Hello, welcome back to the Montreal Traveler’s Guide, this section can be completed on its own or paired with the previous post. In this post, each paragraph is its own adventure and a convenient stepping stone to the next exploration.
St. Laurent Street
St. Laurent is a street that spans from Old Port all the way to Little Italy. Running North-South, and it’s this street that I consider the most diverse. First China Town near Old Port and through the night-life bars and fun coffee shops. Along the way, a detour to La Banquise may supply exactly the energy you need for the rest of the walk. For shopping or perusing, there some great thrift stores or bakeries. My personal favorite near St. Laurent is a thrift store and cafe/bistro called Eva B, it is a very unique and strange experience. It is easy to miss that there are nearly three floors so take some time to explore. It is an adventure in itself. Additionally, the $1 samosas are delicious and you can often have a feast for under $5.
Grabbing the 55 bus will take you all the way down this street if you’d rather view it from a window. Towards the other end of the road, you’ll find the entrance to Little Italy and Montreal’s largest, year-round outdoor market, Jean-Talon. Here the farmers are kind, handing out samples of their fresh produce, telling you where it is from and how it’s grown. Specialty items such as pastries, rare mushrooms, special cheeses, and handmade soaps are easy to find here. Or for grocery shopping, I love looking for discounted fruits and veggies because they are especially cheap. For instance, Quebec apples make a great snack, smaller than the apples I am used to but full of unique flavor, each apple at peak season costs less than $0.50.
St. Viateur VS Fairmount Bagel
Making your way back to Outremont and Mile-End area, you will find my own neighborhood. Now it is time for settling your own mind on a long-time dispute about the best Montreal-style bagels. The two most competitive bakeries happen to be within a few blocks of each other. You will know you are close when you see people walking along with paper sacks and chewing on torn pieces of bread. Both bagels are sold for about a dollar each depending on the type. Of the many choices, I highly recommend the classic sesame. Or perhaps, branch out and try the muesli at St. Viateur. At Fairmount, their cranberry and chocolate versions are highly satisfying. there is hardly any seating at the bagel shops themselves, usually with a fast-moving line running out the door. To capitalize on this many cafes surrounding the bagel shops suggest bringing your bagels there.
St. Joseph’s Oratory
After that, I suggest grabbing a bus or the metro that will take you straight down along the mountain to a neighborhood called “Cotes-des-Neiges” (Snowy Side). Where the Cathedral and Oratory of St. Joseph beckons grandly from a perch on the south side of Mount Royal. This is the best view of the sunset in Montreal. The balcony faces the opposite direction of the lookout and provides a view of the other half of Montreal. Here the history and heart of the city through the years can be felt and seen. If you can catch the organ playing, it is an astonishing sound inside the basilica. In summer the gardens add landscaped tiers of flora. Through the garden, there is a path that follows the story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, ending at one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever witnessed.
What I Love About Montreal
During this journey, I suggest noticing the people that walk the streets. You will see the college students near McGill and Concordia, business people biking in their suits and heels, and the various ethnicities of each district. All tell a story and make up the community that is as transient and comes from as many origins as the water of the St. Laurence. You’ll see the waters of this river any time you near the edge of the island. This river contributes to the economy, geography, and the life of those in Montreal, it’s path winds everything together.
I hope this guide is helpful to someone, and I know I will refer back to it if I return to Montreal years from now, to see how it’s changed and what remains. Best of all, I will be able to remember all the moments with great friends that were along this route, winding my way through Montreal.