We're Moving to Montreal! Where should we live?!
September 19, 2007 10:15 AM   Subscribe

MontrealFilter: We are moving to Montreal in December. Yay! Advice needed on neighborhoods that would suit us.

We have visited Montreal numerous times, so we know the general layout and neighborhoods. However, living there is a different matter, so we are turning to you to help us out. Our particulars:

- Couple, late 30s, no kids.
- Both professors at McGill University.
- Budget: up to $1500/mo.
- Currently, sadly minimal French speaking skills.

We will be renting for at least a year, possibly more, before buying a place. Our first priority is the relative ease of meeting new people in our new ‘hood. Our other preferences:

- In the city, ideally close to some sort of mixed-use areas.
- Nice place with a decent amount of living space (ideally 2 BR + living room, etc).
- Close to public transport.
- Relatively quiet.

Given these preferences, where do you recommend that we look? Some other, more specific questions:

(1) Despite our lack of language skills, we are not afraid to live in a non-anglophone neighborhood. But we wonder if it how difficult it will be to meet people in certain neighborhoods. For example, we like the feel of Mile End and Outremont, but don't know how it would feel as Anglophones. Any thoughts?

(2) We have read a lot of recommendations about living in the Plateau (e.g., here ), and we love to stay there when we visit. Any thoughts on living in the Plateau vis-a-vis: whether we are now too old for the Plateau (!), the noisiness, our woeful lack of French, and our desire for space?

(3) Most people we know in Montreal live in NDG. We're not sure this is right for us. Will we still feel like we are in Montreal? Will we only have McGill employees as neighbors? (it is very important to us to expand our social network outside of the university).

(4) We are also considering areas above the Plateau -- Rosemont, near Jean-Talon, etc. (we are serious foodies and cooks), but know very little about living there. Will we feel far from work and everything else?
posted by picklebird to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can't help, but I just wanted to say how jealous I am. I love Montreal.
posted by AaRdVarK at 10:22 AM on September 19, 2007

Have you looked around Westmount? I don't know if it might be too pricey for you but it seems to be one of the most English areas before you get to the West Island and away from downtown. And it's a really nice area.

I feel like the Plateau is fine if you don't know much French but I would not go east of the Plateau. OTOH, I found it too wild-and-crazy on weekend nights when I was a college student, so if you like peace and quiet I would avoid that.
posted by Jeanne at 10:29 AM on September 19, 2007

Best answer: Where are you moving from? Different anglos have different reactions to living in more- or less-french neighbourhoods. Personally I've never had any problems whatsoever - day-to-day, socially, professionally - in the parts of the city that are more francophone, but perhaps that's because my french is pretty darn good. I don't know -- I don't find it intimidating so much as refreshing, bracing, and almost exciting.

It betrays my biases but I'd stay away from NDG. It's a good place to raise a family, and there's really interesting immigrant communities, but it is not the best hangout for people who want to feel integrated into the Plateau side of the city.

The recommendation's pretty obvious to me - Outremont is the place for you. Probably towards the eastern side, anywhere in the square that has De L'Epee on the west side, De Lorimier on the north, Durocher on the east and Laurier on the south. (And you'd be fine living on any of the border streets.) As I get the impression you know, it's a gorgeous, leafy part of the city, with beautiful big apartments in your price range, great restaurants, foodie-centric shops (a great fromagerie, an upscale grocery store, delicious ice-cream), and although it's steps away from Mile End the age-range skews older. It's in the part of the city that just elected a (surprise) NDP candidate, is integrated and friendly and has a good community feel. You'd be close to Outremont metro (blue line), but could also zip down the 24-hour Parc Avenue bus to McGill. And your french would improve, if you have the guts to try!

good luck and enjoy this lovely place!
posted by Marquis at 10:32 AM on September 19, 2007

Oh and by "betrays my biases" i don't mean uh anything untoward. Just that for me it's so important to be close enough to the mile end/plateau/rosemont/outremont strip, and NDG's rather more out of the way.
posted by Marquis at 10:35 AM on September 19, 2007

Here are my favourite places in Montreal.
I used to live in Ste-anne-de-Bellevue. Beautiful small college-town type, by the water.
And there's plateau, awesome french neighbourhood, nightlife, etc.

