Montreal’s East Side ~ a beauty like no other in North America

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on May 17, 2010 0 Comments

Every year, we go to Montreal.

These days, we stay in a neighborhood called The Plateau, which roughly comprises the area north and east of McGill University. We stay in a small but cozy bed and breakfast on Avenue Laval, which is east of the East-West dividing street, Boulevard St. Laurent, also called The Main.

St. Laurent is at 0. Streets west of St. Laurent are on the west side of Montreal and streets east of St. Laurent are on the east side of Montreal.

As you can see from the photos, Montreal offers a lot of French and European old-world charm not often found in North American cities.

This is a bed and breakfast on the corner of  Laval and Rue Napoleon. Laval street has several bed and breakfast hotels; they are all part of an established network in Montreal.  We’ve stayed at this charming B&B, the “Bienvenue.” The breakfasts are delicious and there is free Wifi throughout. You can use the main computer in the breakfast room or your own in your bedroom. The rooms are a bit small.

The hosts are the nicest people.

There is also another room further down on Laval, near Rue Sherbrooke, which is an entire apartment and is suitable for a family. We’ve stayed there for two consecutive summers. Full kitchen and a washer/dryer in back. Main bedroom with queen-sized bed, full closet. Bathroom is completely contemporary.

The living room has a TV, sofa and a futon. There is also a dining room table.  Suitable for a couple who wishes to have more space or for multiple guests. Most B&Bs are only for two people per room and Bienvenue’s two-room basement apartment is one of very few in this neighborhood.  Reserve well in advance during the busy summer months.

Montreal’s east side has always been comprised of mostly French neighborhoods, with many architectural features you won’t find anywhere else.

This is a house on Laval. Colorfully painted houses such as this one are very common.
This type of winding staircase is found in the various neighborhoods in Montreal. It is common not only in the east end, but also in other neighborhoods in the city, such as in Point St. Charles, St. Henri and Verdun.

It is one of many unique architectural features Montreal offers. The reason for this particular architectural feature was that the severe Montreal winters generally accumulate a lot of snow and show needs to be shoveled somewhere; storing snow underneath the staircase is a necessary convenience. This particular staircase is on Laval.

And this is a winding staircase with color added to the photograph. Just for fun.

The image

This charming house is located on the corner of Laval and Avenue Duluth.

It is so refreshing for the tourist or resident to walk among these streets, as they offer a glimpse of a world rarely seen in North America – that of a truly unique world not dominated by sameness and corporate chains.

This house is a few blocks east of Laval on Rue Henri Julien.

You can see how seriously the Quebecois take their notion of artistry – artistic endeavors are regarded seriously in all aspects of life.

Another gorgeous house from the same neighborhood.

This painting is on the outside of a wall of a nautical shop on St. Denis, a few blocks east of Laval. As we travel a few blocks, you will begin to see more of the old world and French flavor found in Montreal’s east side.

A graffiti artist on Napoleon near St. Laurent. Haunting image of a woman.
The painting included a question, (not shown) “Why don’t you want me?”
A rendition of the Hindu God Ganesha. This is someone’s mailbox on Duluth.

The image
Two lovely dancers on Laval.
This charming storefront is of a Bohemian market, located on St. Denis.

St. Denis a famous for its shops, cafes and nightlife.
This is the Second Cup coffeehouse, a Canadian chain and Leah Christianson’s favorite in Ontario. Yes, Montreal boasts a gazillion outdoor cafes.

This one is on St. Denis street, but most we saw were in Montreal’s west side. The coffee house we frequented most often (not Starbucks!) is Cafe Depot, a 24-hour chain of gourmet coffee, gateaux (cakes) and sandwiches.


This page has been linked from TripAdvisor’s Montreal Travel’s pages on Inspiring Sites About Montreal HERE:

For more information on Montreal, see my Montreal food/travel blog:

The Insider’s Pocket Guide to Montreal

The Insider’s Guide to the Love of Coffee

The Insider’s Guide to Ye Olde Orchard Pub & Grille in Pointe Claire

The Insider’s Guide to Old Montreal

The Insider’s Guide to Mt. Tremblant

Here, the old world architectural charm is combined with contemporary traffic in this storefront on St. Denis.

This is the mall on Duluth, a street that runs perpendicular to Laval. Duluth is in both the East and West sides of Montreal.

This mall was begun some years ago and is one of several in Montreal. Unlike the pedestrian mall on Prince Arthur, this mall on Duluth allows cars.

An exciting feature of the Duluth mall is that its many trendy restaurants offer bring-your-own-wine, with no! corkage fees.

The red truck is the Canadian Poste mail truck.  These malls are one of many features that renders Montreal so appealing to tourists.

We have enjoyed the nearby tasty and fabulous Rotisserie CoCo Rico, a Portuguese chicken rotisserie that’s takeout/eat-in, where a half-chicken and sides is a phenomenal price of about $7 bucks.

The staffers are trilingual, Portuguese, French and English. Along Mile End on the corner of Napoleon and St. Laurent. Many English and bilingual speakers frequent CoCo Rico. Another customer identified my husband as a native Bostonian, so it gets many visitors from the U.S.


