I’ve been living in St. John’s, Newfoundland for almost two years now, which I find incredibly hard to believe. It has both flown by and dragged on. It’s not an easy place to live in the winter, but the summers can be beautiful and rewarding. Seeing my first iceberg last year as it passed through the harbour was very exciting, and I’ve learned to love the nightlife on George Street. But there are a few places in particular that always make me happy to visit, so here they are!
Afterwords Book Store (245 Duckworth Street)
Located on Duckworth Street right in a cluster of other nice destinations (and across from the Bagel Cafe, the best place for a big hangover breakfast), Afterwords Book Store is the best place to get used books. In particular I love pulpy 70s sci-fi novels, and have had really great luck finding them here. When my brother was in town we went and bought a stack of old choose-your-own-adventure books to turn into a drinking game. It was a great time.
There’s a great selection of books, and aside from the usual genres there is a great section of theatre and poetry books, local history and local authors’ works, travel books, DIY, and a great young adult selection. The prices are written or stamped inside the cover of each book and I find them usually super reasonable, particularly since I buy a lot of older books. I also like that they have big stacks of National Geographics for sale. They’re my favourite.
Rocket is a cafe/bakery/restaurant located on Water Street, right in the heart of downtown. It’s got a bright and cheerful atmosphere and always smells like delicious things inside. On one side of the place you have all the counters where you order food and drinks, then the other side is a seating area with cute eclectic tables and decor. Upstairs is a function room, and though I haven’t found an occasion yet to go up, there’s always interesting sounding events being hosted.
There’s a fair number of vegetarian options as well as lots to pick for lunch for meat eaters. They also have supper specials, and a wide selection of stuff to buy at the bakery. I’ve had their chocolate cake with strawberry frosting at two different birthday parties and it’s very dangerously delicious. For lunch I usually have a veggie galette and a latte, or a birch beer. Apparently the fish cakes are very good as well!
Urchin Art Materials and Papery (http://www.urchingreen.ca)
Not too far from Rocket is Urchin, a little shop that sells art supplies and gift items of a handmade nature. It’s very cute and hard to not be distracted upon entering by the lovely displays of handmade cards, buttons, gift sets, and all sorts of other things. They’ve got a really nice selection of painting supplies, I buy brushes there rather than go all the way to the box stores on the other end of town. There are also curious displays of pastel supplies, paper works and other things that are a little mysterious to me, but seem to have a good selection for those who work in other mediums. Everyone who I have spoken to that works there has been exceptionally pleasant!
The Rooms (http://www.therooms.ca)
The Rooms is the provincial art gallery and archives, located at the very top of the downtown area. It’s quite a hike up the steep hills, and not for the faint of heart, but is definitely worth it. In the summer, cruise ships often dock and let their passengers out to explore the city, and there is always some ambitious number that walk up to The Rooms without realizing that it is a little strenuous, especially on a hot day. However, going back down is easy, so once there, there’s a ton to see!
The site was originally called Fort Townsend, and the remnants of the fort are visible on the green lawn in front of the museum. Inside are a number of permanent exhibits that tell both the natural and cultural history of the province, which is quite the education for those who have never been to Newfoundland before. There’s a theatre where different speakers are hosted, and galleries for visiting exhibits. On the top floor is a fantastic restaurant — sometimes it can be very busy, but the food is great. I’ve had the risotto cakes many times and they are always amazing.
The restaurant and gift shop are always free to enter, the galleries and exhibits have a fee, but are free Wednesdays from 6-9 PM and the first Saturday of every month.
Georgetown Bakery (60 Hayward Ave)
The Georgetown Bakery is one of those well-kept local secrets that can be a bit challenging for visitors to figure out. It’s located inside the Georgetown neighbourhood, in between residential houses (including mine!) so you have to be looking for it to find it. Luckily it recently had a new paint job and is a bright cheerful purple on the outside. It’s closed on Sundays and Mondays, and open from 7 to 5:30 the rest of the week — but they will close if they run out of baked goods, which they often do! So it is best to go early in the day. The owners are really lovely and always have a kind word when I rush through in the mornings!
My favourite thing is the bagels, sesame seed in particular. They don’t last long since they’re baked fresh so you either have to eat them within a day or two or freeze them. Their croissants are very very rich, and go really quickly. Sometimes I find them hit or miss, once they were a little too buttery, if you can believe it. Fridays is Challah day, which reminds me of growing up in New Brunswick. Even though a loaf is something like $4.75, it is worth it for a weekend of delicious nostalgic bread.
I hope you’ll check out some of these great places if you’re ever in St. John’s! Did I miss something that you think makes the city special? Let me know what it is in the comments!