Montreal is made up of a number of different regions and parts of town. This article provides some information about the most popular areas.
Montreal’s Best Places
With a population of over 1.5 million people in the city itself and over 4 million in the surrounding region, Montreal is the second-biggest city in Canada behind only Toronto. The city has been one of the biggest and most important commercially in the country for a very long time and thus has a high number of interesting places to visit. Below are some of the most notable areas in Montreal.
Montreal’s Chinatown has existed for over two centuries although its commercial presence didn’t truly grow until the second half of the 20th century. The district’s status as an official tourist area means that businesses are allowed to operate until later hours compared to most other places. This makes Chinatown a popular spot for nightlife for both visitors and local residents.
The main artery of the area is Rue de la Gauchetière which is unique in that it’s a pedestrian-only street. The lack of cars makes the road a popular spot for fairs and other public events during the summer.
At the centre of Chinatown is the Sun Yat-Sen Park, a plaza with traditional Chinese architecture and a small public stage. This plaza is generally the site of big Chinese New Year celebrations. As well, there are four paifang gates at each of the corners of the neighbourhood. Along with Rue de la Gauchetière the other main street in Chinatown is Saint Lawrence Boulevard.
As implied by the name this is the oldest district in the city. Fort Ville-Marie was built on what’s now Old Montreal all the way back in the 1640s. There’s so much history in this section of the city, and many great places to visit. Some of the top attractions in the area include the Notre-Dame Basilica, the Saint-Sulpice Seminary, the Château Ramezay, the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel and the Bonsecours Market.
That above list doesn’t include more modern attractions like the Pointe-à-Callière and Centre d’Histoire de Montreal museums. The former is especially interesting as it’s built directly on the location of the first settlement in the area and serves as a site of archaeological study.
Similar to Chinatown, Old Montreal was not much of a tourist attraction despite its history up until around the 1960s. Since then, however, the area has been revitalized and is one of the top locations in the city to visit.
Old Port of Montreal
The Old Port is part of the Old Montreal district, but is notable enough to warrant its own section. While no longer used as a commercial port, the Old Port is now a major tourist attraction and is sort of like an amusement park. There is a Ferris wheel (the tallest in Canada) that gives great views of the water as well as a zipline and obstacle courses.
For those looking to get out on the water there are boat tours available as well as the ability to rent smaller boats or jet-skis. There are also plenty of places to shop and the Old Port is open to the public until midnight every day. Other attractions on the site of the Old Port include the Montreal Science Centre and the Montreal Clock Tower. The popularity and open-air nature of the Old Port makes it a common spot for large events.
Quartier des Spectacles
The hub of arts and entertainment in Montreal, the Quartier des Spectacles is about a square kilometre in size and packs a large amount of performance halls and other cultural centres into that area. If there’s a high-profile show you’re looking to attend, there’s a good chance it’s in this district. The Just for Laughs Festival, Montreal International Jazz Festival and Les Francos de Montreal are all hosted in the Quartier.
One of the main pieces within the Quartier is the Place des Arts, which is the biggest performing arts complex in the country. Within it lies the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Opéra de Montreal, the Orchestre Métropolitain and Les Grand Ballets Canadiens. As well, there is the regular location of the Musee d’art contemporain de Montreal, although the museum has temporarily moved to Place Ville Marie due to renovations in the main building.
Outdoor events in the Quartier des Spectacles often take place in the Place des Festivals which is a large public square only installed a little over a decade ago. The square contains a large fountain with hundreds of water jets, as well as a couple of restaurants surrounding the main walkways.
The biggest thoroughfare in the downtown area, Saint-Catherine Street is the place to go for shopping and connects to many interesting districts. There are well over a thousand stores along the 11 km that the street stretches, so you don’t have to worry about running out of places to visit.
Saint-Catherine Street was an entertainment hub all the way back in the 19th century and continues to be one today. The street cuts through the Quartier des Spectacles and the Places des Arts sits right along it. Also along Saint-Catherine’s is the Village, an important LGBTQ+ district.
One of the biggest events on the street each year comes in July when 2 km of the road are closed to traffic and the country’s biggest outdoor sidewalk sale takes place. Hundreds of thousands of people visit the area during this time most years.
One of the longest streets in the city at over 30 km, Sherbrooke Street traverses across a majority of the Island of Montreal. It’s so long, in fact, that it’s distinctly divided into two portions. Most of the eastern section of the street is residential, although there are some notable attractions on it including Olympic Stadium, the Montreal Botanical Garden and the Biodome.
The western section of Sherbrooke Street goes through downtown and is known for the art and fine architecture that you can find along it. Notable attractions here include McGill University, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Grand Séminaire de Montreal and the Ritz-Carlton Montreal.
Otherwise known as the Gay Village, this neighbourhood is the largest of its kind in North America and has grown into the primary hub for Montreal’s LGBTQ+ population. Bordered by Saint-Catherine Street, the Village came into its own in the 1980s and 1990s as more and more gay-owned and operated businesses sprouted in the area.
As you would expect many of the biggest Pride celebrations take place in the Village, including the Fierté Montreal, which is the main Pride Festival. The neighbourhood has nightlife, plenty of places to eat and shop, and plenty of vibrant character.
For more information on the city you can check out the City of Montreal website.
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