The Best Neighborhoods to Visit on Your Trip to Montreal

Your personal favorite may vary.

beautiful townhouses on a tree-lined street
Just about every Montreal neighborhood is a cool neighborhood. | Photo by Eva Blue, courtesy of Tourisme Montreal
Just about every Montreal neighborhood is a cool neighborhood. | Photo by Eva Blue, courtesy of Tourisme Montreal

Ask anyone in Montreal to name the city’s coolest neighborhood, and you’re bound to spark a passionate debate. “Verdun has the best community vibe,” one might say, referring to the popular southwest borough. “Heard of Arcade Fire? They used to live in The Mile End,” another might chime in about the historic, artsy district.

Neither is wrong. But in a city as cool as Montreal, there are so many great places to hang out that definitively declaring a “best of the best” is a near-impossible and, dare I say, almost cruel feat.

Instead, here’s a guide to the best of Montreal’s many, many excellent neighborhoods—including where to stay in each, whether you're after an inexpensive stay, a swanky hotel, or a sunny little Airbnb. Depending on what you’re into—seeing art, eating good, getting outside, dancing through the night—your personal favorite may vary.

people in a park near beautiful townhouses
Check out the beautiful townhouses of Plateau-Mont-Royal. | NoyanYalcin/Shutterstock

Plateau-Mont-Royal & The Mile End

Best for: Leisurely wandering and Jewish history
In 2004, the city of Montreal graciously destroyed the hideous highway interchange at Park and Pine Avenues, ushering in Plateau-Mont-Royal’s era as one of the city’s coolest neighborhoods. Nearly two decades later, the Plateau remains la crème de la crème—and I’m not just saying that because it’s where yours truly lives.

Around Square Saint-Louis, home to Montreal’s arts community for over a century, wander by a row of colorful buildings with gorgeous staircases. North of that, you’ve got stellar brunch at Le Petit Rustik on Duluth, Portuguese-style charcoal-grilled bird at Romados, and poutine at La Banquise on Rachel, plus uber-cool bars and clubs like Big in Japan and Apt. 200 on Saint-Laurent. Many of Montreal’s best parks are on the Plateau, including La Fontaine, Laurier, and Mont-Royal (known to locals as “the mountain”), and for shopping, there’s Saint-Laurent, Saint-Denis, and Mount Royal streets. And if you want to keep the excitement going, the Plateau is conveniently located near both Old Montreal and the festivals of Quartier des Spectacles.

Technically in the same borough as the Plateau, The Mile End understandably draws comparisons to Williamsburg with its bearded Orthodox Jews and hipsters roaming the streets. And much like the NYC neighborhood, the Mile End isn’t quite as hip as it once was. But that isn’t to say it isn’t deserving of a stop. The Mile End is home to the city’s two most iconic bagel shops, St. Viateur and Fairmount, as well as the deservedly-famous Café Olimpico, loads of vintage stores, and the city’s best independent bookshop, Drawn & Quarterly. And if you’re interested in the Mile End’s longstanding Jewish roots, the Montreal Jewish Museum runs tours including the aptly named Beyond the Bagel food tour.

Where to stay: Visit Manoir Sherbrooke for an inexpensive boutique stay or Auberge de la Fontaine for luxury accommodations steps from Park La Fontaine. For a cozy, minimalist Airbnb in the heart of the Plateau, you can also try this spot near Mont-Royal and Laurier Street.

crowds in the middle of a large city at dusk
Quartier des Spectacles is where all the action's at. | Photo by Stéphan Poulin, courtesy of Tourisme Montreal

Quartier des Spectacles

Best for: Being in the middle of the action
If you love being right in the action, Montreal’s festival neighborhood is where it’s at. Here, you’ll find the Just For Laughs and Montreal Jazz festivals, which have free and paid events under the big lights. It’s also worth checking out Le Central, a food court with a diverse set of independent options. And if a punk rock bar is your vibe, Foufones Électriques is a classic that everyone in Montreal has stories from. On Saint-Denis Street in the Latin Quarter, you’ll find an eclectic (albeit mostly touristy) mix of restaurants and bars. For something only locals know, check out le 4e Mur speakeasy and be sure to seek out Montreal’s circus festival when it’s happening.

