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the capital city of Manitoba, and Canada's third largest city, behind Montreal and Toronto

Located at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, Winnipeg is almost midway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, making it a chief transportation hub linking eastern and western Canada. The city is named after Lake Winnipeg, about 40 miles to the north, whose name is from the Cree words win nipee, meaning "muddy water." As of 2013, the city of Winnipeg covers 179.18 sq mi (464.08 sq km) and has a population of about 753,600.

location of Winnipeg
location of Winnipeg


The Winnipeg area was an aboriginal trading center prior to the arrival of the Europeans. The first European settlement on the site where Winnipeg now stands was Fort Rogue, a fur trading post established by French-Canadian trader Sieur de La Vérendrye in 1738. During the early-1800's the Winnipeg area became the center of fur-trade rivalry between the North West Company, which built Fort Gibraltar in 1809, and the Hudson's Bay Company, which built Fort Douglas in 1812. The first permanent settlement in the area was Red River Colony, which was established by Scottish and Irish farmers led by Lord Selkirk. The Hudson's Bay Company absorbed its chief rival in 1821. That year, the company enlarged Fort Gibraltar and renamed it Fort Garry. The company rebuilt the fort in 1835 and renamed it Upper Fort Garry; a trading post to the north was known as Lower Fort Garry. Upper Fort Garry soon became the center of the Red River Colony.

Manitoba entered the Dominion of Canadan in 1870. The Red River Colony was renamed Winnipeg that same year, and it became the capital of the new province. It was incorporated as a city on November 8, 1873. At that time, the city had a population of about 1,900. The coming of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1881 spurred Winnipeg's growth, and by 1884 it had a population of 16,694. Further growth came with the expansion of industry in the early-1900's, so that the city had reached a population of over 200,000 by 1914.

In 1971, the Manitoba Legislature combined Winnipeg and 11 of its suburbs into the City of Winnipeg. The merger took effect on January 1, 1972, and increased Winnipeg's total area from 31 to 218 square miles (80 to 565 square kilometers), making it the third largest city in Canada.


Winnipeg has a diversified economy, covering finance, manufacturing, transportation, food and beverage production, government, retail, and tourism. Some of Winnipeg's largest employers are government and government-funded institutions, including The Province of Manitoba, the City of Winnipeg, the University of Manitoba, the Health Sciences Centre, and Manitoba Hydro. Major private sector employers include Manitoba Telecom Services, Great West Life Assurance Company, Canada Post Corporation, Boeing Canada, Motor Coach Industries, Maple Leaf Foods, Investors Group, and Dunlop Standard Aerospace Group. The Royal Canadian Mint, established in 1976, is where all circulating coinage in Canada is produced. The plant, located in southeastern Winnipeg, also produces coins for many other countries.

Winnipeg is a railway hub served by Via Rail, Canadian National Railway (CNR), Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), Burlington Northern Santa Fe Manitoba, and the Central Manitoba Railway (CEMR). It is the only city between Vancouver and Thunder Bay with direct U.S. connections by rail, and is also directly connected to the United States via Provincial Trunk Highway 75 (PTH 75), a continuation of I-29 and US-75. The Trans-Canada Highway runs east to west through the city. James Armstrong Richardson International Airport is one of Canada's busiest airports.

Royal Canadian Mint building
Royal Canadian Mint building


flag of the City of Winnipeg
flag of the City of Winnipeg

Since 1992 the city of Winnipeg has been represented by 15 city councillors and a mayor elected every four years. At Council meetings, the mayor has one of 16 votes. The City Council is a unicameral legislative body, representing geographical wards throughout the city. In provincial politics, Winnipeg has 37 of the 51 seats in the Manitoba Provincial Assembly. On the national level, Winnipeg has 8 seats in the Canadian House of Commons.

Winnipeg City Hall
Winnipeg City Hall


There are seven public school divisions in Winnipeg, as well as a number of private schools.

