No longer just the “most European city of North America,” Montreal is home to many thriving neighbourhoods that are just waiting to be discovered by visitors who’d like something other than the sights of Old Montreal.
The best example of this rejuvenation is Plateau Mont-Royal; just north of downtown Montreal, it sprawls from the edge of the emblematic mountain to the colourful, picturesque tree-lined streets that have taken over every Montrealer’s Instagram feed.
Often regarded as one of the hippest, prettiest and overall most fun areas of the city, Plateau Mont-Royal has plenty of photogenic staircases, tastefully decorated eateries, passionate residents, and heaps of charm.
All photo credits: Gaelle LeRoyer
Scout the colourful murals
Plateau Mont-Royal is home to some of Montreal’s most striking frescoes, notably as part of the well-respected Mural Festival. Only in Montreal could you host an event where people are encouraged to literally paint the town. The 10-day affair is largely based in the vicinity of Saint-Laurent Boulevard and features free outdoor concerts, an art fair and guided tours. That is in addition to the dozens of occasional commissioned works by local artists across the neighbourhood as well. Definitely something for your Instagram stories!
Some of my favourite murals are located here:
- Fiery pink wall, Duluth / St-Denis
- Leonard Cohen, Napoleon / St-Laurent
- Parking lot, Prince-Arthur / St-Laurent
- Lady in Red, Napoleon / Roy
- Graffiti House, St-Dominique / Marie-Anne
- Cats, Laval / Rachel
Book a Plateau and “The Main” Food Tour
Montreal is frequently cited as one of the most inventive, seductive places in North America as far as gastronomy is concerned, among other things. And its supporters aren’t wrong; Montrealers are a demanding hungry bunch and they will not settle for anything ordinary. Waves upon waves of immigration — from Jewish to Portuguese to Japanese — have brought invaluable traditions to the city for a truly diverse, complex heritage that has now become the city’s signature.
And only a proper Plateau Mont-Royal food tour with a knowledgeable, equally glutton guide can effectively dive in the heart of the matter that is food in Montreal.
The 2.5-hour walking tour (vegetarian friendly) encompasses 5 food stops and includes an emblematic Schwartz’s smoked meat sandwich as well as craft cider. localfoodtours.com/montreal is where it’s at.
Grab a coffee
Travelling solely to try out new coffee shops is something more and more 20-somethings do nowadays, and Montreal certainly hasn’t missed the memo. With seemingly one or two new coffee shops opening up every week, even Montrealers have a hard time keeping track!
Some of my favourite coffee shops in Plateau Mont-Royal:
- Réplika / 252 Rachel Est
- Dispatch / 4021 St Laurent
- Café Myriade / 4627 St Denis
- Café Nocturne / 19 Prince Arthur West
- Dudley and Dudley / 1254 Rue Gilford
- Pikolo / 3418b Parc
- Le moineau masqué / 912 Marie-Anne Est
- Noble Café / 430 Laurier Est
Although not quite as leafy as, say, London, Montreal does quite well nonetheless in terms of green grassy spaces, especially in Plateau Mont-Royal.
Oftentimes, locals will gather friends (along with a couple of bottles of wine for good measure) for an afternoon of leisure in the sun at any given park in the neighbourhood — although most would argue that Parc Sir Wilfrid Laurier is the de facto picnic capital of the city.
Other great parks to discover in the area?
- Try reading a book in the shadow of centennial trees by the serpentine in Parc Lafontaine
- Admire the view of Mont-Royal mountain in Parc Jeanne-Mance
- Watch locals go about their daily business in compact but picturesque Parc Lahaie, flanked by St-Laurent Boulevard and the stunning Saint-Enfant-Jésus du Mile End church
- And, lastly, with its perfectly aligned rows of Victorian houses, Square St-Louis is another photographer’s paradise that is not to be missed.
Instagram picturesque streets
In addition to vivid murals, Montreal is a sight for sore eyes with perfectly aligned rows of houses, colourful windows and twirling iron staircases.
If I had to pick one social media platform, it would probably be Instagram. I often use it to scout locations when I plan my travels; to me, it’s easier to get a real sense of a place from a local’s point of view through Instagram than through any other medium.
There’s a myriad of ways the shutterbug in you can capture the essence of Montreal in these Insta-friendly streets, in the stretch wedged between Prince-Arthur Street and Laurier Avenue:
- Drolet Street
- Henri-Julien Street
- Laval Avenue
Also worth a stroll: Gilford Street, rue Garnier close to St-Joseph Boulevard.
