Saint John, New Brunswick, is the most underrated Canadian city. During our two visits, we were pleasantly surprised to discover so many things to do in Saint John. Saint John is quickly becoming one of Canada’s most popular cities. It boasts historic buildings converted into chic coffee shops and microbrew pubs. Some local artists set up shop downtown.

Things to Do in Saint John, New Brunswick

Saint John, NB, is Canada’s oldest city. It dates back to 1604. It was discovered by Samuel de Champlain and became a major city because of its attractive harbor. This city has seen a revival in the past decade, with millennials opening new businesses and artists opening shops. Suppose you’re planning an East Coast road trip, including Saint John, New Brunswick. These are the top Saint John attractions and the best day trips from this city.

The rugged New Brunswick coast is a popular attraction for road-trippers, but there are many things to do in Saint John. It is worth staying at least two nights in Saint John to soak up the atmosphere and explore the nightlife.

Reversing Falls

One local told us that “The Reversing Falls of Saint John” is the most popular attraction in the city. But the science behind them is fascinating. And once you realize that the Bay of Fundy’s power is so great that it reverses Saint John River flow twice daily, it’s pretty cool.

It was viewed from two perspectives. To see the Reversing Falls Skywalk and Bridge from above, I highly recommend it.

Saint John is located on the Bay of Fundy, creating an unusual phenomenon when the high tide of the Bay of Fundy collides with the Saint John River. The river is reversed when the waves rise. Watching the river flow in one direction and then breaking against the tide is pretty cool, creating rapids or whirlpools.

Market Square

This excellent street has bars and eateries inside buildings that date back to the 1800s. It retains an old-world charm while still retaining a modern, hip vibe.

You’ll find festivals and music on North Market Wharf’s waterfront boardwalk. Shop at a restaurant or pub for a bite to eat. Things get interesting at night with people bar-hopping and outdoor entertainment on the waterfront.

Remarkable fact: The New Brunswick Museum is also at Market Square. It is Canada’s oldest continuously-running museum.

City Market

The indoor market at City Market in downtown Saint John is a great place to shop for snacks or to enjoy a picnic in the park. Enjoy some bread and cheese from the charming and then picnic at Kings Square. This is a great spot to end your walk after visiting the Saint John Galleries.

Kings Square

After browsing the galleries downtown, we grabbed fresh bread and cheese and sat on King’s Square to enjoy the warm sunshine. King’s Square was established in 1734 and named after King George III. Monuments and statues are dedicated to war heroes and great Canadians. It’s also located in a beautiful setting with park benches, greenery, and surrounding the main pavilion. This makes it the ideal spot for an afternoon picnic.

Barbour’s General Store

Barbour’s General Store, a museum and shop dating back to the 1800s, is fantastic. This is a great spot to begin your Saint John tour. It was built originally in Northern New Brunswick and moved to Saint John in 29267.

You can find the Saint John visitor’s center inside, where you can book tours or get information about the area. Discover more about the historic walks in Saint John and how to tour downtown.

Historic Walks of Saint John, New Brunswick

Saint John, Canada’s oldest city, is also the only one on the Bay of Fundy. It has a rich history dating back to the early settlers and a fascinating maritime past.

You should take one of the historical walks around the city to learn more about this place that dates back to 1604 when Samuel de Champlain declared St. John—another 25 years passed before a trading post.

Many historical events took place in the area, including the American Revolution when 14,000 Loyalists settled on the banks of the St. John River. Today, you can trace this history along the Loyalist Trail and Victorian Stroll.

The self-guided walking tours last approximately 1.5 hours. They are a great way to see the architecture and streets of Saint John.

Loyalist Trail

To follow the steps of early settlers, walk the Loyalist Trail through the downtown core. Plaques and buildings that tell the story of the Americans who settled in this area after the American Revolution are displayed throughout the city. This is where you will find the loyalist cemetery and picturesque gardens.

The Loyalist Trail includes:

  • County Court, King’s Square
  • City Market
  • The Old Burial Ground, Sydney Street
  • Stone Church at Carlton Street
  • Loyalist House at Union Street
  • Barbour’s General Store.

Saint John: Where to Eat

Lemongrass/Peppers: Lemongrass served authentic Thai cuisine that was highly satisfying. Market Square has two options for dining: outside or indoors.

East Coast Bistro: East Coast Bistro is an upscale restaurant, perfect for romantic nights. As we waited for our main dish, we strolled along Prince William Street. It’s a place I will return to.

Saint John Ale House: Located close to Lemongrass at Market Square is Saint John Ale House. The upscale pub food offers plenty of options and a rotating menu. It also has a patio from which you can enjoy the sights and sounds of the boardwalk.

Italian by Night – This was our favorite meal in Saint John. We felt like we were in a small corner of Italy when we ate authentic Italian food.

Port City Royal: Port City Royal offers a warm, inviting environment with exposed brick and a comfortable leather couch. This allows patrons to mingle and mix. You can also order food or a cocktail here.

Historic Imperial Theatre

The Imperial Theatre is an iconic theatre with a solid connection to Hollywood. Louis B. Mayer, the famed MGM Studios founder, was born in Saint John. He mentored Walter Golding, a local businessman.

Golding opened the vaudeville theater, which attracted the attention of Harry Houdini and Ethel Barrymore. The historic decor and renovations have just been completed the restoration. You can tour the theatre or watch a show.

Grannan and Grignan

This is Saint John’s most excellent corner. You’ll find quirky shops and art galleries here and plenty of food, bars, and pubs. Enjoy authentic Italian cuisine at Italian by Night and finish your evening with cocktails on the Port City Royal sofas.

Downtown Art Galleries

Saint John is home to many artists. You can arrange a gallery tour and see all of them. Saint John’s people are friendly and will welcome you to chat about artists and the art on display.

You’ll find many galleries and workshops along Princess Street between Grannan and Grannan. You’ll find unique art studios in the historical warehouses.

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