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Verdun
Photograph: Caroline Perron

The results are in: Verdun is Montreal's coolest neighbourhood

With its jewel of a beach, huge amounts of greenspace, local culture, and a booming restaurant and bar scene, Verdun deserves its spot among the world's best communities right now.

By JP Karwacki
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Every Montreal neighbourhood has its perks, points of interest and praise-worthy destinations to cheer on, there's no doubt about that; but when Time Out polled city-dwellers with its Time Out Index on their favorite places to spend time eating out, getting cultured and generally enjoying the good vibes of the city, Verdun came out on top as one of the 40 coolest neighborhoods in the world, bumping up to #11 in 2020 from #22 in 2019.

Are we surprised? Not really. 2019 marked the borough's inaugural year of big moments like its Jazz Fest stage and the opening of its own beach, but since then? The neighbourhood's continues its decade-long upward trajectory with the enjoyment of huge amounts of greenspace, a growing list of notable names in dining out and drinking and plenty of things to do—all buttressed by a strong community spirit evident in its approach to the beginning of the pandemic this year (more on that in a second).

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Not every borough in Montreal can tout the kinds of numbers Verdun has. According to the Société de développement commercial Promenade Wellington's website, "of the 250 businesses to have set up shop on (Wellngton Street), 175 were still in business five years later", boasting a promising survival rate of 70% (20% higher than the national average).

That's just business on the main strip, however; locals and visitors can see the viability and vitality of the borough for themselves when skipping over to Verdun Street and onto sidestreets, together forming a microcosm of Montreal seeing Verdun's city-within-a-city vibes: There are classic casse-croûtes galore; the best names in baristas like Café Saint-Henri and Station W; Montreal-style bagels at Bagel St-Lo; cultural spaces for performances like Camp Éthel and photo op spots, new dining arrivals like Kwizinn's Caribbean headquarters, luscious pastries at newcomer Alice & Theo, one of the best restaurants in CanadaBeba.

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And that's just scratching the surface, especially when considering the bar scene here has only just begun. In fact, it's getting better, from Benelux originally setting up shop to the cocktails on Palco's gorgeous back terrasse—Benelux has one too, naturally—and the soigné newcomer Verdun Beach doing primo wine lists and well-above-average menus.

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What's most important of all, however, is that Verdun has done a bang-up job of handling the pandemic, from handing out sanitizer to businesses to the complete pedestrianization of its main thoroughfare just in time for restaurants and bars' reopneing in late June of this year. Even as yours truly writes this, Verdun has launched a platform for locals to discover every restaurant doing takeout right now plus a job board for who's hiring on the strip.

If it wasn't for social distancing and masks over every face, you'd think the pandemic has passed some days here during the summer. Now that a new lockdown is underway in October (and possibly past the month), while the future for all may in many ways not look bright, the community here sure is. As this editor's written about the neighbourhood:"Verdun’s continued rallying cry of local flavours, sights and sounds in the face of uncertainty demonstrates how Montreal – and cities everywhere – can and will get through this."

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Now Montreal's Verdun borough joins the likes of Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York, Los Angeles' Downtown, Haut-Marais in Paris and the coolest neighbourhoods' #1 pick, Esquerra de l’Eixample in Barcelona.

Share your favorite Montreal neighborhoods and local spots with us via the #LoveLocal hashtag we're using around the world—and follow Time Out’s Love Local campaign as we celebrate and support the independent food, drink and culture venues that make our cities great.

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