Montreal's Shopping Scene

• A WorldWeb.com Travel Guide for Montreal, Quebec.
The first European settlement on the Island of Montreal was a fur-trading post established in 1611 by Samuel de Champlain. The post ensured that the city, then known as Ville-Marie, became a centre for trading which would, over the subsequent four centuries, become one of the most culturally significant and influential cities in Canada.

Boasting an enigmatic mix of both French and English history and culture, the modern-day city of Montreal, aka Ville de Montréal, is the second largest city in the nation and is often referred to as the cultural capital of Canada. Frequently described as vibrant, cool, eclectic and hip, the city beckons tourists year round to enjoy the history, festivals, music, nightlife and, of course, the incredible shopping on offer.

The second largest French-speaking city in the world next only to Paris, Ville de Montréal echoes that city's sophistication and selection when it comes to shopping. Visitors will find everything from cool, cheap deals to funky, one-of-a-kind products to chic designer fashions.

OLD MONTREAL

History lovers will no doubt head straight to Old Montreal (Vieux Montreal) to check out the architecture, churches, shops and galleries located along the area's cobblestone streets. Those looking to take home a unique souvenir or special trinket will likely find what they're looking for within the shops of Old Montreal.

One of the most impressive historic buildings in Vieux Montreal is the Marché Bonsecours. Bordering Montreal's Old Port, the Bonsecours Market was built in 1857 and restored to its original grandeur in the 1990s. Recognised as one of the 10 finest heritage buildings in Canada, the market is surrounded by some of Old Montreal's most popular tourist attractions and houses a range of boutiques that specialise in works of art, fashion, accessories and jewellery made in Quebec.

THE UNDERGROUND CITY


Perhaps one of the best-known tourist attractions in Montreal is its vast Underground City. The largest underground complex in the world, La Ville Souterraine, as it is known in French, connects the majority of downtown Montreal and contains apartments, hotels, banks, offices, metro stations, restaurants and shopping malls that are home to literally thousands of shops.

La Ville Souterraine is broken into several segments, the Central Segment being the largest. Several shopping malls are found within this segment, including Centre Eaton, the largest mall in downtown Montreal with 175 shops and services. The segment also contains Place Montreal Trust, which boasts a 30-m (98-ft) indoor waterfall (the largest in North America), and Complexe Les Ailes. Those in need of refreshment while shopping at Complexe Les Ailes can venture nine floors above ground to le 9ieme, a restaurant and art-deco landmark built in 1931. Each of these malls can easily be reached via the McGill Metro Station. Those travelling on the Metro can also alight at the Bonaventure Station to reach Place Bonaventure and Place Ville-Marie.

The Underground City is a great option for those visiting Montreal in the cold winter months as it is possible to explore all day without ever having to venture out into the chill.

RUE SAINTE-CATHERINE

The main commercial artery through downtown Montreal, rue Sainte-Catherine is home to many of the city's largest shopping complexes, department stores and well-known international retail chains. Serious shoppers will likely find anything and everything they're looking for along Ste-Catherine Street.

The street is home to prominent, historic retail landmark, La Maison Ogilvy, or simply Ogilvy's. Founded in 1866, the store has been located in its current, distinctive stone building for over a century. Formerly a department store, Ogilvy's now houses an assortment of shops and boutiques.

A number of Montreal's department stores are also located on rue Sainte-Catherine, including the above-ground portions of the previously mentioned Centre Eaton, Place Montreal Trust and Complexe Les Ailes. Other popular department stores and retail complexes on the street include the Hudson's Bay Company, the popular Quebec department chain La Maison Simons (or Simons) and Promenades Cathédrale.

Those in the market for the latest must-have electronics or searching for an album by one of Montreal's much-lauded bands can check out major electronics retailers such as Future Shop and the very in-demand Apple Store. Rue Sainte-Catherine is also home to Montreal's HMV Megastore and Archambault, the largest music retailer in Quebec. Indigo Books and Music and Chapters also sell a limited music selection along with a huge variety of books and magazines.

The fashion conscious will be in heaven exploring the many famous fashion retailers that line the street, including Banana Republic, Gap, Zara, American Eagle, BCBG Max Azria, Mango and Guess. Hip sportswear can be found at Puma and Adidas, while those looking for something more authentically Canadian can stop in at Canuck favourite, Roots. Some of the coolest, hippest new styles await at Urban Outfitters and the enormously popular H&M, and the funky and unique will feel at home at the Betsey Johnson boutique.

BOULEVARD SAINT-LAURENT & RUE SAINT-DENIS

Nicknamed The Main, boulevard Saint-Laurent divides Montreal between east and west and is unofficially also seen as the French and English divide. The street, which is home to a variety of galleries, music venues and festivals, is known for its cultural and artistic heritage.

Possibly the most popular section of rue Saint-Denis is located between rue Sherbrooke Est and rue Sainte-Catherine Est. This segment of the street forms a portion of Montreal's Quartier Latin, or Latin Quarter. Known for its large number of French-speaking restaurants and bars, much of the architecture on rue Saint-Denis dates back as early as the beginning of the 19th century. Much like boulevard Saint-Laurent, the area is home to a number of cultural venues and offers a funky and fresh vibe.

Unsurprisingly, the shopping on both streets is similarly artsy, stylish and trendy. Visitors searching for something super chic, glamourous or edgy will find it within the small, hip boutiques on both The Main and rue Saint-Denis.

Everything from upscale boutiques offering the latest designer fashions to second-hand vintage clothing stores popular among bargain-hunters, students and hipsters can be found on these streets. Rue Saint-Denis and boulevard Saint-Laurent are also the best places to head for artisan jewellery, food delicacies, record stores boasting hard-to-find rarities, specialty lingerie, unique home ware and posh pet shops.

A FEW OTHER GEMS

Visitors searching for deals and who are happy to venture away from the city centre should head to the area surrounding rue Chabanel where shoppers have the opportunity to purchase designer garments for cash on a discount. Most of the shops are set up in warehouses, which are open to the public on Saturday mornings from 9am to noon.

Plateau Mont-Royal is the place to go for handmade jewellery and plenty of environmentally friendly or "green" clothing shops, while the shopping area on Sherbrooke Street in Westmount is only a few blocks long but has a good selection of trendy boutiques selling items not found elsewhere, including pieces by local designers.

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