One of the largest gay villages in North America, the Montreal Gay Village testifies to the open-minded and cosmopolitan nature of Montreal. A nightlife hub of opportunities with restaurants, terraces and some of Montreal's best nightclubs lining the district's main artery, Ste. Catherine Street, it's also a neighborhood with affordable apartments (i.e., even "student" affordable), excellent public transit access and a central location. By foot, it takes ten minutes or less to get to Place-des-Arts, the Plateau, the Latin Quarter and the downtown core.
Situated east of the Latin Quarter, west of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and south of the trendier-than-thou Plateau neighborhood, the Montreal Gay Village is one of the city's younger districts, administered by the Ville-Marie borough. Having built itself up since the mid-'80s, Montreal's Village Gai, commonly referred to as "Le Village," spreads over roughly one kilometer (0.6 miles) of the easternmost part of downtown. Neighborhood limits vary by source, but most agree that Ste. Catherine Street, from Amherst to Papineau, is gay village territory while others include up to Berri in the west and far as De Lorimier in the east.
Residents are a pleasant mix of the LGBT community, gay and straight families, young professionals and university students, gay and straight. Note that some locals complain of red-light activity and occasional sketchiness in the area, though nothing particularly life-threatening. Students may appreciate the neighborhood's proximity to Université du Québec à Montréal, which is about ten to 15 minute walk away.
As for language, one can get by with English, as most of downtown districts are comfortably bilingual (with the exception of the Latin Quarter, where I've unfortunately heard more audible anti-Anglo comments in recent times than I care to share), but beyond a short-term stay, learning French is a must.
Getting Around the Gay Village
If the Gay Village's car-free zone in the summer isn't enough to convince you cars are completely unnecessary to get to and around the Montreal Gay Village, then consider the three metro stations that service the area, all about five to seven minutes walking distance from each other: Papineau Metro, Beaudry Metro, and the city's busiest and largest subway station also linking to every metro line on the island, Berri-UQAM Metro.
A Street for Summer Feet
Having pedestrianized the Gay Village portion of Ste. Catherine Street to make way for special events in the past, the Gay Village is not new to the car-free scene. However, 2008 marked the first year the Montreal Gay Village closed off the main neighborhood and commercial artery to cars for an entire season.
The street usually closes in late April/May to make way for pedestrians and opens back up to cars some time in September.
With about 50 boutiques—clothing, decor, etc.—spread out over 14 blocks in the thick of as many restaurants, bars and nightclubs, the Montreal Gay Village has a quirky shopping destination/unconventional strip mall side to it.
Set aside a couple of hours for shopping and supplement the experience with a terrace visit or restaurant meal area for full effect. The naughtier among you will surely stumble on Priape, an iconic fetish store that's been in operation for decades.
Terraces Taking Over
The pedestrianization of the Gay Village strip of Ste. Catherine Street in the summer has been a blessing for terrace-lovers, with over 50 "terrasses" to burden you with choice, such as Le Saloon.
Behind Every Terrace Is a Restaurant
The Gay Village has its share of decent restaurants and pubs. Below are a few favorites.
1603, rue Ontario E
1333 Ste. Catherine East
Phone: (514) 522-1333
Le Resto du Village
1310 Wolfe, corner of Ste. Catherine East
Phone: (514) 524-5404
Nightlife in the Montreal Gay Village is really fun. Particularly when it comes to big multi-floor dance clubs, there's often an anything-goes-dance-however-you-wish feel to them that can lack at some of the Plateau's larger nightclubs. Some personal favorites include:
1171, Ste. Catherine East
Phone: (514) 523-2777
856 Ste. Catherine East
Phone: (514) 282-3307
1474 Ste. Catherine East
Phone: (514) 529-6969
French Media Mini-Mecca
One note for those interested in media jobs. The Montreal Gay Village has a strong media presence, particularly French radio, film and television broadcasting. The bigger production houses in and around the Gay Village include:
1400 René-Lévesque East
P.O. Box 6000
Montréal, QC H3C 3A8
Phone (toll-free): (866) 306-4636
1055 René-Lévesque East
Montreal, Quebec H2L 4S5
Phone: (514) 284-5555
1600, De Maisonneuve East
Montreal, Quebec H2L 4P6
Phone: (514) 526-9251