The downtown district of any major city often tops the list of things ‘to do’ for a traveler. Montréal’s downtown is a mélange of stores, restaurants, cafés, galleries, corporate headquarters, and yes, those famous “adult cabarets.”
Yet the central business district of every metropolis can risk blandness. And a selection of discriminating Montréalers have accused the downtown area of being overly commercial, with a heavy emphasis on big-brand shopping. And we understand that one could feel blasé in any given retail area. But among the generic giants there are plenty of gems. You just have to know what to look for.
Here are a few of our favourite things about Montréal’s Downtown district.
THE BEST OF DOWNTOWN
[urban space] QUARTIER DES SPECTACLES – This newly revamped section of downtown is home to many of Montréal’s famous festivals, including the Jazz Fest and Just For Laughs. Also features fun water and light installations.
[department store] SIMONS – This is Montréal’s favourite place to go shopping. Dating back to 1840, Simons has always featured distinctive pieces that reflect international trends, but with a unique Québécois flair.
[elegant bistro] DOMINION or ALEXANDRE – These classy French influenced bistros are perfect locations for a leisurely lunch during a retail marathon, or for a refreshing glass of beer after a hike up Mont Royal.
[party street] CRESCENT STREET – Home of many international parties, Crescent Street is a high energy mix of restaurants, clubs and special events such as Grand Prix themed fiestas.
[box office] LA VITRINE – Offers information, tickets and promotions for cultural events in Montréal, often a greatly reduced prices.
[museum] FINE ARTS or CONTEMPORARY ARTS – Two stellar art museums to choose from, both with stunning permanent collections and revolving cutting edge exhibits. Consult with websites for current features.
[park] MOUNT ROYAL – We like to call it ‘the mountain,’ but in reality its a beautiful tree-covered hill. Give yourself 2 hours and march up to the Kondiaronk Lookout for stunning views of the city.
[lounge] PHILLIPS LOUNGE – A new lounge that melds ‘private club chic’ with ‘welcoming modern vibe.’ A favourite among the young suit & tie crowd in search of a 5 à 7 (Happy Hour) post-workday cocktail.
[info] CENTRE INFOTOURISTE – A great resource for all travelers who might need ‘in person’ advice on their stay in Montréal or anywhere in the province of Québec.
[sky scraper] PLACE VILLE-MARIE – Arguably the most famous skyscraper in Montréal, the cross-shaped building has a rotating beacon/spotlight on the roof that can be seen up to 50 km away. A rooftop bar and restaurant called Altitude 737 features stunning panoramas of the city. A great place to chill after a day of shopping.
[underground city] RÉSO – With 32 kilometres of tunnels that connect the largest underground complex in the world, there is no need to freeze your arse off in the dead of winter. La Ville Souterraine, as it’s known in French, includes shopping malls, apartment buildings, hotels, banks, offices, museums, universities and seven metro stations.
Approximated Downtown Boundaries
South: Boulevard René-Lévesque
North: Parc Mont-Royal
East: Rue Guy
West: Boulevard Saint Laurent
[click for larger map]
Metro Stations: Guy/Concordia, Peel, McGill, Place des Arts
Insider Info: Montréal downtown skyscrapers are understated. The tallest building in all of Quebec, 1000 de la Gauchetière, stands at a mere 205 meters high (and features it’s own skating rink). That’s nothing compared to the Empire State Building which rises to 443 meters tall. But there is a very good reason for this subtly in stature. Local legislation states that no building may surpass the height of Mount Royal. We want to ensure our beautiful mountain will always be visible!