Montreal, the alternative

Montreal celebrates its 375 years in 2017. And yet, the beauty of Quebec has never looked so young!

On each trip, Montreal reveals to the visitor multiple and unexpected facets, those of an artistic and rebellious metropolis, green trend by day and night owl trend at night.

Abundant musical scene, relaxed lifestyle and exhilarating nightlife… Effervescent and alternative, Montreal is undoubtedly a good mix, which evokes both Berlin, London and Paris… all in North America!

Neighborhood by neighborhood, an overview of Montreal that moves and innovates.

Plateau Mont-Royal and Mile End: a scent of bohemianism

The two trendiest neighborhoods in Montreal, more like VF on the Plateau side and “Anglo” in Mile End. Trend mid-“bobo-chic”, mid-populo but an extra melting pot of inhabitants from all walks of life. We like to stroll through the streets with vintage shops, get lost in its lush green backyards or settle down in the latest trendy vegan restaurant!

Some Montrealers swear by the Plateau Mont-Royal and the Mile End, multicultural neighborhoods with a relaxed atmosphere, where artists, designers, hipsters meet ... Delimited by the parks of Mont-Royal, Sir-Wilfrid Laurier and La Fontaine, they offer many green stops that also attract families.

Le Mile End represents the green momentum that is blowing in Montreal, where we can no longer count the number of community gardens, including on rooftops. So the Field of Possibilities, between avenues Henri-Julien and De Gaspé, is a natural green space of 9 m000, co-managed by the inhabitants! Here, nature has taken back its rights and, in the middle of the vegetable gardens, there are several hundred animal and plant species.

Arty walk on a plateau

We also appreciate the urban character and the creative energy of the Plateau and the Mile End, its streets and avenues lined with musical cafes, lively terraces, trendy bars, art galleries, bookstores, thrift stores, vinyl and antique shops. Here, it is the paradise of the hedonistic bargain hunter!

Meetings in particular Saint-Denis street (from boulevard Saint-Joseph to rue Roy - metro Mont-Royal), avenue du Mont-Royal (Mont-Royal metro) and Gerald-Godin square to mingle with the bohemian fauna of the city. Many events (flea markets, flea markets, torchlight retreats…) throughout the year, on the avenue and in the squares.

Another compulsory passage: Laurier Avenue East (Laurier metro station), with its elegant residences (typically Montreal) and their green surroundings, its artisan bakeries, its delicatessens, its numerous terraces, its decoration shops and the Wilfrid-Laurier Park (ideal for parties of pétanque in the sun!).

To smell the relaxed atmosphere of the Mile End, go down the Saint-Viateur street, known for its bagels, second-hand clothes stores, organic restaurants and bars, notably Café Olimpico, which has become the rendezvous of the trendy Mile End, and the Social Club.

Little Italy, the Latin wave

This is where the first Italian immigrants put their suitcases in the 19th century. Even today, the “Piccola Italia” remains one of the strongholds of the Italian community of Montreal.

Cultural diversity, dynamic atmosphere… Little Italy is a city within a city. An effervescent district, particularly appreciated by the Italian community, artists and trendsetters.

Today, Montreal's community of Italian origin (265 people) resides more in the neighborhoods of Saint-Léonard, Rivière-des-Prairies, Laval, and even Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. However, Little Italy remains the “Showcase” of Montreal Italiano and the neighborhood is becoming more and more “hype”. Some historic brands resist against all odds, such as the Milano supermarket or Italian bookstore.

Among the must-see addresses: the famous Caffé Italia (boulevard Saint-Laurent) and its decor dating from the 50s! A welcoming place with a warm atmosphere, people come here for its ristretti (coffees), prosciutto (ham) and other biscotti (biscuits) as well as for its frenzied “football evenings”, with match broadcasting.

La Pizzeria Napoletana (rue Dante) is another safe bet in Little Italy!

Jean-Talon market, the kingdom of flavors

Just north of Little Italy, the “star” of the neighborhood remains, undoubtedly, the Jean-Talon Market (avenue Henri-Julien). All Montreal has been flocking there since 1933, to find the smells and flavors from here and elsewhere! Open every day of the week, it is one of the largest markets in the country and there are mixed producers of fruits, vegetables, flowers ... but also specialized shops offering spices, oils, cheeses, meats, desserts and products. from the Quebec region.

Take the opportunity to explore the surroundings: the district promotes a certain alternative way of life with shared gardens, new experiences in terms of waste recycling or electricity production (for example, you will have to pedal on fixed bikes. on the ground to recharge your mobile phone!).

Another favorite of the district: the TOHU (rue Jarry Est - metro Jarry), west of the Jean Talon market, up avenue Henri-Julien. It is a place of creation and dissemination of the circus arts, offering a varied program: circus shows and exhibitions on the history of the circus of course, but also events with an environmental theme, festive gatherings intended for the community. artistic…

Boulevard Saint-Laurent: the den of street art

Even if it seems to be slowly settling down, Saint-Laurent Boulevard remains one of Montreal's major arty and underground arteries. On the menu: 100% “death metal” concert hall, military surplus thrift stores, artistic squats… Over the past 4 years, the “Main” has also become the most important open-air street art gallery in the country!

