Montreal is known for its eclectic patchwork of charming neighborhoods. Each residential pocket offers a unique experience for visitors, illustrated through art, innovation, and community. And though each neighborhood stands out in its own way, together they share a welcoming spirit that helps create one of Canada’s most vibrant cities. Read on to learn more about Montreal’s coolest quarters!

The Plateau

Not to be confused with the overarching borough of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, the Plateau proper is located northeast of downtown and serves as an epicenter for artists, musicians, students, and young families. While exploring, you’ll find that most residents rely on public transport, bicycles, and their own two feet to get around, which adds a friendly (and sustainable) energy to the neighborhood.

Saint-Laurent Boulevard is the Plateau’s central thoroughfare and acts as a lifeline of sorts, a place where festivals are hosted, family-run shops are thriving, and street art is celebrated. (To see some of the best murals in the city, keep your eyes peeled where the boulevard intersects with Napoleon and Prince-Arthur.) The colorful neighborhood also boasts a number of cool coffee shops such as Dispatch, Café Replika, and Noble Café, and the famous Schwartz’s Deli — home to arguably the best smoked meat sandwich in the city — is also found here.  

Mile End

Squeezed between Outremont and Little Italy, the Mile End offers a hip, Williamsburg-esque experience for those looking to dive into Montreal’s art and music scene; this is the neighborhood where the band Arcade Fire was formed, author Mordecai Richler grew up, and all types of aspiring creatives come to hone their skills. If you’re looking to see what local makers are up to during your visit, be sure to check out Art Hives, Galerie Simon Blais, and Never Apart.

On top of its art scene, though, the Mile End also excels in the culinary side of things, as showcased in the “Mile End Food Montreal Food Tour,” a guided expedition through the neighborhood’s cafés, restaurants, and pubs. If you don’t have time for a full tour, though, a few places worth visiting are Butterblume or Café Olimpico for coffee, Aux Vivres to try some of the best vegan food in the city, and Casa Del Popolo if you’re in the mood for a beer and live music. The microbrewery Dieu du Ciel! is also located in the Mile End, as are Montreal’s top-notch bagel producers: St-Viateur Bagels and Fairmount Bagels.

Lastly, you’ll want to make sure your camera is fully charged, as the Mile End offers plenty of photo opportunities to capture Montreal’s classic three-level brick and gray-stone architecture, adorned with winding staircase and balconies.

Outremont

Nestled into the northern foothills of Mount Royal, Outremont — which fittingly translates to “north of the mountain” — is a ritzy residential area made up of old, Victorian-style homes and boutique shops. As far as demographics go, the upscale area is predominantly French, but it’s also home to large Hasidic Jewish community, making it one of the city’s most diverse enclaves.

To get a feel for the neighborhood, walk along Laurier Avenue or Bernard Avenue, both of which tend to bustle with pedestrians. Laurier hosts a number of high-end fashion boutiques, while Bernard is a popular date-night destination, with restaurants such as Brasserie Bernard and Lester’s Deli serving up some of Montreal’s finest foods. Another popular stop along Bernard is le Glacier Bilboquet. Grab an ice cream cone and wander over to Outremont Park, just a block south of Bernard Avenue. And if you’re wondering what to do next, head to Mount Royal Park and enjoy the stunning views of Montreal’s skyline!

The Village

Montreal’s Gay Village, one of the largest of its kind in North America, is a colorful, welcoming community worth visiting. To some, neighborhood boundaries are still relatively loose, though most people believe it to be about a 14-block radius on the city’s east side. The district includes a section of Sainte-Catherine Street (one of Montreal’s busiest streets), multiple metro stops, and affordable rent, making this area not only attractive to those in the LGBTQ community, but for everyone else, too.

The Village is especially fun during the summer, when streets like Sainte-Catherine become adorned in rainbow-themed decorations and turn into a pedestrian-only zone for festivals, restaurant terraces, and open air galleries. There’s also a ton of clubs and bars in the Village, some favorites being Unity, Complexe Sky, and Stereo. If you’re looking to get some shopping shopping done, head to Amherst Street, which is packed with boutiques and vintage goldmines. And in memory of AIDS victims, visit the Saint Pierre Apotre Church — also known as the Chapel of Hope — located on Visitation Street.

Old Montreal

There’s a good chance Old Montreal will make you feel as if you’ve hopped on a plane and landed in France, which isn’t a bad thing. These quarters are home to cobblestone streets, cathedrals, and cafés, which help complete one of Canada’s coolest neighborhoods. Here, you’ll have the chance to admire architecture that dates back to the 17th century, visit the many galleries, or stop for coffee at the likes of Tommy Café or Crew Collective & Coffee.

Other points of interest are Saint-Paul Street (Montreal’s first official thoroughfare) — where the Notre-Dame Basilica and Bonsecours Market are located — and the city’s Old Port, which has been redeveloped in recent years and is now the location of the famous observation wheel and Montreal Science Center. The Montreal Archaeology and History Complex is also near the water at 350 Place Royale — the site where Montreal was officially founded. Finally, this neighborhood is one of those places that is picturesque in all seasons, so don’t forget your camera! Once you’ve explored all that Old Town has to offer, retire to the cozy confines of Le Westin Montreal!

Which neighborhood seems to fit your travel style best? Let us know in the comments below!

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Brad Donaldson is a writer and editor proudly based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Although his roots are in Canada, his desire to see more of the world frequently takes him away from home. His work, both as an editor and writer, has appeared in local newspapers and publications.