When it comes to shopping in North America, there’s no hub quite like Montréal. Buzzing with a quintessentially European level of sophistication, the old streets of the fabulously French city on the St. Lawrence River are filled with chic boutiques, curiosity shops, and luxury department stores. Those shoppers who possess a measured amount of savoir-vivre will find plenty of delights in the magasins of the continent’s coolest island city.
From fashion to furniture, there are plenty of options beyond the typical American chains that tend to crop up in every metropolitan centre; the shops on our list are steeped in a proud, local history, with plenty of artistry and personality to suit the most discerning retail aficionados.
For Gastronomic Treasures
What: Covered market
Where: 138 Atwater Ave, Montréal
When it comes to food, the French are known for plenty besides cheese curds and maple syrup. Both local and visiting foodies flock to Marché Atwater. Located near the Lachine Canal in the city’s Saint-Henri neighbourhood, this Art Deco-style landmark has been in operation since 1933. The market hall (or marché, as it is known in French) is bursting with local butcher shops and cheesemongers. In the spring and summer, when the temporary winter walls are removed, the outdoor stalls are positively overflowing with colourful local produce, herbs, and flowers. Coupled with the warm aromas of Première Moisson, an artisanal bakery, the scent of freshly-cut roses and delphiniums make Marché Atwater a quaint and earthy urban oasis.
What: Gourmet grocery store
Where: 360 Boulevard de Maisonneuve O, Montréal
Another not-to-be-missed foodie spot is Fou D’Ici. A gourmet grocery store in the heart of the downtown core, on Boulevard de Maisonneuve O, this upscale grocery store has more than 2000 local products on offer. Playing double duty as a café and deli, this is a Montréal staple for a fast, fresh, gourmet lunch.
For Luxury Finds
What: Luxury department store
Where: 1300 Sherbrooke Street West, Montréal
Holt Renfrew has been the name in Canadian luxury for nearly two centuries now (fun fact: the store was originally founded in Quebec City). In 2017, the brand acquired Ogilvy’s, a high-end department store that has been in operation since 1866. Now re-branded as Holt Renfrew Ogilvy, a truly Canadian conglomerate, the newly-renovated (and ever-improving) shopping hotspot is filled with designer labels and beautifully designed boutiques from the world’s biggest fashion houses. Particularly worth a visit is the brand new 23,000 square foot beauty hall, where bottles of expensive perfumes gleam in the light and fill the air with exotic and opulent fragrances.
What: Men’s fashion boutique
Where: 1452 Peel St, Montréal
Soon to be celebrating its 40th anniversary, L’Uomo totes itself as “the best European men’s style in North America.” Inspired by Circo Paone, founder of Napoli’s famous tailoring house, Kiton, the brand is committed to a restless quest for perfection. And this means never, ever shying away from laborious precision; a Kiton suit, for instance, takes 25 hours to produce — even as a collaborative effort between several tailors — thanks to its 35,000 hand stitches. A Borelli shirt requires skilled seamstresses to perform 22 different procedures over the course of 6 hours. The curation of brands in this upscale shop on Rue Peel results in a devastatingly handsome line of menswear of unparalleled quality.
What: Woman’s fashion boutique
Where: 170 Saint-Paul St W, Montréal
Denis Gagnon loves — loves — leather, and the couture renderings of his favourite material have been wowing both the Canadian and international fashion scenes since 2004. Gagnon got his start making theatre costumes, and his penchant for drama hasn’t faded over the years. The most recent collection may be colourless, with black and grey attire, but it’s in silhouette and texture that Gagnon likes to play. Our personal favourite? The Denise-VM01, a polyester taffeta jacket with bold ruching at the sleeves and hood. Be sure to check out the sleek and sexy offerings at the Denis Gagnon store, located a stone’s throw from the Montréal Museum of Archeology and History and the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal.
For Vintage Threads
Various Vintage Shops in the Plateau/Mile End
For the fashionistas among us who are looking for something a little more offbeat and retro, Montréal is a spectacular city for vintage shopping. (With all those Montréal-based labels and a close connection to the European fashion world, how could its vintage stores not be stocked with the coolest threads?) The Plateau and Mile End, two of the city’s hottest neighbourhoods, are vintage meccas. Cul-de-Sac, Local 23, and Annex Vintage are all worth hitting up, and with multiple locations across the city, Citizen Vintage is a great spot for retro finds as well as handmade originals. And for those who love the thrill of the hunt, the sprawling, multi-floor Eva B, located a little further south, can yield plenty of treasures, as well as perks like free coat check, popcorn, cider or lemonade at the door, and a delicious café.
For Hats & Recycled Furs
Where: 416 McGill St, Montréal
Montréal’s finest recycled fur company, Boutique Harricana has been making an environmental impact for the past 23 years; since its creation in 1993, the company has saved the lives of over 1 million animals by repurposing and reimagining existing furs. Its sister company, Canadian Hat, began its legacy long before, in 1918, earning a worldwide reputation for its exquisite milliner work and its gorgeous use of mink, fox, and beaver, as well as other materials like felt, straw, and wool. For those from abroad, an ethically-sourced fur accessory will serve as the perfect souvenir from la belle province.
Where: 915 Saint-Catherine St W, Montréal
Argo is Montréal’s oldest independent anglophone bookshop, and it’s a must-visit for bibliophiles. This beloved shop has been situated in the city’s Shaughnessy Village since 1966, specializing in English language literature at a time when any anglophone-centric business was at risk; the October Crisis, which saw the country’s only peacetime use of the Wartime Measures Act (in the face of bombings, kidnappings, and a high-profile murder by French separatists) occurred a short four years later. Today the cute shop specializes in the works of marginalized authors and stocks its shelves with books on race, gender, and queer issues. Argo also hosts regular readings and signings with esteemed authors — be sure to check the schedule of events!
For Cool Furniture
What: Antique furnishings
Where: 5595 St Laurent Blvd, Montréal
A stroll up Boulevard Saint-Laurent, beneath its strings of twinkling white lights, will result in many unique discoveries, and Style Labo is one of them. The shop, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, caters to offbeat furniture (or meubles) and accessories from between the years 1850 and 1950. Antique and industrial, the unusual gems of Style Labo have been sourced from old factories, workshops, and hospitals, the latter of which has yielded curious medical apparatus. (There are even some taxidermies to be found.) For those looking to blend antiquity with a little contemporary flair, the large storefront also carries a selection of new fixtures and accessories.
What: Curiosity shop
Where: 5478 St Laurent Blvd, Montréal
Last but certainly not least, Monastiraki, also located on Saint-Laurent, is your go-to for the souvenirs you didn’t know you wanted. Walking through this shop is like opening one treasure chest after another; dozens of drawers hold a mismatched collection of oddities, from vintage matchbooks and sewing needles to pins and figurines. Books, vintage and new artwork, old postcards, out-of-print magazines, and mid-century ceramics can all be found in Monastiraki’s nooks and crannies. It’s best to enter this store with no particular objective in mind; the glory is in the discoveries. And once you’ve made your unique purchase, head a little further up the street to the Whiskey Café, where a long day of shopping can be concluded with a nightcap from the retro bar’s very long drinks list.