Known as the City of Legends, St. John's has numerous historical sites, a unique culture, and natural beauty. Home to many of these things, the downtown area provides a mix of the new and the old. So, be sure to take the time to enjoy everything the area has to offer!

 Empire Theatre (2D,3D) 



City Hall

Located on New Gower Street, and designed by Parkin Associates of Toronto. It was officially opened in 1970 to house municipal offices and Council Chambers.

Government House

Completed in 1831, the building was designed by Governor Sire Thomas Cochrane. Government House is constructed of red sandstone quarried from Signal Hill by labourers from Scotland, and it was built with a “dry moat” surrounding it. Upon its completion the final cost was more than triple the original estimate! Government House is the residence of the Mr. John Crosbie, the present Lf. Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador. For more information visit www.mun.ca/govhouse

Commissariat House

This simple Georgian building was begun in 1818 and finished in 1820 as the offices and quarters for the Assistant Commissary General of Fort William. It has been restored, furnished and decorated to the 1830 period. It is a Provincial Historic site and is open during the tourist season for guided tours. Call 709 729 6730, E-mail commissariat@nf.aibn.com, or visit the website at http://www.gov.nf.ca

Colonial Building

Built in 1850, the white limestone building housed the Newfoundland legislature until 1959. This building was the scene of many historic events, including Newfoundland's first bank robbery (there was a savings bank in the basement); the 1887 Jubilee Ball in honor of Queen Victoria; and several violent riots, the most recent of which was in 1932 when an angry mob tried to lynch Prime Minister Sir Richard Squires. It currently houses the Provincial Archives. Visit the archives online at http://www.gov.nf.ca/panl/

Kings Beach – Harbourside Park

The site of Sir Humphrey Gilbert's landing on August 5, 1583.

Bannerman Park

Named for Governor Alexander Bannerman who donated the land for the park, it officially opened in 1891. In 1892, the park became a tent town to shelter refugees from the Great Fire. It now plays host to the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival every summer.

War Memorial

Unveiled on July 1st 1924 by Field Marshall Earl Haig as a memorial to those who fought and died in WWI.

Court House

Designed by architect W.T. Whiteway and built by S.M. Brookfield and Company of Halifax in 1899-1901. Constructed of local granite it replaced a smaller building dating from 1849, the Market House, which contained a produce market as well as the courtrooms, jail, and post office. The building still serves as the Provincial Court house.

Newman Wine Vaults

The only existing historic wine vault in Newfoundland and Labrador, and a Provincial Historic Site. Take the time to explore the history of the world famous Newman's port wine inside one of St. John's oldest buildings. Guided tours are available in season. Call 709 739 7870 or visit http://www.historictrust.com

Victoria Hall

Situated at 187 Gower Street, Victoria Hall was designed by E.A. Whitehead and erected in 1895 as a meeting hall for the Loyal Orange Association. Extensive renovations in the early 80's converted the building to its current use as an office building. The large stained glass window over the entrance depicts the history of the building.

Masonic Temple

Located on Cathedral Street, the building was opened in 1897 as a meeting place for local freemasons. If you cross the street you can see the Masonic symbols depicted in the façade. Notice the large eye adorning the pediment.

Market House Hill

The steps going up the side of the courthouse are situated on an area once known as Market House Hill. In the 19th century this was an important gathering place for the people of St. John's. In addition to being the grounds of the city's court, post office, and produce market, it was a center for open-air auctions and the site of the public gallows. The last public hanging in Newfoundland took place on this hill in January of 1835 when a man named John Flood was executed for highway robbery.

Union Bank Building

The first building on your left of the Court House entrance on Duckworth Street is the Union Bank Building. The bank was built in 1862 and is the only building in the east end of the downtown to have survived the 1892 fire. The building's metal shutters, which are still visible above the windows, are credited to saving it from destruction by the fire. The building is now the home of the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal.

Signal Hill

Originally known as the Lookout it became Signal Hill in 1762 whereby merchants, customs officials, and the harbour pilot could prepare docking facilities for incoming vessels after receiving flag signals from atop the hill. Visit http://www.parkscanada.gc.ca

Cabot Tower

Built by Samual Garrison and constructed of local granite between 1898-1900, Cabot Tower was built to commemorate Newfoundland's discovery by John Cabot and Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Marconi received the first wireless message on December 21, 1901 near Cabot Tower. Visit http://www.parkscanada.gc.ca

Yellow Belly Corner Buildings

This area was given its name after the color of sashes worn by one of the various Irish factions who would meet and fight on this site in the early 19th century. The buildings were constructed after the fire of 1846 and are an excellent example of the buildings found in the downtown prior to the Great Fire of 1892. These buildings once served as both commercial and residential premises.

Devon House

Built around 1880, Devon House is one of the few houses located in downtown St. John’s that survived the Great Fire of 1892. Devon House is a four-storied mixed stone and brick building on the east end of Duckworth Street. Bay widows are found on the street level and the second floor in both the front and back. Unusual peaked towers are built into the roof at both front and back of the third floor. The brickwork also shows ornate patterns.

It is believed the house was built closer to 1880 than to 1850. Unfortunately, it is also not known who built the house nor for whom it was built. It is known that in 1891 the house belonged to A. M. MacKay, an agent for the Anglo-American Telegraph Company. The next prominent family to be linked to the house is the Templeman family who moved into the house in the mid-1890s. After the Templemans moved out of Devon House, a variety of people and organisations owned the building. In 1991 the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador bought the house and the building is now used as a craft centre for the organization.

