Vibrant, Fresh and Uniquely its Own
You’ll often hear people saying that Montréal is like a slice of Paris in North America. And while it’s true that people speak French here and it feels more European than, say, Des Moines, Montréal has a culinary and cultural identity all its own. Think bagels rather than croissants, Arcade Fire instead of Edith Piaf. Combine leafy parks, a vibrant waterfront, a welcoming LGBT scene and seriously hearty cuisine, and layer it with a sophisticated-but-scruffy urbanity, and you’ve got an experience that’s easy, fun and uniquely Montréal.
Did You Know?
Rue Ste.-Catherine, the main street of Montréal’s “Gay Village”—one of the largest LGBT-centric neighborhoods in the world—is covered with a rainbow-covered canopy of more than 180,000 plastic balls.
"Combine leafy parks, a vibrant waterfront, a welcoming LGBT scene and seriously hearty cuisine, and layer it with a sophisticated-but-scruffy urbanity, and you’ve got an experience that’s easy, fun and uniquely Montréal."
Just north of the park is the hippest of Montréal’s many hip neighborhoods, Mile End. Once home to the city’s Jewish and Italian communities, it’s now better known as the birthplace of Arcade Fire and ground zero for the city’s boho-bourgeois shopping, restaurants and nightlife. Wander along the main drags of Boulevard St. Laurent and Fairmount Street, but the must-stops include Drawn & Quarterly, an indie bookstore and literary hub; Annex Vintage for an expert edit of 1990s-era clothes and accessories; and Clark Street Mercantile for well-curated men’s clothes and furnishings. Do a bagel taste-test at archrivals St. Viateur and Fairmount, or just split the difference and grab some to-go pastries at hip Jewish boulangerie Hof Kelsten.
Unapologetically carnivorous, unabashedly Gallic, Montréal’s best-known restaurant lives up to the piles of hype. It’s decidedly casual—from the bare-wood tables to the tattooed (but helpful and knowledgeable) waitstaff—but dead serious about delivering sturdy food with impeccable ingredients. The most famous dish, spaghetti with lobster, is as rich and delicious as it sounds—and same goes for the foie gras and côte de boeuf. But don’t sleep on the seafood or the vegetables. Everything here is high quality (and priced to match).
If you've ever been to the Spotted Pig in New York, you know the gastropub drill: A boisterous, bar-centric dining room, old-timey decor (scuffed walls, kitschy artwork, grandma wallpaper), and simply described dishes that explode with flavor. But chef Derek Dammann's restaurant is thoroughly Canadian, and the ever-changing menu is dedicated to dishes and ingredients from across the country. (Ditto the wine list.) Standouts include the cheesy, umami-rich Welsch rarebit; veal carpaccio with eggplant and fromage frais; and Cornish hen stuffed with chantrelles.
EXPLORE: @Parc du Mont Royal, @Mile End