Since you’re already downtown, there are a few other gems just a hop, skip, and jump away: Grumpy’s, a bar which appeared in the film Barney’s Version; Fats, a super fun pool hall/dive bar; and a new Chinatown with all the buns, dumplings, and all-you-can-eat sushi you can get your hands on. And be sure not to miss whatever the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has on exhibit.

Where to stay: Although it’s technically not in Quartier des Spectacles, Le Germain Hotel is less than 10 blocks away and has a facade that’s a multicolored spectacle unto itself. Otherwise, hit up an Airbnb like this loft space, which is essentially a dream apartment, or this huge private room in an apartment that sits walking distance from some of Montreal's best attractions.

people canoeing down a city canal
Go sailing down the Lachine Canal in Saint-Henri. | Glass and Nature/Shutterstock

Saint-Henri & Little Burgundy/Griffintown

Best for: Amazing restaurants and a neighborhood vibe
Not long ago, Saint-Henri was primarily a worker’s district bordering the nearly 200-year-old Lachine Canal, which slices through the southwest of the city. But in the last five years or so, Saint-Henri has exploded with cool factor, attracting some of the city’s best restaurants and bars. You’ve got Elena for pizza and pasta, Satay Brothers for Singaporean food, Arthurs Nosh Bar for Jewish brunch, and Atwater Cocktail Club for snazzy drinks. Here, you’re also steps from Atwater Market, which overflows with gorgeous local produce and charcuterie—perfect for a DIY picnic on the banks of the canal.

A little further east, you’ll also hit cool-but-pricey Little Burgundy and Griffintown, playgrounds for Montreal’s office workers and for foodies willing to throw down a few extra bucks for some fine fare. Check out Grinder, a butcher and restaurant that dishes out monster burgers, newcomer SHAY for modern Lebanese, as well as upper-echelon experiences Candide and Nora Gray.

Where to stay: Check into the Alt Hotel, where you can catch killer views of Old Montreal from the 7th-floor terrace. You can also post up in an Airbnb; along with offering a free bottle of Quebec wine (!) and free street parking (!!), this one sits steps from the Atwater Market and the Atwater Cocktail Club, one of the best bars in Montreal.

people in a busy indoor market
Take a break from poutine and go for pizza instead. | NoyanYalcin/Shutterstock

Little Italy & La Petite-Patrie

Best for: Pizza and cool bars
In the late 1860s, 50 Italian families arrived in Montreal and made this lovely tree-lined neighborhood north of the Mile End home. Over the years, the Italian community has largely trickled out, but their impact is still felt with places like Caffè Italia for espresso and Quincaillerie Danté for kitchen supplies (and apparently firearms, as Anthony Bourdain once experienced on an episode of No Reservations). Of course, Little Italy is also home to some of the city’s best pizza, with parlors like Gema and Pizza Bouquet holding it down.

Despite its size, Little Italy isn’t short on places to go out, either. There’s Notre-Dame-des-Quilles, a bar with its own bowling alley; Vices & Versa, where you can check out the city’s hopping craft brew scene; and Vin Mon Lapin for natural wine. And if all that isn’t enough, Little Italy is also home to Jean-Talon Market, where you’ll find the city’s biggest produce market and a buffet of delicious food stalls.

The next neighborhood over, La Petite Patrie, is also worth mentioning, primarily for the amazing eats at Plaza Saint-Hubert, including Montreal Plaza, one of Montreal’s most lauded restaurants. Not far away, you’ll also find Cambodian-Vietnamese fusion at La Belle Tonki, El Chalateco for pupusas, Pichai for Thai, and almost magically-good brews at both Mellön and Isle de Garde.

Where to stay: Airbnb is the way to go if you want to stay out this way. Try this one, which sits inside of an old Art Déco building, or this sunny little spot with Scandinavian vibes.

beautiful view of a pond and a traditional chinese pavilion within a botanical garden, with an Olympic stadium tower in the background
Montreal's Botanical Gardens will transport you all the way to China. | Awana JF/Shutterstock

Hochelaga-Maisonneuve & The Village

Best for: Daytime attractions and wild nights out
Possibly the neighborhood most associated with being “the next big thing,” Hochelaga has an edgy vibe and an increasing number of hip new spots including Hélicoptère and Heirloom. But the real reason to visit is Espace pour la Vie, a collection of Montreal’s best attractions including the Botanical Gardens, Olympic Stadium, and freshly-renovated Biodome.

