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From bustiers to a teddy bear: Gaultier at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
From bustiers to a teddy bear: Gaultier at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

What are some great off-the-beaten-path finds in Montreal? Add to ...

The Question: We want Montreal galleries, boutiques and bistros - but a bit off the beaten path. Suggestions?

If you've been there, and done that - Notre-Dame Basilica, Old Montreal, check, check - then consider one of the city's other vibrant neighbourhoods.

Take Little Italy, a short subway ride from the downtown hotels, which I checked out on a recent visit. Here at the Jean-Talon Market ( marchespublics-mtl.com/English/Jean-Talon) you can shop, mingle and eat (and stock up on edible souvenirs at Le Marché des Saveurs du Quebec, lemarchedessaveurs.com).

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The neighbourhood is also home to Quincaillerie Dante, part cooking store, part hunting shop run by a renowned mother-son-duo Stefano and Elena Faita; the Madonna della Difesa Church and the Milano supermarket. Make your way back along Saint-Laurent Boulevard, checking out the clothing, shoe stores and coffee shops along the way.

As for galleries, off-the-beaten-path comes to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts ( mmfa.qc.ca) with The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. It's a creative exhibit for the non-conformist couturier. There are countless fashion highlights as well as animated mannequins: One male model wearing a feather and corset-style bustier and tuxedo pants talks to his reflection in a mirror: "Men didn't always wear suits and ties … Think of samurais… and dandies." But a quieter revelation? Have a look at the Parisian designer's teddy bear, Nana. The exhibit runs until Oct. 2.

As for eating, why not skip the tourist bistros and follow the local lineups to F Bar ( fbar.ca), situated in a glass-style cubicle in the humming Quartier des Spectacles. F Bar is the latest offering from Carlos Ferreira of Ferreira Café fame, and it serves up his fresh market-meets-Portugal-inspired cuisine. (Try the signature halibut, arriving in a silver dish and served with raisin-parsley-almond condiment.) Or book for brunch at L'Arrivage Restaurant ( pacmuseum.qc.ca), perched in the Montreal Museum of Archeology and History. Chef Pierre Lavallée offers finely prepared and creative cuisine (blood-pudding crêpe anyone?) among the glass-encased artifacts. One exhibit, displaying wine bottles and a barrel spigot, describes the booming cabarets and inns of the city's past. "Moderation was not yet fashionable," it says. How very Montreal!

E-mail your travel questions to concierge@globeandmail.com.

Karan Smith is a former editor of Globe Travel.

 

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