One of the most famous LGBTQ+ neighbourhoods in North America, Montreal’s Gay Village (or just “the Village”) proudly presents itself as a place for all.
The Gay Village in Montreal
Known colloquially as “the Village”, Montreal’s Gay Village is the largest neighbourhood of its kind on the continent. While there are multiple streets that are part of the neighbourhood, the main strip is along Saint-Catherine Street. That’s where many gay-owned businesses moved to in the 1980s and 90s to find a place where they could have their own community.
The first openly gay establishment in Montreal dated all the way back to 1869. The 1960s and 70s saw various popular gay spots open downtown and along Saint Laurent Boulevard, however they faced some backlash. This heightened in advance of Expo 67 and the 1976 Olympics. During those times multiple gay establishments were raided or pressured into shutting down.
In the following years many businesses moved to or opened on Saint-Catherine’s Street. The area became well-known as Montreal’s foremost gay neighbourhood and gradually gained popular acceptance. Today, the Village is a very mainstream area and far from just being for members of the LGBTQ+ community. All are welcome and there is plenty to explore.
Events in the Village
The summer is the best time to visit the Village as that’s when Saint-Catherine Street turns into a public plaza. From May to September each year 12 blocks of the road (from Saint Hubert Street to Papineau Avenue) are closed to all vehicles. This pedestrian-only area becomes quite a pleasant spot to walk around, accentuated by the over 200,000 decorative pink balls that are strung overhead.
The biggest event in the Village each year is the Fierté Montreal or the Montreal Pride Festival. For a week or two in August each year there are numerous celebrations all across the city, many of which take place in the Village. To cap off Pride there is the annual parade which is one of the biggest in the country. Justin Trudeau usually shows up in the city for the event.
The Village is also very welcoming to the arts, and each summer there is the Mtl en Arts expo. This event takes advantage of the fact that there are no cars on this stretch of Saint-Catherine Street. An all-outdoor experience, over 150 artists of all kinds set up displays, activities and performances along the road. Mtl en Arts is proud to call itself the biggest open-air art gallery in the eastern half of the country. It’s free to explore and fun for all ages.
Places to Visit
As mentioned above there is more to the Village than just a single street (although it’s a big one!), and there are plenty of places in the neighbourhood worth visiting.
If you’re looking for food then there are a wide variety of options on hand. There’s the expected fare of classic Quebecois dishes at Pataterie Chez Philippe and O’Thym, but there’s also always flavours from around the world to explore. Other popular spots to eat include the Vietnamese pub Led Red Tiger, the classic Thai restaurant Pamika and the Hawaiian-style Kamé Snack Bar. For those with a sweet tooth there’s the quaint Sachère Desserts bakery.
The Village has good shopping options as well. Of note in this regard is Atateken Street which has a number of antique and other decorative shops. Saint-Catherine Street also has a lot of spots to explore, particularly during the summer when different exhibitions take to the street.
There is a notable nightlife scene in the Village too. This includes a couple of male-only establishments in Bar Le Stud and the Campus Danseurs nus. One of the most famous clubs in the district is Cabaret Mado, which is led by the well-known drag artist Mado. A more extravagant establishment is Complexe Sky which has three separate stories consisting of a bar, a hip hop club and a dance club, along with an indoor pool and spa.
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