Residents of Montreal did not need UNESCO’s crowning it the City of Design from 2006 to reaffirm their love affair with their city. Referred to as Canada’s cultural capital, Montreal can claim bragging rights to your summer full of festivals together with world-renowned architecture and stylish restaurants and bars.
When you read through this guide, put together by myself and fellow Montreal native Laura Garner, visualize yourself admiring the unique art installations of every subway station, walking through over 32 kilometers (20 miles) of tunnels in the Underground City or riding in an horse-drawn carriage through the cobblestone roads in the exact European area of Old Montreal. No matter how you decide to get someplace in town, Montreal always has a way of surprising you on the way.
More city guides for design junkies
This perspective of the St. Lawrence river shows off the beauty of the Montreal skyline at night and includes the Bell Center (in which the Montreal Canadiens play hockey). This photo was shot from one of the bridges that connects Cité du Havre (a strip of property in which the Habitat 67 community is found; see below) to the Île Sainte-Hélène, which homes La Ronde amusement park and is home to the popular indie music festival Osheaga along with the Formula 1 racetrack.
A few notes on the information that follows: We have included the closest metro stop and have emphasized design destinations by locality.
Mount Royal Park: A 200-hectare (about 500-acre) park in the heart of the city
Location: From Côte-de-Neiges Road to Park Avenue, between route des Pins and Voie Camillien Houde (subway: Mont-Royal)
Noteworthy: Lookout points throughout the park offer the finest views of the city, day or night.
Produced by Frederick Law Olmsted (the designer of New York’s iconic Central Park), Mount Royal is a yearlong congregating place for tourists and residents alike. Summertime brings long walks round the pond and picnics under the trees, while chilly offers ice skating.
If you are in Montreal on a Sunday in the summertime, head to the Sir George-Étienne Cartier monument to observe the complimentary, unofficial event known as the Tam-Tams, where hundreds of people gather to drum and dance under the sun.
Habitat 67: A stunning 12-story apartment complex designed by architect Moshe Safdie
Location: 2600 route Pierre-Dupuy (close to the casino)
Noteworthy: The apartments are designed with lots of solitude, terrace gardens along with numerous degrees that confront the St. Lawrence river.
Produced in 1967 by Montreal architect Moshe Safdie for his master thesis, also debuting at the Expo 67 world’s fair, the revolutionary 146-residence housing complex areas single-family dwellings in an urban atmosphere.
More info: Habitat 67
Palais de Congres: Montreal’s convention center
Location: 159 rue St. Antoine West (subway: Place-D’Armes)
Noteworthy: Located between the downtown center and Old Montreal, the Palais includes 113 rooms and venues. Its multicolored glass facade consists of 332 coloured glass panels and 58 transparent panels.
More info: Palais de Congress
Grande Bibliothèque: Montreal’s biggest public library
Location: 475 boulevard de Maisonneuve East (subway: Berri-UQAM)
Noteworthy: Constructed in 2005 and located in the bustling Latin Quarter downtown, with direct access to the subway and Underground City, this modern six-story construction has large horizontal plates of glass running along the complete exterior.
The space includes an exhibition hall, a theatre and a complete floor for children in addition to top-of-the line audiovisual equipment.
More info: Grande Bibliothèque
Notre Dame Basilica: Centuries-old basilica
Location: 110 Notre-Dame Street West, corner of Saint Sulpice Street (subway: Place D’Armes)
Price: $5 Canadian (about U.S.$5) for adults; $4 for ages 7 to 17; free for children 6 and under
Noteworthy: Its opulent and vibrant interior hosts about 100 weddings every year, together with Celine Dion being one of those who have tied the knot.
This really is a beautiful illustration of the Gothic revival style of architecture; it had been the very first of its type to be constructed in Canada. The basilica displays stained glass windows that feature the history of religion in Montreal, which is not typically done.
