Montreal's Chinatown may be modest in size compared to those in Toronto and Vancouver, but it doesn't seem to matter to locals who keep coming back to this tourist-designated pedestrian district for its ambiance in Sun Yat-Sen Square, specialty shops, trending bars, seasoned fortune tellers, and of course, the food.
Discover Chinatown's center for walking and quirky shopping, nightlife, and must-eat destinations.
Chinatown City Limits
Montreal's Chinatown is admittedly tiny, a modest L-shaped district sandwiched between the entertainment district Quartier des Spectacles and historic Old Montreal. Four friendship Paifangs (arches) with stone lions at each base roughly delimit its boundaries.
The closest subway station to Chinatown is Metro Place d'Armes in the Ville-Marie borough. Or you may want to take a fun guided 4.5 hour tour leading you through various eateries in Chinatown while educating you about the history and cultures in the area.
Given the diminutive size of the Chinatown neighborhood, there aren't exactly dozens of nightlife options.
Le Mal Nécessaire is the district's resident tiki bar, an eccentric hot spot filled with cool kids, creatives, and hipster types. Think exotic drinks served in hollowed out pineapples and coconuts.
CEO Bar Karaoke Lounge is another fun spot open every afternoon and evening for singing your heart out in private karaoke rooms while sipping on a cocktail and eating some snacks in a basement setting.
Sun Yat-Sen Square
Sun Yat-Sen Square may be small but it's Montreal Chinatown's epicenter, just blocks away from the Palais des congrès and Complexe Desjardins, a shopping mall and office complex which is a good stop in itself for not just shopping but also musical, culinary, and other events.
On a nice day, buy some goodies and eat them in the square, where you'll come upon murals, a stage that just may have performances going on, and vendors—helpful in case you want to pick up some souvenirs.
If you are looking for a hotel in Montreal's Chinatown, The Holiday Inn is modern, well-rated, and one of the area's most recognized buildings, if only for its rooftop pagodas and a big pond with bridges and colorful koi fish.
And there are choice hotels near where Chinatown meets Old Montreal, close to the Montreal convention centre Palais des congrès. The convention center is a stunning landmark in its own right, located on the western edge of the neighborhood.
Goodies: Dragon Beard Candy
If you haven't tried dragon beard candy, you are in luck, as one of the world's few masters of the ancient confection runs a stand in Chinatown, the first place in North America to sell the hair-like candy.
Keep an eye out for Johnny Chin's stand where each freshly-made candy composed of 8,192 paper-thin strands is created in 40 seconds. It's then wrapped around a crunchy center of ground peanuts, chocolate, coconut, and sesame seeds that combines with the melt-in-your-mouth "dragon's beard." Eat them immediately or within the hour to experience that cotton-candy-turns-to-nougat alchemy.
Goodies: The Bakeries
Sweet round moon cakes, Chinese BBQ pork buns, and every other confection Chinese bakeries create make for some of the most dreamy low-cost eats.
A favorite is Pâtisserie Harmonie-Chinatown and its superb red bean-filled sesame balls, salty and sweet baked buns with various fillings like beef curry, hot dog, custard, and more—as well as its significant selection of glutinous mochi rice cakes.
Neither place has seating arrangements. So either walk west on de la Gauchetière Ouest and sit in Sun Yat Sen Square for a purely Chinatown ambiance or go east toward the quieter garden area behind Palais des congrès (if there's a major public event, it will be crawling with conference attendees).
Goodies: The Noodles
For the freshest, made-from-scratch noodles in Chinatown, try the cozy and popular Nouilles de Lan Zhou on boulevard Saint-Laurent.
Nouilles de Lan Zhou has big and tasty portions and also offers vegetarian options. The space is small and there may be lines out the door, but that doesn't stop locals and travelers from dropping by for a taste. People also love checking out the staff making noodles by the window.
More Amazing Cheap Eats
Montreal Chinatown cheap eat classics include La Maison VIP. Lunch specials are so affordable, they have a strict policy that people may not leave with lunch leftovers. The iconic Chinatown haunt stays open until the early morning most days for those hungry folks out on the town. In a close second in the late-night Cantonese department is Tong Sing, with many delectable options.
Montreal Chinatown shops are typically cluttered with a diversity of items like eye-catching knick knacks, artwork, paint brushes and assorted art supplies, housewares, lanterns, jewelry, and clothing. Plus you will come across various types of tea, herbs, and food.
You never know what you're going to find, which adds to the adventure.
Montreal Chinatown celebrates the Chinese New Year in either January or February with a lion dance on the closest Sunday.
In the summer, select businesses observe Hungry Ghost Festival during the seventh month of the Chinese Lunar calendar year. Spirits of the dead are believed to be released from hell, restlessly roaming the earth; believers appease said spirits with money, food, and live entertainment.
And when fall comes, bakeries like Pâtisserie Harmonie-Chinatown celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival with traditional mooncakes, a dense pastry filled with egg yolk and lotus seed paste.
But if there's an annual event that attracts the masses, it's the quintessential street fair. In Chinatown, three sidewalk sales are held in the summer over three weekends in June, July, and August.