Also: Learn french, make a kid and send him to french school.
posted by PowerCat at 10:42 AM on September 19, 2007

Best answer: I just moved back to Montreal, where I had lived on the Plateau for almost 20 years. Coming back, were were expressly looking for an area that was quieter than the Plateau but still close enough to gain the benefits of that area (including proximity to our friends. We chose Outremont, near where Marquis described (you can see exactly where in my profile).

The nice thing about Outremont is that it's an established neighbourhood rather than an up-and-coming area, which is likely better for newcomers to the city. As well, it seemed to be slightly less expensive than Mile End has become - although I would caution that I have more knowledge of the sale market than the rental market.

Just for fun I did a quick check on a real estate website and I did come up with one listing that would be interesting for you - though of course you must know that most rentals don't appear on real estate sites in Montreal.
posted by mikel at 11:06 AM on September 19, 2007

Best answer: For someone working at McGill, I'd look at anywhere from the Mile-End in the North to Milton Park in the south. Roughly a rectangle formed by Parc on the west side, St. Laurent on the east side, Van Horne in the north and Sherbrooke in the south. Great on many levels, you can walk to work. One down side: english is ominpresent (not the best to learn french). I had friends from all over when I was at McGill as a grad student. Most lived in that perimeter, and most managed to live there for years without learning any significant amount of french (not that they didn't want to, but the locals usually went for the easiest form of verbal interaction, i.e. english.) Outremont is also great, but definitely pricier and a bit ladida for some. Le Plateau is IMHO overhyped and overpriced, but then I'm biased since I don'y live there ;). Rosement, between Iberville and St. Michel, South of Rosemont is an up and coming neighbourhood (taking in a lot of refugees for the Plateau...), but it's certainly not as convenient to travel to McGill. Good luck and bienvenue!
posted by bluefrog at 11:07 AM on September 19, 2007

I am a McGill student from Ontario, I lived for 2 years in the Gay Village and I have just moved to Outremont. In my opinion, Mile end/Outremont is the best neighborhood for a new anglo to move into. You will be exposed to Montreal / Quebec culture in a way that won't happen in an isolated anglo bubble (Westmount or the McGill ghetto) but you won't be cut off as an anglo: Outremont/Mile end has a large population who's first language is Yiddish or otherwise not French or English, but English is the major bridge language for businesses and neighbors.

I find the Plateau is too noisy and 'bar-scene'; you will find that most of your neighbors are students, almost as much as if you lived closer to campus! If you are into that kind of night life, living in Outremont you are still only minutes away from the action.

If you go a bit further north to Mile end/Outremont you will find much more diverse and interesting neighbors, as well as lots of very nice restaurants and cafes that don't need to cater to students with loud music thursday-saturday. Many smaller grocers and markets instead of a big box superstore. And the best bagels in town will be right around the corner!

As already mentioned, if you are not a cyclists (which you should consider, they are just putting in new bike lanes all over the city!) then there is the 24-hour bus that runs along parc which makes up for your distance from a metro stop.

Perhaps I will see you in class if either of you are in the life sciences!
posted by The Wig at 11:21 AM on September 19, 2007

If you're working at McGill, have friends in NDG, like the feel of Outremont, & are anglophones, I would definitely recommend Westmount. It's cute, anglo-centric, close to downtown & has everything a neighbourhood needs.
posted by Laura in Canada at 12:06 PM on September 19, 2007

I think Outremont is your best bet - it's kind of a mix between Westmount and the Plateau. There is a large Jewish population in Outremont, meaning lots of English-speakers. Although I wouldn't discount the Plateau altogether. While more Francophone and busier than Outremont, there are definitely quieter blocks away from the fray. I live on a very quiet block right in the middle of the Plateau, with a yard even!
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 12:46 PM on September 19, 2007

Best answer: Westmount is anglo but also has a snobbish reputation. It also happens to be west of McGill and you'll have to traverse a fair amount of the downtown core to get to work or back home, although it is the same if you live in NDG. NDG has the advantage of being near a few metro stops, while Westmount (except right near Vendome or right near Atwater) is in metro no-mans-land (there's a story behind that).

