Montreal is an extremely diverse place with a huge variety of neighbourhoods; each with its own unique history. With over 50 of them on the island alone, it can be a bit confusing to understand where to go, what to see, and which neighbourhoods have the most to offer tourists, families looking to relocate, and people here on business.
Although it all looks relatively daunting, there are a few neighbourhoods that really worth a look. Whether it be for shopping, nightlife, cuisine, or historical significance, these are Montreal’s most interesting and popular neighbourhoods, and even with just a week in the city, you’ll have plenty of time to explore all six:
Downtown Montreal is where all the business happens in the city. This neighbourhood sprawls across a great portion of the borough of Ville-Marie. Mont-Royal (the mountain) is just to the north, which is a popular spot for walking dogs, hiking, jogging, or cycling. The skyscrapers of the area are, for the most part, the only skyscrapers in the whole city, but you may notice that they are all fairly short, which is a requirement that is strictly enforced as to uphold the beauty of the park and Mont-Royal itself.
The Downtown area is also where the largest underground shopping centre in the world, RÉSO, is found. It’s an innovative city-like setting beneath the ground with almost 1700 shops, eateries, and other businesses within its tunnels and structures. You can also catch trains, buses, and other forms of transportation from there that can take you elsewhere within Downtown. This is also where the major universities in Quebec are located, so there is a lot of student traffic in the area.
Known locally as Vieux-Port, Old Port is the most history-rich neighbourhood in Montreal. Most tourists will visit this area during their stay in Montreal, and it has a ton of attractions for them to visit while on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River. Whether you’re into the history of the fur trade, or prefer to pay admission and lounge on the urban beach, you can do pretty much anything in the Port. Cirque du Soleil launches new shows in one of its quays, and those who are tired of history will absolutely adore the Montreal Science Centre with its IMAX theatre and amazingly interactive exhibits. On a warm evening, there’s no better place to rollerblade, cycle, or cycle than on the paths here by the river, and the restaurants are excellent.
Just to the East of Downtown, Le Plateau isn’t actually a neighbourhood but an entire borough. This area has been around since the middle of the 18th Century when they ran out of room to the south. It’s still up against Mont-Royal, but to the east. The neighbourhood still has a residential feel, but it also consists of a huge variety of shops, cafes, and Delis that sell sandwiches that include Montreal Smoked Meat, a sandwich that’s world-renowned. In summer, take a frisbee or picnic blanket to the beautiful Parc LaFontaine for great people-watching.
The NDG neighbourhood is an abbreviated version of Notre Dame de Grace, which is on the West side of the city and is mostly made up of residences. It fills 9 square kilometres with a cathedral of the same name as well as a huge middle-class population comprised of all kinds of cultures. Concordia University is within its borders, so you will find a huge presence of Anglophone students in the area as well, which makes it a fun place for families and younger adults just beginning to make their way in life. There are a vast variety of athletic activities available to residents of this neighbourhood including a ton of parks, indoor rinks, and playing fields for rugby, baseball, and much more. You will also find a few different metro stations about for easy access to the bigger and badder parts of Montreal.
Known largely as the epicentre of LGBT living in Montreal, The Village is an artsy area of the city that is west of Downtown and is occupied by many residences, apartments, and businesses. The coolest part of the community is Saint-Catherine Street, which becomes a pedestrian-only thoroughfare from May to September each year, giving way to a ton of interesting and unique street vendors and performers. This is also the place to be during Pride, Le Festival International de Montréal en Arts, and other amazing festivals that offer the whole city a chance to enjoy a diverse and entertaining time.
Westmount is an upscale neighbourhood on the Island of Montreal. It’s regarded as a “fancy” residential area that houses a lot of small businesses, posh townhouses, and heritage homes. There are a lot of schools, rec centres, and local parks within its confines, as well as a new outdoor pool. Although the citizens are largely English-speaking, there is so much diversity in this neighbourhood and you can find quite a bit of different types of cuisine and shops in the area. You can also find two Canadian Armed Forces bases here, which makes it a great community to move to if you are a military family looking to live off-base.
Hard to choose, right?! The nightlife, hotels, and restaurants of Downtown, the colourful living of The Village, and the independent boutique shopping of the Plateau really do speak of French culture while proudly showing off the cultures that have come to shape this unique city. Next time you’re in town, try to visit as many as you can in order to really understand what we mean. You’ll want to come back over and over again!