You’ll be captivated by the heart of the city’s historical district, with cobblestone streets, early-New France architecture, regal Beaux- Arts buildings, and the grandeur of the Basilique Notre-Dame-de- Montréal. It’s here that you’ll also find some of the city’s trendier restaurants, shops, and hotels. In the south end, a gradual slope leads to the converted warehouses and green spaces of the Vieux-Port and the St-Lawrence River.
The downtown core is the city’s main commercial district. Rue Ste-Catherine is lined with everything from historical department stores to trendy boutiques, while rue Crescent is popular for clubbing. South of the shopping area is the Centre Bell, home of the popular hockey team Montréal Canadiens, and to the north, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal sits among other stately Belle Époque buildings. In cold weather, enjoy the shelter of the Underground City.
The main cultural district known as the Quartier des Spectacles is home to the Belgo Building, an arts hub, and the Place des Arts, where you can catch the symphony, ballet, and opera and check out the Musée d’Art Contemporain next door. In summer, the streets are taken over by the Festival International de Jazz and the Just for Laughs festival. South of the cultural district is Chinatown, the place to find the best dim sum in the city.
Quartier Latin and the Village
Centered around UQÀM, this is the stomping ground of Francophone university students. The city’s main library, La Grande Bibliothèque, is a masterful piece of contemporary architecture, and lively and boisterous bars and restaurants can be found on rue St-Denis. To the east is the Village, Montréal’s gay neighborhood, a mecca for late-night partying, karaoke bars, and antiques shopping on rue Amherst.
This charming artistic enclave features tree-lined streets, cozy neighborhood bistros, and 100-year-old townhouses. The best restaurants in the city are located here, and the bars that line the historic Main have secured Montréal’s place as a nightlife destination, while the bars, cafés, and boutiques on rue St-Denis are a quintessential part of the Francophone community.
Mile End and Petite Italie
Populated by hipsters and artists, the Mile End is also home to a large Orthodox Jewish population. This mix of cultures is part of the neighborhood’s DNA, as witnessed in the Italian cafés, Greek restaurants, and famous bagel shops, which mix well with the chic stores on avenue Laurier and rue Bernard in Outremont. North of Mile End is Little Italy, with its pre-fascism Mussolini fresco at Chiesa della Madonna della Difesa and the sprawling farmers market Marché Jean-Talon.
Parc du Mont-Royal is a haven for recreation, and it provides the best views of the city. To the east of the park are the buildings for the 1976 Olympics, including the breathtaking Stade Olympique. Île Sainte-Hélène and Île Notre-Dame make up Parc Jean-Drapeau, a great place for biking, outdoor concerts, and exploring the Biosphère.
Excursions from Montréal
Montréalers typically head north into the Laurentian Mountains for skiing and staying in cottages and south to the Cantons de l’Est for the picturesque villages and antiquing—though a bit of each can be done in both.
Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Montréal & Québec City.