To truly experience Montreal’s melting pot of cultures head to Chinatown. Dating back to the 1860s when Chinese immigrants went to Canada to work on the railroad and in the mines, the neighborhood has preserved its Asian culture for over 100 years. Walking the streets, it’s not uncommon to hear French, English, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin and other Asian dialects spoken on the same block. Moreover, Chinatown is where you’ll find a range of unique experiences you won’t find anywhere else in the city.
Conveniently, Montreal’s Chinatown is located in the city center, so you’ll be able to continue exploring. Enter on Saint Laurent Boulevard to walk through a traditional Chinese gate to get you in the right mindset. No trip to Chinatown would be complete without sampling the cuisine, especially as the food here tends not only to be delicious, but budget-friendly. At Qing Hua Chinatown (1019 St Laurent Boulevard) you’ll find a small menu of mainly soups and dumplings, but what they make they make to perfection. Mai Xiang Yuan (1084 Boulevard Saint-Laurent) is another recommendation, a treat for those who want to watch their Chinese food being made from scratch. If you’re craving Vietnamese, Pho Bac 97 (1016 Saint Laurent Boulevard) serves lemongrass chicken, Vietnamese beef, shrimp spring rolls and, of course, pho that won’t disappoint. Another interesting food experience is heading into one of the local grocery stores, as the foods are imported from China. It’s a great way see firsthand what they eat across the world and purchase some unusual snack foods for yourself.
After your meal, head to Dragon’s Beard Candy (52 Rue De La Gauchetiere Ouest), which sells an unusual handmade candy that was once only made during state banquets for the emperors of China. The sweet features sweet threads of sugar wrapped around an indulgent filling of peanut, chocolate, coconut and sesame. It’s the perfect way to explore ancient China through the tongue.
For those who want to shop on a budget, Chinatown is a great place to find bargains, although those who wear larger sizes in shoes and clothing may have a tough time finding something that fits. You’ll also find shops selling traditional handicrafts and herbs. Stop in Quoc Te (1024, boulevard St.-Laurent) to learn more about traditional Chinese remedies. In terms of health, Chinatown is home to a number of traditional spas and acupuncture offices.
Most of Montreal’s Chinatown can be found on and around La Gauchetière Street, Saint Urbain Street and Saint Lawrence Boulevard, between René Lévesque Boulevard and Viger Avenue. You can reach Chinatown via the Place-d'Armes Montreal metro station. Chinatown is especially worthwhile to visit during the summer weekends, when a section of La Gauchetière Street turns into an al fresco fair.