Plan for a nightcap
It comes as a surprise to absolutely no one that Montrealers like their drink in the evening. And Plateau Mont-Royals bars are quite abundant, and rather attractive, too.
While most tourists will mistakenly opt to stay downtown or in Old-Montreal for a nightcap, there are true gems to be found just a bit further up north where the locals go and gather to celebrate a birthday, a milestone or just a plain old Tuesday.
- Bar Big in Japan (candlelit speakeasy) / 4175 St Laurent
- Réservoir (brewpub with craft beers) / 9 Duluth Est
- Bar Henrietta (Portuguese eatery with fantastic cocktails and wine list) / 115 Laurier Ouest
- Buvette chez Simone (great charcuterie plates and wines, a local’s favourite) / 4869 Park
- Bar Suzanne (speakeasy bar with dumplings on offer) / 20 Duluth Est
- Rouge Gorge (excellent list of French wines) / 1234 Mont-Royal
- Le Royal (inventive speakeasy with original concoctions) / 1232 Mont-Royal
Take part in special events and festivals
There are plenty of festivals and special events to take part in on Plateau Mont-Royal and not just in the warmer months, but in fact year-round.
Summer is, however, arguably the best time of the year to visit with major happenings like:
- Mural Festival (see above)
- Marché des possibles (open-air event with free music shows/movies, food trucks, a beer garden and an artisan marketplace)
- Pianos publics (free outdoor pianos with occasional concerts)
- POP Montréal in mid-September (vibrant multi-day festival championing independence in the arts by presenting emerging talents from around the world)
- Montreal Fringe in June (the Montreal chapter of the infamously eyebrow-raising, groundbreaking festival)
Winter also brings Nuit blanche to the area for those brave enough to face sub zero temperatures.
Venture into the Mile End
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 diverse, 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. This also is where some of the most interesting shopping in Montreal can be accomplished.
Put on your eating pants
Rumour has it that Montreal has the second highest amount of restaurants per capita in North America – is that the best reason to wear your eating pants or what? But with so many eateries on offer, it can be hard to pick the right ones to visit during a short trip so I’ve done the legwork for you.
From century-old steakhouses (Moishes) to rotisseries that have become emblems of the Portuguese immigration in the area (Romados) and minimalistic Tokyo-style bun counter (HAO) and hip cider houses (Darling), here are some of my favourite restaurants in Plateau Mont-Royal:
- L’Express / 3927 St-Denis
- Majestique / 4105 St-Laurent
- Tri Express / 1650 Laurier Est
- Byblos le petit café / 1499 Laurier Est
- Noren / 77 Rachel Ouest
- Pâtisserie Rhubarbe / 1479 Laurier Est
- Schwartz’s Deli / 3895 St-Laurent
- Harbin dumplings / 4801 St-Laurent
- Lustucru / 5159 Parc
- Yokato Yokabai Ramen / 4185 Drolet
- Restaurant HÀ / 243 Mont-Royal Ouest
Catch a show
Downtown Montreal is where the major arena shows will be performed; Plateau Mont-Royal, on the other hand, will welcome intimate gigs and open the stage to up-and-coming artists of various backgrounds and mediums with a promising future.
Casa del Popolo and sister establishment Sala Rossa, as well as Rialto Theatre, are great places to catch live music shows while The Wiggle Room is dedicated to burlesque entertainment; Montreal Improv is quite self-explanatory, while endearingly outside-the-box Mainline Theatre is indie theatre’s home in the neighbourhood.
Indulge in retail therapy
Sure, you could stick to the high-street and the Gaps and H&Ms of this world. But what if I told you there are plenty of cute boutiques where you could get staple pieces made with love by a local Montreal designer?
Several of the best boutiques in Montreal are located in the Mile-End area adjacent to Plateau Mont-Royal; while you’re there, make sure to head slightly east in order not to miss out on these beautiful shops:
- Bleu et persillé (cheese) / 1475 Mont-Royal Est
- Les chocolats de Chloé (fine chocolates) / 546 Duluth Est
- 33 tours (vinyls) / 1373 Mont-Royal Est
- Buk & Nola (home decor & fashion accessories) / 1593 Laurier Est
- m0851 (leather goods) / 3526 St-Laurent
- Intervalle (shoes) / 806 Mont-Royal Est
- Magasin Général Lambert Gratton (vintage home decor) / 4051 de Bullion