Montreal is a city full of diverse ethnicities, characters, events and architecture. It’s set on an island in the Saint Lawrence River and named after Mount Royal, the triple-peaked hill at its heart. Its neighbourhoods, many of which were once independent cities, span all over the island, each giving its own ingredient in the gorgeous dish that is Montreal.
As you make your way across Quebec’s biggest metropolis, get ready for great food, an amazing vibe and a city obsessed with events, regardless of the season.
As a general rule, the western side of the island is more anglophone than its more francophone eastern neighbours.
Montreal has an impressive and extensive public transit system, including North America’s third-busiest metro system, making anywhere in the city easily accessible.
Toss on some comfy kicks, pull out your map and get ready to hop around the spectacularly charming neighbourhoods of Montreal.
Also known as ‘Centre-Ville,’ this is the heart of Montreal and its drum never stops beating. You’ll find a plethora of great restaurants and bars, shopping malls, cafes, clubs, theatres, museums, universities and churches.
Montreal’s downtown core is bound from Rue Guy, Rue Saint Hubert, Rue Sherbrooke and Rue Notre-Dame.
There’s never a shortage of things to do in this happening area of the city.
Old Montreal / The Old Port
Old Montreal, also known as Le Vieux Port and the Old Port, was the original site of the city. Today, it makes up the most vibrant part of the city with its cobblestone streets, colonial buildings and the almost 200-year-old Notre-Dame Basilica. You’ll feel like the metro’s Orange Line somehow transported you to Europe.
Besides the Montreal Science Centre, Montreal City Hall, the bustling street square and the Jacques Cartier Bridge, Old Montreal is home to classy hotels and bars, and some of the most picturesque views of the city.
Le Plateau / Mont Royal
Le Plateau is a less touristy area of Montreal and is home to a large number of artists, creating a special and hip environment. Le Plateau’s main streets, Boulevard St Laurent and Rue St-Denis, slice through Le Plateau with amazing boutiques, some of the city’s most well-known restaurants (ahem, Schwartz’s), bars and cafes.
Parc Lafontaine highlights the neighbourhood’s vibrant lifestyle and is booming with events, people and activities regardless of the season.
The Gay Village, also known simply as ‘The Village’ is filled with some of the city’s liveliest restaurants, bars, and clubs and is decorated with rainbow flags left, right and centre.
The compact and vibrant area almost closes down completely to pedestrians in the summer while it hosts the Montreal Pride Festival. It’s one of the largest and proudest gay neighbourhoods in North America and is an absolute gem to visit.
Named after the First Nations people who lived here first, this traditionally francophone neighbourhood’s skyline is dominated by the famous Olympic Stadium. Nearby areas include Saputo Stadium (home of the Montreal Impact soccer team), the Botanical Gardens, Marché Maisonneuve (farmers’ market), Parc Maisonneuve and the Biodome. The Biodome is a facility that replicates all four ecosystems found in the Americas.
Located just a few minutes’ walk from downtown, this lively neighbourhood has quickly become a haven for foodies. Nestled around Notre-Dame Street, some of the world’s most renowned chefs have set up shop in Griffintown. Even if it is haunted as many locals suggest, the tasty food and amazing bars are worth bumping into a ghost or two.
Italians have been in Montreal for almost as long as the French. By the 1950s, the area around Jean-Talon Market was predominantly Italian, from which the nickname ‘Little Italy’ was born.
A small sample of modern Montreal, Côte-des-Neiges is the home to residents of more than a hundred different ethnic groups from all over the globe.
A casual stroll down the neighbourhood’s main street, Chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges, shows a library of ethnic food spots – Chinese, Cambodian, Japanese, American, British, Italian, French, Haitian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Middle-Eastern. It has it all.
Quartier des Spectacles
Le Quartier des Spectacles, the ‘entertainment neighbourhood’ is a new and vibrant area of Montreal dedicated to, you guess it, entertainment.
You’ll find Place des Arts, the biggest performing arts centre in the entire city. All of the major shows, festivals, ballets, operas, and circus acts are hosted here. Festivals include the world famous International Jazz Festival and the Just for Laughs comedy festival.
Always referred to as ‘NDG’, this popular neighbourhood offers good value for being an easy ride to downtown. NDG is decorated with old, brick houses and roads lined with trees that make it an absolute urban gem.
NDG’s social hub is Monkland Village, a neighbourhood within a neighbourhood, kind of like Inception. Monkland is glistening with phenomenal restaurants, renowned bars and some of the tastiest coffee shops in Montreal (Cafe Mercanti and Cafe Melk).
Montreal Ouest (or Montreal West) is a primarily English part of Montreal. The quiet neighbourhood is one of the city’s unreachable areas by metro but a commuter train brings people from downtown as well as off-island, so it’s a decent swap.
Besides hosting gorgeous houses and duplexes, Montreal Ouest has plenty of non-franchise restaurants and a very strong community pride.
Mile End / Mile-Ex
Montreal’s creative hub, Mile End is home to artists, writers, comedians, filmmakers and musicians along with bookstores, galleries and venues crammed into a small area that also boasts some unbelievably tasty restaurants.
The Mile End has recently bred Mile-Ex, a former industrial zone that has turned into a serious hipster hangout. To give you an idea of how hip the Mile End is, both Arcade Fire and William Shatner were born and raised here.
The western side of Mont Royal is home to Westmount, a very wealthy and very English part of the city. Westmount’s summit is an absolutely spectacular view of the city and it doesn’t hurt to take a peek at this area’s collection of million dollar homes – the higher up the mountain you go, the bigger the house.
Chic boutiques, prestigious private schools and lavish restaurant highlight Westmount’s culture.
Historically known as the working-class neighbourhood of the city, the close-to-downtown Saint-Henri was the opposite of Westmount, both geographically and economically before gentrification took over.
Saint-Henri is buzzing with great bars, restaurants and the St. Ambroise Brewery but nothing can surpass The Atwater Market. This massive farmers market invites hours of perusing through seasonal local products.
McGill Ghetto only lives up to half of its nickname; McGill, yes, Ghetto, no. This tiny area next to Le Plateau is the home choice of thousands of McGill University students.
Featuring gorgeous Victorian-style buildings, this neighbourhood has bars, restaurants, Percival Molson Memorial Stadium (the home of CFL’s Montreal Alouettes), the mountain and one of most respected universities in North America.
Similar to Westmount, Outremont is primarily the home to upper-middle-class francophones, located on the north side of Mont Royal. Outremont has an abundance of great shops, cafes, restaurants and parks, and everybody in the city knows St Viateur Bagel.
While Outremont is a decent ways away from downtown, good public transport makes the area easily accessible. It is most definitely a must-visit, because the neighbourhood’s view from the mountain is breathtaking, and have we mentioned those bagels?
Proximity to the Lachine Canal, rail transport and a slew of trendy bars and restaurants has made Montreal’s Little Burgundy the ‘it’ neighbourhood of the island.
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