The neighbourhoods of Montréal are like the guests at a spontaneous Montréal house party — an eclectic bunch with fascinating backgrounds and stories, whose presence together makes for one exceedingly sophisticated melting pot. There’s a lot to love about each unique pocket of the city; as diverse and evolving as they are steeped in history, the neighbourhoods of the French-Canadian hub boast their own identities and vibes, from chic shopping districts to trendy foodie destinations to architectural havens.
In no particular order (seriously, it was hard enough to choose, never mind rank!), here are the Montréal neighbourhoods we adore.
Centre-ville — literally “city centre” in French — is Montréal’s commercial core. Not to be confused with office meeting stuffiness, the vibe here is surprisingly crammed with creativity; the city’s most popular art galleries and museums are located here. Visitors will discover towering, colourful murals splashed onto the sides of city buildings, and fashion can be seen not only in the vibrant shop scene but also on the people walking the streets. Downtown Montréal is home to the city’s entertainment district, known as Quartier des Spectacles. Here, annual events such as Jazz Fest and Just For Laughs help earn Montréal the title of “City of Festivals.” This is the perfect place to begin your Montréal explorations.
Said to be North America’s most remarkable concentration of 17th, 18th, and 19th-century buildings, charming Old Montréal is the delightful Parisian-style quarter between the harbour and the financial district. Having been significantly restored over the course of recent decades, it has now become a very welcoming tourist spot. Because of its cobblestone roads, Old Montréal is best explored on foot, starting from the Champ-de-Mars metro station. City Hall and Place Jacques-Cartier are just south of the station, with Rue St. Paul and Rue Notre-Dame leading to more historic sites, high-end restaurants, and luxury shops.
The laid-back Plateau area is known as a young, student-friendly neighbourhood with streets full of charming, brightly coloured townhouses. Avenue du Mont-Royal and Rue Saint-Denis are lined with casual cafés, bookshops, laid-back eateries, busy bars, and contemporary galleries and theatres. Nearby, Mount Royal Park has popular trails, a lake, and breathtaking city views from its namesake mountain. Lawns surround the ponds at tranquil Parc La Fontaine. The Plateau is characterized by a laissez-faire attitude that embraces its bohemian nature over the hipster culture of its Mile-End counterpart. It’s the location of some famous attractions on Saint Laurent Boulevard, including Schwartz’s Deli (famous for its Montréal smoked meat), and a weekend street fair during the summer that sees extremely crowded streets. In 1997, Utne Reader rated it one of the 15 “hippest” neighbourhoods in North America, an accolade that still rings true in 2019.
Mile End is a hip, laid-back area with an artsy vibe and multicultural roots. The area is home to the city’s two most famous bagel bakeries, Fairmount Bagel and St-Viateur Bagel. Branches of the popular vegetarian restaurants Green Panther and Lola Rosa are located in the area, as is the first branch of the Montréal supermarket chain PA Supermarché. Indie shops selling records, books, and vintage clothes are found throughout the area, especially on Rue Bernard. Coffee shops draw daytime crowds, while cocktail bars, music venues, and brewpubs make up the lively nightlife. Also noted as being the heart of the city’s independent music scene, the neighbourhood continues to be a thriving centre for many artists and musicians.
Griffintown is a buzzing, creative area with a mix of converted warehouses and condo developments. Bordered by the Lachine Canal, which has a busy pedestrian and bike path, it is a former working-class district of the Southwest of Montréal. The neighbourhood is located between Notre-Dame Street, the Bonaventure Expressway, and Georges-Vanier Boulevard. It is important to note that the neighbourhood is split into two, one part in the Sud-Ouest borough of Montréal and the other in the Ville-Marie borough. Griffintown is filled with a vibrant arts scene, which includes cutting-edge contemporary shows at Arsenal Montréal exhibition space and the work of local artists at the Montréal Art Centre. Hip locals dine at restaurants serving global fare along Rue Notre-Dame Ouest.
Little Italy is a charming residential neighbourhood located between Saint-Denis and Saint-Laurent, and spans from Jean-Talon to Saint-Zotique. If you enter via Saint-Laurent, you’ll pass beneath the unmissable Little Italy archway. This pocket of the city is full of old-school cafés, pizzerias, Italian grocery stores, and traditional bakeries. The Jean-Talon Market bustles year-round with stands selling flowers, produce, and hot meals. Nearby, locals play bocce in Parc Dante. The hip Mile-Ex enclave offers artisanal coffee shops, chic restaurants, and bars in industrial spaces. Interesting to note: Montréal has the second largest Italian population in Canada after Toronto. There are 260,345 people of Italian ancestry living within the Greater Montréal Area.
The Gay Village
The compact Gay Village has an upbeat vibe and a lively club scene. In summer, the main drag, Rue Saint-Catherine, is pedestrian-only and strung with pink decorations, and bars and eateries spill onto terraces in the street. Rue Amherst is known for its boutiques and antique shops. Nearby, the neoclassical Saint-Pierre-Apôtre Church contains the Chapel of Hope, dedicated to AIDS victims.
Little Burgundy is the latest up-and-coming, trendy neighbourhood along the Lachine Canal, home to families and young professionals alike. The path along the water is popular with joggers and cyclists, and leads to the art deco Atwater Market, filled with vendors selling produce, cheese, and meat. Stylish restaurants and cafés line Rue Notre-Dame Ouest, and antiques dealers, upscale home stores, and fashion boutiques dot the area.