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8 Montreal neighbourhoods not to be missed

Times are tough for travellers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure – whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we’ve got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

Explore the sights, sounds, and tastes of the best neighbourhoods in Montreal and discover why this city is everyone’s favourite Canadian destination. Our Montreal neighbourhood guide covers the top areas to check out the next time you find yourself in this multicultural metropolis.

Please note: Before booking any type of travel, always check the latest local guidelines and coronavirus travel restrictions throughout Canada. Some of the attractions listed below are temporarily closed due to the Quebec curfew, but are scheduled to reopen by May or June 2021.

Best neighbourhoods in Montreal

Old Montreal

view of Notre-Dame cathedral exterior tower in Montreal during the day
Best neighbourhoods in Montreal to visit: Old Montreal

If you’re looking for that glimpse of Paris in Montreal you’ve heard so much about, then you’ll find it in Old Montreal. Start by wandering along the cobblestone path of Rue St-Paul; a busy and beautiful commercial street lined with art galleries, gift shops, restaurants, cafés, and stylish boutique hotels, and you’ll see why Montreal is sometimes referred to as such a European city. Some of the architecture from the days of New France can still be found in this neighbourhood, and visitors can learn about the history of the French settlers who arrived in 1642 at some of the city’s top museums nearby.

Immerse yourself in centuries of history at the Pointe-a-Calliere Museum, located on what’s known as the ‘birthplace of Montreal’. They have bilingual (English and French) exhibits, one which includes part of the original Fort Ville-Marie site from the mid-1600s. Another must-see Montreal attraction in this neighbourhood is the Notre-Dame Basilica, a Gothic Revival structure with one of the most impressive (and colourful) church interiors in the world. If you have some more time, take a peak at the St-Sulpice Seminary right around the corner, as it’s one of the oldest buildings in Montreal, dating back to 1687.

If you’re looking for a place to unwind for a few days, head Le Saint-Sulpice, where you’ll find modern suites and plenty of facilities for any type of traveller. Stop for lunch at Olive et Gourmando, where you can get delicious sandwiches and signature salads made to perfection. For a perfect Montreal afternoon, head out for drinks at the trendy Hotel Nelligan and enjoy the views on the rooftop terrace while sharing a pitcher of their famed white sangria.

Land recognition: Montreal is located on the unceded Mohawk territory of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation. The traditional name of the city is known as Tiohtià:ke.

Old Port of Montreal

Old Port of Montreal
Best Montreal neighbourhoods to visit: Old Port of Montreal

Continue down Old Montreal and you’ll get to the Old Port (le Vieux Port), complete with a pedestrian pathway where you can enjoy the scenic St. Lawrence River and some of the city’s most impressive architecture along the way. This very tourist-friendly Montreal neighbourhood was once the centre of commerce for the city, and you can still see the old container ships at the port.

Year-round, Montreal’s Old Port district is filled with things to do for just about any type of traveller: there’s everything from outdoor skating and evening concerts in the winter (chilly, but amazing!) to pedal boating and food festivals in the summer. Travelling with kids? They’ll just love the zip line, pirate ship, and interactive learning at the Montreal Science Centre.

Some activities and events will be happening at the Old Port during the summer months, so check their guide here. At night time, be sure to check out the lights of the overlooking Jacques Cartier Bridge.

Visitors can experience the city’s history in another light (literally) with the new Cité Memoires: art installations of historical scenes and characters that are projected on walls, trees, streets, and buildings of the Old Port, Old Montreal, and parts of downtown. Keep an eye out for this multimedia immersive art display when you’re roaming through the city.

Further reading: Heading out west? Here are some of Vancouver’s hippest neighbourhoods.

Downtown Montreal

view of downtown Montreal at the top of Mount Royal
View of downtown Montreal

All the hustle-and-bustle with beautiful architecture to boot, downtown Montreal is always a fascinating neighbourhood to explore. Start your day on Ste-Catherine’s, one of Montreal’s main streets which stretches from east to west of the city centre. The top attractions of downtown include the Quartier des Spectacles, home to the city’s music festivals like the Montreal Jazz Fest in June. Head a few blocks east on Ste-Catherine’s Street from here and you’re in the Gay Village. Home to the annual Montreal Pride Parade, this area is also where you can find the much-sought-after drag show at Cabaret Mado.