Closer to downtown, the Village has long been the heart of Montreal's LGBTQ community—and, as is tradition in this part of town, it's a place where one thing can lead to another (and another, and another), culminating in a truly wild night of partying. Be here for Pride in August, when events, artists, speakers, and festivities fill the streets. If not, Stereo (temporarily closed) and Cabaret Mado are institutions. And should you ever need a break from the action, the Village’s north-south streets leading up to Parc La Fontaine are beautiful and tend to stay pretty calm.

Where to stay: The Bed & Breakfast du Village sits smack dab in the middle of the Village and is ideal if you’re traveling on a budget. If you want to get into the trendy, innovative energy of the neighborhood, this NYC artist’s loft-style Airbnb is for you.

people walking down a cobblestone shopping district
Vieux Montreal: An oldie, but a goodie. | Photo by Daphné Caron, courtesy of Tourisme Montreal

Old Montreal

Best for: Balling out
Let’s get it out of the way: Yes, it’s touristy. But as one of the oldest neighborhoods in North America at nearly 400 years old, the huge stone buildings, cobblestone streets, and snazzy party scene that make up Vieux Montreal make it well worth visiting. For an immersive art experience, see what’s on at the PHI Centre. For food and drinks, try Monarque or a cocktail hour at Philémon. For a subterranean club/speakeasy, head underground on Rue Saint-Gabriel and check out Velvet, which claims to resemble France’s catacombs. And be sure to save some money for souvenirs from the ivy-lined Arts Court.

Where to stay: Again, we’re here to ball out. Classy and conveniently located Hotel Nelligan offers a rooftop brunch restaurant and café down below; Le Saint-Sulpice’s 108 suites all come with views, either of Old Montreal’s cobblestone streets or the hotel’s garden; and Auberge de Vieux-Port, built in a former 19th-century warehouse, sits right on the Saint Laurent river.

a woman walking through a field with dome art
Parc Frédéric-Back in Villeray | Photo by Eva Blue, courtesy of Tourisme Montreal

Villeray

Best for: Park life and intriguing food
Villeray has come a long way since its days as a small late-1800s village populated primarily by quarry workers. Today, the neighborhood is known for its charming houses and for being home to one of the city’s best parks, Jarry, which floods with picnickers and people playing sports on warm days.

Lately, Villeray has become host to some of the city’s most intriguing new restaurants, including Knuckles, where you can dig into panzerotti and other dishes packed with local ingredients, and Italian restaurant Moccione, a local fave. For a night out, Miss Villeray is always a good time, and Bar Le Record is ideal if you want a classy night with Mad Men vibes.

Where to stay: Let an Airbnb be your base in Villeray. Hôtel À La Maison hosts quite a few, all of which are bright, simple, and—best of all—relatively cheap.

people sitting on a dock near a lake
Parc du Quai-de-La Tortue in Verdun | Flickr/Parcours Riverain - Ville de Montreal

Verdun

Best for: Access to nature
Yes, it’s true! Montreal does have a beach: small but mighty Verdun. On the neighborhood's Promenade Wellington, which becomes highly pedestrianized in the summer, you’ll find shopping and some terrific restaurants including Kwizinn for Haitian food, Sweet Lee’s for pastries, and Janine for decadent brunch. But the best thing about Verdun is undoubtedly its access to the St. Lawrence River waterfront; all visitors should make time for a long stroll along the coastline.

Where to stay:An Airbnb is also the move in Verdun; prices tend to run relatively cheap over here, too, as well as in other neighborhoods nearby.

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Joel Balsam is a Canadian freelance journalist and guidebook author who writes for Lonely Planet, National Geographic, TIME, BBC Travel, and more. His home base is Montreal, but he can often be found tasting his way through a packed market somewhere.