When I attended last week’s Tourisme Riel FAM tour, torrential downpour was on the forecast…but a little rain couldn’t spoil the vibe of sunny St. Boniface. History, art, theatre and incredible cuisine make the French Quarter of Winnipeg shine. Wander through this quaint, vibrant region and discover Francophone culture and heritage at every turn.
View galleries of local artists
St Boniface City Hall: Le Maison des artistes visuels francophones
Enter the prominent red brick building on Provencher and you will find the historic St. Boniface City Hall. The building houses the only french-run gallery in western Canada, Le Maison des artistes visuels francophones. With 5-7 expositions per year from artists in Manitoba’s Francophone community, the space is an excellent starting point for your foray into the French Quarter of Winnipeg. Now on until August is Attack by Guillaume Tarfif, which portrays the excess and accumulation of objects. Local French musician Justin Lacroix joined the gallery to perform for guests.
Dedicated to fostering all forms of French-language artistic and cultural activities, the Centre culturel franco-manitobain may very well be the heart of the French Quarter of Winnipeg. Improv, jazz, movies, dance and art are just a few of the activities you can expect to find at the centre. Currently on at the CCFM Galerie is Divergences by Robert LaFrenière and Douglas Smith, which explores the aeronautical world.
Give a standing ovation at the theatre
Theatre in the Cemetery
Follow In Riel’s Footsteps as colourful characters guide you through the St. Boniface cemetery and cathedral for a summer evening of lively theatre and Métis culture. Built in 1818, the iconic St. Boniface Cathedral-Basilica is not only an architectural and historical must-see, but also the perfect backdrop to learn about the perseverance and legend of Louis Riel.
Le Cercle Molière
As Canada’s oldest permanent theater company with uninterrupted programming, the Cercle Moliere plays a significant historical and cultural role in Manitoba. While the theatre is dedicated to promoting Francophone dramatic arts, non-french speakers can also enjoy performances with newly introduced subtitled programming. See what’s on this season at the Cercle Moliere!
Try the region’s delightful cuisine
St. Boniface is one of the best food destinations in Winnipeg, each restaurant owning a unique angle on the culinary scene. The only problem you’ll have is choosing where to go. Marion Street Eatery is your go-to for comfort food and a laid back atmosphere. Resto Gare features an attached coach and authentic French cuisine. Stella’s Cafe in the CCFM is a Winnipeg favourite for simple, healthy options. Chocolatier Constance Popp draws visitors in with the irresistible smells of fresh chocolate and other sweets (the spicy hot chocolate drink is to die for). And what’s more, newcomers are increasingly recognizing the French Quarter as an ideal location for business. Keep an eye out for a new bakery opening soon in the area, La Belle Baguette. I tried their Pet de Soeur, which translates roughly to Nun’s Farts. They were delicious.
Get a glimpse into yesteryear
La Maison Gabrielle-Roy
Historical spots are never far in the French Quarter. Such is the case with La Maison Gabrielle-Roy, tucked cozily into a residential street. The famous Franco-Canadian author was born in the home (now a heritage site) and lived there for 28 years. The house is also the setting for her novel, Street of Riches. Visitors can take guided tours through the house and gain insight into the early years of one of the great Canadian writers.
Le Musée de Saint-Boniface Museum
Step into Winnipeg’s oldest building to see a vast collection of 30,000 artifacts from the Francophone and Métis communities of Manitoba. Browse historic, fine art, archival and ethnological pieces and learn about the father of Manitoba, the fur trade, the Métis nation and the Red River Colony.
It is no surprise that axe-throwing is still the most popular activity at Fort Gibraltar. Here, you will go back 200 years into the past to the time of the voyageurs. In promoting the spirit of “joie de vivre”, the site hosts year-round events, including Festival du Voyageur. In the summer months, the site features costumed interpreters who relive the era’s daily life. Visit the blacksmith shop, the winterer’s cabin and the trading post.