St. John's

Destination Location

St. John's

Overview

You’ll feel at home the moment you land in St. John's, yet this city is also one of the most dramatic and captivating places to visit in Canada. You’ll see spectacular seascapes, incredible glacier-carved fjords, pristine wilderness and magnificent waterfalls in this you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it location.

The capital city of Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John’s is also the most easterly city in Canada, with a distinct history and natural beauty beyond compare.

Take a drive along the coastline for blue ocean and iceberg views. Then visit Conception Bay to see sunken whaling ships and waterfalls – a true photographer’s haven. You’ll also find sheltered, sandy areas perfectly suited for scuba diving and swimming.

In addition to its unique landscape, this quaint yet bustling city is probably equally well known for the just over 100,000 residents who are among the friendliest and most welcoming in Canada. Just take a walk down Water or Duckworth Street and chat with the local boutique and restaurant owners.

St. John's has over 300 restaurants offering up every type of cuisine – from fine dining to casual and fast food. Enjoy a wealth of excellent seafood and locally caught wild game, including pan-fried cod, bacon-wrapped scallops, seafood chowder and stuffed Atlantic salmon. End your night on George Street, legendary for its lively bars. There, you’ll find local music rich in Irish tradition and Celtic ambience, still popular despite being brought here centuries ago by the province's first settlers.

In the summertime, you’ll find lively outdoor entertainment and festivals on every street corner. Don't miss the Royal St. John's Regatta – the oldest annual sporting event in North America. And of course, there’s also the George Street Musical Festival – the largest and longest running annual music festival in Newfoundland and Labrador, leading up to the Regatta.

With traditions and ceremonies abound, let the people of St. John's show you a great time, and discover what it really means to “kiss the cod”. You’ll be hooked.

Before you go, visit the Terry Fox Monument located behind the St. John’s Port Authority building, near where Fox first dipped his artificial leg in the water of St. John’s Harbour at the start of his historic run.

St. John's is a fantastic destination for:

  • culture and history
  • outdoor adventure

Airport served by: St. John's, NL (YYT)

Destination basics

Known for its clean sea air, St. John’s has a temperate climate that rarely sees extreme weather. Winter temperatures here generally hover around the 0 C mark, but do pack a jacket for the cool breezes near the water’s edge – and for any snowboarding, skiing or other outdoor pursuits.

Average summer temperatures are mild, typically around 16 C. However, warm temperatures do regularly climb as high as 25 C. But be sure to keep a jacket with you for when it cools down at night.

Spring and fall are also mild in St. John’s (and Newfoundland and Labrador on a whole) so simply bring clothes that fit the activities you have planned. And of course, a sweater or jacket for cool evenings.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for St. John's
While the city first took root around Water Street in downtown St John’s, over the years, the humble port town has bloomed outwards and transformed into a sprawling city. While most of the city’s attractions are found not far away from downtown, the further reaches of St. John’s offer bountiful options for outdoors enthusiasts. 

Downtown
This neighborhood lies at the heart of it all and is the historic core of the city. Downtown’s iconic Jellybean Row Houses are a remarkable sight that captures the colorful and quirky character of Newfoundland. These candy-colored facades line the streets of downtown creating a visual feast that is no less enticing than its delicious namesake. Centered around the historic Water Street, downtown St. John’s is a heady mix of trendy restaurants, lively bars, quaint boutiques, and popular entertainment venues, all within walking distance of the picturesque harbor. Dine at top-notch restaurants like Oliver’s, Raymonds, and the Rocket Bakery, and celebrate the night at George Street’s many bars. From live music at O’Reilly’s and dance parties at Konfusion, George Street is where the soul of the city’s nightlife resides. Specialty shops like the Freak Lunchbox and the Jellybean Row Shop complement popular entertainment venues like the Mile One Centre in downtown.

Fort Townshend
Directly to the east of downtown is the historic neighborhood of Fort Townshend. The neighborhood is the historic site of an 18th-century fort that formed an integral part of the network of defense set up by the British to protect the port from invasion. The fort was abandoned in 1871, and the only marker that remains is a plaque at the corner of Bonaventure Avenue and Harvey Road. The scenic hilltop is today renown as the site of the Rooms and the majestic Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Nearby, the Holy Heart Theatre and the O’Hehir Arena are popular entertainment venues.

