice-a-day walking tours of the Saint Boniface neighbourhood. It’s also where you can take in a complimentary viewing of the local film At the Heart of Manitoba’s Francophone Community.

Don’t miss the outdoor sculpture garden on the grounds that has a number of thought-provoking pieces of art.

Hike or Bike the Saint Boniface Trails

There are a number of enjoyable walking and bike paths in Saint Boniface. One of the local favourites is the Gabrielle Roy Trail.

This trail, named after the acclaimed author, is a crushed gravel single-track trail that winds itself along the picturesque banks of the Seine River. The path also provides access to Gabrielle Roy House, a museum where you can tour the rooms and views made famous by the author’s prolific writing, including the novel Rue Deschambault (Street of Riches).

Discover A Saint Boniface Hidden Gem

Hiking and biking trails along the edge of the Red River in Saint Boniface, Winnipeg
Cycling trails in Saint Boniface – Photo credit: Steve Lyons

Tucked into the northeast corner of Whittier Park, is a scenic path that will bring you to one of the prettiest places in Winnipeg; where the 26-km Seine River completes its journey and empties into the Red River.

Locals can often be found fishing off the banks, sitting peacefully with a book, or just taking in the view. It’s an idyllic spot and one of my personal favourite stops on a bike ride around town.

Get Your Insta On

It’s my opinion that the best views of the Winnipeg skyline are found in St. Boniface — and none are better than from various vantage points along Promenade Tache.

Officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in October of 1984, the interpretive path along the eastern banks of the Red also has a series of plaques that explain the early development of St. Boniface.

French-Métis Cuisine

Metis cuisine at Promenade Brasserie in Winnipeg
Metis cuisine at Promenade Brasserie – Photo credit: Steve Lyons

With one of the best locations in town, offering spectacular views of The Forks and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights as well as the Winnipeg skyline, Promenade Brasserie is one of the best restaurants in Saint Boniface, Winnipeg.

Owner/chef Jay Lekopoy and GM Mark Adam opened Promenade Brasserie in April of 2023. The duo’s mission is to bring the flavours of French-Métis heritage to life using the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients available.

“Local, sustainable, and community. Those are the three pillars of what we’re doing here,” Adam explains. A signature dish pays tribute to the legend of the Three Sisters: a story passed down for generations among Indigenous peoples in North America about the symbiotic relationship between three crops — corn, beans, and squash.

It’s delicious.

Enjoy Your Time In Saint Boniface, Winnipeg

Saint Boniface, Winnipeg is one of the most fascinating and exciting neighbourhoods in Winnipeg. From the stunning facade of the Saint Boniface Cathedral to the delightful restaurants, cafes, and shops, this part of the city is a treat to explore.

Whether you’re on bike or on foot, these things to do in Saint Boniface will make you want to extend your stay even further.

Do you have a favourite attraction or restaurant in Canada? Head over to the We Explore Canada Facebook Community and join the conversation! You’ll find an amazing group of people passionate about travel in Canada who love to share their local secrets.

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