Call it hipster capital, call it the artsiest district in Montreal — eclectic Mile End Montreal doesn’t care for labels. Technically part of trendy Plateau Mont-Royal but infinitely more authentic, this effervescent district covers just about 10 blocks but is incidentally home to Canada’s largest concentration of artists, in addition to some of Montreal’s most acclaimed restaurants.
If you’re keen on discovering this lively, diverse, appealing part of town, here are my suggestions of things to see and do while you’re there to get a proper Mile End experience. Hint: better pack your eating pants.
Go on a Montreal bike tour
Montreal is an amazingly bike-friendly city, with over 500 kilometers of bike paths many of which in the Plateau neighborhood. Hipsters LOVE their fixie bikes, you know.
Why not hop on the trend, too, and discover the city like a local would on a Montreal bike tour? Thanks to a knowledgeable guide, you’ll get to understand the dense background the artsy and trendy part of the Mile End. Coupled with gourmet Jean-Talon Market and Little Italy area, even parts of upscale and leafy Outremont, making it an all-encompassing tour. Furthermore, the ride is fairly easy and slow-paced, making it a good option for all kinds of travelers.
Music fans will have an especially fond appreciation for this experience. The rythmic heritage of local heroes, namely Arcade Fire and Leonard Cohen, are heavily featured throughout the tour.
Photograph the beautiful buildings
Often dubbed Instagram porn by local ‘grammers, the vast majority of the Mile End does indeed beg to be photographed.
Between the rows of colourful houses and the eye-catching murals, not to mention the quirky Dragon flower shop and the Church of St. Michael and St. Anthony, there truly is no shortage in photo inspiration around these parts. In essence, it’s best not to leave your phone charger behind.
Go on a Mile-End food tour
With almost weekly restaurant openings and a myriad of well-established tables, too, the Mile End is one of the most sought-after culinary destinations in North America.
This thriving creative community is the perfect place for a Mile End Montreal Food Tour, which will not only feature the best eateries but also secret back alleys, independently-owned shops, as well as cultural highlights. Definitely, a well-rounded and mouth-watering tour that’s well worth the price.
Shop at local, artisan-owned boutiques
As expected in a neighbourhood that’s famous for its entrepreneurial spirit and artistic mindset, there are plenty of small boutiques scattered across the Mile End where it’s possible to encourage local artisans and their craft. Here are a few of my favourite:
- Drawn & Quarterly (books)
- Boucle & Papier (stationary)
- Vestibule (womenswear and home goods)
- General 54 (womenswear)
- Clark Street Mercantile (menswear and home goods)
- KOTN (ethical (menswear + womenswear)
- Annex Vintage (vintage womenswear & menswear)
- Frank & Oak (menswear + womenswear, coffee shop, barbershop)
- Mile End Kicks (sneaker shop)
- VdeV (home goods)
Attend Marché des possibles
If you’ve visiting between May and September, make sure to plan a visit to Marché des possibles. It’s an open-air market and event space at Entrepôt77 with musical performances, workshops, food trucks, outdoor film screenings, craft markets, a biergarten, and my personal favourite, an annual dog fashion show.
The popular weekly gathering takes place from Friday afternoons until Sunday evenings. It’s free and open to all!
Catch an indie show
Mile End is home to not just one but two esteemed venues that welcome anything from comedy acts to music shows and circuses. Théâtre Rialto, on avenue du Parc, is a former movie palace — now a National Historic Site of Canada — dating back from 1923 famous for its lavish neo-baroque interior. Truly one of Montreal’s most charming venues!
Another option is the quirkier, peculiar Casa del Popolo on boulevard Saint-Laurent. “The house of the people” is equal parts vegetarian eatery, coffee shop, indie music venue, and art gallery, and an intimate one at that, with just 55 seats.
Eat at legendary Mile End Montreal restaurants
While there are plenty of noteworthy restaurants in the Mile End district, I do have a handful of favourites that never, ever disappoint, be it because of the friendly service, the stunning decor, and, of course, because of the yummy grub.
Here’s where I would normally go for an evening out with friends in the Mile End:
- Wilensky’s Light Lunch
- Lester’s Deli
- Nouveau Palais
- Drogheria Fine
- Kem Coba
- Boulangerie Guillaume
- Bishop & Bagg
- Tsukuyomi Ramen
- Nita tout garni
Drink a beer at the best microbrewery in Montreal
Why not treat yourself to a well-deserved pint at Canada’s best microbrewery after all that walking? Dieu du Ciel is indeed Montreal’s top craft brewery, having pushed the limits of beer since 1998 with audacious and inventive home brews inspired by Quebec’s folklore.
Get there early to snag a coveted on their flowery outdoor terrace!
Pick a side: friendly Mile End Montreal local feuds
Every Montrealer I know has a favourite bagel shop and has unmistakably strong feelings about it. I personally am on Bagel Fairmount‘s team, simply for the friendly service and the fact that you are completely surrounded by ceiling-high columns of bagels when you enter the store; a lot of my friends, on the opposite, prefer Bagel St-Viateur, and you wouldn’t catch them so much as walking past Bagel Fairmount.
Same goes for the Italian coffee Cafe Olimpico (which opened in 1970) or the sun-drenched terrace of Café Club Social filled with elderly Italians playing cards, the truth of the matter is, you’ll have to try both in order to make up your mind and join one of the opposing teams!
Refuel at a colorful coffee chop
Obviously, being in hipstertown also means you will be surrounded by trendy third-wave coffee shops with amazing lattes. Many of the cafés below are actually part of my Montreal Coffee Round-Up!
- Le Butterblume
- Pastel Rita
- Cardinal Tea Room (to clarify, this is a tea room and not a coffee shop but it’s too good not to mention)
- Caffe In Gamba
- Standard Café
Have a romantic date night
If you’re visiting Montreal with your loved one (and, considering Montreal is one of the most romantic cities this side of the pond, certainly there’s a good chance you are indeed), you’ll be needing a few dim-lit, wine-abundant restaurants suggestions. Luckily, there are a couple in Mile End Montreal:
* photos by the amazing Gaelle LeRoyer
Get the book!
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