Exchange District: Winnipeg’s ‘Chicago of the North’

Considered the ‘Chicago of the North’, Winnipeg’s Exchange District is one of the most dynamic neighbourhoods in the city. The community is full of entrepreneurial energy, creativity and historic architecture. It’s a place that inspires innovation and encourages diversity by bringing together a number of leaders and dreamers from various backgrounds. 

Everyday in the Exchange brings new discoveries within 20 square blocks, as it features a ton of restaurants, boutiques and galleries just waiting to be explored. From tree-lined streets with heritage buildings built between 1880 and 1920, to stylish studio apartments and the iconic Old Market Square, this neighbourhood is nothing short of hip. Natural green space is nearby to satisfy every wanderer’s need for peace and tranquility, while the community plays host to a number of exciting events and festivals during normal summer months.

The Exchange District is home to a friendly community where business owners and residents form a collective of sorts. It’s like a small suburban town within a larger city where newcomers are welcomed with open arms and invited to experience a side of Winnipeg they never knew existed.

The Exchange promotes connection — to each other, to a variety of interesting experiences, and to a holistic way of life. Entrepreneurs are eager to see one another succeed, while members of the tight-knit community treat one another like family. The neighbourhood’s motto says it all: “We’re about people, we’re about community — we are the Exchange District.”


What to know about the Exchange District

The Exchange District is Winnipeg’s original downtown and a key player in the economic growth of the city. Specifically, between 1880 and 1900, when Winnipeg was recognized as the gateway to Canada’s West; and again, between 1900 and 1913, as the city became the region’s main metropolis. For this reason, the Exchange District was declared a National Historic Site of Canada in September 1997. Today, the neighbourhood continues to support Winnipeg’s economy and is recognized as a place where entrepreneurial dreams come true.

Significant change has swept through the Exchange over the years, but its importance to Winnipeg is reflected in the wide range of historic architectural resources that remain. For those interested, audio self-guided walking tours are available, giving visitors a chance to explore the narrow streets, cobblestone paths and alleyways, while learning the history of the massive stone and brick warehouses and earthy terracotta-clad buildings.

Here are a few other interesting facts about the Exchange District:

• The community features North America’s largest and best kept collection of heritage properties with more than 150 historic buildings which has attracted movie-makers looking for authentic sets.

• To keep the neighbourhood clean, all businesses and residents must sign a waiver allowing the Exchange District BIZ to remove graffiti from their buildings.

• Stats Canada’s 2016 census estimates 630 residents live in the Exchange with the majority being Millennials and Generation Xers.


Things to do when visiting

Wherever you start your visit in this 20-square-block district, your destination is less than a 10-minute walk away! Or bike the Exchange. Participating bike-friendly businesses are marked by the distinctive purple bike loop installed outside and a program decal on their storefront window/door. Each business will be stocked with Winnipeg Cycling maps, a bike pump and loaner locks.

As the cultural hub of Winnipeg, exploring the Exchange District’s many art galleries and museums is a must. For shopping, the Exchange features more than 40 unique independent retailers, making it Winnipeg’s premier destination for local products and one-of-a-kind finds.

Taking a stroll through the community’s Old Market Square is an activity you don’t want to miss out on. It’s usually a summer hotspot for events and festivals which include the Winnipeg Fringe Festival for theatre lovers, and the TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival for music buffs looking to serenade their earbuds over 11 days of musical mastery.

Of course, when it comes time to eat, the Exchange offers a delectable variety of over 50 unique restaurants and cafes for your tastebuds to explore.

Waterfront Drive is yet another highlight of the Exchange District. Marrying heritage buildings with the edges of the historic Red River, Waterfront Drive is a modern day thoroughfare that’s on its way to becoming one of Winnipeg’s most prestigious places to live, work and play. Stephen Juba Park, which runs along Waterfront Drive, offers a scenic place to relax on a sunny afternoon.

This area is quickly becoming the place to be for residents looking for riverfront property and tourists looking for boutique hotel accommodations like the Mere Hotel. This area also serves as a gateway to other popular destinations such as Winnipeg’s French Quarter and The Forks.


Where to live

The Exchange District is made up of large buildings and warehouses, gearing it towards those searching for eclectic studios and condos. If apartment living is preferred, the community features a range of properties to meet most budgets. A selection of loft-style and freehold condos are available with prices as high as $999,900 and as low as $173,900.

Whether you live in the Exchange District or are just visiting, getting around the neighbourhood is easy — it’s walkable, bikeable, and the city’s transit system is easy to navigate.  

Small business thrives in the Exchange — especially down Innovation Alley — making it the perfect location for up-and-coming entrepreneurs and tech-savvy startups, with the community’s creative spirit resonating with designers, writers and architects. So, for those who live in one of the neighbourhoods close by, the Exchange might be the perfect spot to set up your studio or shop. Check out for more information.  

Whether you’re after a quaint condo, searching for the perfect business opportunity, or interested in connecting with a creative culture, the Exchange District is the hip place to be. Check out the Exchange District BIZ at for more details.