Montreal Neighborhoods & Towns
Montreal is an island city with two main geographic features: Mont-Royal and the St. Lawrence River. Holding fast to the French manner of giving directions, Montrealers defy the compass and use these natural landmarks instead. If someone tells you to go north, they mean head in the direction of Mont-Royal, though it's technically to the west. With this in mind, the St. Lawrence River borders the southern side of the city, with the boulevard Saint-Laurent acting as the dividing line between east and west.
Montreal is also two cities in one, with another city located entirely underground. Visitors can escape Canada's harsh winter weather by exploring the many shopping malls found in Montreal's Underground City.
Accessible via the Green Line's McGill métro station or the Orange Line's Bonaventure métro station.
Bound by rue Sherbrooke to the north, boulevard René-Lévesque to the south, boulevard St-Laurent to the east and rue Drummond to the west, the heart of Montreal is similar to most major business hubs, displaying magnificent skyscrapers, upscale hotels and plenty of fine dining. Downtown is an area where languages and tastes collide while Old-World European architecture shares the street with contemporary structure. At the northern edge of downtown is McGill University's urban campus, which maintains its Anglophone identity amidst a French-speaking community.
Accessible via the Green Line's Saint-Laurent métro station.
Known to Montrealers as "La Main," boulevard St-Laurent is the city's most renowned street. Located in the heart of Montreal, boulevard St-Laurent used to be the dividing line between the French-speaking side of the city and the English-speaking side. These days, the linguistic barriers are less distinguished; however, boulevard St-Laurent remains a prominent feature. La Main is littered with boutique shops and top-notch restaurants. Unlike other shopping districts, boulevard St-Laurent shops give visitors a taste of old-fashioned life with window displays featuring golden rotisserie chickens, skillfully decorated pastries and odds and ends from books to shoes.
Golden Square Mile
Accessible via the Green Line's Peel or Guy-Concordia métro stations.
Located within the boundaries of downtown Montreal is the Golden Square Mile. This is a primarily Anglophone area which was once home to numerous Victorian-style mansions constructed by wealthy English and Scottish merchants. Although many of the mansions were torn down to make way for modern construction projects, several still remain intact.
Accessible via the Green Line's Peel or Guy-Concordia métro stations or the Orange Line's Lucien L'Allier métro station.
One of Montreal's nightlife hotspots, the rue Crescent area is located on the eastern side of boulevard St-Laurent and runs north to south from downtown Montreal to Plateau Mont-Royal. While the northern part of this street features luxury boutiques in old Victorian buildings, the southern end comes to life in the evenings with plenty of restaurants, bars and nightclubs to satisfy a range of tastes.
Accessible via the Orange Line's Sherbrooke métro station.
Running parallel to boulevard St-Laurent, rue St-Denis overflows with clothing stores, cafes and bistros. Because the street's southern end leads to the Université du Québec à Montréal, the street is often overflowing with students, and at night, the numerous bars and clubs make rue St-Denis one of the most popular spots in the city.
Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal)
Accessible via the Orange Line's Place-d'Armes métro station.
Sitting southwest of downtown Montreal on the site where the original city was founded in 1642, Vieux-Montréal is characterized by cobblestone streets that are often frequented by street artists and performers. Numerous buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries house historical museums, souvenir shops, boutique hotels, galleries and quaint cafes. Those who spend the day in Vieux-Montréal take advantage of the district's riverside location, which is perfect for waterfront strolls and bike rides. On the southern edge is the Vieux-Port-de-Montréal (Old Montreal Port), a waterfront promenade often frequented by bikers and in-line skaters.
Accessible via the Green Line's Peel métro station or the Orange Line's Mont-Royal métro station.
Towering over the city in the north is Mont-Royal (Royal Mountain) from which the city got its name. Much like New York City's Central Park, the Parc du Mont-Royal is a vast green space where people can run, bike and walk their dogs. Two cemeteries sit along the northern slope, one of which is traditionally Anglophone and Protestant while the other is Francophone and Catholic. The cemeteries represent the linguistic and religious differences that once divided the city.
Accessible via the Orange Line's Mont-Royal métro station.
Starting at the southern base of Mont-Royal running parallel to the St. Lawrence River is the Plateau Mont-Royal district. Although this neighborhood is primarily residential, the southern ends of the city's most popular streets, including boulevard St-Laurent and rue St-Denis, pass through this neighborhood and are home to numerous restaurants and shops.
Accessible via the Orange Line's Mont-Royal and Laurier métro stations.
Sitting on the northern edge of Plateau Mont-Royal, this up-and-coming neighborhood is home to several cultural neighborhoods, including Portuguese, Italian, Hassidic and Greek. These different pockets feature numerous ethnic restaurants and supermarkets. Although Mile End is often overlooked by visitors, it has become an increasingly popular shopping area, now boasting several designer clothing stores.
Accessible via the Green Line's Saint-Laurent métro station or the Orange Line's Champ-de-Mars métro station.
Occupying the stretch of rue Ste-Catherine between rue St-Hubert and rue Papineau, the Village is one of the largest gay and lesbian neighborhoods in North America. The area is filled with antiques shops, bars and cafes. During the summer, rue Ste-Catherine is designated as a pedestrians-only street, making this district easy and enjoyable to explore on foot. But experienced travelers warn visitors to be cautious when walking around the rowdy district at night.
Accessible via the Green Line's McGill métro station.
Sitting south of Parc du Mont-Royal, the Quartier International is Montreal's most recent renovation project. Once a forgotten, run-down area littered with empty parking lots and decrepit warehouses, the Quartier International is now home to several parks, the Palais des Congrès (Convention Center) and the World Trade Centre Montreal, which is home to several import-export companies, law offices and brokerage firms.
Accessible via the Yellow Line's Jean-Drapeau métro station.
Located east of the main city in the middle of the St. Lawrence River are Montreal's two islands, Ile Ste-Hélène and Ile Notre-Dame. The larger of the two islands, Ile Ste-Hélène, was used as the site for Expo 67, the city's incredibly successful world's fair. After the fair was over, the site was preserved. It has since hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics and is now home to the La Ronde Amusement Park. The much smaller Ile Notre-Dame is home to the Casino de Montréal and the racing track, which is used for Canada's Grand Prix every June. The islands are accessible by public transportation and are almost entirely car-free.
Accessible from most Downtown métro stations.
When winter strikes, Montrealers seek shelter in a giant underground maze. La Ville Souterraine (the Underground City) was constructed alongside major developments — including the construction of the Métro and the construction of the Palais des Congrès (Convention Center) — when many downtown property owners decided to rent their subterranean space out to retailers and restaurateurs. Visitors can access the Underground City directly from the Métro or from most downtown buildings, since many have rented their basement floors to retailers. Today, the Underground City spans the majority of downtown, allowing people to shop, see a movie or grab a bite to eat without ever setting foot outdoors.
Montreal is safer than most U.S. and European cities of similar size. But it's still necessary to exercise common sense, especially after sundown. Avoid walking alone at night, and keep an eye on your valuables. Nightlife hotspots such as rue St-Denis and rue Ste-Catherine can sometimes draw rowdier crowds.
Montrealers are generally very tolerating of all lifestyles and forms of discrimination are rare. However, Montreal is a politically liberal city, and its residents generally do not agree with U.S. policies. Political demonstrations do take place, but they are rare.
More common than political demonstrations are days when temperatures drop below freezing. Montreal's chilly winters can sometimes catch visitors off guard. Winter travelers should make sure to pack plenty of warm layers as well as mittens, scarves and hats.