Dreaming of smoked meat
February 4, 2009 8:42 AM   Subscribe

Montreal neighborhoods: I'm evaluating apartments for a Montreal vacation, and need a little neighborhood advice.

I'm planning a short trip (several days) to Montreal in March, and I'm currently looking at apartments for short-term stays. (In recent years, I've come to love the apartment option. There's nothing more frustrating than going to a great market in another city and not having a kitchen.) :)

Anyway, I've been to Montreal once before, but don't really know the neighborhoods. Most of the short-term apartments I'm finding are in one of three neighborhoods: Plateau, Little Italy, and NDG. Any advice about advantages and disadvantages of these parts of town (or others) would be great. (And if you have experience with a particular short-term apartment, all the better.)

And of course, other Montreal insider tips gratefully accepted. Thanks!
posted by j-dawg to Travel & Transportation around Montreal, QC (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think the plateau is probably the most central, and is definitely closest to the places I like to go to while I'm in Montreal, like Schwartz's for their smoked meat, and St Laurent in general for it's bars, shops and restaurants. Another great street to stroll up and down is St. Denis, but it's more French speaking than the rest (though you'll definitely still get by in English).

However, if you're more into the touristy spots like the main downtown strip, St Catherine's, and their corresponding bar areas like Crescent St and Peel, then NDG might not be too bad a bet, though it's still a bit further out, and quite a distance from Schwartz's, which upon seeing your title, you don't want to miss!

Feel free to mefi-mail me if you've got any other questions, though it's been a while since I lived in Montreal.
posted by Grither at 9:01 AM on February 4, 2009

Oh, and speaking of great markets, the plateau is closer to Jean-Talon market, which is awesome, but I'm not sure what their operating times are...
posted by Grither at 9:11 AM on February 4, 2009

What are you looking to do during the trip? Neighbourhoods are all good for different purposes. Without knowing a thing about your plans, and assuming you're agnostic about language, I'd rank them Plateau (including Mile End) > Little Italy > NDG. If you are looking to have a car with you, then Plateau drops way down to the bottom of the list (unless your place comes with off-street parking). If you are looking to have a car, you will need a mini-course in Montreal parking signage.

The best market is probably the Jean Talon market, which is in Little Italy, and sort of close to the Plateau (though perhaps not walkable depending on weather/where in the Plateau/how lazy you are). If you want to walk to bagels and smoked meat, choose the Plateau. There are good restaurants in all three areas. NDG is more anglo than the other two, and tends to be less hipster (especially than the Plateau). The Plateau is closest to downtown. None of them are particularly close to Old Montreal. The Plateau is also closest to the mountain.
posted by jeather at 9:14 AM on February 4, 2009

Thanks for the info so far; keep it coming. :)

I'm more the neighborhood type than downtown tourist type, although I imagine we'll hit some museums and attractions like that. Usually interesting eating is my number one travel priority.

The difference between flying to Montreal and flying to New Hampshire and driving from there was several hundred bucks, so we will have a car. But my intention is to park it and leave it parked until we leave.

Can I cheat and add one more question? We were thinking of spending the last night in Chambly and eating at Fourquet Fourchette, the Unibroue-related (if not directly connected) restaurant. But I understand they now have a location in Montreal as well. Would we be better off at the original, or does it really matter?
posted by j-dawg at 9:28 AM on February 4, 2009

I love little Italy, it's so self-contained and sleepy and food-obsessed, but it can feel a bit cut off from the rest of the city. This is a big deal in winter cause Montreal stays cold well into late April, I see you're from Chicago so you probably have a greater tolerance for the chill, but it can suck the fun out of walking.. Being near the Metro will be a huge convenience (if it's still cold/snowy out, you can use the Metro's underground passages and interior spaces to get just about anywhere Downtown without needing snow boots and 3 layers of wool.) If you're really into food, being near the Jean Talon is a must. Seriously. I nearly wept eating the fresh blueberries there.

If you want more of an urban/hip/younger feel, the Plateau is the spot, and again, if you don't mind walking, nothing is too far from anything else or a Metro stop. I prefer the lower Plateau, near the Gay Village, but that's for easy access to bars, clubs, and theaters, which you may not need/want. (plus, the closer you get to St. Catherine, the louder it gets.)

NDG is one of the few places you'll hear more English than French., if that matters. Montreal is functionally bilingual and I've never had any trouble. (Protip: When saying hello, don't slip into the habit of saying "Bonjour" like I did. The "Hello" "or Good Evening" is a way of asking which language you want to use for this conversation. )
posted by The Whelk at 9:42 AM on February 4, 2009

I've never been at the restaurant myself, but looking at their website I can tell the two addresses are going to be quite different.

