Discovering Montreal: The Little Burgundy and St-Henri Neighborhoods

Montreal is an eclectic city; a place where finding anything from nearly any culture is as easy as pie (or poutine if you want to localize that saying). A great way to tap in to that diversity is by experiencing it first hand, exploring neighborhoods and areas of the city you have yet to visit. Feeling lazy? Not to worry, we’ve got you covered. For the next few months we’ll be checking out different parts of the city and reporting back here. First up : the south west boroughs of Little Burgundy and St- Henri.

A Little Bit of History

Little Burgundy, (metro Lionel-Groulx and the surrounding area) was originally a town known as Sainte-Cunegonde and became part of the city of Montreal around the turn of the century. It was home to the Canadian Pacific Railway yards and the Steel Company of Canada, and most of Montreal’s black working-class citizens. Well-known Montrealers that grew up in this area are two Governor Generals- Michaëlle Jean and George Vanier, and jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.

St Henri was an industrial area whose residents mostly worked in leather tanning. It was its own town, separate from Montreal with a history that dates back to 1685. By 1905, there were 25,000 residents and the stress of providing infrastructure for the quick growth of the population resulted in St Henri cumulating a heavy debt load and forced the town to merge into the city of Montreal.

The Neighborhoods Today

Known primarily as a working class and mostly French and immigrant areas for years, both Little Burgundy and St-Henri have recently been going through a slow overhaul as more and more chic looking establishments looking as if they got lost on their way to the mile end have been popping up. While some like the recent changes, others seem bothered by its blatant shift to gentrification. Where hot-spots go, scenester will follow and once they discovered St-Henri has older apartments with twice the space and nearly half the rent of those in the plateau, the hipsters have decided to stay.

When in town, visit :

Parc St Henri

Parc St- Henri (St-Henri square), St-Antoine street /Rue Agnes

A hidden gem of a park with an impressive Jacques Cartier monument, this park is spacious, pretty, and most importantly, quiet!

Vintage Stores

There are a string of vintage stores and antique shops mostly found on Notre-Dame street. Speaking of which…

Have a coffee at :

Cafe st- henri

Cafe Saint-Henri, 3632 Notre Dame Ouest

Church pews as cafe seating? A novel idea.

Campanelli, 4634 Notre Dame Ouest

It’s really a men’s clothing store with their own cafe attached next door. Still, it’s worth a look.

Lili et Oli, 2415 Rue Notre Dame Ouest

Small yet cozy. Pretty sure I saw an old couch or two in there which makes you feel like sticking around. High hipster quotient.

Cafe BAM!, 3255 Rue St-Jacques

A small art gallery which also has an odd yet interesting mix of old movie posters, c.d.s, books and other local rare finds. They occasionally have live shows. Right in front of Lionel-Groulx metro station, such a great location!

Try a dessert at :

Leche Desserts

Leche Desserts, 640 Rue de Courcelle 

Donuts don’t get any fresher.

Rustique, 4615 Rue Notre Dame Ouest

I’ve been told chocolate pies are their specialty.

Have a drink at :

Drinkerie

Drinkerie, 2661 Notre Dame Ouest

Surprisingly packed from Thursday to Saturday. The live D.J. plays some good beats.

Ludger, 4001 Rue Notre Dame Ouest

Named after Ludger Lemieux, an art deco architect who designed several structures in the St-Henri area.

Burgundy Lion, 2496 Notre Dame Ouest

A busy pub with dark lighting inside, and a terrasse outside that is busy all summer long.

Eat at :

Joe Beef (2491) Liverpoool House (2501), Le Smoking Vallee (4370) These three restaurants all on Notre Dame (of course, where else) are getting a lot of international acclaim. If fine dining is your thing, then these are for you.

Happy Exploring!

Ricardo Arthur

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