HOP on the No. 55 bus in Montreal and watch the culture and history of Saint Laurent Boulevard unfold. Starting in historic Old Montreal at the southern end of the street, within blocks you'll reach Chinatown and from there it's just a short hop to the district of fashionable nightclubs and restaurants. What a difference a kilometre makes: the Lower Plateau neighbourhood is a bit grittier but still very hip. Continue on to Little Italy then Jarry Park for an overview of this multicultural city.
A LEGENDARY destination for authentic deli nosh, Schwartz's has been in the same location since 1928 when a young Jewish immigrant, Reuben Schwartz, set up shop. The decor isn't fancy and the menu hasn't changed much in 80 years: it still features freshly smoked meat, marinated for days in secret herbs and spices, then served with salad and peppers on rye bread. Food purists will applaud the freshness and lack of preservatives in the pastrami, corned beef and smoked turkey. It's no surprise to learn celebs are fans — this place has Seinfeld written all over it.
3895 Saint Laurent Blvd; +1 514 842 4813; schwartzsdeli.com
BY ALL means pick up a souvenir of your time in Montreal but steer clear of the tacky shops in Chinatown. Cult fashion and luxury goods label m0851 creates beautiful leather goods and elegant, timeless clothing for the city's style setters. The signature leather bags, passport holders and wallets will remind you of Montreal long after you've worn out the cheap souvenir tea towels. Launched 20 years ago, m0851 now has stores in fashion capitals around the world — New York, Paris, Taipei and Antwerp — but remains a proudly Montreal business.
3526 Saint Laurent Blvd; +1 514 849 9759; m0851.com.
IT'S known as the best first date bar in Montreal. A first date with Mr Big perhaps? With a section of the bar converted to a cigar lounge, it could be just the place to live out your Sex and the City fantasies. Fine Cuban Cohibas are on offer, along with an extensive choice of whiskys (more than 150), aged ports, wines and a sophisticated tasting menu. In the artistic Mile End section of Saint Laurent Boulevard, the bar is in prime position to attract a cool crowd.
5800 Saint Laurent Blvd; +1 514 278 2646; whiskycafe.com.
GROOOOVY, baby! An interior designer with more than a passing crush on Austin Powers must have had a hand in imagining this bar. The 1960s decor borrows heavily from kitschy cool themes (yep, there's even a lava lamp), with bright splashes of psychedelic colours applied liberally. Check out the extensive cocktail menus written on old vinyl records and delivered by cute waitresses in Bond girl costumes. With 25 martinis on the list (including one for each sign of the zodiac) and specialty drinks with saucy names such as Pussycat and Kryptonite, a groovy night is all but guaranteed.
3682 Saint Laurent Blvd; +1 514 286 0882
PEDIGREE is everything and the Monument National has it in spades. Built in the late 19th century as a grand theatre, for years it played host to international vaudeville stars before being reinvented as a concert hall for performers including Edith Piaf. Fully renovated to celebrate its 100th birthday, performance spaces include a cabaret-style intimate club and seating for large-scale shows. A diverse calendar of events is advertised on the website.
1182 Saint Laurent Boulevard; +1 514 871 9883; monument-national.qc.ca.