The University of Manitoba is the largest university in Manitoba. It was founded in 1877, making it Western Canada's first university. The University of St. Boniface, the city's only French Canadian university, grew from a college associated with the University of Manitoba into a university. The University of Winnipeg received its charter in 1967. The founding colleges were Manitoba College (1871) and Wesley College (1888), which merged to form United College in 1938. Canadian Mennonite University is a private Mennonite university established in 1999. It was formed through the amalgamation of Canadian Mennonite Bible College (founded in 1947), Concord College (founded as Mennonite Brethren Bible College in 1944), and Menno Simons College (founded in 1988). Winnipeg also has two independent colleges: Red River College and Booth College.

Sites and Attractions

(clockwise from top): the Manitoba Legislative Building, The Forks, Portage and Main featuring the Richardson Building and Canwest Place, the Assiniboine Park Pavilion, Osborne Village, the Esplanade Riel
montage of Winnipeg

The Forks, a National Historic Site of Canada, is home to the Citytv television studio, Manitoba Theatre for Young People, the Winnipeg International Children's Festival, and the Manitoba Children's Museum. It also features a 30,000-square-foot (2,800 m2) skate plaza, an 8,500-square-foot (790 m2) bowl complex, the Esplanade Riel pedestrian bridge, a river walkway, the longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world, Shaw Park (home to the Winnipeg Goldeyes), and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.


The Manitoba Museum is the largest museum in the city, and depicts the history of the city and province. The full-size replica of the ship Nonsuch is the museum's showcase piece. The Manitoba Children's Museum features twelve permanent galleries.

The Winnipeg Art Gallery, founded in 1912, is the sixth-largest in the country and includes the world's largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art.

The Western Canada Aviation Museum features military jets, commercial aircraft, Canada's first helicopter, the 'flying saucer' Avrocar, flight simulators, and a Black Brant (rocket) built in Manitoba by Bristol Aerospace. The Winnipeg Railway Museum contains various locomotives, including the Countess of Dufferin, the first steam locomotive in Western Canada.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is expected to open in late-2014.

Performing Arts

Winnipeg's three largest performing arts venues, the Centennial Concert Hall, Manitoba Theatre Centre (MTC) and the Pantages Playhouse, are located downtown. MTC is Canada's oldest English language regional theatre, with over 250 performances yearly. The Pantages Playhouse Theatre opened as a vaudeville house in 1913. Other city theatres include: the Burton Cummings Theatre, built in 1906 and now named after the lead singer of the Guess Who, and Prairie Theatre Exchange, the city's second-largest live theatre.

Le Cercle Molière, based in St Boniface, is the oldest theatre company in Canada (founded in 1925). Rainbow Stage is a musical theatre production company based in Kildonan Park which produces professional, live Broadway musical shows and is Canada's longest-surviving outdoor theatre. The Manitoba Theatre for Young People is one of only two Theatres for Young Audiences in Canada with a permanent residence, and is the only Theatre for Young Audiences that offers a full season of plays for teenagers. The Winnipeg Jewish Theatre is the only professional theatre in Canada dedicated to Jewish themes. Shakespeare in the Ruins presents adaptations of Shakespeare plays.

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is the largest and oldest professional musical ensemble in Winnipeg. The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra runs a series of chamber orchestral concerts each year. Manitoba Opera is Manitoba's only full-time professional opera company. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is Canada's oldest ballet company and the longest continuously operating ballet company in North America.


Festival du Voyageur, western Canada's largest winter festival, celebrates the early French explorers of the Red River Valley. Folklorama is the largest and longest-running cultural celebration festival in the world. The Jazz Winnipeg Festival and the Winnipeg Folk Festival both celebrate Winnipeg's music community. The Winnipeg Music Festival offers a competition venue to amateur musicians. The Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival is the second-largest alternative theatre festival in North America. The Winnipeg International Writers Festival (THIN AIR) brings writers from all over the world to Winnipeg for workshops and readings. Winnipeg Polish Fest is a festival that entertains, excites, and showcases local talent and culture from not only the Polish community, but also from a number of other cultural groups within the city.


