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Canada’s Best Neighbourhood: Osborne Village

Published: 07/08/2012

With a new purchase in hand, a young woman leaves Out of the Blue, a hot spot for indie fashion. She crosses the street and heads into Kawaii Crepe, a funky eatery serving Japanese-style hand-rolled crepes.

Nearby, a 20-something guy in a porkpie hat and Ray-Ban sunglasses enters The Canister, a fair-trade coffee and tea shop.

Meanwhile, a sidewalk busker with an acoustic guitar rocks an original tune, while his case lays open for donations.

This is a small slice of life captured on one sun-drenched afternoon in Winnipeg's Osborne Village.

The neighbourhood, located just south of downtown Winnipeg and bordered by the Assiniboine River, has been a hub of boho chic since the 1960s.

And in May 2012, it was named Canada's best neighbourhood.

Forget Vancouver's Gastown, Old Montreal or Toronto's Kensington Market, Winnipeg's Osborne Village-with its eclectic mix of boutiques, coffees shops, art galleries and eateries-bested them all.

The neighbourhood, which was named after Winnipeg's first commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel William Osborne Smith, was awarded the title by the Canadian Institute of Planners in an online survey that logged 200,000 votes.

The CIP said the ‘Village,' as locals call it, is more than just a neighbourhood, it's a "way of life" and the best example of "good urbanism."

"The dense, mixed-use, transit accessible, pedestrian-oriented built form offers a uniquely urban experience," the CIP said.

It's all true.

Osborne Village's retail and commercial area is only a few blocks long, but it packs in lot of life per square foot.

The area has tattoo parlors neighboring venerable churches and a karaoke bar beside a health-food store.

Yoga studios, spas, cafés, vintage boutiques, clothing and accessory shops and designer jewelers line the sidewalks.

Some of Winnipeg's best restaurants call the Village home. Name a cuisine and Osborne surely has an eatery to satisfy any craving. Diners can dive into sushi, Thai, Mexican, Australian, spicy noodles, vegan, fusion crêpes, bubble tea, English pub grub and healthy gourmet burgers, to name a few.

Inside The Gas Station Theatre, the venue hosts live theatre, dance and special performances, including comedians during the Winnipeg Comedy Festival. An outdoor graffiti gallery decorates the theatre's outdoor plaza.

Business has also made itself comfortable in the Village too. Architecture firms and multi-media and entertainment companies have all set up shop in the area.

Neighbourhood demographics are just as eclectic.

Stroller moms, affluent retirees and skateboarding teens share the sidewalks with 30 and 40-something couples, young professionals and university students.

Osborne Village's main drag is a buzz of constant activity from sunrise to last call.

But walk one block east or west from Osborne Street and discover quiet tree-lined, residential streets. Turn-of-the-century Victorian homes, many converted into multi-use apartment buildings, sit beside upscale condominiums. More affordable rental suites and lower-cost housing are also in the mix.

Parks and playgrounds dotting the area offer serenity and provide time-outs from the urban buzz.

It all adds up to this: Award or not, Winnipeg's Osborne Village is Canada's best neighbourhood.

Explore Osborne Village, Canada's Best Neighbourhood 2012

Where to stay: Submerge yourself in Village life at a local bed and breakfast. Check out the options atairbnb.com. Downtown is also a short walk from the Village, just over the Assiniboine River. The Fort Garry Hotel, a 99-year-old hotel on Broadway and one of Canada's original "railway" hotels, is an affordable but luxurious experience.

Where to eat: Stella's Café & Bakery is a charming all-day breakfast, lunch and dinner spot. Baked Expectations is a popular café and dessert spot known for its epic sweets menu. (The cherry cheesecake is incredible.) Segovia, a Spanish tapas bar and restaurant serving some of the most innovative plates in the city, is one of Winnipeg's best and busiest restaurants. (Arrive at 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights to ensure you get a table. They don't take reservations.) At Fude, expect spectacular Manitoba-inspired meals inside this second-storey bistro and wine bar above the strip.

Where to shop: Find unique gifts, home decor and fashion at DesartSilver LotusAmerican Apparel,Luxe and Charm and Out of the Blue. Hop over to The Happy Cooker, to stock up on on-trend kitchen and cookware. Stop in a modernist jewelry shop, David Rice for a one-of-a-kind pieces. Pick up a new pair of chic shoes at Rooster.

What to see: Browse the art at Medea Gallery, a co-op featuring works from local artists and artisans. See the extraordinary stained glass windows at St. Luke's Anglican Church, one of the neighborhood's historic churches.

For a full list of businesses and restaurants click here.

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