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.
Address: Rue St-Denis
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.
Directions: Several different sections of underground city exist in Montreal. The largest is the centre of downtown, between Peel and Place-des-Arts metro stations on the Green Line and between Lucien-L'Allier and Place-d'Armes stations on the Orange Line.
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!
Directions: Downtown anywhere! Go explore!
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!
Address: 57, Prince Arthur St.
Directions: Subway: station Sherbrooke, on the orange line. When you are outside, you'll see a park (St.Louis Square) on St.Denis St., walk through it and you'll arrive on Prince Arthur St. which is only for pedestrians. Café Campus will be on your right.
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!!!
Address: 1000 de la Gauchetière
Directions: At the corner of Mansfield, below René-Lévesque, above St. Antoine, in downtown Ville-Marie.
Phone: (514) 395-0555
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.
Address: End of Ave. McGill College
Directions: At the intersection of McGill College and Sherbrooke, north of Centre Eaton
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.
Address: Ste. Catherine Ouest
Directions: Station Place des Arts or Station McGill
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).
Address: Boulevard Rene Levesque and around
Directions: Downtown Montréal
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!
The Golden Square Mile is a section of Downtown Montréal that is known for its eclectic mix of architectural styles and notable residents. This area was built up once English commercial and political dominance was at its height in the city, and as a result the Golden Square Mile resembles sections of Boston or Toronto much more than Vieux-Montréal. Many of the buildings were constructed in the pre-war period of the 20th century, which explains the presence of some beautiful Art Deco and Modernist structures side-by-side with the neo-Classical and neo-Gothic buildings of the late 19th century. In addition to the neo-Classical Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, you will find the Art Deco Holt Renfrew flagship store along Sherbrooke. Apart from the Quartier du musée (where the various pavilions of the Fine Arts Museum can be found) much of the rest of the Golden Square Mile is occupied by high-end shops and restaurants, although there are also some mid-range ones that have moved in as well. The gradual exodus of Canada's business élite from Montréal has meant that this section of the city no longer wields the same influence that it once did, but it is an impressive reminder of the way in which Montréal was once one of the premiere cities of the British Empire.
Directions: Between Sherbrooke and René-Levesque, and between Guy and McTavish, in the heart of downtown
The central area of Montreal shows a perfect combination between historic and modern buildings. If I had to choose a place to live in North America, I think this would be my first choice.
Harmony, quality of life, safety, and a natural blending of races and cultures, attracted me.
Was it a wrong idea, caused by the rushing visit? Maybe! And, of course, I know that I was there in summer, winter being another thing, but the solution of using the subterranean resources may help.
Downtown Montreal is where all the action takes place in Montreal. The best way to visit downtown Montreal is by walking. The main street is Ste-Catherine Street. There are many stores and bars on that Street, by walking there, you will be able to enjoy the heart of the city at is best.