Fourquet Fourchette in Chambly is on the shore of the Richelieu river, next to the Fort de Chambly. The river is a nice location for a stroll down the parc (though much nicer during the summer, it can also be enjoyable in the winter). The Fort is a historical location that is worth visiting. So, if you do make it to Chambly, take the time to enjoy the location. Dress warmly, and it will be a nice rest away from the rhythm of the city.

Location downtown is inside Palais des Congres, Montréal's mega conference center. There will be business people coming about to and fro discussing whatever subject they came to the conference center for. Not at all the same vibe.
posted by gmarceau at 10:01 AM on February 4, 2009

My vote is definitely Plateau/ Mile End, but I'm biased because I live there.

You'd be central, you're close to both French and English neighbourhoods and associated bars/restos/cultural places of interest, and you'd be near the 'Mountain' (in case you have the urge to do some cross-country skiing).
posted by leebree at 10:07 AM on February 4, 2009

Again, I think all are fine. NDG is probably furthest away from a metro station, so go for one of the other two. You will have enormous problems parking in the Plateau (unless, again, you have off-street parking) and I very strongly recommend avoiding it with a car. Especially as you have the risk of a March snowstorm along with the street cleaning hours that start March 1.

Lower Little Italy (= Montreal south = more or less south east) and upper Plateau/Mile End are probably your best bets, especially fi you can find a place near a metro stop. The lower areas of the Plateau are mostly partiers and students, now. Not that there aren't lovely places to walk around there (there are, and many of them), just that it's less lovely to stay there. (It's also harder to get good groceries.)

I disagree with The Whelk: people will respond to you based on your accent most of the time, not whether you say Hello or Bonjour. That said, accent in a single word is easy to miss or mistake.

What do you mean by interesting eating? Do you want to stumble upon restaurants 2 blocks from your place? Are you looking mostly for French bistro style food? Price range? If I were you, I'd choose to be walkable to the market and look for public transit or taxis for meals, but that's my preference. You'll be fine in any of the locations.
posted by jeather at 10:42 AM on February 4, 2009

In terms of Fourquet Fourchette, I have eaten at both. The menus were very similar (hard to judge with seasonal differences, as in ingredient selection). Food was very good at each place.

The only difference, though it is quite large, is the location (as mentioned above): convenience vs. ambiance. Also, at Fort Chambly you may get entertainment in the form of folk musicians in costume playing and singing. I personally could have done without, but some might enjoy the cultural aspect. The location downtown is nice but modern and definitely does not have the same charm or feel as the Fort.

I live in NDG, so I am biased in terms of your main question. I would like to add though that Montréal is not that large. Public transit will often get you quickly from place to place. Cab rides also won't be that expensive (outside of rush hour).
posted by mephisjo at 11:45 AM on February 4, 2009

March tends to be one of Montreal's more unbeautiful seasons as the snow retreats leaving behind several months' worth of flotsam and jetsam. However:
- Little Italy is great for food, coffee and the Jean-Talon market, and you can be downtown in 10-15 minutes on the 55 bus. (Even if you bring a car, don't bother trying to drive it from Little Italy south to downtown, you'll spend half your time worrying about parking.) It's otherwise not the most exciting spot. But if you do stay there, have an espresso at the Caffe Italia for sure. Walk east from there and to find food of many kinds, from pho to pupusas.
- The Plateau is big and it makes a bit of a difference whether you're staying, say, right on Saint-Denis, or out in the cosier streets near Papineau. Either way, it really is the obviously cool option. Too many cool things to suggest anything in particular. Just, if you want coffee, try not to pick a Second Cup or a Starbuck's. Anything else is likely to be better.
- NDG is also fairly big and has a couple of metro stops and a mishmash of commercial and residential streets. Once again, it makes something of a difference whether you're staying closer to a commercial hotspot or out in the more far-flung western reaches. You're not far from downtown, though - metro's the way to go. This page on the public transit site explains the fare system, including three-day tourist cards. If you're in NDG you should breakfast at Cosmos.

Things going on:
- Early in the month, the weird and stirring Port Symphony in the Old Port, organized by the Pointe-a-Calliere history museum
- The weekend after St. Patrick's Day, there'll be a big parade on the Sunday afternoon along Ste-Catherine (NOT "Saint Catherine's" please).
- Big Kees van Dongen show at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
- Festival of Films on Art

Oh, and read My Montreal is Better than Yours by local bloggers who do the food blog ...an endless banquet, also a great source of ideas and info.
posted by zadcat at 4:20 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the great advice! I'm pursuing a couple of apartment options in Plateau, and will update with my experiences when I get back (assuming the thread isn't locked by then).
posted by j-dawg at 9:07 PM on February 4, 2009

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