Georgestown and Rabbittown
This residential neighborhood is one of the city’s oldest, its streets lined with a mix of new and old homes. The neighborhood encompasses the RE/MAX Centre, the Green Belt Tennis Club, St. John’s Farmers’ Market, and a part of the campus of the Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Pippy Park 

This scenic neighborhood lies to the northeast of downtown and encompasses the eponymous urban park and the campus of the Memorial University of Newfoundland. The park itself is home to attractions like the Pippy Park Golf Course, the MUN Botanical Gardens, and the Suncor Energy Fluvarium.

Quidi Vidi
The neighborhood of Quidi Vidi derives its name from the Quidi Vidi Lake and Quidi Vidi Harbor. The picturesque neighborhood boasts a quaint charm that harkens to its days as a fishing village. The Quidi Vidi Battery, the Quidi Vidi Brewery, Mallard Cottage, and the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation are the neighborhood’s top attractions. Explore the Quidi Vidi Lake Trail for breathtaking views of the harbor and the charming village.

East End
To the north of Quidi Vidi, just minutes away from St. John’s International Airport, East End is a residential neighborhood characterized by tranquil parks and golf courses. In particular, the 18-hole, par 70 course at the Bally Haly Country Club is the neighborhood’s crowning glory.

Shea Heights
This humble neighborhood is known for its scenic locale, thriving community center, and as the gateway to the iconic Cape Spear Lighthouse and the East Coast Trail. Visit the Shea Heights Lookout for a spectacular view of the city and its colorful homes.
St. John’s is a city that celebrates its past amidst a vibrant contemporary offer. Spend your days exploring the city’s museums and galleries, shopping at specialty stores, and exploring the outdoors. From live theater to thrilling sports action, St. John’s lively entertainment scene will keep you on your toes.

Museums and Galleries
Shaped by an eventful past and diverse cultures, St. John’s proud history is put on display at its many museums. Overlooking the city from its lofty perch atop a hill, the Rooms have come to be a quintessential part of the city’s skyline. The cultural center encompasses the Art Gallery, Provincial Archives, and Provincial Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador. Let this be the first stop on your journey into St. John’s colorful past. To understand how the forces of nature have shaped the city’s stunning landscape, visit the Johnson Geo Centre on Signal Hill. The center is largely located underground, centered around an excavated site exposing varied rock formations. At the heart of historic downtown, on Water Street, is the Railway Coastal Museum. Housed within the historic Newfoundland Railway Terminal, the museum chronicles the history of the coastal railway and its role in the development of the region. Specialty museums like the Newman Wine Vaults and the James J. O’Mara Pharmacy Museum cover some of the city’s more colorful historic periods, together creating a vivid illustration of the city’s rich heritage.

The city’s historic charm is complemented by a thriving arts scene. Step into the magical world of the visual arts at galleries like the Peter Lewis Gallery. Tucked away inside a heritage home, the gallery showcases fine art in its myriad forms. Nearby, the Leyton Gallery of Fine Art and the Hancock Gallery are other fine options. At St. Michael’s Printshop, browse an extensive collection of art prints featuring the work of numerous renowned artists and take home limited-edition prints.

Performing Arts
St. John’s sports a wondrous performing arts offer that features everything from small-scale, original productions by local groups, to grand events that showcase national and international artists. The Arts and Culture Centre boasts a cultural program that spans the full gamut of the performing arts, while the historic Masonic Temple is the home of the musical theater group - Spirit of Newfoundland. The LSPU Hall, at the Resource Centre for the Arts, is perhaps one of the city’s most iconic venues for the performing Arts. The intimate venue hosts sold-out performances by renowned performers from near and far, enriching the cultural world of St. John’s with a varied program. The Holy Heart Theatre attracts a following of its own, as do concerts at the Memorial University School of Music and Mile One Centre. For live music in a more casual setting, the Ship Pub and the Fifth Ticket Piano Bar are two of the city’s best live music venues.

