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St-Viateur Bagel
Photograph: © Tourisme Montréal - Madore - Maude Chauvin

23 best things to do in Montreal's Mile End

The essential guide to the best things to do in the Mile End, the world-famous hipster haunt and bohemian borough

Written by
JP Karwacki
,
Audrey Carleton
&
Laura Osborne
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UPDATE, winter 2023: It may be small, but it has mega-swagger: With its restaurant rows, swank hangouts and a strong reputation for live entertainment in the city, the best things to do in the Mile End of Montreal are as many as they are varied. Making up the northern section of the grander borough of Plateau-Mont-Royal, it’s known as one of the city’s trendiest neighbourhoods thanks to its music venues and festival grounds; a bevy of cafés with the best coffee as well as some of the best bakeries; and tons of iconic food ranging from decades-old standard-bearers of the best bagels to long line-inducing ice cream and its own share of the best restaurants (see: the Mile End). It’s the combination of both new and old that make this such a fun neighbourhood an attraction worth visiting on a day trip or a night out.

RECOMMENDED:
Why 
Mile End ranks 5th coolest neighbourhood in the world
Full guide to the best things to do in Montreal

What to do in the Mile End

It's showtime
Photograph: Stacy Lee | Martha Wainwright | Ursa MTL

1. It's showtime

The Mile End is a great place if you’re looking for an intimate evening and a low-key live performance. The neighbourhood is a linchpin in the city’s indie arts scene with venues like Ursa MTL, Casa del Popolo—which serves coffee during the day before turning into a bustling bar at night—and Sala Rossa, as well as the basement spot La Sotterenea. All of these become go-to spots when the festival Suoni Per Il Popolo starts as well. Grab a drink at any of them and watch whatever’s on stage, from improv and sketch comedy to spoken word and musical act upon musical act.

Playtest a videogame
Photograph: Ubisoft

2. Playtest a videogame

This French video game developer’s massive headquarters can be found in the heart of the Mile End, and while its presence there has certainly been controversial, there’s no doubt that spending a day testing its games for a bit of extra cash is a blast. Sign up online to playtest on site and you’ll be added to a list to be called in whenever you’re needed. Have fun, make a few bucks, and—most importantly—have your say in how a videogame looks and feels before it reaches the market.

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Game, set, match
Photograph: @PINGPONGCLUBMONTREAL

3. Game, set, match

Ping Pong Club on Saint-Laurent Boulevard and Bernard Street pulls in hefty crowds on Friday and Saturday nights in part because of its finger foods and creative cocktails, but mostly because of its ping pong tables and assortment of other games. It’s a good place to devote a night to rather than simply stopping by; iit can be easy to get sucked into a table tennis tournament with your most competitive friends and, without realizing it, pass the hours away. If you’re in the mood to move, drink and win all in one night, this is the place to go.

Stroll through the back alleys
Photograph: Daphne Caron | Mile End

4. Stroll through the back alleys

A ‘ruelle verte’ in Montreal is a strip of the city that’s been converted from a drivable passageway into green space to cultivate a sense of community among residents and reduce the impact of cars within the urban landscape. While these little green locales are all over the city—estimated to take up about 69 kilometers of space in total—there are several in the Mile End that are definitely worth checking out. Stop by the short stretch behind Park Avenue between Saint-Joseph Street and Laurier Avenue, or venture just one block north to saunter between Laurier and Fairmount Avenues. Or just walk around with a coffee in hand keep an eye out for greenery; what you find may surprise you.

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Bagel hopping, carb crawling
Photograph: Greg Biskup / Local Montréal Tours

5. Bagel hopping, carb crawling

St-Viateur and Fairmount bagel shops are some of the oldest, most well-known establishments in the Mile End and both famously sell the same thing: Montreal-style bagels. The thin, sesame seed-covered doughy circles are a local delicacy and they’ve been supplying them across the city for decades now. Both bagel bakeries hand-roll and wood-fire their bagels, and both are open 24 hours every day. However, which has the upper hand despite these similarities remains up for debate and has been for years, so stop into both and try each one for yourself.

Thrift on through to the other side
Photograph: Citizen Vintage

6. Thrift on through to the other side

The Mile End is home to a plethora of well-curated vintage shops—making it a prime spot for some of the best shopping in Montreal—so it’s easy to spend a day bouncing between them. For some of the city’s best fashion finds, step into Citizen Vintage on Saintt-Laurent Boulevard, Annex Vintage at the corner of Saint-Viateur and Clark Street, or Local 23 on Bernard and Clark. It’s hard to go wrong with any of them.