Montreal and street art… A long love story! The oldest mural in the city, dating from 1972, is still visible: it is that of Jacques Sabourin and Claude Dagenais, at the corner of rue du Président-Kennedy and rue Jeanne Mance, near the Quartier des Spectacles. .

It was therefore natural that a festival should be entirely dedicated to street art. Since 2013, every year, on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, the Wall Festival. In June, some fifteen international artists are invited to paint masterful works on the walls of the district (main area: between rue Sherbrooke and avenue des Pins along boulevard Saint-Laurent).

However, there is no question of erasing them once the festival is over ... Most of the frescoes are kept as they are for several years, giving the district an air of an open-air art gallery.

We can see no less than 80 works by recognized artists like Rone, Fafi, Monk.e, Jaz, Roa, Grems, Pixel Pancho, Bezt or even Astro… A gold mine for graffiti lovers! Several organizations and associations offer street art guided tours of the neighborhood (our favorite being “Spade & Palacio”).

The Village, gay and festive

One of the high places of party, art and culture in Montreal! Bounded by Berri and Sherbrooke streets and De Lorimier and Viger avenues, the Village is also one of the main neighborhoods for the gay community in North America.

To tame the soul of the Village, a word of advice: explore the small streets, discovering the brick houses and backyards arranged in gardens.

Ideal route: from Saint-Jacques market, in the direction of Dalcourt Street, passing by rue Wolfe, rue Robin, rue Lartigue (obligatory passage!) then rue Panet. A tasty cocktail of gourmet restaurants, terraces, antique shops, clothing stores ...

Among the must-see cultural and artistic places: Factory C, Gallery D, the Ecomuseum of the fiery world, the National Theater, the Prospero Theater and the Golden Lion. A word of advice: take a look at Archambault, with its crazy selection of books, magazines, DVDs, musical instruments, sheet music, video games, board games ...

From May to September, a portion of the Sainte-Catherine Street East (from Saint-Hubert to Papineau) is entirely reserved for pedestrians: easily identifiable by its thousands of hanging pink balls, it is the ideal place to stroll, attend a street show or an outdoor concert or enjoy the one of the 60 restaurants, bars or terraces. Another event during this period: "Free Areas", annual public art exhibition, in the open air, very famous in Montreal!

Effervescent during the day, the Village becomes electric and festive at night! This is where you can find the trendiest bars and clubs in Montreal. Among the must-sees: the Sky (huge club on 3 floors with a panoramic terrace - with spa and swimming pool - offering a splendid view of the city; gay and gay friendly clientele), the Unity (the most famous gay club in Montreal. International DJs and, again, rooftop terrace!), the Saloon (restaurant / bar / DJ: an institution for 20 years at the Village), the Circus and Stereo (two of the biggest “afters” in the Metropolis ”).

Quartier des Spectacles: culture and festivals galore

Welcome to the cultural heart of Montreal! Over less than a square kilometer, there are more than 80 artistic venues, lively public squares, museums ... And nearly forty festivals take place there each year!

It is quite simply the place in North America where we finds the highest concentration of cultural places, with an incomparable diversity: festivals, cinema, theater, dance, contemporary art, music, humor, opera, musical, improvisation ...

Between Sherbrooke, René-Levesque, Saint-Hubert and City Councilors streets, the various places of Spectacles district are easily identifiable thanks to a light signature of double red dots, on the ground, which illuminate the sidewalk (referring to the famous “Red Carpet” and the sector's Red Light past!).

At the corner of Jeanne-Mance and Sainte-Catherine streets, is the Place des Festivals, an open-air public space entirely dedicated to festivals, urban entertainment and relaxation, which can accommodate up to 25 people! Nearby, you can visit the Festival House (305, rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest), a place for the dissemination and promotion of music. It houses the Astral concert hall, the Le Balmoral bistro-terrace and the TD Lounge Gallery, dedicated to the dissemination of visual arts.

Also to discover: the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (185, rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest), the Place des Arts (175, rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest) which is the most important cultural complex in Canada with its six performance venues, or the SAT, Society of Technological Arts (1201, Boulevard Saint-Laurent), a cultural hub where science meets the arts, with a unique 360 ​​° projection dome. Beautiful musical programming with local and international DJs. Superb panoramic terrace too.

Among the many festivals that take place in the Quartier des spectacles each year: the International Jazz Festival, the FrancoFolies de Montréal, the Just for Laughs Festival and the daring Piknic Elektronik at Parc Jean-Drapeau.

“Au Pied du Courant”: a summer citizen village in the heart of Montreal!

An ephemeral village (open from June to September) on the shores of the St. Lawrence River, at the foot of the Jacques-Cartier Bridge… A perfect illustration of the alternative citizen projects and the realization of collective utopias that are emerging in Montreal. Its primary mission? To be a festive living space for the population, in addition to being a place bubbling with activities!

