AOL PICK from our Editors
Montréal takes its shopping seriously—and doesn’t let a pesky inconvenience like six months of winter get in the way. You’ll find almost as many stores underground as you will on city streets, thanks to the famed Underground City. The main drag for mainstream fashions, St. Catherine’s is most shoppers’ first port of call. The Main, as St-Laurent is known, features styles of a slightly edgier angle. For quirky, distinctively Montréal shopping finds, head to the Plateau. For high art, head to Old Montréal.
A weekend morning passes quickly in this robust little market bursting with colorful local produce, wine and cheese. Spend your time slowly exploring the shelves in fine grocery and import shops. Indulge in a raspberry-cranberry-hibiscus mousse or a Jardiniere cake at the ubiquitous Première Moisson, then meander on, sampling everything from tea to chocolate to cheese and wine from Québec and around the world. Getting here is an easy bike ride along the Lachine Canal from downtown or a short saunter across the street from the Lionel-Groulx or Atwater metro stops.
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Neighborhood: Old Montréal
Named for its stunning next-door neighbor, Notre-Dame-de-Bon Secours Chapel, the Marche Bonsecours was long the main public market in Montréal, and fed the city for more than 100 years. Today, the market’s wares only look good enough to eat; this smart collection of boutiques is headquarters of the Craft Council of Québec and the Institute of Design Montréal. Inside, visitors explore an eclectic collection of jewelry, artisan creations and fine paintings. We like to window shop and then stop for a café au lait in one of Bonsecours’ cafés, while we decide if we can’t live without any of the crafts or artworks we’ve just seen.
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Montréal is a city filled with intrigue. Just look down: An elaborate maze of tunnels weaves its way under this city. Connections to 40 performance venues and more than 1,700 shops and restaurants can be found here, spread over an incredible 20 miles in four sectors—a sweet little secret kept from many a guest. A half-million Montréalers sashay through these tunnels each day, unconcerned by inclement weather above. You’ll find your credit cards in most danger of overuse if you take the metro to the cluster of stores round the McGill/Bonaventure stations. Alexis Nihon (Atwater Metro), McGill/Place Ville Marie (McGill/Bonaventure Metro), Place des Arts (Place des Arts Metro) and UQAM (Berri-UQAM Metro)
Ste-Catherine is home to the usual suspects of the shopping world, but somehow shopping in French makes it so much more exciting. The shopping stretches nearly 10 blocks between rue de la Montagne in the west and Avenue Union in the east. Most of the brands may be familiar, but try Simons, Québec’s own department store where we always end up splurging on outfits we don’t need, but can’t resist, and the exclusive Ogilvy, Montréal’s grande dame of shopping, where luxury is the top seller and the classics like Anne Klein, Michael Kors, and Louis Vuitton are steps from each other.
Neighborhood: The Plateau, Mile End, and Little Italy
A treasure-trove of “friperies,” as the locals call them, vintage stores line Boulevard St-Laurent, aka The Main. Punctuated by cafés, delis and bars, The Main is the best place to shop a day away. The Plateau’s rue St-Denis (between Avenue du Mont-Royal and Sherbrooke) is the place to find independent Québecois designer wares, from home accessories and furniture to clothing. There’s a bunch of boutiques in every block in this charming neighborhood. Along du Mont-Royal you’ll discover everything from paper shops to organic-food markets.