Continuing our trek in the east side, we are now on  St. Laurent Street, the dividing street between east and west sides of Montreal.  St. Laurent (St. Laurence Street) is at 0 East and 0 West. St. Laurent has long been a street with shops from around the world.

Here in La Vieille Europe (Old Europe), customers can buy cheese, chocolate, meats, sausages, soups, coffees, breads from all over Europe. Ghiradelli chocolate is imported to Montreal from San Francisco.

Poles love to buy poppyseed cake and packaged Barsc soups here, as well as Dutch, Swiss, German and Polish chocolate bars.

It is a delight to shop in La Vieille Europe and smell the aroma of freshly ground coffee, top quality chocolate and hear Sarah McLachlan over the sound system. Frequent visitors to this store will hear many languages spoken.

The image

St. Laurent is also the place to buy your Montreal smoked meat at Schwartz’ deli, famous for decades.  Montreal smoked meat is the Montreal equivalent of corned beef, except that it is smoked, not corned.

Celine Dion’s Nickel’s restaurants are a good place to eat Montreal smoked meat sandwiches.
This is the pedestrian mall on Rue Prince Arthur.

This mall was the first pedestrian mall in Montreal, begun nearly 30 years ago. Prince Arthur extends from the west end near McGill University to Carre St. Louis, (St. Louis Square), a small park.

Many shops and cafes adorn Prince Arthur.

Continuing our trek, this is the Mazurka Restaurant on Prince Arthur. This Polish restaurant has been famous in Montreal for more than 30 years and is staffed entirely of native Poles.

We used to enjoy the cuisine a great deal in years past, but in recent years, we have found the food not as good as we had remembered it.

Nevertheless, the Barsc was excellent.

The society of Polish war veterans in honor of Marshall Pilsudski. This placard was on a building on Prince Arthue.

Montreal is home to many residents of Polish descent, just like Toronto, Chicago, Buffalo and New York City.

Looking westward from Rue Duluth on the east side, visitors can easily see the cross on Mt Royal, the mountain for which Montreal is named.

Jacques Cartier conquered New France for his country in 1535.

Originally, Montreal was a trading fort named Hochelaga before being known as Ville Marie, then later incorporated as the city of Montreal.

The image

The cross is lit at night with fiber optics. In decades past, the cross was lit with red bulbs during lent; recently, it was purple with the change of the past.

Visitors coming in by car, bus, train or plane can easily see the cross from a great distance. Photo: Wikipedia, public domain.

This charming house is on Laval.

Carre St. Louis – St. Louis Square, is a small park on Laval and Prince Arthur.  The former and current haven of writers and artists. Poets and would-be poets, artists of all types, young and old, gather here day and night. This was taken at night after we lit sparklers and drank wine.

Years ago, as a would be poet daydreaming about Rimbaud and Baudelaire with long-haired friends, this park held a magical spot in my heart. It still does.

Basilica Notre Dame in Vieux Montreal (Old Montreal).

The Notre Dame was elevated to the status of Basilica in the 1980s by Pope John Paul II. It is one of five basilicas in Montreal.

Prior to that, the Notre Dame had been a cathedral. The exterior is similar to the Notre Dame in Paris; the interior yields a glorious display not found in old world Gothic-styled churches. There is no charge for persons attending Mass, but there is a charge to visit and walk around the church.

The image

Inside the Notre Dame where the late Luciano Pavarotti sang his Notre Dame Christmas Concert, 1978, including O Holy Night.

The armory on Rue Pins (Pine Street.)

Taken from the Summit at Mount Royal, here we are looking east. Here, we see the Olympic Stadium, 1976, Montreal Olympics.

That was an exciting time to be in Montreal, with thousands of tourists worldwide coming into the city. We saw several track and field events at the stadium.

We have nearly completed a mini tour of the east side.  There is so much to see. I hope you will look at my blog, which is much more complete.

We are now west of St. Laurent, on St. Urbain Street, near where Montreal author Mordecai Richler was born.

Richler wrote about his boyhood in St. Urban’s Horsemen and also in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.

The cafe was featured in the movie of the same name starring Richard Dreyfuss). This neighborhood then was a largely Orthodox neighborhood of Montreal.

Not far from Moe’s is the Original Fairmount Bagel Bakery, where people line up day or night from Montreal, New York or Toronto, to get water-bagels, fresh from an open-flame oven, dipped in water and then covered in sesame seeds.

The bagels are bigger, doughier, sweeter – this old world recipe is world famous and uses a flour with more gluten, somewhat like the famous New York Pretzel.

The New York Times had a recipe for the Montreal Water Bagel some years back. That is a true honor!

Rounding up our little tour of the east sideof Montreal, (part 1) we see the Montreal skyline by daylight. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Montreal skyline at night. A bustling, cosmopolitan city like no other in North America. Montreal is the second-largest French speaking city in the world, after  Paris. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

*** Part 2 – Insider’s Guide to Montreal: Downtown and West Side – 2008 next

Copyright  © 2007,2008,2009.  2010. Kathryn Esplin. All rights reserved.

About the Author ()

An article of mine, 'On Marriage, Life, Death and Remarriage' was published in "Blended Families (Social Issues Firsthand) by Greenhouse Press." An article of mine was referenced in this book: "Margaret Atwood: a reference guide" by Judith McComb

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