More info: Notre Dame Basilica
Le Confessionnal: Stylish bar
Location: 431 rue McGill in Old Montreal (subway: Square Victoria)
Price: From $9 Canadian (about U.S.$9) per cocktail
Noteworthy: Seductive red decor and dim lighting from chandeliers Result in a darkened setting
After a few beverages, Old Montreal does not neglect for foodies. The area is a design lover’s paradise. Try the three-course lunch menu for $28 Canadian inside the black-painted walls of the favorite Les 400 Coups (400 Notre Dame Est). If you are lucky enough to find a reservation, make sure to eat dinner at Garde Manger (408 rue St. François Xavier), owned by star chef Chuck Hughes.
Apart pub Le Confessionnal, try an after-dinner drink at the Philemon Bar (111 rue St. Paul Ouest)famous for its laidback yet trendy ambience. Don’t forget to respect its decoration, done by Montreal interior designer Zébulon Perron.
More info: Le Confessional, Les 400 Coups, Garde Manger, Philemon Bar
Bar Pullman: Upscale bar
Location: 3424 route du Parc, corner of Sherbrooke downtown (subway: Place des Arts)
Price: From $4.50 Canadian for a 2-ounce glass of wine to $5 Canadian for tapas
Noteworthy: Upscale yet understated ambience
This wine bar is something of a hidden gem in the downtown core of Montreal, offering wine samplers and tasty tapas to accompany them (try the foie gras).
If you want a casual dinner, have a look at Lola Rosa (545 rue Milton), a cozy vegetarian eatery from the McGill ghetto that’s very popular with college students.
Across the city are several places of the crisp white tea shops called David’s Tea, recently recognized by Oprah. Make sure you smell all of them.
More info: Pullman, Lola Rosa, David’s Tea
L’Ambroisie: A popularFrench restaurant
Location: 4020 St. Ambroise, in the historic Chateau St.-Ambroise, Little Burgundy and St. Henri (Sud-Ouest) area (subway: Place St. Henri)
Price: From $19 Canadian for a table d’hôte supper
Noteworthy: The hall of this building leading to the entrance displays quirky classic items such as suits of armor along with a carnival caravan.
Housed from the Chateau St.-Ambroise along the Lachine Canal, this enchanting restaurant displays an eclectic mix of industrial architectural elements combined with Greco-Roman features. Offering French cuisine, this restaurant is something that you need to try at least once.
Other noteworthy suggestions for a gourmet meal in the neighboring areas of Montreal include Joe Beef and Tuck Shop — make sure to make a reservation.
If you are in the mood for a picnic, then be sure to stop by the Atwater Market farmer’s market to pick up fresh fruits, meats and cheeses.
More info: L’Ambroisie, Joe Beef, Tuck Shop, Atwater Market
Baldwin Barmacie: A design-minded bar
Location: 115 avenue Laurier Ouest in Plateau and Mile End (subway: Laurier)
Price: Drinks start at $7 Canadian
Noteworthy: The design evokes a modern pharmacy motif.
If you would like to feel transported back to the Mad Men era, the decor and drink list at Baldwin Barmacie are sure to please. Midcentury modern decor has an upgrade with neutral colours and clean lines.
If you are a fan of cocktails, then a must-try is your trendy pub Distillerie (with three locations in central Montreal). The biggest hit? Delicious and creative cocktails presented in mason jars.
If you are on the hunt for a breakfast spot from the Plateau, look no further than Resto Fabergé, a breakfast place with a lounge setting. The interior design, performed by the architects at laroche et gagné, is bright and entertaining and take a peek. Try the breakfast poutine.
Additional info: Baldwin Barmacie, La Distillerie, Resto Fabergé
Les Enfants Terribles Brasserie
Les Enfants Terribles: Restaurant and bar
Location: 1257 Bernard Ouest in Mile End/Outremont
Price: Cocktails start at $10 Canadian, tartare plates start at $14 Canadian
Noteworthy: Rustic wood, chalkboards and murals all add charm for this brasseries and its own terrace, designed by architect Louis-Joseph Papineau.
