Much has changed since explorer Jacques Cartier climbed to the top of Mont-Royal in 1535. From this small central mountain, now part of the rambling Parc Mont Royal, modern visitors can survey the 1976 Olympic Stadium, the gleaming downtown high-rises, and the sprawling neighborhoods. Just south of downtown, on the banks of the St. Lawrence, Old Montreal beckons with narrow cobblestone streets, quaint shops, and vibrant jazz clubs. For a taste of bohemia, head northeast from Old Montreal to the gentrified enclave of Plateau Mont-Royal, a laidback community packed with hip bars and restaurants.
Old Montréal and the Old PortEstablished as a trading post by French settlers in 1611, the port area comprising Old Montréal and the Old Port is still a vibrant commercial hub, boasting souvenir shops, bustling sidewalk cafés, street performers, and winding cobblestone streets. Many of the historic buildings house galleries, boutique hotels, and high-end shops. A waterfront promenade bordering rue de la Commune provides a picturesque respite. The eastern end of the neighborhood is the most touristy; for a more authentic experience, dine amongst the locals in the more residential western portion.
DowntownThis is the cosmopolitan heart of Montreal. Grand, 19th-century greystone buildings with gleaming skyscrapers house the city's best cultural institutions, hotels, and restaurants like the Contemporary Art Museum, the Ritz, and culinary hotspot Toque!, not to mention two of the city’s best upscale shopping streets: rue Ste-Catherine and rue Sherbrooke. Connecting them all is the underground city.
Plateau Mont-RoyalThis trendy neighborhood near McGill University is an amalgam of cultures and characters, with a dash of grit thrown in for good measure. Before you lose yourself among the neighborhood's many shopping, dining, or clubbing options, saunter along St-Denis, St-Laurent, Prince Arthur, Duluth, and Mont-Royal and listen to the mix of languages.
Mile EndAlthough officially part of the Plateau Mont-Royal, this up-and-coming neighborhood is a separate entity in the minds of the locals. It is noteworthy for its designer shopping, trendy bars and restaurants, and a happening indie music scene. The ethnically diverse community includes a large a Greek and Hasidic population.
The Latin Quarter and the VillageTechnically two distinct districts, the Latin Quarter and the Village are often referred to interchangeably as the same neighborhood. The laid-back Latin Quarter is a long-time student haunt, while the village is the epicenter of Montreal’s gay community; the red light district and the shop-filled Carré St-Louis are located here as well. Collectively, the area is known for restaurants, nightlife, antiques, and boutiques. Be sure to explore the Latin Quarter’s Boulevard St-Laurent, which comes alive at night.
Parc Jean-DrapeauThis park is comprised of two islands: Ile Notre-Dame and Ile Ste-Helene. The former, an entirely man-made island constructed for Expo '67 and home to Canada’s only Formula One Racetrack (Circuit Gilles Villeneuve) and the Montreal Casino, is an ever-popular tourist destination. The latter boasts green parks and the La Ronde amusement park. The Montréal Grand Prix in June brings thousands of spectators.
OutremonJust northeast of the Mont-Royal lies the city’s smallest neighborhood. Founded at the end of the 19th century as a farming community, today, it is an upper middle-class neighborhood that offers fine dining and expensive shopping.
Little BurgundyJust south of downtown, this small neighborhood was once home to primarily working-class, African-Canadian and Caribbean-Canadian families. Recent decades have brought gentrification in the form of upscale residential homes and restaurants.
Quartier des SpectaclesContained within Montreal’s Downtown, this former red-light district began a process of renewal in the 1960s much like the recent transformation of New York’s Time Square. Today, the Quartier des Spectacles (“Festival Zone”) is the epicenter of most major Montreal events. A planned $1.9 billion in developments slated for completion by 2025 will further revitalize the neighborhood, including the addition of performance halls, the Place des Arts cultural complex, international festivals, art galleries, and exhibition centers. One thing that hasn’t changed: theaters in the area shine a red light on evenings when there is a show.
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