The advantage of the Plateau/Mile-End/Outremont area is that you just have to work your way through either Jeanne-Mance Park or the McGill ghetto to get to work, and avoid the uglier side of city living. Language in any of these areas is not an issue, although you'll see that the streets of Laurier and Bernard are much more French than the streets that run perpendicular to them. St-Denis and further east of it are also quite French, anything west of it will not intimidate you one bit.

Myself living right on the corner of Mile-End/Outremont and the Plateau here's what I suggest doing if you want to find something nice in the area:

Start with Hutchison north of Mt-Royal and south of Van Horn, and any street parallel to Hutchison with the exception of Parc, St-Urbain and St-Laurent. Be aware that the further west of Hutchison you go the more it will cost, while the prices are definitely lower east of Parc. My favourites are Jeanne-Mance between Mt-Royal and St-Joseph, anywhere on Clark, anywhere on Hutchison south of St-Joseph or north of Laurier. There are lots of other sweet spots in those areas too but I'll let you find them. All are 30 min by foot to your work, with the walk mostly through Jeanne-Mance/Mt-Royal park and McGill ghetto, or 10 minutes by bike with little pedaling to get there and a decent workout to get back. Very enjoyable. The grocery stores and fruit stores in this area are great, there are enough shops that you never need to take your car, the people are a great mix of Portuguese, Greek, Orthodox Jew, Polish and Québecois. Can't be beat!

Finally, send me an email (see my profile), my wife and I might be moving out of our place at the same time you're moving in.
posted by furtive at 12:51 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Parc Mont Royal is somewhat noisy, but what a great neighborhood! I used to live at Anne-Marie and St. Urbain, what a joy! And for $1500 a month, you can live like kings.

I was paying $350 for my own one bedroom.

And the foodneighborhood/shopping/art in this district is amazing!
posted by humannaire at 3:46 PM on September 19, 2007

Best answer: If you want to experience the city for 1 or 2 years, there is nothing like the Plateau.

I am biased: I have lived there for the past 30 years. It's mostly small streets and back streets where you don't even hear that you are in the middle of a big city. Just avoid living on high-traffic avenues like St-Denis, Mont-Royal, St-Joseph, St-Laurent, St-Urbain or Papineau.

I don't understand your fear of being "too old" for the Plateau. Most inhabitants are families or couples in the 30 to 70 range. The students' neighborhood is lower, South of Sherbrooke, near the universities. (Yes, there are bars that cater to them, but only on St-Denis, St-Laurent and Mont-Royal).

I am not a fan of taking the bus, mostly because I don't like to wait outside in the cold. So I have always managed to live near a metro station. There is only one in Outremont, far on the North side (I suppose for the same reaon that there is none in Westmount: people then - in the 60's - were afraid that the metro would bring poor people to their neighborhood).

There is a great neighborhood around the Jean Talon metro station, mainly because of the proximity of the market, which is wonderful. Rents are cheaper than in the Plateau, Outremont or the Mile End. And the North-South metro line has a very high frequency of trains, contrary to the East-West one, where you can sometimes wait 10mn or more. I am thinking of moving there myself.

Don't hesitate to contact me (email in profile).
posted by bru at 6:26 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh! I just checked furtive's location (from his profile) and it's definitely great.

