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Montreal is Canada’s second-largest city after Toronto and its cultural capital. It’s also one of the most popular destinations in the country, and for good reason. A beautiful and truly international city, enjoy a diverse array of delicious eats, world-class shopping and a wide range of attractions, from fascinating museums to Eastern Canada’s largest amusement park. The question is, “Where to stay?” This guide will help you figure out the best neighborhood for the type of visit you’re hoping for along with the top hotels in each to help you create the best trip possible.
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Walking through Old Montreal, or Vieux Montreal as it’s known in Quebec, is like walking through a European town with its cobbled streets, grand buildings and loads of Old World charm. Take a stroll down Saint-Paul Street and you can soak up the city’s enchanting atmosphere and take advantage of the many eateries, bars, souvenir shops, boutiques and art galleries. The neighborhood dates to the late 17th-century when it was the center of the fur trade, making it ideal for history buffs and anyone who appreciates historic character while being close to attractions like Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum and Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel. Art lovers will find lots too – Marché Bonsecours houses Boutique Metiers d’art du Québec, a hub for local artisans.
The downtown core has more of a North America feel, but it’s popular among business travelers and it also offers lots for shopping enthusiasts. Home to Sainte-Catherine Street, the longest retail artery in the city, it’s lined with multiple shopping centers linked with an underground network of corridors, providing easy access all year-round, no matter what the weather. There are also some excellent museums here, including the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Arts and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Bell Centre is downtown too if you want to catch a hockey game, while Quartier des spectacles is the place to go for all sorts of shows, from Just for Laughs to Jazz Fest. The east end of the downtown is jam-packed with cafes, restaurants and pubs that cater to the city’s university students.
One of the coolest and most well-known neighborhoods in Montreal is Plateau-Mont Royal with its vibrantly painted row houses featuring wrought-iron staircases. It’s where the creativity is, as the home of Canada’s largest number of artists per capita. The community hosts the Mural Festival, a 10-day event when people are encouraged to literally paint the town. It also includes an art fair, guided tours and free outdoor concerts. Any time of the year, you’ll be able to take advantage of the streets lined with casual cafes and laid-back restaurants, art galleries and theaters. Plus Mount Royal Park is nearby and offers scenic trails, beautiful views and a lake.
The Village, or the Gay Village as it’s also called, is home to the city’s LGBTQ community, but it’s the place to be for nightlife, no matter your sexual orientation. It’s a hub of both before and after dark fun with restaurants, 50+ boutiques, terraces and some of Montreal’s top nightclubs, like Sky, Unity and Stereo, which line the neighborhood’s main artery, Ste. Catherine Street. The pedestrian street typically closes around late April or early May, opening back up to cars sometime in September.
Outstanding meals can be found throughout the city, but the Mile End is especially popular among foodies. While it’s technically part of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, located near Little Italy, it’s still considered its own neighborhood and also boasts a thriving creative scene that includes artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers. In fact, the community has even been called North America’s “most artsy neighborhood.” Grabbing a bagel from St-Viateur Bagel is a must for any visitor, said to be the best anywhere in the world. Just a few of the other highlights include Pizzeria Magpie, popular for its wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas, Le Butterblume and Maïs.
Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie is a trendy and peaceful residential borough that features a series of urban villages, over 50 parks and a wealth of community gardens as one of the greenest areas in Montreal. It’s easy to reach other parts of the city from here, located just east of the center, and it’s also considered the top neighborhood for families. The neighborhood is home to North America’s largest public market as well as Little Italy with its mouthwatering range of restaurants, and the chic shopping district of Rue Saint-Hubert.
The Quartier international de Montréal, or International District, is a district of the Ville-Marie borough, tucked between the downtown core and Old Montreal. It’s home to the Palais des congrès (convention center) and is dotted with multiple works of art from across the globe, many of which are rather eclectic nature, characterized by a contrasting display of modern and classical. The Palais des congrès de Montreal building is especially impressive and hosts some of the city’s largest events, including Comicon and the International Auto Show. The Tour de la Bourse, Centre CDP Capital, and popular Place de la Cité shopping mall are all here too. The sidewalks here are all wide, perfect for a stroll, while tree-lined Victoria Square is a great place to relax on a bench and enjoy the atmosphere.