Another well-known Montreal attraction is the Cathedrale Marie Reine du Monde (Mary Queen of the World), a stunning piece of architecture, especially the interior. If you’re looking for a place to eat nearby, Kampai Garden does fantastic Asian cuisine in a hip and stylish setting.

And make sure to check out the newly opened OASIS Immersion, which is one of the largest indoor immersive experiences in the country. Located on the ground floor of Palais des congrès, visitors are taken on a sound and visual journey as they explore three immersive galleries, two light experiences, and a café/lounge area.

Popular Montreal hotels in this neighbourhood include Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, the site of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s infamous ‘bed-in for peace’ in 1969.

Plateau Mont-Royal

mural art in Montreal's Plateau neighbourhood with Mont Royal in the distance.
Best neighbourhoods in Montreal: The Plateau

Home to Little Portugal to The Main, the heart of Montreal’s (multi)cultural history can be found in Plateau Mont-Royal. Visitors can spend days enjoying its many local parks and taking pictures of murals that can be found on just about every corner. This neighbourhood is also one of the best places to visit in Montreal if you’re a diehard foodie; from mouth-watering Portuguese chicken to French pastries and pad thai, you can sample the world’s cuisine right here in the Plateau. Top food spots include Restaurant Jano, Aux Vivres (a stable for the local vegan community), and Patisserie Kouign Amann.

This Montreal neighbourhood is also where many European immigrants settled during the Great Depression and WW2, and some of the original delis and bakeries from that era can still be found today. For a sample of the city’s most iconic fare, look no further than Schwartz’s Deli, located in the heart of The Main on Boulevard Saint Laurent. Established in 1928, this historic deli is home of the city’s best smoked meat. The classic sandwich is served on rye bread with mustard and, for traditionalists, washed down with a Black Cherry Coke. Walk off some of those calories by going for a stroll in nearby Lafontaine Park or shop along Mont-Royal Avenue, where you’ll find a ton of boutique shops featuring some of Montreal’s best designers and artisans.

Be sure to look out for the Leonard Cohen murals in this Montreal neighbourhood, made to honour one of the city’s most beloved artists.

Mile End

Mural Walla Volo by Ola Volo produced by Le Cartel. Location in Montreal's Mile-End neighbourhood
Photo credit: Eva Blue – Mural Walla Volo by Ola Volo produced by Le Cartel

If you’re looking for something a little more hipster, the Mile End will not disappoint. This Montreal neighbourhood is home to the city’s best-known musicians and artists like Arcade Fire, Grimes, and Ariane Moffatt. While rent prices have gone up in recent years and the pandemic has taken a toll on a number of the Mile End’s independent businesses, visitors can still come here for a glimpse of what makes Montreal such a diverse and unique city.

This stylish neighbourhood in Montreal is filled with local hot spots like Wilensky’s Light Lunch, a historic Montreal restaurant known for its grilled bologna sandwich and fountain sodas. Then go for a pint (or two) at Dieu du Ciel, Montreal’s first craft brewery with a cozy terasse overlooking Laurier Avenue. For some culture, head to Cinema Moderne, where you’ll find a unique selection of indie films new and old. Complete with a trendy café-bar, you can even enjoy a pint before your screening!

One of the best things to do in this neighbourhood is to simply walk. You can easily spend the day wandering up Park Avenue and Fairmount Avenue discovering some of the city’s best independent cafés and shops. Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood is where you’ll find delicious Montreal-style bagels. You can get yourself one at St-Viateur Bagel or Fairmount Bagels; a Montreal establishment that is open 24 hours. The secret? They’re dipped in water with honey before they’re boiled, then cooked in a wood-burning oven for a perfect exterior.

