The heart of Montréal won’t be found at La Ronde amusement park or waiting in line at Notre Dame, it will be found in the 19 boroughs that make up the city, where locals and tourists mingle over the pleasure of a delicious coffee, perfect bagels, and a deep sense of community.

Exploring Montréal’s distinct neighborhoods is like a tasting menu at a restaurant, each course offers its own individual delight, and together they’ll give you the best time you’ll ever have.

Place des Arts complex, in Montreal
The Place des Arts complex in Montréal © RnDmS / Getty Images

Quartier des Spectacles (Entertainment District)

Best neighborhood for arts and entertainment

Montréal is a deeply creative city, and perhaps there is no better place to experience the festivals, art, music, and performances of the local artisans than the Quartier des Spectacles (Entertainment District). Whether in the sweltering summer or in the midst of a snowstorm, Quartier des Spectacles is constantly buzzing with its 80 cultural venues and 8 public spaces. At night the boulevards light up with enchanting light displays, with the Place des Arts, the largest art and culture complex in Canada, at its heart.

If you want entertainment, look no further. Events and festivals happen year-round (even with 3ft of snow to trudge through) at the Place des Festivals. It is arguably the most festive and lively area of Montréal, and you can check out their schedule of events here.

St. Viateur Bagel shop
The famous St. Viateur Bagel shop in the Mile End neighborhood of Montréal © Bruce Yuanyue Bi / Getty Images

Mile End

Best neighborhood for coffee and thrifting

One of Montréal’s most dynamic boroughs, this neighborhood is a laid-back and trendy spot for record shops, vintage shopping, cafes, and eateries. It’s a pedestrian-friendly area where even the alleyways have been converted into green spaces to connect the community.

The 40 blocks that make up Mile End are crawling with thrift shops and vintage goods – from Expo 67 coasters to vintage Chanel gowns, Mile End has a treat for anyone willing to spend a few hours combing through its shelves. Annex Vintage possibly sells the most pins and patches in the city, and you can pin them on a vintage bomber jacket from the same store. Another popular shop is Citizen Vintage – their goal is to provide a sustainable alternative to fast fashion through upcycling both clothes and home goods.

If you fancy spending a whole day in Mile End, you can start off by getting brunch at Le Butterblume and then stopping by the lively Librairie Drawn & Quarterly for a graphic novel. If you’re a proud plant parent, drop by the highly Instagrammable Dragon Flowers, fuel up with a coffee from Le Falco or for something stronger, a tipple at Le Darling, and finish your night at Cinéma Moderne for a drink and an avant-garde film.

If you’re still hungry, the famous St. Viateur bagel shop (Anthony Bourdain certified) has its original location in Mile End, and trust me, this bagel will not disappoint even the snobbiest of bagel connoisseurs. You can pit it against another Mile End competitor, Fairmount Bagel.

People walk along Montreal Gay Village in Summer
The Gay Village in all its colorful glory © Pgiam / Getty Images

Gay Village

Best neighborhood to celebrate your pride (and party)

Home to Canada’s largest gay village and North America’s first recorded gay establishment (Moise Tellier’s Apple and Cake Shop), this borough in Montréal has an unforgettable atmospheric scene that is welcome to all and vital to the city’s landscape. In the summer the main boulevard, Rue Sainte-Catherine, becomes pedestrian-only as the streets are strung with pink and rainbow bunting and the patios spill out onto the streets.

Gay Village has an impressive LGBTIQ+ night scene and is most notably home to Cabaret Mado, a 1920s inspired cabaret that is owned by the local drag superstar Mado Lamotte. If you’re looking for something a little more modern, Complexe Sky has three stories of distinct music, a spa and a pool.

Not to be overshadowed with fantastic cocktails, good eats, and drag bars, Gay Village also has amazing shopping options, especially at the vintage shops on Atateken Street. You’ll get beautiful home goods at amazing prices – I have never come back empty handed even after a short browse on Atateken.