Outdoors
Nestled along the scenic coast of Newfoundland, St. John’s is the perfect place from which to base your exploration of the region’s breathtakingly beautiful landscape. Embark upon an unforgettable journey across the East Coast Trail, past soaring cliffs, deep fjords, and the untouched wilderness that abuts the Atlantic Ocean. Within city limits, hikers can enjoy a trip along the Quidi Vidi Lake Trail. The scenic trail hugs the shore of the eponymous lake, encircling its entire length. Rennie's River Trail and the North Head Trail are other popular options nearby. Just 10 minutes away is the fishing village of Petty Harbour where you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city as you zip along the North Atlantic Ziplines, or head to Conception Bay South for scuba diving. You can also kayak along the shore of the Avalon Peninsula, or take to the seas for whale watching and iceberg tours off the coast of St. John’s. All this and so much more awaits the adventurer at St. John’s.

Sports
The denizens of St. John’s love their sports and you’ll find facilities for every imaginable sport right here. From baseball and soccer fields to skating rinks, tennis courts and multi-sport arenas, the city promises sporting enthusiasts a plethora of options. Mile One Centre is the city’s premier sports arena, and home to the St. John’s IceCaps. The arena has hosted several unforgettable hockey championships over the years, alongside concerts featuring top international artists. The city also boasts three fabulous golf courses for golfers of every caliber. The Bally Haly is home to the city’s most beloved course, featuring 18 holes laid out in a Scottish-style design. Glendenning Golf offers an 18-hole, par 70 course, while Pippy Park features two courses - an 18-hole championship course and a 9-hole course.

Shopping
At St. John’s, spend the day browsing through downtown’s quaint specialty shops or head to the mall for a shopping spree at leading retail brand stores. St. John’s has something to suit every taste with a quirky melange of shops to choose from. Shop for unique gifts at the Newfoundland Weavery, or stock up on local artwork at the Heritage Shop. For those with a sweet tooth, the Freak Lunchbox is as wondrous as Willy Wonka’s factory, while Whink is the top choice for handmade jewels. As the winter chill sets in, explore the shops within the closed confines of the fabulous Avalon Mall and the Village Shopping Centre. For farm-fresh veggies, fruits, flowers and baked goodies, the weekly farmers’ market at Newtown Road is the place to be. The market is the highlight of the city’s shopping scene every Saturday, from the first Saturday of June to the third Saturday of December.

Nightlife
George Street lies at the heart of the city’s booming nightlife, with over 20 bars, restaurants, and live music venues to choose from. Stop by Christian’s Bar to kiss a fish - a local tradition that is an initiation rite of sorts for visitors, tourists, and new residents.  You will need to throw back a shot of the local Screech rum before locking lips with a cod to earn the native Newfoundlanders’ respect. If you need help washing away the fishy taste, the bar offers a selection of premium drafts, spirits, and cocktails, best enjoyed with popcorn and sports on the telly. For a rollicking good time, O’Reilly’s is your best bet, with live music and traditional Irish charm, or head to the Fat Cat for a bluesy night. Or, put your vocal cords to the test at Karaoke Kops, and dance the night away at Konfusion. If you’re in the mood for something different, head to the historic Masonic Temple for a dinner show with the Spirit of Newfoundland.
Rooted in tradition, and inspired by global flavors, St. John’s boasts a culinary offer that is as eclectic and colorful as its iconic Jellybean Row. For a long time, the city’s culinary map was limited to cod, game, and root vegetables that could survive the long winters. However, in more recent years, the city has embraced a more global outlook, transforming traditional ingredients into contemporary masterpieces infused with exotic flavors. The city’s most coveted culinary gems are centered around Downtown and Central St. John’s with a few exceptions not far beyond. 

Downtown
Any listing of St. John’s top restaurants is incomplete without a mention of the award-winning Raymonds. Set inside a historic, waterfront building in downtown St. John’s, the restaurant presents a menu of elegant dishes that fuse traditional ingredients with contemporary flair. For a light lunch of soups and salads, fresh pastries stuffed with berries, and an exceptional cup of coffee, try the Fixed Cafe, or head to the Rocket Bakery for a delicious meal packed with fresh flavor.The Adelaide Oyster House is a top choice for seafood, with the Gypsy Tea Room coming in at a close second. While Chinched Bistro serves contemporary Bistro fare, Bacalao serves up local traditional cuisine. From a set menu at the Reluctant Chef and Vietnamese at the Saigon Bistro, to vegetarian food at Sprout and local brews at the YellowBelly Brewpub, downtown St. John’s is a haven for those with an adventurous palate. 

