Outremont, Montreal Travel Guide
Outremont and Parc du Mont-Royal Summary
- Gorgeous, scenic walks along Mont Royal and throughout the park
- Astounding city views from lookouts in Parc du Mont Royal
- Park is home to sacred Saint Joseph's Oratory, with supposed healing powers
- Easy access to Parc du Mont-Royal, Plateau, and Mile End from Outremont
- Charming cafes and restaurants throughout Outremont
- Many scenic, smaller parks for kids in Outremont
- Quiet, low-key, and familial vibe free of tourist traps
- Mont Royal is challenging to navigate in the winter
- A little hard to access on public transit from western part of city
- Parking can be tough
What It's Like
Mont Royal is impossible to miss and vital to visit -- it's the foundation of the city, and is visible from almost every vantage point. Parc du Mont Royal, which surrounds the famous peak, was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who also created Central Park in New York City. The most famous (and visited) parts of the park are Beaver Lake -- which is transformed into a skating rink with an adorable chalet in the winter -- and the two lookouts. The latter provide magnificent glimpses of the whole city from either the Voie Camillien-Houde car park or the Kondiaronk Lookout, where you'll find the Chalet du Mont Royal. While the city views are astounding, there's plenty to see along the way, as the hike up is itself part of the magic of Parc du Mont Royal. A few steps onto any of the park's many paths and it's easy to feel like you’ve escaped the city entirely. Every Sunday afternoon during the summer, on the northeast edge of the park, near the George-Etienne Cartier Monument, you’ll find the Tam-Tams -- a large gathering of hippies playing drums, dancing, and selling tchotchkes.
At the very top of Mont Royal is Saint Joseph’s Oratory, whose enormous cross is the highest point in the city. Myth has it that the oratory -- one of the largest in the world -- has great healing powers, and millions of people flock to the basilica each year in an effort to cure their medical ailments. Almost 300 steps stretch up to the entrance of the chapel. One set of stairs is made entirely of wood and is roped off and reserved for pilgrims ascending the steps on their knees, uttering a prayer as they climb. Inside the chapel there's a room full of crutches, which were supposedly thrown off and donated by people who were healed by the chapel’s great powers.
Once upon a time, Outremont -- the neighborhood adjoining the mountain to the north -- was almost exclusively home to Hassidic Jews and just a handful of Quebecois. While the Hassidic population is still a major part of the community's fabric, the area has diversified over recent years, with homes selling for exorbitant prices to young hipster families, creating an interesting and diverse local mix. These days, Outremont is a charming, quiet neighborhood with adjoined brick houses and small alleyways for kids to play. In the summertime, lawns are green as can be, while trees hang over the sidewalks and cover the neighborhood's many small parks.
Most of the street life in Outremont is found along Rue Bernard and Rue Laurier, and this is where Montreal really shines. It’s rare to find chain stores or cookie-cutter restaurants of any kind around here, and every cafe and dining spot has a terrace that's open all summer long. The cuisine is all over the map, ranging from sushi to Middle Eastern to classic patisseries to French and fantastic ice cream joints. You'll find plenty of trendy boutiques and several art galleries scattered throughout the neighborhood as well.
Where to Stay
Anywhere in Outremont will be relaxing, as the neighborhood has a fairly low-key pace, so much of where you stay depends on how close to the action you want to be. If you stick to the southern edge -- close to Boulevard St-Joseph or even St-Viateur -- you’ll be closer to the park. Along the eastern edge, near Rue Hutchison, you’ll have the added bonus of abutting the Plateau and Mile End neighborhoods, which are packed with shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars. It's not the most well-served district by metro, with just two stations: Edouard Montpetit and Station Universite-de-Montreal. Plan your visit accordingly.