The saying goes “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. This could not be truer in the antique shops found nestled along Rue Notre-Dame in Montreal. This place has earned the name “The Antique District” because hours can be spent in the narrow aisles of the stores filled with period pieces, heirlooms, fine china, gold chains and, you got it, beautiful junk…
Notre-Dame is spotted with little treasure troves filled with antiques galore. I found that there are two kinds of antique shops in The Antique District: “Decorator Worthy” and “Bargain Buys”. You’ll have to let your antiquarian sense guide you through the rows of tea cups, bronze statues and wooden rocking chairs to spot the old and delicate from the slightly new and battered.
It would be next to impossible to mention every single one of the antique bazaars along Notre-Dame. So when I took the trip down, I kept an eye out for my favourites. They’re amazing, not only for their selection of stuff, but also for the wacky and fun owners! So how does one tackle Montreal’s Antique District? In my humble opinion, the only day to do proper antiquing is a Saturday afternoon after a yummy brunch. Griffintown Cafe has an extremely popular brunch, and is hands down one of my favourite restaurants in Montreal. (Note: not to be confused with Cafe Griffintown). Perfectly situated at the far eastern part of the Antique District, the old timey feel of Griffintown will get you right in that treasure hunting mood and the first shops will start popping up about a block away. The area is also home to Ma Bicyclette’s great deal on bike rentals, perfect for an afternoon of antiquing!
The first antique shop worthwhile while walking west on Notre-Dame once you cross Guy would be Eureka Antiques. This is a staple antique shop that has been in business at this location for 26 years. Not only are they a shop that specializes in porcelain, glass, silver and collectables, but they also offer complete estate services, rentals for movies, and have strong connections with interior designers and decorators.
Further down is the Village of Antiques. This is a space that features a few “stores within stores”. One store specializes in fashion where, if you have the patience, you can find vintage Prada, Dolce and Gabbana, Louis Vuitton and more. Across the hallway is a man who specializes in high-end antique watches. He is the go-to guy in all of Montreal for vintage pocket watches- Longines, Omega and various other sought after pieces. Some of the watches were so drop dead gorgeous, I couldn’t resist asking their prices… Then I almost actually dropped dead.
A quick jot down the street and you’ll find E.R.A. This is a small clothing boutique that has vintage dresses, shoes, purses, accessories and a stunning antique fur collection. Don’t get me wrong though, this stuff isn’t from your grandmother’s closet. It is haute-couture, sexy, fun and can be modified to fit more modern silhouettes. If you the rock vintage style, this is definitely a place to check out.
My absolute favourite store is called Aunt Sadie’s Antique & Art Gallery. You can tell, as soon as you walk into this one, that these antiques are “the real deal”. While lots of the antique shops on Notre Dame feel like they could double for your grandfather’s dusty attic, this antique shop is clean, brightly lit, smartly laid out and beautifully stocked. It is a multi-dealer gallery, where collectors who specialize in a certain vein of collectables rent glass cabinets to display their artifacts. The stuff is kept behind glass because of the sheer value of some of these objects. Those three Chinese carvings in the picture? All yours for a cool thirty grand. Also, there’s a cute cat:Once you make your way further down Notre-Dame, there is one store that has been the shining gem of this street for 33 years. It is called Retroville, and it’s the strangest thing I have ever seen. Imagine… Everything. Make it old. And then squish it into a space no bigger than your living room. Add a eccentric store owner, two extremely fat cats, and you have yourself the place where you’ll waste the rest of your day and money. I can’t exactly tell you what Retroville sells, but I can tell you what it doesn’t sell: iPhones, the new Lady GaGa album and the second season of Lost.
While my brain didn’t have time to process exactly everything my retinas saw, highlights included the ancient bottle of Pepsi (yes, still filled), every licence plate from Quebec before 1980, a geometrical rainbow array of lighters, a fishbowl full of keys, every copy of every magazine ever printed and a doll with no face. And that was all within a few feet of the door. Absolutely nothing in this store is of any real use, but that’s what makes it so much fun to buy. A picture was just not enough to showcase this establishment, so watch this video, including an interview with the store owner:
What’s amazing about antiquing along Notre-Dame is how easy it is to just explore. Picking through store after store, crammed boutique after crammed boutique, is one of the most enjoyable afternoons you can spend in Montreal. My advice is to grab brunch… and wander!
Eureka Antiques, 1642 Notre-Dame West (514)227-3401
Village of Antiques, 1708 Notre-Dame West
E.R.A, 1800 Notre-Dame West, (514) 543-8750
Aunt Sadie’s Antique & Art Gallery, 1810 Notre-Dame West
Retroville, 2652 Notre-Dame West