Discover our History & Heritage

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The unique culture of Newfoundland and Labrador is a product of our English, Irish, French, and Indigenous heritage. This province’s history is rich with stories and legends, explorers, and inventors.

For thousands of years, Indigenous groups such as the Maritime Archaic Indians and the Palaeo-Eskimo hunted, fished, and settled in the province, mostly in the southern Labrador area. Vikings visited here at the beginning of the last millennium, but European visitation didn’t begin in earnest until John Cabot’s voyage in 1497. They fished the rich waters off the coast – first during annual visits, and then creating French and English colonies in the province. The English colony included St. John’s – one of the oldest cities in North America; its streets and architecture might be the best expression you’ll see of the creative spirit that founded the province. Newfoundland and Labrador remained under British rule until joining Canada in 1949. In the 21st century, the province is benefitting from offshore oil production, creating a new bond with the ocean that has sustained it for so long.

Videos far, far off the beaten path

Explore our History

The Rooms, in St. John's, is Newfoundland and Labrador's largest public cultural space, where history and creativity come together under one roof. With its breathtaking harbour and city views, and open-concept architecture designed to reflect our heritage, The Rooms houses the province’s most extensive collection of artifacts, art, and archival records.

National Historic Sites, such as Red Bay in Labrador and Signal Hill in St. John’s, allow visitors to imagine themselves in the past alongside the previous inhabitants of the province. L’Anse aux Meadows, where Leif Erickson and crews of Norse explorers settled Vinland (as they called it) over a thousand years ago, is the only authenticated Norse outpost in North America. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. 

On the coast of Labrador, the Maritime Archaic Indians left behind the oldest known funeral mound in North America – almost 7,500 years old.

Built on 400 years of History, Cupids is the oldest English colony in Canada, and the second oldest in North America. The colony was witness to fierce pirate attacks, and more happily, the first recorded birth of an English child in Canada.

At sites like the Ryan Premises in Bonavista, and at Battle Harbour in Labrador, the fishery that sustained the province for so long is celebrated. Relive the lives of the fisherman far from home, making a living taking cod from the cold North Atlantic.

The National War Memorial in St. John’s is the location of one of the largest Remembrance Day ceremonies in North America.