Boulevard St-Laurent, also called "The Main" is the central road that divides the traditionally English-speaking part of Montreal in the west from the traditionally French-speaking part of Montreal in the east. I say "traditionally" because these are generalizations that were probably more accurate decades ago, and are less relevant today.
It's here on St-Laurent where you'll find a lot of great shopping and dining opportunities. Like St-Denis, the shops and restaurants on St-Laurent exist for the sake of Montrealers more than the tourists, which gives it a genuine and authentic Montreal experience.
At the southern end of St-Laurent is the Old Port of Montreal - the old historic neighbourhood. Up from the Old Port I found that a lot of the city's trendy clubs, lounges and bars were located here, or at least not far from it. The famous Schwart'z Deli (for smoked meat) is located on St-Laurent. Daniel Langlois's state of the art multimedia building "L'Excentris" is located here too. It's here where you can dine at the trendy, post-industrial Café Mélies.
Rue St-Denis is a major road in downtown Montreal heading north-south from the Old Port, all the way north to the Quartier Latin.
Rue St-Denis is traditionally the French-speaking part of Montreal, and it's here where you'll find unique Montreal shops and restaurants, catering to Montrealers themselves, not tourists.
Note that many of the buildings on St-Denis have the wrought-iron staircases leading up to the main doors. It's an architectural style unique to Montreal.
Montreal's underground city consists of 30 km of tunnels spread over an area of twelve square kilometres of downtown Montreal. The underground city includes 60 residential and commercial complexes comprising 3.6 square kilometres of floor space, including 80% of all office space and 35% of all commercial space in the centre. Services include hotels, shopping malls, banks, corporate headquarters, museums, university buildings, seven metro stations, two commuter train stations, and the Bell Centre hockey arena. There are more than 120 exterior access points to the underground city. Some 500,000 people use the underground city per day, especially to escape Montreal's harsh winter. In 2004 the underground city was rebranded and given the name RESO.
Although the urban planning achievement is impressive, the services are mainly shopping malls. However, this is a very useful thing when temperatures fall below zero and you want to stay warm.
Sometimes the best way to find things is to stumble upon them. I would encourage just going for a walk downtown Montreal. I was impressed by the many historical and art monuments that seemed to be everywhere. the sky-scrapers also impressed me very much!
Looking for a place full of local students? Let's talk about Café Campus! Situated on Prince Arthur St. (which is perpendicular to St.Laurent St., another street full of restaurants and bars), the Café Campus is THE place to go if you want to dance all night long. Trust me, you won't stop saying: 'Hey! It's my song!!!'. I go there twice per week and I always have fun. Everybody is so friendly, it's like having a big party in a loft with 300 people! Tuesday night: 60s/70s/80s, 7$ pitcher!!!, Thursday night: 90s music up to now, 2$ beer (bottle), Friday/Saturday: hip-hop, alternative, etc., Sunday night: French music from France and Quebec (a good time to feel the French culture of Quebec...). See you there!
Downtown Montreal is a fascinating mixture of old & new. Anytime of the year it's an absolute pleasure to walk around the downtown area. With something new to discover on most every block, great fun can be had by all!
I had heard about the underground city in Montréal and always wanted to see it. It lies parallel to the main shopping street in down-town Montréal, St. Catherine's Street, with a mindblowing 120 entrances, f.ex. from several stores and shopping malls in St. Catherine's Street.
Now, the underground city is made in that way that you can take the metro close to your home and can exit the metro in the underground city as there are 7 metro stations there and a bus terminal. This is so hard to imagine but must come in very handy during the very cold winters in Canada.
The underground city has over 32 km of tunnels with shops and restaurants and connections to the shopping malls in St. Catherine's street - making it the largest underground complex in the world so it is well worth a visit.
Montréal is often called "The Double-Decker city" - now we know why.
Great place to skate without the freezing weather! Ice-skating downtown year-round! The Atrium le 1000 ice rink is located in the tallest building in downtown Montreal, the "1000" building. It has a glass dome above the rink for natural sunlight and has a good-sized rink (10,000 square ft) for beginners and anyone who likes to skate! You can rent skates, or bring your own! There is also a food court nearby to eat and relax while watching the skaters.
Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and students, and $5 for kids. Special family rate is $19.50, and there are other special rates for groups of 15 or more.
Wonderful fun for everyone!!!
Perhaps the one institution of Montréal that is best known around the world is McGill University. One of the city's two anglophone universities (the other is Concordia), McGill is the oldest institutions of higher learning in Canada and is probably far better known that the University of Toronto in Europe (but not in Asia, where U of T holds the advantage). McGill was founded in 1821 and was originally a private institution (it was founded when the Province was still known as Lower Canada), but then became a public institution, as are most universities in Canada. The university is unique because of its law school's policy of passive bilingualism (although students learn in English, they are expected to become capable of working in French by the end of a four-year degree) and the fact that, although courses may be taught in one language or the other, work may be submitted in the language of the student's choice. The buildings at McGill's main campus (located at the foot of Mont Royal) are typical of British neo-Classical and neo-Gothic structures from the beginning and middle of the 19th century. The campus is a typical urban intellectual oasis - that is, in the midst of the skyscrapers of the downtown core, McGill has managed to maintain a quiet and verdant area in which the focus is on learning and student life, rather than the hectic pace of the city.
Rue Sainte Catherine is the main shopping street in Downtown Montreal. It is not exactly the highest-end shopping area (there are plenty of sleazy and lower-end stores along here), but you can pretty much find all kinds of stores and goods on the long walk through the area. Sainte Catherine is pretty much equivalent of Yonge Street in Toronto, with lots of entertainment on the side streets that run off of it. Despite the sleazy feel of some of the stores, and the impersonal aspect lent by chains like Zara, H&M and Chapters, there is still plenty of history along Ste. Catherine. This was the core of the Anglophone area built up in the 1800s, after Quebec was definitively incorporated into the British Dominions and, following 1867, the birth of Canada through Confederation. Between the mid-1800s and the 1960s, Montreal's elite was solidly English, and the large number of Protestant churches and English architecture pay tribute to this part of the city's heritage. Following the Quiet Revolution, the core became much more Francophone, but the atmosphere has remained, providing an interesting contrast to the French influence of Vieux-Montreal.
Downtown is Montréal's business quarter. This is where all the skyscrapers are - and being a city of close to 4 million inhabitants, Montréal has many of them!
My recommendation would be to just walk through Downtown - you'll see enough interesting things at every corner. A good starting point is the Auberge de Jeunesse close to Boulevard Rene Levesque. The boulevard will take you through some parts of Downtown and you can always change to other roads to see more.
A special point of interest is tiny St.George's Church among all the skyscrapers - a relict from the pre-skyscraper age (second photo).
Living under the ground is a spreading resource in the congested modern cities, but nowhere I found such an effective solution as in Montreal.
The numbers that the guide announced as the length of subterranean roads, parks and shops, are smashing. And we could confirm for ourselves the good integration between the road system, the metro, and the big buildings that, despite their elevation, start living from several floors below ground level, with responses to all the commercial needs. Wise solution!