The Facade of the Montreal Museum of Fine Art
The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts is renowned for its beautiful exhibits © Chalffy / Getty Images

Centre-Ville (Downtown Montréal)

Best neighborhood for shopaholics and urbanites

It’s time to shop! High-end fashion boutiques sit right beside affordable options in the city’s compact downtown core, many of them located on Rue Sainte-Catherine, Canada’s longest commercial street. Don’t fret if it’s too cold, the Underground City has 33km (just over 20 miles) of sprawling shops and subway connections.

If in need of a break from shopping, have a bite of brunch at the beautiful Cafe Parvis and stop by Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral (just as beautiful as Notre-Dame and St. Joseph’s Oratory, but far less busy). Afterward, head to The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts for an afternoon of gazing at masterpieces.

When you’re feeling peckish head to Henri Brasserie Française for upscale French cooking. If you’re on a budget, Reuben's Restaurant Delicatessen has some of the best smoked meat sandwiches Montréal has to offer. If you want multiple dining options and possibly also some live entertainment, Time Out Market Montréal is the perfect crowd pleaser.

Colorful townhouses Montreal Canada
Colorful townhouses in the Le Plateau-Mont-Royal neighborhood of Montréal © iStock / Getty Images Plus

Le Plateau-Mont-Royal

Best neighborhood to admire Montréal’s unique architecture

Home of the McGill campus and its famous streets of sprawling 19th century townhomes, Le Plateau borough is one you can spend hours walking around in. The vibrant houses with their colorful spiral stairs define this area (make sure to drop by Carré Saint-Louis for some really quirky residences), but the fun and bustling shops (like Mycoboutique, specializing in all things mushrooms), pretty churches, and multitude of green spaces offer plenty to the curious pedestrian.

Make sure to stop for breakfast at Maison Publique, or if you’re craving something a little different, try the gorgeous Byblos le Petit Café for a Persian brunch. Refresh yourself at the industrial Pikolo Espresso Bar, and finish your gastronomical adventure at LOV, a vegan Montréal restaurant that has now spread as far as Toronto.

Late afternoon winter view looking down Saint-Denis street toward the shops and restaurants of the Quartier Latin in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The spire of the former Saint-Jacques church can be seen in the background, now integrated into the campus of the Université du Québec à Montréal
Enjoy an evening of jazz and cocktails in the Quartier Latin neighborhood © Patrick Donovan / Getty Images

Quartier Latin (Latin Quarter)

Best neighborhood to sip a cocktail and socialize

This lively and vibrant part of Montréal thrives in the warm weather. In this part of the city you can experience the true liveliness of the locals; Montréalers have an unrivaled zest for life and you can join them drinking cocktails at bars with little french-cafe tables on every street corner. This is a great place for cheap eats, great drinks, and bar hopping.

In the winter you can cozy up at a candlelit jazz bar like Bistro à Jojo or Bootlegger, L'Authentique, after a stunning dinner at L’Express on the famed Rue Saint-Denis. In the summer the 60+ patios that open onto the streets will doubtlessly accommodate all your eating, drinking, and merrying.

Old Montreal - St. Paul Street
The charming cobble-stoned streets of Montréal's Old Town © Steven_Kriemadis / Getty Images

Vieux-Montréal (Old Town)

Best neighborhood to pretend you’re in Europe

Montréal’s most touristy neighborhood is famous for a reason – Old Montréal has been absolutely buzzing since the 17th century. It boasts winding cobblestone streets, ethereal gothic cathedrals, archaeological ruins, lively squares with street vendors, and of course, an old port (also known as THE Old Port).

The coffee scene in Old Montréal is totally underrated – come for Notre Dame, but stay for the sunlit cafes in pretty historic buildings. Right on the famous Rue Saint Paul sits Tommy, an Instagram-famous two-story cafe. Nearby is also the gorgeous Crew Collective & Cafe; it’s both a cafe and a co-working space, and located in an old RBC building (with the original chandeliers still dangling impressively on the vaulted ceilings). For something a little more quirky, try Le Petit Dep, a hidden gem in the Old Port.

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This article was first published October 2018 and updated September 2021

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