Cote-des-Neiges/Mont-Royal

view of Montreal neighbourhood Mont Royal park in the evening
Montreal neighbourhoods not to be missed: Cote-des-Neiges/Mont Royal

Montreal’s most central neighbourhood is Cote-des-Neiges, where you’ll find one of the world’s great urban parks known as Mont-Royal. The go-to nature escape for Montrealers and visitors alike, this giant park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, one of the men who designed New York’s Central Park. At this popular spot for all Montrealers year-round you’ll find quiet woods and lush lawns that are perfect for picnics and awesome views of the city.

Cote-des-Neiges is also the multicultural heart of Montreal; in one block you can find anything from a little French bakery, to a Jamaican grocery store, a Russian restaurant and café, and even a trendy poke restaurant. And while you’re exploring the area be sure to check out St Joseph’s Oratory, one of Montreal’s main attractions. You can’t miss it really, as the Oratory is the highest peak of the city. The steps up to the church are a popular mini-pilgrimage for worshippers, and the views from the top are definitely worth it.

Further reading: Adventure awaits on these epic hiking trails near Montreal

Little Burgundy

woman biking along the Lachine Canal with a view of downtown Montreal on a sunny day
Best neighbourhoods in Montreal to live: Little Burgundy

Located a bit west of downtown along Rue Notre-Dame, this area is quickly becoming one of Montreal’s trendiest districts and one of the best places to live in Montreal. Check out Atwater Market for all your foodie needs, including fresh fruits and veggies from local farmers, maple treats (this is Canada, after all), and incredible bread at Premiere Moisson. The market is just a few metres from the Lachine Canal, which is lined with a great walking and bike path.

There are plenty of independent coffee shops and restaurants scattered along Notre-Dame that you won’t have time to try them all! Highlights include September Café, Mamie Clafoutis, and Foiegwa. For a real splurge, Joe Beef is a legendary spot in Montreal that’s been voted among the top dining places in Canada.

Rosemont Petite-Patrie

Chinese-style structure at Montreal Botanical Gardens
Best Montreal neighbourhoods to live: Rosemont Petite-Patrie

If you’re looking for an energetic neighbourhood in Montreal that’s full of joie de vivre, Rosemont Petite-Patrie is it. Here you can find vibrant food markets like the famed Jean-Talon Market in Little Italy. Spending an afternoon at one of the largest open-air markets in North America is one of my favourite things to do in Montreal. You won’t regret eating your way through the cheeses, meats, pastries, and other Québecois products on offer here. You can even try practising your French-speaking skills with the local vendors!

The Biodome, located at Montreal’s Olympic Park from the 1976 Games has recently reopened, giving families and horticulturists a chance to explore some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. Families will also enjoy spending some time at one of the many green spaces such as Maisonneuve Park, especially during the spring and summer months.

One of Rosemont’s eclectic features are the urban villages in the residential area. Each has their own personality and wandering around, popping into bakeries and bistros, is a fun activity in itself.

Where should I stay in Montreal for the first time?

For first-time travellers visiting Montreal, the Old Port is an impressive area with lots of boutique accommodation options. Filled with history, amazing restaurants and major attractions, it’s a great choice for any trip to Montreal.

Where should I stay in Montreal without a car?

Neighbourhoods like the Plateau and Mile End are very pedestrian-friendly and are best explored on foot if you want to take in the best sights. Travellers will find everything they need within walking distance, making these areas a solid option for those without a car. Looking for shared bikes? Bixi bike stands can be found throughout the city making it easy to navigate your way around Montreal by bike.

What is the best time of year to visit Montreal?

Visitors enjoy exploring Montreal from spring to fall. In the summer, travellers flock to the city for one of the many music and arts festivals held between June and September. Spring blooms and mild fall weather makes Montreal a perfect long weekend getaway.

Which neighbourhood will you explore first?

Whichever area you choose, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Montreal. From the history to the food and the endless number of outdoor activities, heading to this enchanting Canadian city should be at the top of your travel bucket list for when we can all get back out there and explore the world again.

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