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Stay 'til the curtains fall
Photograph: Renaud Robert / OuiSurf

7. Stay 'til the curtains fall

Designated as a National Historic Site of Canada, the Rialto Theatre has served the Mile End from its location on Park Avenue and Bernard Street since 1924. Its grandiose external architecture makes it hard to miss on its busy block of the Mile End, but its interior is even better. With intricate gold crown molding lining the ceiling and walls and red velvet curtains bordering the stage, it’s hard not to feel like you’re transported to another time when you visit this theatre. Stop in for live music, stand-up comedy and more.

Be a jeanius
Photograph: Jeans Jeans Jeans

8. Be a jeanius

One of the most popular jean warehouses in the city, Jeans Jeans Jeans is exactly what you think it is and going there is probably exactly how you’re imagining it to be. If you’re willing to wade through a literal sea of jeans and potentially long dressing room lines, this is probably the spot where you’ll find your new favourite pair. With the help of knowledgeable staff and tailors prepared to custom hem, rip or alter your jeans as necessary, this is where you go for an excellently fitting set of new duds.

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Stand in line for ice cream (that’s worth it)
Photograph: Alison Slattery

9. Stand in line for ice cream (that’s worth it)

Kem CoBa is hard to miss along Fairmount Avenue: The ice creamery often garners a line wrapping around the corner and down neighbouring Clark Street, made up of loyal patrons awaiting salted butter ice cream and colourful soft serves—that is, when it’s operating. Its doors are only open from April to September, as it’s closed during the colder months of the year when its owners travel to warmer climes abroad. When it is open, however, the flavours here are hands-down among the most supreme in the city.

Find your sweet spot
Photograph: Paul Shio

10. Find your sweet spot

There’s plenty to nosh on when it comes to grabbing sweets in the Mile End: Jeffrey Finkelstein’s Hof Kelsten has been known to be home of a strong contender for the city’s best croissants; the donut spot Bernie Beigne is worth dropping in for its old-style glazing window; Cheskie’s kosher offerings make it one the best bakeries in Montreal for its decadent array of rugelach, croissants, Danishes, cookies and more (the babka alone is one of the best desserts in town); and the highly-prized carbs of Guillaume are among the finer and more delicious wares to be had in the area.

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See a concert
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Théâtre Fairmount

11. See a concert

The intimate concert venue Théâtre Fairmount has hosted an eclectic range of indie acts like Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Kali Uchis and more since its opening in 2015. The venue’s stage is low to the ground, bringing performers close to the audience for a tight-knit experience. Those who are more familiar with the downtown core of Montreal may appreciate the venue’s history; the space was once occupied by Club Soda, another concert venue that has since relocated further south to the Quartier de Spectacles.

Hit the books
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Matthew B.

12. Hit the books

Two storefronts for graphic novel publisher Drawn & Quarterly can be found across the street from one another, one for children’s books and the other a book shop that’s absolutely worth stepping into and so hard to leave. While the store’s specialty is cartoons and comics—they sell everything from classic superhero tales to autobiographies and works of political commentary, all in illustration-form—it also houses a range of written works, too. This colourful, homey bookstore is responsible for turning tons of Montrealers into secret graphic novel fanatics and is a must-visit in the Mile End.

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Buongiorno, un caffè per favore
Photograph: Courtesy Café Olimpico

13. Buongiorno, un caffè per favore

Café Olimpico has been a landmark in the Mile End since it first opened in 1970. An authentic Italian-style coffee bar on Waverly and Saint-Viateur streets, it’s constantly bustling with loyal local visitors who flock for its fast and friendly service pumping out well-made espressos alongside an array of Italian pastries. Some say it’s got some of the best coffee in town, and we’re inclined to agree. During the summer, Olimpico is home to a spacious patio, making this a pleasant spot for sitting and socializing over a latte. Note that the cafe is cash-only—while it has an ATM in-house, it’s best to avoid last-minute fees by coming prepared.

Go boutique hunting
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Risa D./Darren Curtis - ActaeonPhoto.com

14. Go boutique hunting

If you’re looking for more upscale garb, Laurier Avenue is the place to go. The stretch of this trendy street between Querbes Avenue and Saint-Urbain Street is dotted with tiny clothing boutique, like MIMI & COCO, UCHUU Montréal, Boutique Three Hearts, and Vertes & Des Mures. It’s worth noting that most of the offerings on this street are on the high-end side, so if you’re looking to save a buck, window-shopping or sale rack-browsing might be the move. But don’t worry: There are so many shops to weed through along Laurier that it’ll make for a fun-filled afternoon no matter how much dough you spend.

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Stop and smell the flowers
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jet P.

15. Stop and smell the flowers

It’s nearly impossible to miss the florist Dragon Flowers when walking down Bernard Street. This Mile End institution has been open for nearly 30 years and is known in part for its exterior: Its storefront is decorated with dozens of hanging white birdcages. Owner Tamey Lau is both friendly and incredibly knowledgeable about plants, so it’s a great spot to grab a bouquet. Don’t forget to grab a photo on your way out; it’s one of the neighbourhood’s most Instagrammable locales.