Quidi Vidi
A local favorite that you won't find in downtown, is the Quidi Vidi’s Mallard Cottage. Set inside a historic home the restaurant presents an ever-changing menu of Newfoundland cuisine, prepared using wild game, local produce, and seafood. The restaurant offers diners a rare chance to savor local cuisine in a setting that is infused with the charm of a traditional Newfoundland fishing village. Just a short drive away is the Quidi Vidi Brewery where you can sample their legendary Iceberg Beer, prepared using water harvested from the icebergs that float off the coast of the island.

Bars
The city also boasts a vibrant bar scene that is centered around the bustling George Street. From the traditional Irish appeal of O’Reilly’s and cocktails at the Martini Bar to Screech rum shots with the natives at Christian’s Bar, George Street is myriad experiences in one.
St. John’s

Province: Newfoundland and Labrador

Country: Canada

St. John's by the Numbers
Population: 108,860 (City); 205,955 (Metropolitan)
Elevation: 0-192 meters / 0-630 feet
Average Annual Precipitation: 153.42 centimeters / 60.40 inches
Average Annual Snowfall: 335 centimeters / 131.89 inches
Average January Temperature: -4.5°C / 23.9°F 
Average July Temperature: 15.8°C / 60.4°F

Quick Facts
Electricity: 120 volts, 60Hz, AC

Time Zone: GMT-3:30 (GMT-2:30 Daylight Saving Time); Newfoundland Standard Time (NST)

Country Dialing Code: +1

Area Code: 709

Did You Know?
St. John’s is not only the Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest city but is also home to nearly 40 percent of the province’s total population.

Orientation
St. John’s is located on the island of Newfoundland, and is a part of the Avalon Peninsula, making it North America’s easternmost city. The city is a mere 9.3 kilometers (5.8 miles) away from the neighboring city of Mount Pearl, and 689 kilometers (428 miles) to the east of Corner Brook.
St. John’s has enjoyed a long and eventful history by virtue of its fortuitous location by the fishing grounds of the Atlantic Ocean. There are several differing opinions about the origins of the settlement's name. Some believe that the name was given by the explorer John Cabot. Cabot is oft touted as the first European to sail into the harbor in 1497 on the feast day of Saint John the Baptist. An alternate theory was put forth by the Basque who claim that the settlement was named after a fishing town on the Bay of Pasaia.

The port was frequented by the Basque, Portuguese, English, French, and Dutch during the first half of the 16th Century, each drawn to the harbor by the promise of waters teeming with fish. During this time, Water Street developed as a link between the warehouses, wharves, and shops that served the booming fisheries. By the latter half of the 16th Century the English had taken control of the port, however, a permanent settlement was not established until 1630. 

Primarily used as a hub for commercial trade, the town’s population grew at a slow and steady pace through the course of the 17th and 18th Centuries. During this time, St. John’s was also the site of several battles and skirmishes as each European empire sought to wrest control of the port from the others, laying to waste the town’s fortifications, warehouses and homes each time. Following the decisive defeat of the French at the Battle of Signal Hill in 1762, the English once more took control of the port. 

In the years that followed, St. John’s grew into a thriving hub for commercial fisheries, and also served as a naval base during the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The town’s fisheries flourished through the course of the Napoleonic Wars as the demand for salt fish grew and prices spiked. During this time, St John’s saw an influx of immigrants, especially the Irish. At the end of the war, the city's economic boom came to an end only to be revived by the onset of the First World War. During the Second World War, the city served as a base for the Royal Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the American Army Air Force. 

The town continued to grow slowly through the 19th Century, despite being ravaged by three fires. In 1888, the town was incorporated and elected its first council that same year. The city boomed as the political and commercial capital of Newfoundland and was finally granted the status of a city in 1921. Today, the city remains a thriving commercial and financial center and is the capital of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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