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

Monday May 31st, 2021




Cory Davis


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 the summer months. 

Interested in learning about another Winnipeg neighbourhood with a perfect blend of outdoor spaces and urban amenities? Check out Tuxedo, Winnipeg’s classy suburb.

a series of tall buildings from street view
Image via Ernie Geiger on Flickr

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.” 

It’s a must-see Manitoba destination for those visiting the province, and it’s a sought-after neighbourhood for Winnipeg residents. To learn about living accommodations, contact a local REALTOR® to discover what’s available.  

a black and white photo of tall buildings in 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 Winnpeg’s economy and is recognized as a place where entrepreneurial dreams come true. 

For another historic Winnipeg neighbourhood featuring some of the city’s oldest homes, check out River Heights

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, 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 rooftop garden with a pond and shrubs
Image via Joe Passe on Flickr

Things to do when visiting the Exchange District

As the cultural hub of Winnipeg, exploring the Exchange District’s art galleries and museums is a must. This includes the popular:

If you’re after a larger cultural experience, take a short drive southwest of the Exchange to the impressive Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG). The WAG features the world’s largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art and is located on Treaty 1 territory—the original lands and waters of Anishinaabe, Ininiwak, Anishininiwak, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation. 

Make a stop by the Manitoba Museum, the province’s largest non-profit heritage and science learning centre. For the intergalactic traveller, the museum offers interactive space shows at the Planetarium, while the Science Gallery reveals awe-inspiring discoveries in science and technology.

And 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.  

a group of people listening to a tour guide outdoors
Image via The Exchange District Biz

Taking a stroll through the community’s Old Market Square is an activity you don’t want to miss out on. The Square is the perfect spot for a leisurely walk or bike ride, and it’s a summer hotspot for events and festivals. Among others, this includes the Winnipeg Fringe Festival for theatre lovers and the Winnipeg Jazz Festival for music buffs looking to serenade their earbuds over 11 days of musical mastery. 

Speaking of theatre and music, to get your fill of the performance arts, be sure to stop by the Centennial Concert Hall—the home of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

Of course, when it comes time to eat, the Exchange offers a delectable variety of restaurants and cafes. The community crafts some of the city’s most celebrated culinary delights, such as:  

  • deer + almond—enjoy tapas prepared by chef Mandel Hitzer from a menu featured on many of Canada’s best restaurant lists; 
  • The Mitchell Block—take a seat at this upscale-casual eatery and lounge featuring fresh pastas and pizzas prepared in house; and 
  • Peasant Cookery—treat yourself to upscale comfort food at this farm-to-table bistro where cocktails and charcuterie accompany a meal made with locally-sourced ingredients. 

a close-up view of a building with arched windows

Housing market stats and 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. As shown on, a collection of loft-style and freehold condos are available with prices as high as $999,900 and as low as $173,900. 

For those interested in detached family homes, another option to consider is one of the nearby neighbourhoods such as South Osborne, Winnipeg’s family-friendly hotspot. 

As for the City of Winnipeg, lively sales activity led to a 42% drop in March’s inventory year-over-year; many neighbourhoods saw single-family home sales outpace what remained at the beginning of April. That said, March 2021 experienced a 14% increase in listings to 2,483 when compared to the same month in 2020—and this is an 11% bump over the five-year average. 

Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board president, Kourosh Doustshenas, had this to say about the city’s real estate market, “Sales percentage increases are well distributed among all property types with a number of them, including condominiums, showing triple-digit growth over last year.” 

Whether you live in the Exchange District or are just visiting, getting around the neighbourhood is easy enough—it’s walkable, bikeable, and the city’s transit system is easy to navigate. And for parents, Winnipeg features a number of schools listed on the Winnipeg School Division’s website.   

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.   

Regardless, 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. Because it’s about people, it’s about community—it is the Exchange. 

To learn more about the types of commercial and residential properties available, and to help you navigate the purchasing process, contact a local REALTOR® today.

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