Time for tea
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/David N.

16. Time for tea

In a neighbourhood rich with cafes and restaurants, drinking tea might not be the first thing you think of when searching for something to do, but the 1920s-themed Cardinal Tea Room is a necessary stop. Since opening in 2013, the vintage ceiling lamps, rose wallpaper and intricate ceiling tiles that make up its décor have garnered tons of attention for how it instantly transports you back a century. Sip on any number of classic teas like black, green or rooibos and munch on delicate finger foods in a classy, old-school environment.

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Dance like nobody's watching
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Datcha

17. Dance like nobody's watching

Datcha makes up one effortlessly cool nightlife destination on Laurier Avenue that’s worth a trip to Mile End on its own. If you’re early, bring your group to Bar Kabinet for caviar bumps and glasses of wine (or a cocktail or two) on its terrasse in the summer or cozied up in the winter, followed by stepping into its neighbour for a wild night of dancing to local DJs and—depending on the night of the week—an activity like jazz and tarot readings. A longstanding contendor for one of the best nightlife spots in the city, Datcha is the place to go if you’re looking for a wild night out

Sip local brews
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Stacie S.

18. Sip local brews

One of the city’s most popular places for the best beer in Montreal, Dieu du Ciel! is sure to show your group a good time. Stop by for a drink or five at any time between noon and 3 am; it’s just as fun to visit for a midday or happy hour drink as it is for a full, bubbly evening. Be warned that this spot often garners a long line, so plan your visit strategically. If you find yourself at the end of a long wait, stop by Siboire down the street, a casual watering hole with craft beers and down-able pub fare, like fries, pizza and tacos.

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Street art, skate park
Photograph: Luc Desjardins

19. Street art, skate park

If you’re looking to supply your Instagram with eye candy during your trip through the Mile End, the Van Horne Overpass is a must-visit. The passage underneath the stretch of highway marking the northernmost border of the neighbourhood is also home to an array of street art on every supporting pillar. Drop by with your camera to grab a great shot, or just relax while watching skaters hitting the ramps and pipes of the underpass’ skatepark, built in 2017 and said to be one of the largest of its kind in the city.

Take in open-air markets, shows and more
Photograph: Vivien Gaumand/@marchedespossibles

20. Take in open-air markets, shows and more

Entrepôt 77 remains one of the best open-air venues in the city, home to all kinds of events like Le Marché des Possibles and Puces POP pop-ups. Located at the border of the Mile End, its activities are concentrated around the middle of the summer every year with equal parts partying and family-friendly events full of snacks, beers and goods from local vendors and pop-up shops. Best of all, it’s free to get in most of the time, with only the odd blue moon event requiring a ticket. If your timing is right, you can catch a free film screening or musical performance.

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Walk through a street fair
Photograph: Jean-François LeBlanc

21. Walk through a street fair

Ring in the beginning of summer with the Mont-Royal Street Festival. This annual celebration turns one of the busiest commercial streets in the city into a pedestrian-only haven for snacking and shopping, with storeowners and small local businesses setting up tents along the road for sales. Keep an eye out for this annual event every May or June. You won’t want to miss it.

Host a retro game party
Photograph: Courtesy North Star Machines À Piastres

22. Host a retro game party

The Plateau barcade North Star Pinball—whose epic games are also spotted at Time Out Market Montréal downtown—remains one of the more idiosyncratic spots to grab a drink in Montreal because of its steady supply of pinball games that shift regularly, but that’s nothing compared to Arcade Mile-X Arcade. This spot is the source of North Star’s drawcard, as this BYOB spot capable of being entirely rented out supplied the bar with its games. Now, Arcade Mile-X Arcade and its 40+ arcade and pinball machines are available to be rented out all night long. Keep an eye on their socials as well, as they’ll sometimes host their own BYOB parties.

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Enjoy back-to-back festivals
Photograph: MAPP MTL / @mappmtl / Facebook

23. Enjoy back-to-back festivals

Due to its small geographic size, it’s hard to believe that Mile End could play host to hundreds of (big) festivals. There are surprisingly many and spread out evenly, and range from the culinary to the cultural: There’s the mid-summer Japanese festivities of YATAI MTL and Japan Week in June, POP Montreal main events that take place at the end of summer/beginning of fall, the projection art festival MAPP MTL in September, and early fall slurp splurge that is the Ramen Ramen Festival which features several of Mile End’s own soupy claims to fame.

What to eat in the Mile End

What to drink in the Mile End

More of the best things to do in Montreal

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