Outremont and Mile-End, the perfect mix of heritage and modernity

Outremont and Mile-End, the perfect mix of heritage and modernity

With their mix of old buildings and hip boutiques, the bustling residential neighbourhoods of Outremont and Mile End are among the best districts to visit if you want a true taste of the essence of Montreal. Strolling through the streets of these communities in the shadow of the mountain and its fall colours is like taking a trip through both the city’s past and its future, especially in Mile End, one of Montreal’s most culturally vibrant neighbourhoods.

Sprinkled with lively cafés, iconic shops and architectural curiosities, this eclectic sector teems with discoveries on every corner.

Outremont, a journey through time

On the northwestern side of Mount Royal you’ll find Outremont, a neighbourhood that, like the city of Westmount (its English-speaking counterpart on the south side), developed on the slope of the mountain and became home to a relatively affluent population of influential men and women from Quebec society. Its name, “outre mont,” means “beyond the mountain.”

Once an independent city and now a borough of the city of Montreal, Outremont has long been a sought-after location to live. Recent research suggests that the Iroquois village of Hochelaga, which disappeared between the voyages of Jacques Cartier and Champlain, would probably have been situated in this area. Outremont was built up around the central axis of Côte-Sainte-Catherine Road, a thoroughfare that attests to the presence of the Amerindians, as it follows a communication route they had cleared to circumvent the mountain.

Lining the streets, you’ll see many houses from another era, many of which are well worth stopping to have a look at. At number 77 Maplewood Avenue, you’ll find a fine example of the Colonial American style; numbers 69 and 71 resemble 1920s-style suburban houses; numbers 47 and 49, twin houses dating back to 1906 (they are the oldest houses on the street), have a rural cachet; and, at number 41, you’ll notice a residence evoking the grand French manor houses of the Renaissance.

On McDougall Avenue, of particular interest is the house at numbers 221 and 223. Built between 1833 and 1838, the Ferme OutreMont occupies an important place in the area’s history. From 1856 to 1887, the farm belonged to the family of a financier named McDougall. It was there that the first Mass ever was celebrated in Outremont in 1887. The house is considered the third-oldest dwelling in the city.

Laurier Avenue (between Côte-Sainte-Catherine Road and Hutchison Street) is one of the municipality’s most popular shopping streets among the well-off residents of Outremont and Montreal. The avenue had a makeover that has contributed even more to its chic factor. Boasting specialty shops, delicatessens, fashion boutiques, cafés-terraces and restaurants, it’s the perfect destination for an outing with friends.

At 115 Laurier Street West, the Henrietta natural wine bar is ideal for a drink with friends or a special someone. Savour the last rays of summer while enjoying a meal on the lovely terrace.

Hip, relaxed Mile End

In the eastern section of Outremont, between Mount Royal Avenue and the railway line, Mile End is known for the welcome it has extended to several waves of immigrant populations. It’s very representative of Montreal’s cultural diversity, as much for its residents as for its and businesses, which include a large number of charming cafés, restaurants and boutiques that are frequented by an eclectic and multilingual clientele. Anglophone and francophone residents rub shoulders in Mile End; it’s a place of community, a neighbourhood of citizen initiatives and one of the hippest corners of the city. In 2016, a popular American website ranked it as the “coolest neighbourhood in the world.”

The best way to get a feel for this neighbourhood is to stroll or pedal a bike down its main streets (Fairmount and Saint-Viateur avenues as well as Bernard Avenue, between Saint-Laurent Boulevard and Du Parc Avenue) to soak up its bustling atmosphere. Make sure to stop into the Église Saint-Enfant-Jésus du Mile-End (Saint-Dominique Street) and, especially, the Church of St. Michael and St. Anthony (Saint-Urbain Street), whose Byzantine style contrasts sharply with the surrounding working class residential landscape. Originally built for the Irish community, this church now welcomes the area’s Polish population. Its imposing dome measures 23 m in diameter and, prior to the construction of Saint Joseph’s Oratory, it could claim bragging rights to being the largest in the city.

Many of this neighbourhood’s businesses are an intrinsic part of Montrealers’ daily life. The bagels of St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel (both are named after the streets they’re on) have jockeyed for the title of “best bagel in the city” for decades. The famous salami sandwiches they serve over at Wilensky’s counter on Fairmount Avenue have been part of the neighbourhood’s history since 1932. On Saint-Viateur Street, the Café Olimpico is packed all day long, with patrons often lining up to order a latté. For hop heads, the Dieu du Ciel! microbrewery (Laurier Avenue) offers a large selection of craft beers in a convivial setting.

Further south, Casa Del Popolo on Saint-Laurent Boulevard is a vegetarian restaurant, café and performance venue all rolled into one. This establishment made an important contribution to Montreal’s flourishing musical scene, thanks to the shows presented both there and at the Sala Rossa, just across the street. The concerts cover a wide array of genres, from pop and rock to folk, jazz, contemporary and electronic music. For the perfect start or end to your evening, or for a girls’ night out, head over to Buvette chez Simone (4869 Du Parc Avenue), which is open every day of the week.