Soon temperatures that can dip as low as -40 (where the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales meet) will have Winnipeggers shivering. But this city in the heart of Canada stays warm with a surprising number of soothing options to thaw out, whether you’re a resident or just visiting.
Winnipeg: The heart of Canada
Winnipeg, the capital of the province of Manitoba, has a population of about 800,000. However, the experiences available in the city make it feel like it’s a much larger metropolis. That’s not only for culture, outdoor, sports and food-centered activities, but also for those who want to de-stress—and even feel like they’ve traveled to a far-away country.
Just 62 miles north of the U.S. border, Winnipeg is almost the longitudinal center of Canada (that’s actually a half-hour drive east of the city, near the town of Taché). The area now called Winnipeg is both the birthplace of the Métis Nation and has been an Indigenous trading center for millennia, particularly so at The Forks where the Assiniboine and Red Rivers meet. Related, the name “Winnipeg” is from the Cree words for “muddy water”. The Forks—now characterized by parkland, wintertime skating and tobogganing, shops and restaurants—remains a popular meeting place and is also the site of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Winnipeg is also the jumping-off point for further travels into Manitoba. One of the most coveted trips is north to Churchill, the polar bear and beluga whale capital of the world. In Churchill, belugas are easily seen in July and August, while polar bear season ends in November once Hudson Bay freezes solid. It is possible to see northern lights year round, but the best time is in February and March. Frontiers North Adventures, a certified B corporation, provides a variety of Churchill trips to see all three.
Winnipeg, like all Canadian cities, celebrates four distinct seasons. While -40 temperatures are possible, Winnipeg’s winter is characterized by a much more manageable average of 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Typical temperatures in the sunny summer are around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but can climb well into the 90s.
Regardless of whether it’s warm or cold out, Winnipeg has several indoor spots ideal for soaking up the heat, relaxing and capitalizing on the wellness travel trend.
Traditional Turkish hammam at Winnipeg’s Ten Spa
Whether you want to warm up from winter or need your muscles to relax at any time of the year, there’s not much better than a Turkish hammam. Afficionados deem Turkish hammams the best of all hammams, which are a traditional part of many Middle Eastern and North African cultures. It’s difficult to find one using proper Turkish techniques outside of Türkiye, but Winnipeg has one—at the Ten Spa in The Fort Garry Hotel.
You won’t regret opting for the ultimate experience—called “Hammam Fully Loaded” at Ten Spa. You begin by visiting progressively warmer rooms, with the main treatments received lying on a large platform of heated marble in a steamy room. You’ll get a series of rinses with different temperatures of water and an exfoliating scrub—gommage—which removes an often surprising amount of dead skin. Extremely Turkish is the wash with a whipped cream-like mountain of soap bubbles plus a massage that feels like a combination of Swedish deep tissue and Thai stretching.
The Turkish bath experience is so relaxing that you’ll want to have a room booked at The Fort Garry Hotel so you don’t have to go back outside, regardless of whether its snowing or sunny. The historic Fort Garry opened in 1913—when Winnipeg was known as the “Chicago of the North”—and is one of Canada’s castle hotels built for railway travelers.
Japanese Ganban-yoku treatment
To warm up in Winnipeg without getting wet, you’ll want to try Pocca Poca Spa. It offers the Japanese Ganban-yoku practice where, inside a zen-like warm and quiet room, you lie on a bed of heated stone tiles. Pocca poca means light and refreshed—which is how you’ll feel after the experience.
When you make your appointment, you can choose between four types of stone. A private room for two at Pocca Poca has Tensyo stone, a volcanic stone from Kyushu, Japan, said to emit far infrared rays and to have anti-aging, -stress, -fatigue and -pain properties and to help with sleep and detoxification. In the main Ganban-yoku room, you can choose from reddish maifan stone, purported to help with stress and pain; black tourmaline said to be helpful for depression and fatigue; and green jade stone, which is recommended for anxiety, relaxation and sleep.
You simply lie on the stones and relax. The room is warm but not as hot as a typical sauna and you can feel the heat from the stones seeping into your sore muscles—it’s surprisingly comfortable and meditative (yes, even for those who have trouble quieting their minds). The spa also offers massage and facial treatments. You’ll want to check out the info on Pocca Poca’s website that indicates that the calories burned lying on its stones versus doing gentle yoga, hot power yoga and taking a walk outdoors are almost the same. Use your Apple Watch to do your own comparisons.
More warm international spa experiences in Winnipeg
Winnipeg also has a Scandinavian spa, Thermëa by Nordik Spa-Nature, where you alternate between hot, cold and temperate experiences. The spa has several outdoor thermal pools, a Finnish sauna, a eucalyptus steam room, a cold waterfall, cold plunge, an exfoliation room, plus indoor and outdoor relaxing spaces.
Or perhaps try Winnipeg’s Hot Snow Spa offering Korean jjimjilbang—heated rooms. You can relax in different warm rooms, including one with Afghan jade stone and one with Himalayan salt, plus get massage and acupuncture treatments.
Warm and green, inside The Leaf
Within Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Conservancy is an indoor botanical garden under a glass dome, The Leaf. The greenhouse provides plenty of fresh oxygen as well as warmth, regardless of what the weather is doing outside.
You can explore the outdoor gardens without a ticket, but you’ll want to go inside for more heat. Lush humidity characterizes The Leaf’s Tropical Biome, complete with banana, cacao and other plants typically found far south of Canada. It also has Canada’s largest indoor waterfall. The Mediterranean biome is slightly cooler and drier and here you’ll find plants like redflower false yucca. Up near the top of the waterfall is a butterfly garden. The Leaf’s temperatures vary according to the season, time of day and the needs of the plants—they might be as low as 60 degrees Fahrenheit on a cold winter morning but are more typically in the high 70s on winter afternoons and can reach the high 90s in the summer.
Whether you visit Winnipeg in winter, spring, summer or fall, your desires for warmth and wellness will be well taken care of.