The Winnipeg Jets of the National Hockey League have called the city home since 2011. The Jets play at MTS Centre, which is currently ranked the world's 19th-busiest arena among non-sporting touring events, 13th-busiest among facilities in North America, and 3rd-busiest in Canada. In amateur hockey, the Winnipeg Blues of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League play out of the MTS Iceplex.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are a community-owned football team that plays in the Canadian Football League. The team expects to move to Investors Group Field, currently under construction at the University of Manitoba, in June 2013. The $190-million facility will also be home to the University of Manitoba Bisons and the Winnipeg Rifles of the Canadian Junior Football League.

In soccer, Winnipeg is represented by the Winnipeg Alliance FC in the Canadian Major Indoor Soccer League and the WSA Winnipeg in the USL Premier Development League.

Winnipeg has been home to a number of professional baseball teams, most recently the Winnipeg Goldeyes, since 1994. The team led the Northern League for ten straight years in average attendance as of 2010, with 300,000+ annual fan visits, until the league collapsed and merged into the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.

Winnipeg was the first Canadian city to ever host the Pan American Games, and the second city to host the event twice, in 1967 and again in 1999. Winnipeg will return to the international stage when it co-hosts the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2015.

Miscellaneous Facts

Winnipeg experiences one of the highest amounts of sunshine per year at 2,372 hours, and boasts 2,727 hours of clear skies on average per year, the most of all Canadian cities.

In 1914, Captain Harry Colebourn took a black bear he named Winnie (after his hometown Winnipeg) to England as his Regiment’s mascot. When he shipped out to France, he donated the bear to the London Zoo. Author A.A. Milne’s son Christopher so loved the bear that Milne crafted stories about his boy and the bear, “Winnie the Pooh.”

Winnipeg’s Exchange District is designated as a National Historic Site by the Canadian Government due to its rich collection of turn-of-the-last-century terracotta and stone cut buildings, unrivalled in all of North America. This is the area where Shall We Dance? (starring Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere) and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck) were filmed. Other popular film and television projects filmed in Winnipeg include Capote (starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman), You Kill Me( featuring Ben Kingsley and Tea Leoni), New in Town (starring Rene Zellwegger and Harry Connick Jr.) and the award winning HBO comedy Less Than Kind.

Winnipeg's contribution to popular music includes rockers Neil Young, Burton Cummings (The Guess Who), Randy Bachman (Bachman Turner Overdrive), the Crash Test Dummies, Terry Jacks, the Watchmen, Chantal Kreviazuk, Lenny Breau, the Weakerthans, The Waking Eyes, The Wailin’ Jennys, Bif Naked, Ray St. Germain, Sierra Noble, and many others.

Winnipegger Charles Thorson worked as part of the design team that created Bugs Bunny, Snow White, Elmer Fudd and Little Hiawatha.

The Second World War’s most famous spymaster, Sir William Stephenson, the man called Intrepid, was the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s 007. He was born and raised in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg is home to one of the largest communities of French Canadians west of the Great Lakes.

Winnipeg’s Union Station was designed by the same architects responsible for the Grand Central Station in New York City.

Winnipeg produces over 25,000 pounds of gold medal-winning Golden Caviar and sells it worldwide to some of the best restaurants.

Winnipeg was the first city in the world to develop the 911 emergency phone number.

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, headquartered in Winnipeg, is the first national Aboriginal network in the world.

City of Winnipeg
Tourism Winnipeg

World Book Encyclopedia Chicago: World Book-Childcraft International, 1979

Sieur de La Vérendrye
Hudson's Bay Company
A.A. Milne
Bachman Turner Overdrive

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The Robinson Library >> Manitoba

This page was last updated on 07/15/2018.