REGINA, 575km west of Winnipeg, is Saskatchewan’s capital, as well as a commercial and administrative centre that anchors a vast network of agricultural towns and villages. Yet despite its status, brash shopping malls and 193,000 citizens, Regina feels like a small and unremarkable prairie town. Still, it’s a comfortable place to spend a couple of days (it gets more sunshine than any other major Canadian city) and is an essential stop if you’re keen on learning more about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), or Mounties.

Brief history

Regina’s origins stem from the 1881 decision of Edward Dewdney, lieutenant-governor of the Northwest Territories (which then spread west from Ontario to the Arctic and Pacific oceans) to move his capital south from Battleford to Pile o’Bones – an inconsequential place named for the heaps of bleached buffalo bones left along its creek by generations of Aboriginal hunters – after the Canadian Pacific Railway was routed across the southern plains. The city was renamed Regina (Latin for “queen”), after Queen Victoria, but the site was far from being fit for royalty, let alone anyone else: the sluggish creek provided a poor water supply, the clay soil was muddy in wet weather and dusty in summer and there was no timber for building. Accordingly, the railway board refused to oblige and the end result was farcical: Government House and the Mounted Police barracks were built where Dewdney wanted them, but the train station was a three-kilometre trek south.

Regina became the capital of the newly created province of Saskatchewan in 1905 and settlers flocked here from the US and Central Europe. The city soon overcame its natural disadvantages by extensive tree-planting, which provided shade and controlled the dust, and by damming the creek to provide a better water source. Yet Regina’s success was based on the fragile prosperity of a one-crop (wheat) economy and throughout the twentieth century boom alternated with bust. Today, Regina’s prosperity looks solid, thanks to sizeable oil reserves, uranium mines and its administrative role.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Canada features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

15 awesome images of Canada

15 awesome images of Canada

Canada is has vast and varied landscape, from beautiful beaches to glassy mountain lakes. It's difficult to capture the country's real beauty in a photograph, b…

09 Sep 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
8 reasons Vancouver is cooler than you think

8 reasons Vancouver is cooler than you think

Vancouver sometimes gets knocked for being a bit dull – and while it’s true that its residents can be earlier to bed than in the rest of North America, thi…

05 Sep 2016 • Rachel Mills insert_drive_file Article
Lunenburg: Canada's most colourful town

Lunenburg: Canada's most colourful town

Twenty years ago the facades of the wood-built buildings in Lunenburg, a UNESCO-listed fishing town in Nova Scotia, were white with black trimming. The only exc…

29 Oct 2015 • Stuart Forster insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month