And the (slow) East-West metro line I was talking about is the blue one, not the green one.
posted by bru at 6:37 PM on September 19, 2007

For the record, my location in the profile is slightly obfuscated.
posted by furtive at 8:44 PM on September 19, 2007

i think the plateau is great.

my friend, a professional anglophone 30something, lived at hotel-de-ville & mont royal for a few years- it's a great neighbourhood.

the intersection of H-d-V and MR has at least 2 of each of the following within a 4 block radius:
nice parks,
good brunch places,
chill-out bars,
relaxed cafes with wireless access,
summer street festivals,
montreal smoked meat places,
late-night lebanese food,
grocery stores,
corner stores (depaneurs).

plus a big drugstore, a metro (st-denis), a reliable fresh fruit stand, and some fun shopping.
posted by twistofrhyme at 10:06 PM on September 19, 2007

ps, you're not too old for the plateau.
posted by twistofrhyme at 10:07 PM on September 19, 2007

Best answer: Personally? I would not recommend the Plateau to anyone anymore. I lived there for years -- on Carré St-Louis, on de Bullion near Prince Arthur, and on de l'Esplanade near Rachel -- and I rarely even go down there anymore. I just find it's gotten a little unspecial. I don't know if that makes any sense. It just lost its charm for me in the last 5 years. The nightlife scene is depressing -- lots of puking university students -- and it's verrrrry touristy, particularly in summer. There are of course lovely blocks and nice old houses but those exist throughout the city. I'm very happy I've moved away from there.

I currently live in Little Italy, and I would think based on your description that you'd really like it here. The proximity to the Marché Jean-Talon being one giant reason. There are also tonnes of amazing restos up here (as there are in Montreal generally.) I like Mile-End for the little unique shops and resto/bar/cafes that I frequent, plus most of my friends live there, but being just north of the tracks/Van Horne, I feel like I can get away from the extreme hipsterness of Mile-End. So I'll say as a primary recommendation look at the area bounded by Parc to the west, Van Horne to the south, St-Hubert to the east, and Jean-Talon to the north. Don't be afraid to look north and westward, though, as well -- I have friends who live in the 7000s blocks of streets like Bloomfield and it's surprisingly rad up there.

Outremont is lovely and just went NDP federally, which is a FANTASTIC sign.

St-Henri is another spot to consider. You'd be near Atwater Market and Notre-Dame St. The area is slowly gentrifying but it's still quite cheap to live down there. You're near the canal and its bike paths and it's a quick jaunt by bike or metro to McGill.

I personally also think you'd like NDG and no, you won't feel isolated there nor will you be surrounded by McGill people at all. It's very diverse and in my opinion defies generalization. There are some amazing streets with big old trees, like Harvard for example, and Monkland has a new cupcake shop... I think NDG is still a very "real" place, whereas the Plateau no longer has that authenticity.

I guess the moral is that Montreal has a LOT of great neighbourhoods (even great sectors of not-so-great neighbourhoods) and you can find awesome things about all of them. The city is compact enough that provided you live in the general core you're never far away from whatever part of town strikes your fancy that day. I suggest you keep an open mind because sometimes an area that you'd never have thought of will have an insanely fantastic apartment available, and finding out the charms of its neighbourhood can really open up your eyes.

Also: please PLEASE take French classes. The government offers them to immigrants for free through the Montreal English School Board. You could get by living here speaking only English, but that's pretty rude in my opinion, and anyway, you're depriving yourself of the full benefit of the multitude of reasons Quebec is such a wonderful place. It's an essential, integral part of life here -- just learn it.
posted by loiseau at 11:24 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I knew that we would get fantastic advice-- and all of you have given fantastic advice!

This is just verifying what we knew-- there are lots of great Montreal neighborhoods.

We will check out Westmount and NDG, but I think it more likely that we will want to live on the eastside Outremont/Mile End (who knows, maybe in furtive's apt.), on a quiet street in the Plateau, or possibly Little Italy (something fantastic there may be worth a longer commute.) We are coming up there in October to get a better feel for everything.

And we will indeed take French classes. I worry about my own ability to pick it up, but thankfully, I think googly has the language-learning genes.

p.s. marking best answer is hard! It is the collection of responses that makes this so useful for us!
posted by picklebird at 4:58 AM on September 20, 2007

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