If you are up for rich French pastries, a walk up the block will take you to Boulangerie Cheskie. On the must-try listing is your chocolate babka. St.-Viateur Bagel is just another timeless stop in the area. Open 24/7, this legendary shop has been mentioned in a variety of books and movies.
More info: Les Enfants Terribles, St.-Viateur Bagel
Position des Arts: A performing arts center
Location: 175 rue St. Catherine Ouest (subway: Place des Arts)
Noteworthy: The center holds festivals throughout the year, including the Jazz Festival, Just for Laughs and Montreal’s Nuit Blanche.
Want to watch Marie-Antoinette performed by les Grands Ballets Canadiennes? Head to one of Place des Arts’ 10 halls. The Symphony Hall, with an interior made almost completely of light beech, is the most recent addition to the complicated.
A subway ride away, on St. Laurent, is your Society for Arts and Technology (SAT), a nonprofit center featuring cutting-edge audiovisual experiences for everybody.
More info: Place des Arts, SAT
Canadian Center for Architecture
Location: 1920 rue Baile, downtown (Rene-Levesque Boulevard and rue Saint Marc), (subway: Georges Vanier)
Price: $10 Canadian for adults; $7 Canadian for seniors; free for children and students; free for everybody on Thursday evenings
Noteworthy: The Canadian Center for Architecture (CCA) has been constructed in 1979 with the objective of raising awareness of the function of architecture in society.
Across the road you can find the CCA Garden, a public sculpture installation by Montreal architect Melvin Charney.
Additional info: Canadian Center for Architecture
Architectural Bike Tour: A guided four-hour adventure through the streets of Old Montreal
Location: 27 rue de la Commune Est (subway: Champ de Mars)
Price: Rental starting at $6.50 Canadian
Noteworthy: You can also see it on your own by downloading the Architecture Walking Tour app.
Relax after a long day of exploring at Spa Bota Bota, a serene five-deck boat anchored on the St. Lawrence river.
Additional info: Architectural Bike Tour, Spa Bota Bota
Location: 449 rue St. Helene (subway: Square Victoria)
Price: From $178 Canadian
Noteworthy: Minimalistic design contrasted by big French windows onto a corner located steps away in the downtown area.
This luxurious 1871 hotel has 30 suites and a restaurant. Spend some quiet time in its library, complete with a hot fireplace for the chilly nights.
More info: Hotel Gault
Location: 262 St. Jacques West in Old Montreal (subway: Square Victoria)
Price: From 135 Canadian
Noteworthy: The collection of artwork on display is fit for a museum.
This boutique hotel is in the heart of Old Montreal. Owned by Georges Marciano of clothes brand Guess, the LHotel has become the permanent home for Marciano’s extensive personal pop art collection, including works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Damien Hirst.
More info: LHotel
Hotel St. Paul
Hôtel St. Paul
Location: 355 McGill Street in Old Montreal (subway: Square Victoria)
Price: From $195 Canadian
Noteworthy: This was Old Montreal’s first boutique hotel.
Employing the four elements of fire, ice, earth and sea as inspiration, this Old Montreal boutique hotel has a monochromatic color palette and organic textures that provide the decor a soft, relaxing feeling.
More info: Hôtel St. Paul
Location: 334-336 Terasse St. Denis in the Plateau (subway: Sherbrooke)
Price: From $125 Canadian
Noteworthy: The building was once used as storage space for Canadian Armed Forces tanks.
Completed in 1920 by notable Montreal architect Ernest Cormier, the building that houses the Loft Hotel is one of Montreal’s enduring art deco landmarks. The building was recently converted to loft-style hotel rooms, which can be as spacious as they are trendy.
More info: Loft Hotel
Les Touilleurs: Cooking provide shop
Location: 152 avenue Laurier Ouest in the Mile End (subway: Laurier)
Noteworthy: Get a free recipe-of-the-week card.
