Neighbourhood tour: Les Quartiers du Canal

Daniel Baylis

Daniel Baylis is a writer and adventurer. Born in British Columbia, Daniel came to Montréal with the kooky bohemian notion that he would write poetry, learn to speak French and fall in love. Having achieved various levels of success in said domains, he now focuses his energy on a new hobby: artisanal pickling.

For many Montrealers, the Lachine Canal is a lifeline of leisure. Whether you have an hour or a long weekend, here’s how to make the most of a visit.

Background

Located southwest of downtown, Les Quartiers du Canal is a district comprised of three iconic Montréal neighbourhoods: Griffintown, Little Burgundy, and Saint-Henri. The historic Lachine Canal is the thread that binds them together.

One of Montréal’s most historic architectural projects, the canal opened in 1825 to enable ships to bypass the treacherous Lachine Rapids. Flashforward along a storied timeline, and now the 14.5-kilometre waterway is a National Historic Site.

The pathways and greenspaces along the Lachine Canal are a perfect area for dining and daydreaming, for promenading and pedalling.

The big attractions

The Lachine Canal

The green spaces around the Lachine Canal provide plenty of space for everyone. On any given weekend in the summer, you’ll find people soaking up the sun on blankets, playing pétanque and spike ball, or pushing baby carriages along the paved pathways. Due to the 14.5-kilometre length of the park, there is more than enough space to relax.

Additional activity ideas for the Lachine Canal  

Picnic on a blanket. It might sound sort of obvious, but it’s truly the most popular thing to do along the Lachine Canal. Many restaurants offer takeout options. Or build your own feast with products from the Atwater Market (details below).

Pedal the pathways. In 2009, the Lachine Canal bike path placed third on Time Magazine's list of the top 10 urban bike paths in the world. Bring your own bicycle or rent from Ma Bicyclette (rates start at $11/hour).

Paddle the canal ways. Rent a kayak from H2O Adventures and see the canal from a new perspective. (Insider tip: they only take online reservations or in person bookings—no email or phone reservations.)

Cruise in a boat. For those with mobility issues, the Lachine Canal Nautical Centre also offers electric boats—enabling a similar experience, but with less splish-splash.

Atwater Market

One of Montréal’s most celebrated food destinations, the Atwater Market is open. The market has been in operation since 1933, and its Art Deco-style architecture places it among the most beautiful buildings in the city. While food vendors are separated with plexiglass, they are still offering the amazing line up of fresh, Québec-grown produce: tomatoes, spinach, strawberries, potatoes, rhubarb, and much more. The butchers offer local meats, the fromagerie has finely crafted cheeses, and the baker has fresh, crusty loaves of bread. (Pillars for a perfect picnic!) Entrance at the southeast corner. You’ll see the signs.

Riverside

Further down the canal in Saint-Henri, Riverside offers a massive outdoor terrasse, making it the perfect place for the people in your bubble to gather for music, cocktails, and nibbles. It’s a popular ‘fuel stop’ for parched cyclists tackling long kilometres along the canal. The bathrooms are clean, and the staff wears protective gear. Dogs welcome.

Sir George-Étienne Cartier Square

Another fantastic place for a picnic, this park space was restored in 2003. History buffs take note: different components of the fountain that occupies the centre of the square were ordered by catalogue from J. L. Mott Iron Works foundry of New York City. The mist from the fountain is an antidote to the hot summer sun.

Art walk

To embark upon an art scavenger hunt, the Quartiers du Canal website offers a map with some of the neighbourhood’s most notable works of public art. Important works include murals of both Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones, the Oeuvre d'Alain Cadieux, and Dendrites (by Michel de Broin).

Eat!

No Montréal itinerary is complete without food. Les Quartiers du Canal have a high concentration of iconic food options. Here are some classic options!

Elena. Open for takeout pizza! Order around the back.

Arthurs. Jewish classics served with a twist and a whole lot of family pride. Open for takeout.

SudWest Gyros & Co. They offer pre-arranged picnics, complete with a wicker basket, a blanket, food, and sangria.

Rustique. Small, rustic dessert store featuring an assortment of pies, confections & other desserts.

Caffé Farina. Pizza, gelato and coffee. Brunch reopens July 11.

Dalla Rose. Artisanal ice cream, cookies and ice cream sandwiches made in Saint-Henri with local ingredients. Order before arriving.

Joe Beef. Internationally renowned Montréal diner offering unfussy French cuisine. Limited capacity dining. Full menu for takeout.

Sumac. Middle Eastern nook that focuses on traditional Lebanese plates. Takeout kits available.

Hello123. A plant-based restaurant with vegan mains, organic wines, and more. Takeout available.

Drink!

Whether for a jolt of caffeine or a refreshing glass of ale, here are some options for beverages in Les Quartiers du Canal. Most offer takeout and/or terrasses.

Café Saint-Henri. A neighbourhood mainstay.

Cordova. Low-key cafe offering espresso, cocktails, wine, and Mediterranean-inspired eats.

Lili & Oli. Cute espresso and latte joint with fresh pastries.

September. Surfers unite and drink caffeinated beverages!

The Burgundy Lion. Popular British pub, serving beers on a breezy terrasse.

Ma Bicyclette. Coffee, fresh juices, kombucha or unique hand-crafted beer on tap.

Freshen up!

One of the biggest questions for all of us these days: where can I pee?

Most restaurants offer access to a bathroom for customers. But if you’re not visiting a restaurant, you can use the public washrooms in the Atwater Market, which remain open during market hours. Additionally, Riverside has public toilets. Portable toilets (the blue ones also known as ‘sani-vacs’) are located along the canal, but locations can change. Err on the side of caution, and always carry your own hand-sanitizer.

At time of publication, the public washrooms located behind the Havre aux Glaces ice cream stand were closed. This may change as the summer progresses.

 

Disclaimer: Tourisme Montréal takes a harm reduction approach to moving around the city. We want our local businesses to benefit from your visits, but we also promote the adherence to strict health guidelines: maintain a distance of two metres (six feet) from other people and wear a mask or face covering in crowded public spaces (public transportation, grocery stores, parks, etc.).

Daniel Baylis

Daniel Baylis is a writer and adventurer. Born in British Columbia, Daniel came to Montréal with the kooky bohemian notion that he would write poetry, learn to speak French and fall in love. Having achieved various levels of success in said domains, he now focuses his energy on a new hobby: artisanal pickling.

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