British Bank of North America

Located at 276 Duckworth Street, it is now known as the Anna Templeton Center. Erected in 1849 as a three-storey structure, it had a fourth storey added in 1885. After the Great Fire of 1892, the bank was reconstructed inside its partially gutted shell. The building was used as a bank from 1849 to the 1980's and the upper storey served for a time as a residence for the bank manager. The stained glass windows in the east side have panels with the letters “CB” for the Commercial Bank that occupied the building from 1858 to 1895.


This brightly coloured building was built in 1923 to replace an earlier hall, burnt in 1922 on the site. The original hall was built in 1892 for the Sons of Temperance Society and taken over in 1911 by the Longshoreman's Protective Union as a meeting hall and recreational facility. The present building now serves as a centre for the visual and performing arts. For more information on the LSPU Hall and RCA Theatre call 709 753 4531 or visit http://www.rca.nf.ca.

Majestic Theatre

One of the many theatres once located in the downtown, this building at one point hosted a large unruly crowd in 1932 that gathered prior to marching to the Colonial Building and attempting to lynch the Prime Minister. It now serves as a local bar and one of the many downtown watering holes.

The Crow’s Nest

First built as a warehouse after the Great Fire of 1892, the building then known as “The Old Butler Building” is now best known as the place that houses one of St. John’s most exclusive clubs, the Crow’s Nest.

“The Old Butler Building” was built in 1892 and was on the same ground where an old inn called “The Ship” was two centuries before. During the building’s first 50 years it was primarily a warehouse.

That changed in 1942. With World War Two raging in Europe, many naval vessels made St. John’s a port of call. Captain E.R. Mainguy was the officer in charge of navy escort ships stationed in St. John’s. With the assistance of Lady Dorothy Outerbridge, he was able to obtain space for a club where officers could visit when not on duty. Lady Outerbridge was able to find space on the fourth floor of the warehouse and obtained it for the rent of $1 per year.

Considered a significant structure by the Canadian Navy, the Crow’s Nest and surrounding building were recognized as a Registered Heritage Structure in April 1990 by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Railway Coastal Museum and City Archives

This museum exhibits the 150-year history of the Newfoundland Railway and Coastal Boat services. It also houses the City of St. John's Archives. For more information call 709 724 5929. http://www.railwaycoastalmuseum.ca

James O’Mara Pharmacy Museum

Apothecary Hall, 488 Water Street. Call 709 753 5877 or E-mail: npha@nf.sympatico.ca. Visit them online at http://www.nlpb.ca/museum.html

Murray Premises

A National Historic Site, the Murray Premises was renovated in 1979 and now contains office suites, restaurants, retail stores, and most recently a boutique hotel. Formerly the buildings served as a fishery premises, with facilities for drying and packaging fish and warehouses for fish, barrels and other items. The oldest of the buildings is the one facing on Beck's Cove. It was built after the 1846 fire and for a time served as both shop and house.

George Street United Church

This is the oldest surviving Methodist church in St. John's. The church is built of Newfoundland stone and slate quarried from Southside Hills. Call for appointments 709 726 8775/5304. http://www.georgestreetunited.com

St. John the Baptist Anglican Cathedral

A National Historic Site, this Gothic Revival structure was designed by famous church architect Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1847 and was first completed in 1885. After being destroyed in the Great Fire of 1892, it was rebuilt inside the original stonewalls following Scott's design. The bulk of the walls are composed of Newfoundland Bluestone from the Southside Hills. The building as it stands is incomplete: parts of the ceiling remain to be finished and the central tower in Scott's original design has never been built. Guided tours are available in season. Call 709 726 5677/1999 or visit http://www.infonet.st-johns.nf.ca/cathedral

Cathedral Crypt Tea Room

Beginning in June and continuing until September, Afternoon Tea is served in the Cathedral Crypt Tea Room, Monday to Friday 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm. 

Gower Street United Church

This visibly striking church, sometimes called the “Methodist Cathedral”, is built of red brick and was completed in 1896 after the previous church on the site was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1892. The first of the three churches that have occupied the site was begun in 1816. The present church once had a spire, but deterioration caused it to be removed years ago. Student tour guides are available in July and August, Monday to Friday from 2 pm to 5 pm and following 11 am Sunday worship services. T. 709 753 7286. http://www.gowerunited.ca

St. Andrew's Church

On Harvey Road stands an imposing building with an impressive spire. St. Andrew’s was built in 1894 after the original Presbyterian Church on Duckworth Street was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1892. The “Kirk” as it is also known is an excellent example of the Gothic Revival style. T. 709 726 5385

Basilica of St. Jean the Baptist

With its twin 43-metre-high towers and location on the high hill on the northern side of the harbour, the Basilica has long been the dominant feature of the St. John’s skyline. Begun in 1841 and completed in 1850, the Military Road structure was consecrated as a cathedral in 1855. At that time, it was the largest church in North America. Built in the shape of a Latin cross, it was declared a minor Basilica on its centenary in 1955. It is now a National Historic Site. Guided summer tours available. T. 709 754 2170. Visit them online at http://www.stjohnsarchdiocese.nf.ca

St. Thomas' Garrison Church

A striking black wooden building opened in 1836, St. Thomas Anglican Church is the oldest church in St. John’s. Located at the corner of Military and King’s Bridge Roads, it originally served the members of the British Garrison at Fort William, which stood at the nearby site now occupied by the Hotel Newfoundland. Though made of wood, the church survived the Great Fires of 1846 and 1892 — it was located outside the main areas of destruction. The Great Gale of 1846 moved St. Thomas' six inches on its foundation and wings were consequently added to the building to stabilize it. Open to tours in season. Call 709 576 6632 or E-mail st.thomas@nf.sympatico.ca or visit http://www.st-thomaschurch.com