The big, spacious chalet-style kitchen is where you’ll discover the very best cooking supplies for your culinary needs. It was created by architect Luce Lafontaine with big, open cabinetry to make you feel at home. Courses are offered onsite 3 nights weekly by local chefs.
A walk round the corner will take you to Jamais Assez, where you’ll find a huge assortment of locally made furniture and creative accessories. Le Boutique Artisanal Une Monde is a warehouse on a side road that carries a choice of Asian-inspired and revived furniture at affordable prices. If you would like to scout for some more boho home accents, Buk&Nola will have everything you’re searching for. This shop is well known for its casual elegant decoration. The owners offer a decorating service as well.
More info: Les Touilleurs, Jamais Assez, Buk&Nola
L’Affichiste: Classic poster gallery
Location: 471 rue Saint François Xavier in Old Montreal (subway: Place D’armes)
Noteworthy: The largest collection of original vintage posters in Montreal is housed in this gallery, attached with underground tunnels to the Notre Dame Basilica. A storage room is housed in a walk-in vault.
If you are still searching for that perfect piece of art, have a walk down to La Rue des Artistes. It might be where you are going to discover that coup de coeur, French for “favorite uncover.” Keep walking and you’ll arrive at the big indoor Marché Bonsecours marketplace, where local artisans sell everything from furniture to clothes and unique umbrellas.
More info: L’Affichiste, Marché Bonsecours
Style Labo: Shop selling vintage and new things
Location: 5765 St. Laurent Blvd in Plateau/Mile End (subway: Rosemont)
Noteworthy: The classic lights collection
If you’re searching for a big collection of industrial-style vintage and new items, this is the place to visit. The shop’s decor transports you to another moment.
If you’re trying to find a design experience, Les Commissaires doubles as a boutique and gallery, selling daring designer pieces from around the world. It’s continually restocked with a mix of innovative, occasionally provocative things attesting to the city’s flair to the mix offered in its own design. Monastiraki is just another vintage shop; it also serves as a community art center. Search via its cabinets for vintage and locally made prints.
More info: Style Labo, Les Commissaires, Monastiraki
Surface Jalouse: Printing store
Location: 2672 rue Notre-Dame West in Little Burgundy (subway: Lionel Groulx)
Noteworthy: Surface Jalouse can print pictures (the store’s or your own) on virtually any surface — such as furniture.
Component furniture shop and part studio, this boutique offers funky and thoroughly unique home decor items.
As you’re on Notre Dame street, head west to explore the strip of antiques shops and curiosity shops.
More info: Surface Jalouse
Gibeau Orange Julep: Landmark and fast-food restaurant
Location: 7700 Decarie Boulevard (subway: Namur)
Noteworthy: On Wednesday nights during the summer, the lot fills with classic vintage cars and bicycle lovers.
Since the 1960s the Julep has been one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, with its distinct fiberglass orange form and coloured party flags dangling off the side. Roller skating waitresses initially brought food to the automobiles, but they’ve been replaced with a top fast-food service. The Gibeau Orange Julep (an orange drink), offered when the shop opened in 1932, remains what attracts most customers.
More info: Gibeau Orange Julep
Réne Lévesque Park: Sculpture park
Location: 1 chemin de Musee, (subway: Angrignon)
Noteworthy: Admire 22 enormous sculptures at this park, located off the Lachine Canal bike path and offering panoramic views of the Saint Lawrence and Saint Louis rivers.
Enjoy a picnic with your loved ones, rent a kayak or enjoy the green and open 4 kilometers of walking paths.
More info: Parc René-Lévesque
Spazio: Antiques shop
Location: 8405 boulevard St. Laurent (subway: Jarry)
Noteworthy: Architectural detailing from several time periods are readily found in this two-story shop that was formerly a renowned tavern.
It is divided into neat sections, so it’s possible to find a room filled with antique doors or sections for stained glass windows, vintage knobs or handles. The owner is constantly expanding as the collection grows.
More info: Spazio
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