a guide to the city’s best boroughs – Lonely Planet

a guide to the city's best boroughs – Lonely Planet
Written by Publishing Team

The heart of Montreal won’t be found in La Ronde amusement park or waiting in line for Notre Dame, as you’ll find it in the 19 districts that make up the city, where locals and tourists mingle to enjoy the perfect, delicious coffee. Bread and a deep sense of community.

Exploring Montreal’s distinct neighborhoods is like a tasting menu in a restaurant, where each course offers its own individual pleasure, and together they will give you the best time you can ever have.

Place des Arts in Montreal
Place des Arts in Montreal | © RnDmS / Getty Images

recreation area (recreation area)

Best neighborhood for arts and entertainment

Montreal is a very creative city, and perhaps there is no better place to experience the festivals, art, music, and performances of local artisans than the Quartier des Spectacles (entertainment district).). Whether in the hot summer or in the midst of a snowstorm, the Quartier des Spectacles is constantly bustling with cultural sites and 8 public spaces. At night, the boulevards light up with magical light shows, and at its heart is the Place des Arts, Canada’s largest arts and culture complex.

If you want entertainment, look no further. Events and festivals take place throughout the year (even with 3 feet of snow) at the Place des Festivals. Arguably the most festive and lively area in Montreal, you can check out the schedule of events here.

St. Viateur Bagel . Store
St. Store The famous Viateur Bagel in Montreal’s Mile End neighborhood © Bruce Yuanyue Bi / Getty Images

Mile End

Best neighborhood for coffee and savings

One of the most dynamic neighborhoods in Montreal, this neighborhood is a relaxed, trendy place for record stores, vintage shopping, cafes, and restaurants. It is a pedestrian friendly area where alleys have been converted into green spaces to connect the community.

The forty blocks that make up the Mile End are crowded with thrift stores and vintage goods—from Expo 67 mugs to vintage Chanel dresses, the Mile End is a treat for anyone willing to spend a few hours combing through its shelves. Annex Vintage sells the most pins and patches in town, and you can pin them to a vintage puffer jacket from the same store. Another popular store is Citizen Vintage – their goal is to provide a sustainable alternative to fast fashion by recycling clothing and home goods.

If you’re still hungry, the popular St. Viator Bagel (Anthony Bourdain certified) has its original Mile End location, and trust me, this bagel won’t disappoint even the most conceited baking connoisseur. You can push it against another Mile End competitor, the Fairmount Bagel.

People walk along Montreal gay village in summer
Gay Village in all its colorful glory © Pgiam / Getty Images

gay village

Best neighborhood to celebrate your pride (and party)

Home to Canada’s largest gay village and North America’s first registered gay establishment (Moise Tellier’s Apple and Cake Shop), this Montreal town has an unforgettable, welcoming atmosphere and vibrant cityscape. In summer, the main street, Rue Sainte-Catherine, becomes pedestrian-only because the streets are filled with pink and rainbow colors and courtyards dot the streets.

Featuring an impressive nightlife scene from LGBTIQ+, Gay Village is home to Cabaret Mado, a 1920s-inspired cabaret owned by local drag star Mado Lamotte. If you’re looking for something a bit more modern, Complexe Sky has three floors of premium music, a spa, and a pool.

Not to be overwhelmed by great cocktails, good food, and drag bars, Gay Village also has amazing shopping options, especially in the vintage shops on Atateken Street. You’ll get beautiful home goods at amazing prices – I’m never left empty-handed even after a short browsing on Atateken.

Facade of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is known for its beautiful exhibits © Chalffy / Getty Images

Town centre (downtown Montreal)

Best neighborhood for shopaholics and urbanites

It’s time to shop! High-end fashion stores are located next to affordable options in the heart of the small downtown, many of which are located on St. Catherine’s Street, Canada’s longest commercial street. Don’t worry if it gets too cold, Underground City has 33 km (just over 20 miles) of sprawling shops and metro connections.

If you need a break from shopping, have brunch at the lovely Parvis Café and stop by Mary, the Cathedral of the Queen of the World (as beautiful as Notre Dame and St. Joseph, but less crowded). Next, head to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for an afternoon of antiques.

Colorful townhouse in Montreal, Canada
Colorful townhouses in Montreal’s Le Plateau-Mont-Royal neighborhood © iStock / Getty Images Plus

Mont Royal Plateau

Best neighborhood to enjoy the unique architecture of Montreal

Home to the McGill Campus and its famous streets of sprawling 19th-century homes, Le Plateau borough is a place you can spend hours wandering around. Vibrant homes with their colorful spiral staircases define this area (be sure to visit Carré Saint-Louis for some really quirky lodgings), but fun and bustling shops (like Mycoboutique, specializing in all kinds of mushrooms), pretty churches, and many green spaces offer plenty. For the curious pedestrian.

Be sure to stop by for breakfast at Maison Publique, or if you’re craving something a little different, try the great Byblos le Petit Café for a Persian brunch. Rejuvenate at industrial Pikolo Espresso Bar, and finish your gourmet adventure at LOV, a Montreal vegetarian restaurant that has now spread as far as Toronto.

A late afternoon winter landscape looking down Saint-Denis Avenue towards the shops and restaurants of the Quartier Latin in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The summit of the former Saint-Jacques Basilica can be seen in the background, now incorporated into the campus of the University of Quebec in Montreal.
Enjoy an evening of jazz and cocktails in the Quartier Latin neighborhood | © Patrick Donovan / Getty Images

Latin Quarter (Latin Quarter)

Best neighborhood to sip a cocktail and socialize

This vibrant and lively part of Montreal thrives in warm weather. In this part of the city you can experience the true liveliness of the locals; Montrealers have a life like no other and you can join them in sipping cocktails in the bars with little French cafe tables on every street corner. This is a great place to grab cheap food, great drinks and bar hopping.

In winter, relax in a candlelit jazz bar like Bistro à Jojo or Bootlegger, L’Authentique, after a spectacular dinner at L’Express on the famous rue Saint-Denis. In summer, the more than 60 patios open to the streets will undoubtedly provide all your eating, drinking and delight.

Old Montreal - Saint Paul Street
The charming cobblestone streets of Old Montreal © Steven_Kriemades / Getty Images

Old Montreal (old City)

Best neighborhood to pretend you’re in Europe

Montreal’s most popular tourist district is popular for a reason – Old Montreal has been very crowded since the 17th century. It boasts of its winding cobblestone streets, ethereal Gothic cathedrals, archaeological monuments, lively squares with street vendors, and of course the Old Harbor (also known as the Old Port).

Old Montréal’s coffee scene is totally understated – come to Notre Dame, but stay for the sunlit cafés in beautiful historic buildings. Located on the famous Rue Saint Paul, Tommy is a two-story cafe popular on Instagram. Nearby is the wonderful Crew Collective Café and Café; It’s a café and co-working space, located in an old RBC building (with the original chandeliers still hanging impressively over the vaulted ceilings). For something a little more unusual, try Le Petit Dep, a hidden gem in the old port.

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