A sandy beach, wooden cabins, old refurbished containers, deckchairs, DJs, games and entertainment for all ages… These are some of the ingredients of this summer festive bubble, in the heart of Montreal.

Among the many activities offered: pétanque, yoga, outdoor cinema, market, dance, exhibitions… A program put together in a “collaborative and participatory” manner with the inhabitants of Montreal, each one being able to share and submit to the organizers their dreams, inspirations, desires involvement ...

Main objective: to harmoniously coexist neighborhood residents, families, workers, students, tourists and festival-goers. The village “Au Pied du Courant” is also intended as a springboard and a showcase for the artists and craftsmen of the city, to offer them a new space of visibility and meetings.

A place with a rather nice “modern hippie community” spirit! And completely free! More info:

Going out in Montreal: user guide

With its dozens of bars, restaurants, clubs, concert halls, karaoke, outdoor festivals and other rooftops, Montreal is a limitless playground for night owls! A hectic, cosmopolitan and surprising night.

Some generalities:
- Montreal lives at night almost 7 days a week. Thursday is happy hour day.
- From 17 pm, Montrealers take advantage of after work or “5 to 7” (often with colleagues or friends) or meet in a park, when the weather is nice. Dinner at the restaurant or at home. Evenings and concerts often start late (around 22 p.m. / 23 p.m.). Bars and clubs close at 3 a.m., afters later.
- Starting in the spring, Montrealers make the most of the good weather by storming terraces, rooftops, patios ...
- Alcohol prohibited under 18 (21 in the United States).
- In many restaurants you can bring your own bottle of wine. 
- No selection or particular dress code. Here, it is rather “free entry” for everyone. With the exception, perhaps, of the Old Port district where there may be more selection at the entrance (dress code chic or casual chic).
- Free entry to most establishments or count between 5 and 10 dollars if there is a concert or a showcase.
- Montrealers are “swipers”, going from one place to another easily in a taxi, on foot or by bike.
- Traveling at night in Montreal remains relatively safe, even when you are a single woman. This does not preclude the basic precautions of use, of course!

Address Book

- Les Foufounes Electriques: 87, rue Sainte-Catherine Est. Huge bar / unmissable rock concert hall. A sure bet!
- Le Barfly: 4062A, boulevard Saint-Laurent. A bar that looks like a gangster den that also offers live concerts.
- Le Pick-Up convenience store: 7032, rue Waverly. A somewhat “catch-all” restaurant with a bohemian spirit unmatched in Montreal!
- Bar Alexandraplatz: 6731, avenue de l'Esplanade. An air of Berlin in the heart of Montreal with this industrial Biergarten / pop-up bar which hosts DJs every week.
- L'Escalier: 552, rue Sainte-Catherine Est. A totally messy and alternative bar that is also a vegetarian and organic restaurant. Shows or small concerts every evening.
- Harricana Brewery: 95, rue Jean-Talon Ouest. A micro-brewery that also offers inspiring local cuisine.
- Café Olimpico: 124, rue Saint Viateur Ouest. Hipster 70s-style Italian café with a terrace, very popular with Montrealers.
- Le Mal Necessary: ​​1106 B, boulevard Saint-Laurent. A tiki bar in Montreal's Chinatown.
- Le Cagibi: 5490, boulevard St-Laurent. Arty café with eclectic furnishings offering a healthy menu, as well as cocktails and evening shows.
- Le Divan Orange: 4234, Boulevard Saint-Laurent. Café-concert with excellent programming (rather rock) where local groups perform.
- Le Candie Bar: 1148 avenue du Mont-Royal. Without doubt one of the most original and colorful music bars in Montreal with its walls adorned with Lego and giant comics.
- Sala Rosa: 4848, boulevard Saint-Laurent. A restaurant, but above all a performance and concert hall, home to emerging music and the city's anti-capitalist and anti-globalization movement.
- Casa Del Popolo: 4873, boulevard Saint-Laurent. The HQ of independent rock in Montreal. La Maison du Peuple is also a vegan and fair trade café, a restaurant-bar and an art gallery.

And some classics ...

- La Binerie du Mont-Royal : 367, av. from Mont-Royal Est. Mon-Fri 6 am-20pm, We 7:30 am-15pm. For more than 70 years, the Plateau canteen has been used to taste Quebec classics such as poutine or Chinese pâté. Count $ 10-13.
- Au pied de cochon: 536, av. Duluth East. Poutine with foie gras and other delicacies in this never-empty neo-bistro. Martin Picard, who mixes French classics and daring Quebecois, has become one of Quebec's most famous chefs. Count $ 40-50.
- Schwartz's: 3895, bd St-Laurent. An institution of Jewish cuisine in Montreal, which has been serving the famous smoked meat sandwich since 1928. Count $ 7 per sandwich (generous). A monument of the local culinary heritage.

Specific information

To prepare for your trip, consult our Montreal and Quebec online guides

Montreal Tourist Office

How to get there ?

Daily direct flights from Paris-CDG with Air Canada and Air France. Air Transat also serves Montreal from Paris and provincial airports in season. Book your plane ticket to Montreal.

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