No matter the season, Newfoundland and Labrador’s capital of St. John’s plays host to a wealth of outdoor exploration, festivals, shopping, and restaurants. The city is the oldest in North America, with a rich history and distinct Irish and British heritage. Explore its landmarks and rugged Canadian landscape, and discover why National Geographic named it one of the ‘Top 10 Oceanside Cities in the World.’
The big attractions
To understand the spirit of St. John’s, immerse yourself in the history and beauty of Signal Hill. Topped with a wind-whipped stone tower standing over the wild Atlantic coastline, this National Historic Site of Canada was once home to fierce battles and world-changing events. Learn about the conflicts waged here during the Seven Years’ War, when British and French troops vied for control of the continent. View wartime artifacts and, during summer, watch history come alive with a military re-enactment. You’ll also be discovering the birthplace of modern communication, as Signal Hill received the world's first transatlantic radio transmission. As St John’s number one destination, Signal Hill is a must-do for any visitors.
Like many of the country’s earliest settlements, St. John’s has a rich religious history, and regularly showcases impressive displays at the Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Consecrated in 1855, the Basilica-Cathedral is an iconic National Historic Site of Canada, inspiring awe in all who pass through its doors, regardless of religious orientation. Built from Newfoundland and Irish bluestone and granite, the Basilica-Cathedral houses nine bells, including the two-tonne St. John's Bell, and John Hogan's revered Dead Christ statue.
While technically not in St. John’s, the Cape Spear Lighthouse, just 15 minutes away, is essential viewing for those visiting the city. Stand on the most easterly point in North America next to the stark white lighthouse set against rocky cliffs overlooking the seemingly endless Atlantic. Watch icebergs float by and whales breach. Get a glimpse into the life of a 19th century lighthouse keeper in the oldest lighthouse in the province.
Finally, there’s The Rooms. Built on the site of an 18th century military fort, this facility houses the province’s art gallery, archives, and provincial museum. Art and artifacts, historical records, and cultural treasures are revealed under one roof. From traditional boat building and animal life on the tundra, to the military history of the province, The Rooms is the information nexus of an entire province. Don’t miss it.
A day exploring and a night on the town
Spend a relaxed day simply mingling with the locals at St. John’s and basking in the charm and personality of the city.
Start in the walkable Quidi Vidi Village, a historic former fishing village 15 minutes’ walk from the heart of town. Explore the antique shop and quench your thirst at the Quidi Vidi Brewery, home to unique craft beers that Newfoundlanders love. Take a brewery tour and let the employees share their love of beer as you sample the goods, including the one-of-a-kind Iceberg Beer made with pure 25,000 year-old iceberg water. Still thirsty? Stop in at the Quidi Vidi Inn of Olde, a small pub decorated with knick-knacks from different countries and eras.
From there, head to George Street, an area that packs a lot of fun, nightlife, and entertainment into its two-block stretch. It’s here that you’ll find the city’s award-winning bars, pubs, restaurants, and live music. George Street is also home to a number of big events and festivals, including the annual George Street Festival every August. This annual six-day festival attracts more than 40,000 people with the help of renowned musical acts like Blue Rodeo, Our Lady Peace, and the Dropkick Murphys.
Before heading out to enjoy the city’s nightlife, fuel up on some great local cuisine. Acclaimed Chef Jeremy Charles has put St. John’s on the map with Raymonds. Topping many “best restaurants in Canada” lists, Raymonds is the place to enjoy fine dining created with local seafood and fresh east coast ingredients. From the haute cuisine of Bacalao, to the unbeatable brunch at Mallard Cottage, and the comfort foods of Rocket Bakery and Fresh Food, you’re spoilt for choice.
Enjoy the outdoors
Soak up the sun in the scenic green space of Bowring Park, home to 81 hectares of outdoor fun. Feed the ducks at the pond, take a dip in the outdoor pool or practice your serve with a game of tennis.
Later, explore the award-winning Grand Concourse, an impressive network of walking trails that crisscross the city and surrounding region, or take advantage of the three golf courses located around the city.
For die-hard hikers, St. John’s is the perfect place to pick up the famous East Coast Trail – 540 kilometres of developed and undeveloped trails along the coast of Newfoundland.