The lively, historical, and culturally rich neighbourhood of Plateau Mont-Royal is an absorbing jumble of sights, sounds and smells, filled with delis, bars, nightclubs, cafés and bookshops, and an ever-growing number of trendy boutiques. Traditionally, boulevard St-Laurent divided the English in the west from the French in the east of the city. Montréal’s immigrants, first Russian Jews, then Greeks, Portuguese, Italians, East Europeans and, more recently, Latin Americans, settled in the middle and, though many prospered enough to move on, the area around The Main is still a cultural mix where neither of the two official languages dominates.
Wandering north from rue Sherbrooke on The Main, you’ll pass through the strip’s flashiest block, filled with see-and-be-seen restaurants and clubs, before arriving at one of Montréal’s few pedestrianized streets, rue Prince-Arthur, thronged with buskers and caricaturists in the summer. Its eastern end leads to the beautiful fountained and statued Square St-Louis, the city’s finest public square. Designed in 1876, the square was originally the domain of bourgeois Montréalers, and the magnificent houses were subsequently occupied by artists, poets and writers. The east side of the square divides the lower and upper areas of rue St-Denis.
A major north–south artery, rue St-Denis is the traditional francophone strip of Montréal, lined with bars, clubs, cafés, restaurants and eclectic shops. The Quartier Latin, which covers the part of rue St-Denis that leads south from rue Sherbrooke to rue Ste-Catherine, is the traditional student quarter, colonized by terrace cafés and bars crammed with students from the nearby Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) well into the early hours. By contrast, the Plateau stretch of rue St-Denis north of Square St-Louis is the stomping ground of the stylish set, with boutiques and restaurants to match.