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Montreal neighbourhoods not to be missed

This Montreal neighbourhood guide covers the top areas to check out the next time you find yourself in this multicultural metropolis.

Montreal is truly one of the world’s great cities. It’s a destination with a wide array of wonderful areas to explore, and travellers can’t help but marvel at the variety of things to do in all corners of the island. While we wait until the time is right to get back out there and start exploring again, here’s some inspiration on what to do and see in the beautiful city of Montreal.

Old Montreal

view of Notre Dame church exterior tower in Montreal during the day
Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

Old Montreal is by far one of the best Montreal neighbourhoods, especially if this is your first visit! You’ll be immersed in that Old World European charm by wandering down Rue St. Paul. A popular street at any time of year, it’s lined with tons of picturesque shops, restaurants, cafés, art galleries, and boutique Montreal hotels. Stop at Olive et Gourmando for delicious sandwiches and pastries, and go for drinks at the trendy Hotel Nelligan. Make sure you dress to impress for an evening outside on their terrasse, a popular spot to go in the summer months. 

Right around the corner is Le Saint-Sulpice, where you’ll find large, nice rooms at an affordable price. Did you know that the city of Montreal was discovered by the French European settlers over 375 years ago? Find out more at the Pointe-a-Calliere Museum, which is located on the exact spot where Montreal was founded. They have bilingual (English and French) exhibits, and one which includes part of the original Fort Ville-Marie site from the mid-1600s. Another must-see Montreal attraction nearby is the Notre-Dame Basilica, a gorgeous church with a wildly colourful interior.

Old Port of Montreal

Old Port on Montreal
Photo by Nathalia Segato on Unsplash

Continue down Old Montreal and you’ll get to the Old Port, a great spot to walk along the St-Lawrence River. 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 dock of the port. Year-round, Montreal’s Old Port (Vieux Port) is filled with things to do for just about any type of traveller, with everything from skating in the winter to pedal boats in the summer. If you’re looking for activities for kids, they will love the zip line, pirate ship, and lots of interactive learning at the Montreal Science Centre.

This area of Montreal is pretty flat, which makes the Old Port an ideal spot for biking. Some activities and events will be happening at the Old Port this summer, so check their guide here. At night time, be sure to check out the lights of the overlooking Jacques Cartier Bridge.

Downtown Montreal

view of downtown Montreal at the top of Mount Royal
Montreal neighbourhoods not to be missed

The hustle-and-bustle of downtown makes it a great Montreal neighbourhood to explore. Start your day on Ste-Catherine’s Street, which is Montreal’s main street. The top attractions of downtown include the Quartier des Spectacles, typically home to the city’s music festivals like the Montreal Jazz Fest and many more. 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. If you’re in the mood to experience more of Montreal’s infamous nightlife scene, we’ve got a guide for you.

Another well-known 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, Kampai Garden does fantastic Asian cuisine in a hip and stylish setting. 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. I also love Le Germain Hotel Montreal, with that chic European style and a delicious free breakfast. The hotel is a short walk from the beautiful campus of McGill University, which is one of the top universities in Canada.

Plateau Mont-Royal

colourful houses in Montreal's Le Plateau
Photo by Boyan Lepoev on Unsplash

One of the most notorious Montreal neighbourhoods would have to be ‘The Plateau.’ With Mount Royal serving as its backdrop, The Plateau is an area where you can spend a week exploring for its endless little parks, trendy bars and cafés, and some of the city’s best restaurants. This 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.

For a taste of more famous Montreal fare, look no further than Montreal’s Schwartz’s Deli, located in the heart of ‘The Main’ on Boulevard Saint Laurent. This popular deli is home of the city’s best smoked meat, which is served on rye bread with mustard and, for traditionalists, washed down with a Black Cherry Coke. Be sure to look out for all the Leonard Cohen murals in this Montreal neighbourhood, made to honour one of the city’s most beloved artists.

Mile-End

street view of triplex in Montreal's Mile End neighbourhood
Photo by This Guy on Unsplash

If you’re looking for something a little more hipster, the Montreal neighbourhood the Mile-End will not disappoint. With lower prices than The Plateau, the artists and creatives are moving north on Boulevard St-Laurent here to the Mile-End. The Mile-End is home to the city’s best-known musicians and artists like Arcade Fire, Grimes, and Ariane Moffatt.

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. 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 have a pint on the terrasse before your screening!

One of the best things to do in this Montreal neighbourhood is to simply walk. You can easily spend the day wandering up Park Avenue and Fairmount Avenue and discover artsy indie breweries, bars, some of Montreal’s best cafés, and bookshops. The Mile-End is always camera-ready, and it’s picturesque streets are great to photograph any time of year.

Cote-des-Neiges/Mont-Royal

view of Montreal neighbourhood Mont Royal park in the evening
Photo by daniel baylis on Unsplash

Montreal’s 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 all Montrealers, this giant park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the man behind New York’s Central Park and many other fine parks. You’ll find quiet woods, lush lawns that are perfect for picnics, and awesome views of the city spread at your feet. One fun way to explore the park without having to hike to the top is by renting an electric bike in town from Dyad.

Cote-des-Neiges is the multicultural heart of the city, and in one block, you can find anything from a little French bakery, Jamaican grocery store, to Russian food and a trendy poke restaurant. Be sure to check out one of Montreal’s top attractions by the mountain, St. Joseph’s Oratory. The steps up to the church are a popular mini-pilgrimage for worshippers and the views from the top are definitely worth it.

Little Burgundy

woman biking along the Lachine Canal with a view of downtown Montreal on a sunny day
Photo by Roxanne Desgagnes on Unsplash

Located a bit west of downtown along Rue Notre Dame, this is one of the most up-and-coming Montreal neighbourhoods. 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. It’s just a few metres from the Lachine Canal, which is lined with a great walking/biking 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 three dining places in Canada.

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 the endless number of outdoor activities, heading to this enchanting Candian 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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