Downtown St. John's

Downtown St. John's, St. John, Newfoundland (A)

St. John's has a lively and historical downtown, all centered around the harbour front with views of The Narrows and Signal Hill. Follow this route to experience the most colorful, historical and entertaining area of the city while mingling with the locals.
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Walk Route

Guide Name: Downtown St. John's
Guide Location: Canada » St. John
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1.0 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Author: Candice Walsh
Author Bio: Candice Walsh is a writer, blogger and editor from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. She's an associate editor at Matador Network and a regular contributer to Westjet's up! magazine.
Author Website: http://www.candicedoestheworld.com
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • George Street
  • Water Street
  • The St. John's Courthouse
  • Harbour Drive
  • Duckworth Street
  • Moo-Moo's
  • The Basilica Cathedral
  • The Rooms
1
George Street

1) George Street

George Street is one of St. John's claims to fame, and walking through in the daytime is an entirely different experience than at night. The street has reputably more clubs and pubs per square foot than any other street in North America, and most nights the area is filled with people bar-hopping. Some of the most popular venues include The Sundance, Dusk, O'Reilly's, and Lottie's.

Throughout the year, large events take place where the entire street shuts down, and party-goers pay an overall admission price to access all clubs and pubs. George Street Fest is a week-long celebration of local culture and includes concerts in the street. Mardi Gras is another event which celebrates Halloween at the end of October.
2
Water Street

2) Water Street

Water Street is the bustling business area of St. John's. While a handful of tall buildings like the Scotia Center dominate the street, there is a strict building policy in place by the city to restrict skyscrapers from crowding out views of The Narrows. Stroll along here to mingle with the locals and enjoy music from the buskers.

The street is also filled with great speciality shopping, including souvenir boutiques, pubs, restaurants and cafes. Try a lunch at the Yellowbelly Brewery with some great ale brewed on location, or sample some local food like cod tongues at Nautical Nellie’s. If it’s coffee you’re after, try Hava Java for something cheap and delicious.
3
The St. John's Courthouse

3) The St. John's Courthouse

The St. John's Courthouse stands out as one of the most impressive buildings in the city. The original courthouse was built in 1730, but was destroyed twice by fire between 1846 and 1892. Plans for the new courthouse began shortly after.

With its Richardson Romanesque Revival facade, the building is historical for its cornerstone being laid by the Duke of York, later to be King George V. He used a 14K gold trowel made just for the occasion. The building is now a national historic site, and is currently being used by the Trial Division of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.
4
Harbour Drive

4) Harbour Drive

The view from Harbour Drive is one of the best in the city: Signal Hill, the site of Cabot Tower and the 1762 final battle in the Seven Years' War, is located to your left. Guglielmo Marconi also received the first transatlantic wireless signal here. The Signal Hill trail is one of the most popular hiking trails around the city, offering both a great work-out and incredible views.

Straight ahead and leading out into the Atlantic Ocean are The Narrows, the passageway for ships coming into the harbour and often a place to sight icebergs in late spring and early summer.
5
Duckworth Street

5) Duckworth Street

Duckworth Street is another bright commercial area with lots of fun, colorful specialty shops and restaurants lined against the road. This street isn’t as busy as Water Street, and there’s a lot of opportunity to sit outside on a bench and take in the scene without being too crowded.

Check out Afterwords for great used books, or head into one of the souvenir shops for authentic Newfoundland memorabilia made right here in town. The Bagel Cafe and Classic Cafe offer delicious, large breakfasts, and several international restaurants include everything from Korean to Indian food. Sushi fiends might want to check out Sun Sushi.
6
Moo-Moo's

6) Moo-Moo's

Moo-Moo's ice-cream is a big hit in St. John's and its neighbouring towns, and on a hot summer's day, people line up for miles just for a taste. In fact, people enjoy the ice-cream so much that Moo-Moo’s is busy around the year, no matter what the weather is like. They offer a huge variety of flavours, and all the ice-cream is made in-house. Order two scoops and sit outside on a picnic table elbow-to-elbow with the locals. The shop is located in a great central location, just minutes from downtown. Plus you can't miss the building: it's painted like a big black and white cow!
7
The Basilica Cathedral

7) The Basilica Cathedral

The Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is a symbol of Roman Catholics in Newfoundland and dominates much of the skyline. Looking back on the city from Signal Hill or The Narrows, the cathedral stands out brightly lit and beautifully displayed next to The Rooms. It took 16 years to build and was completed on September 3, 1855. Quarries on Signal Hill and nearby towns provided the stones, which were shaped by Irish workers and even by Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming, who led the project. Limestone came from Galway, and granite came from Dublin. The interior contains many great works of art, including stained glass and statues, and the cathedral is now listed as a National Historic Site.
8
The Rooms

8) The Rooms

The Rooms is the final stop, and it's hard to miss because the building’s modern design is unlike anything else in the city. This place is a complete historical and cultural introduction to Newfoundland and Labrador: inside you'll find an art gallery, the provincial archives and a museum. Make sure you free up a few hours to view everything: the art is always impressive, and the exhibits display everything from antique furniture to fun activities for kids. Have a coffee at the top-level cafe with one of the best views in the city, and come Wednesday evenings for free admission!