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Les Quartiers du Canal, Montréal

Three post-industrial neighbourhoods linked by a historic canal lure lovers of art, good food and boating in search of the good life. By Stuart Forster

Travel Time 1hrs 10min

Why go?

Montreal is widely regarded as one of Canada’s leading culinary destinations and there’s a distinct buzz to Les Quartiers du Canal, whose ongoing gentrification is a factor behind its concentration of chic bars and well-regarded dining establishments. Easily accessible from the Downtown district, the young professionals who live here also have ample parkland for their downtime.

Les Quartiers du Canal comprises three neighbourhoods – Griffintown, Little Burgundy and Saint-Henri – connected by the Lachine Canal. Approaching 200 years old, the waterway has been preserved to remind locals of the significance of shipping and industrialisation in Canada’s development. Now it’s the place for stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing and kayaking, while runners, walkers and cyclists take the path alongside.

Author Gabrielle Roy captured the spirit and poverty of workingclass Saint-Henri in her novel Bonheur d’Occasion. Published in 1945, and translated into English two years later as The Tin Flute, it’s regarded as a key part in the evolution of Québécois identity.

From the Fifties, factory closures sent Les Quartiers du Canal into decline, but the decay
was eventually reversed and disused units were repurposed as pop-up art galleries. Little
Burgundy is now dotted with first-class galleries, including Arsenal on rue William.

A couple of blocks away, on rue Notre-Dame, the attractive Milord and L’Ecuyer antiques stores exemplify the area’s boutique shopping. View shop windows as you stroll between cafés and bars, or while scooping a dipped ice cream from La Diperie.

Opened in 1825, the 14.5km Lachine Canal played a key role in Montreal’s evolution into one of Canada’s busiest ports and trading hubs. Before then, the St Lawrence River’s Lachine Rapids made navigating hazardous.

Griffintown, Little Burgundy and Saint-Henri grew as industrial districts where working people lived close to the factories and docks providing employment. The St Lawrence Seaway’s completion, in 1959, saw freight rerouted and the canal eventually closing to commercial shipping.

In 1978 Parks Canada began managing the Lachine Canal National Historic Site, an urban
park whose waterway opened to pleasure boating in 2002.

What to do

Where to stay

The Alt Hotel Montreal exudes Griffintown’s upbeat vibe and contemporary rooms on the upper floors offer fine city views. Exposed concrete pillars hint at the area’s industrial past in spacious and comfortable bedrooms with designer touches. The lobby’s grab-and-go station is on-hand for breakfast on the move, or opt for the breakfast package, meaning freshly baked bread and pastries at La Bête à Pain nearby on rue Young. Flexible check-out times are ideal if you have a late departure. germainhotels.com

Hotel Griffintown also offers views of Montreal’s skyscrapers. The Comfort apartments in this aparthotel on rue des Bassins are ideal for extended city breaks, thanks to kitchens with washing machines and dryers. Sip a local craft beer or pre-dinner cocktail
on the terrace of OBAR, the stylish lobby bar. griffintownhotel.com

For those who prefer B&Bs with personable hosts, book one of the six individually decorated rooms and suites at L’Hotel Particulier Griffintown. Breakfast is served on wood decking in the peaceful Secret Garden courtyard. In a district renowned for its contemporary art scene, this place has a compact, publicly accessible gallery. hpgmontreal.com

Where to eat and drink

For a picnic by the waterway, browse stalls selling cheeses, charcuterie and seasonal fruits within the Art Deco Atwater Market. Dating from 1933, it was designed by Ludger Lemieux, whose notable projects also include Saint- Henri’s fire station. marchespublics-mtl.com

City residents take pride in the quality of Montreal’s bagels, bragging they’re better than
New York’s. Judge for yourself at Le Trou on rue William, named after ‘the hole’ in bagels. Eco-certified smoked salmon from Charlevoix is served with red onion and a generous smearing of cream cheese. letrou.ca

If you appreciate raw bars, meat-heavy menus and good wine, reserve a table on Restaurant Grinder’s covered terrace. The succulent short ribs prove plentiful for lone diners while the tender tomahawk steaks are ideal for sharing. restaurantgrinder.ca

Local, seasonal produce is creatively served as tapas-style dishes at Mauvais Garçons,
whose informal atmosphere and zinging cocktails make it an easy place to hang out. Sample a selection of dishes, such as tuna tartare and pan-glazed shrimp, by opting
for the ever-changing experience menu. restomauvaisgarcons.ca

Known for sizable fried chicken dishes, Le Bird Bar also warrants a visit for its piquant
pulled duck poutine followed by cocktails downstairs in the cosy Henden speakeasy-style
lounge. lebirdbar.com

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