This is a place where artisans and musicians live side by side with new families and old immigrants. It's a real, working neighbourhood where you're likely to see old men gossiping on the street corner the way they've done for fifty years, musicians hoisting cellos past the flower shops, Hassidic men in big fur hats carrying prayer shawls, and children yammering in three languages as they ride their scooters to neighbourhood schools. You'll find independent bookshops, vintage stores, funky young designers and artisanal bakers and chocolatiers. There's always a bench to pause and people-watch, and there are plenty of shade-trees, some bearing cherries and pears. This is one of the best neighbourhoods in Canada to feel how electric an urban space can be when it defies homogenization.
This is the beating heart of Mile-End, whose bagel shops, balcony life and cultural ferment have been immortalized by author Mordecai Richler and by new Montreal writers Saleema Nawaz, Sean Michaels and Heather O'Neill.
You'll hear French mingle with English, Polish and Italian, as well as Montreal's own Franco/Anglo melange known as Franglais. You won't be able to resist tantalizing scents of hot bagels baked on wood fires, Portugese chicken skewered over coals, or fresh-ground espresso and buttery croissants.
Check it out for yourself!
Rialto Theatre, Byzantine Church, Parc St.-Viateur
Take the Parc bus, #80 north from Metro (subway) station Place des Arts. Get out at the corner of Parc and Bernard. Our first stop, Rialto Theatre, is on the block just before the intersection so all you need to do is turn around and face back down the way the bus came up. You're already on the right side of the road.
Places to stop along the way:
St.-Viateur Bagel, S.W. Welch's Books, Latina Epicerie, Club Social, Cafe Olimpico, Kay Vintage Friperie, Drawn & Quarterly
Best time of day:
Noon until evening, early May to mid-October
Use designated crosswalks and lights. It's safer, and Montreal cops sometimes go a bit overboard issuing jaywalking tickets. Watch out for skateboarders and scooters on the sidewalks, as well as the odd cyclist.