TRAVEL

Montreal Travel: Neighbourhoods That Are Worth Exploring

03/29/2013 08:37 EDT
Alamy

Most visitors to Montreal will come prepared to be immersed in the city’s rich French-Canadian culture. But out-of-towners may not know that the city is also home to many other culturally and socially diverse neighbourhoods. Spending a week or more here will give you the freedom to explore some of the metropolis’s unique corners:

5 Montreal Neighbourhoods You Need To Check Out. Slideshow text follows for mobile readers.

5 Montreal Neighbourhoods You Need To Check Out

The Underground City

Montreal’s city-under-the-city, called “La Ville Souterraine” or RESO, consists of a vast network of shops, restaurants, movie theatres, museums and hotels, accessible through 10 of the city’s Metro stations. It’s so big, in fact, that it’s considered one of the largest underground cities in the world.

The greatest part about the Souterraine is that it is climate-controlled year-round, so it’s a fine place to visit during the frigid months of winter and a comfortable escape on a hot, humid summer day. Get yourself a map and spend a few hours exploring down below.

Little Italy

Fans of Italian cuisine take note – Montreal’s Italian population is 250,000-strong and the second-largest in Canada (after Toronto). To get to Little Italy, head to St. Laurent between Jean-Talon and St. Zotique streets.

One of your first stops should be the Jean-Talon Market for everything from artisanal cheeses to premium chocolates and charcuterie meats. During soccer season, stop by an authentic Italian café to sip cappuccinos and argue about who will win the World Cup.

Stroll by the Church of the Madonna della Difesa in summer to watch the traditional bocce matches. And if you visit in June, you may be lucky enough to watch Ferraris parading through the streets during Grand Prix week.

Chinatown

Another small, but notable cultural corner of the city is Chinatown, at the intersections of Saint Laurent Boulevard and La Gauchetière Street.

As is traditional in any Chinatown, it features four ornate, red and gold entrances. Along with excellent Chinese restaurants (try the Peking Duck at Moon Nan Village), there are a good number of Vietnamese eateries to tempt you as well. While its superb cuisine is the main attraction, Chinatown also features outdoor shopping on Saint-Laurent between Viger and Rene-Levesque, with shopkeepers displaying exotic fruits and vegetables and imported treats.

One of the most buzzed-about favourites is Dragon’s Beard Candy. Also known as Chinese cotton candy, it’s made by stretching a boiled sugar mixture into long strands that are then wrapped around roasted nuts – definitely try some.

Gay Village

Montreal is one of the world’s most gay-friendly cities—attracting thousands each year to its week-long festival, Divers/cité, each year. You’ll find Le Village, as it’s known, on Saint Catherine Street East, from Amherst Street to Papineau. It’s a particularly hip and youthful neighbourhood, as many Université du Québec à Montréal students live in its affordable apartment buildings there. It’s also rich with nightclubs and quirky shops.

Browse for unique gifts at Mortimer Snodgrass, which has everything from saucy aprons to Maple Syrup candles.

Little Burgundy

Though it may not be as well-known as some of Montreal’s other districts, Little Burgundy was the birthplace of Montreal’s sizzling jazz scene.

Located in the city’s southwest, the area was settled by working-class black people in the late 1800s, and its music scene produced well-known jazz musicians like legendary pianists and composers Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones. Be sure to visit the art deco Atwater Farmer’s Market and if you love browsing antique stores, try Milord Antiques or Old Times Antiques.

In recent years, the area has been revitalized by a vibrant restaurant scene. Spending time wandering the streets and shops should build up an appetite for a nice juicy steak at Joe Beef.