Illustration by Jeannie Phan
From live local music to historic hikes to unforgettable food, here's how to take your next trip to Canada's oldest city to new heights.
Chic Sleeps: Blue on Water
Cozy contemporary comfort collides with industrial charm in this 11-room boutique hotel in the heart of the entertainment district. A St. John's mainstay for more than 10 years, it recently enjoyed a redesign, and the resulting atmosphere is relaxed yet lively—and the bar boasts one of the largest selections of scotch in town.
Rock 'n' Rest: Jag Boutique Hotel
This sleek, modern space pays subtle homage to classic rock with photography and artwork of world-famous musicians, from Elvis to Bowie, so it's fitting that it's located just off vibrant George Street, a two-block pedestrian-only (after noon, anyway) go-to for pubs and live music.
Top-Notch Tastes: Raymonds
Dubbed one of the top 50 restaurants in the world by Diners Club International, this spot is an indulgence you won't regret. In the stunning 1915 building overlooking the harbour, executive chef Jeremy Charles serves up elegant local fare with a focus on wild game and fresh seafood (duck, moose and cod—oh, my!)
Custom Cuisine: Cod Sounds
A gastronomical destination with an astronomical tradition for foraging, St. John's is the perfect place to boost your culinary prowess. Cod Sounds, a cooking school based out of the beautiful Compton House Heritage Hotel Inn, offers experiences including A Taste of Newfoundland, in which foodie Lori McCarthy, a third-generation Newfoundlander, teaches how to make local faves, including her nan's bread.
Monumental Message: Signal Hill National Historic Site
Fancy a light hike and a history lesson? This iconic hill boasts sweeping views, plus an important place in the city's past: It served as the harbour defence site from the 1600s to the Second World War; features the circa-1900 Gothic Revival Cabot Tower at its crest; and is where, in 1901, the world's first transatlantic wireless transmission (Morse code) was received from Cromwell, England.
History Hub: The Rooms
Home to the provincial museum, art gallery and archives, this epicentre is a must for culture-philes. Enjoy full access to the extensive art collections, historic artifacts (including the oldest complex animal fossil ever found) and regional records. Its modern architecture is itself worth exploring, paying homage to the fishing homes of the past and offering a picture-perfect view of the city.
Quaint Quarters: Quidi Vidi
If you're asking a local for directions to this former fishing village, be sure to pronounce it "kiddy viddy"—or, better yet, call it "the Gut," referring to its tiny inner harbour. Meander through the narrow streets and fishing stages, but stop by the Quidi Vidi Brewing Company to sample the award-winning lager made with the water from 25,000-year-old icebergs.
What's close by?
If you have time to venture farther afield, here are two other spectacular spots to see in the province.
20 minutes away: Cape Spear
Stand at the easternmost point in all of North America with the entire continent behind you, and you'll feel lost on the edge of the world. But turn around and the charming lighthouse—a national historic site—will bring you back to civilization.
Three hours away: Fogo Island
It's a bit of a long haul to this stunning outpost in Iceberg Alley, but with more than 200 kilometres of trails to walk and breathtaking architecture and quaint villages to see, to boot, Fogo is well worth the flight (and ferry!).
For more great Canadian travel destinations, visit Our Ultimate Canadian Travel Guide.