We’d already worn our several pairs of virtual walking shoes by the time the Montreal Street Profile series hiked down Bleury, up Parc and across Maisonneuve. But, entertained by the sights, sounds, shops and smells, we hit Saint-Paul, Saint-Zotique, Crescent, Greene Avenue and went shopping on Sainte-Catherine. We decided we deserved a good time, so we headed next to Saint-Denis…
Rue Saint-Denis begins down in Old Montreal, and heads all the way up to the northern tip of the island of Montreal, making it one of the few streets in the city to cross the entire island. Though it turns largely residential north of the expressway, for most of the time it is devoted to eating, drinking and all sorts of entertainment. It runs parallel to Saint-Laurent and indeed these two streets are quite similar- for many years, St-Denis was where the city’s French population went to socialize, while St-Laurent was where you’d find all the Anglos. These distinctions are no longer as clearly marked, as Montrealers of any language mostly just head to where the most fun can be found. Still, St-Denis offers a range of things to do that you won’t find on any other street in the city- especially if you like theatre (make sure to check out La Vitrine’s great deals on show tickets). So much so that all we have the space to do here, is to start off at the bottom and work our way north, listing off the attractions, rapid-fire style…
Quartier Latin: An area that deserves a post all to itself, the Quartier Latin is home to cafes, restos but most importantly, some of the Montreal’s most important cultural institutions. Its here that you’ll find the Grande Bibliotheque, the Cinematheque Quebecoise and the NFB’s Cinerobotheque. And that’s not even the whole of it! There’s also the Telus Theatre and the Theatre St-Denis, which is a longtime venue for shows during Just for Laughs, the comedy festival that closes down the street to traffic during the summer and fills it with all sorts of street performers. A summer must-see, for sure.
Saint-Sulpice: If lower St-Denis has an iconic spot for the 20-something crowd, the sprawling pub complex that is the Saint-Sulpice is definitely it.
Pub L’Ile Noire: But if single-malt scotch served in a much more relaxed atmosphere is more your speed, L’Ile Noire is the spot for you.
Mikado Sushi: If the rest of your food is going to come in beer and fried forms, a stop in for some sushi beforehand might be the right call.
Café Chaos: This co-op run punk bar might not be your standard “tourist activities” fare, but it’s a great little spot that holds some serious shows and hey, they’re hosting a pirate festival, so they’ve got my vote.
Macao: Doesn’t get much more Montreal than a Bring-Your-Own-Wine French bistro overlooking a bustling busy street.
L’Amere a Boire: If you want micro-brewed beer made on the premises for an entirely reasonable price, look no further…
Square St-Louis: Just up from Sherbrooke you’ll find Square St-Louis, one of Montreal’s most picturesque and lively urban parks. Named in 1879 for prominent businessmen brothers, Emmanuel and Jean-Baptiste Saint-Louis, this park is filled with trees and a Victorian fountain, but the real attraction are the gorgeous historic homes that surround it. A perfect place to bring lunch.
La Fabrique: Right across from the square you’ll find what is definitely my favorite new dinner spot. This open-kitchen bistro is relaxed, relatively affordable, but more than any of that: I had one of the best dinners of the year there a couple months ago.
Tasso: Ok, we’re starting to get in a stretch that contains some of Montreal’s best restos and Tasso, a Greek tapas place, does seafood pretty much as well as any other place in the city.
L’Express: Perhaps Montreal’s most well-known Parisian-style bistro, L’Express is not cheap, but it may just serve you one of the best steak-frites you’ve ever had while a visiting celebrity sits one table over.
Shops: This is not, if you’ve read any of my street profiles before, one of my strong suits, but this stretch of Saint-Denis is packed with them. I’ve been told there is quite a range.
Theatre D’Aujourd’hui: Saint-Denis knows that it’s been several blocks since you came across any theatres- Theatre D’Aujourd’hui is here to remedy that situation.
Suite 88: With all this eating and theatre, clearly you need to indulge yourself at one of the slickest chocolatiers in Montreal.
Quai Des Brumes: Now St-Denis really starts to party, and this great spot features lots of great (mostly French) local music.
Rapido: One of the best poutines in Montreal- a statement that is never delivered lightly.
Diable Vert: Perhaps St-Denis’ most famous nightlife destination, this place is pretty much wild every night it’s open. Do not show up for quiet drink.
National Theatre School: It makes sense, given the incredible number of theatres on St-Denis, that you’d find the National Theatre School here. Check the events calendar to find show available to the public.
We’ve only made it to Saint-Denis and Laurier and already I’m out of space and know that I’ve had to leave out some gems. But I’ve got faith in your ability to take it from here and discover one of Montreal’s most dynamic streets on your own…