The Gay Village Montreal has grown to love is known as “The Village” by the locals. It is the neighbourhood that runs along Sainte-Catherine St., east of Saint-Laurent Blvd. in the Ville-Marie borough. Technically, it is bordered by Rue Ontario E. to the north, to Rene-Levesque E. to the south, and from Rue St-Hubert to the west, to Papineau Avenue to the east.
In terms of area, Montreal’s Gay Village is the largest in all of Canada and the United States. Almost at its center is Metro Beaudry, Berri-UQAM Metro in the west and the Papineau station in the east, making it easy to access from all over Montreal.
The Village is a lively neighbourhood rich with bars and restaurants. In fact, there are over 80 places in which to dine, drink or be entertained!
Montreal has always been a progressive city that’s ever-evolving. The Gay Village, for instance, just a couple of decades ago, was one of the roughest places in the city. It was the “red light” district swarming with prostitutes on every street corner and people shooting drugs openly in public. Being mugged in this area wasn’t uncommon either. What was once the poor working-class area of town eventually got the attention of the gay and lesbian community, when various gay businesses opened up shop in the area.
This migration led to the most beautiful transformation an area could ever undergo. The neighbourhood that no one ever wanted to accidentally wind up in is now a Montreal attraction. Its metamorphosis is thanks in part to the different levels of government who’ve invested and promoted to resuscitate it. The new generation of gays that moved to the Village in the 80s also breathed new life into the neighbourhood.
Le Village (the Village in French), is now home to Montreal’s largest LGBT community and draws crowds from every walk of life.
Fact: did you know that the first-ever North American gay establishment (recorded) was right here in Montreal? It was Moise Tellier who operated an apple and cake shop in 1869, on what is now known as Saint Antoine Street.
History of The Gay Community in Montreal
By the 1970s, there were openly gay businesses in Old Montreal, on The Main, and in Downtown Montreal.
Unfortunately, there was also repression, especially when worldly events came to Montreal, such as the Expo 67 World’s Fair as well the Olympics in 1976. To “clean up Montreal” so that it appears perfect on the world stage, all kinds of businesses owned by gays or lesbians were closed, and some owners were even arrested.
The harassment and repression eventually led to the formation of the Gay Coalition Against Repression who held the biggest gay demonstration in the country on July 19, 1976, two days into the Montreal Olympic Games!
When Montreal’s Gay Village was developing, it was called “the East Village.” It got its name in an ad placed by a famous club owner who had lived in Manhattan previously. He tried to mirror the vibrant, gay community of the East Village in New York City. This name also served another purpose: it distinguished it from the other gay areas in town. Not long after, it simply became known as “The Village,” and it drew most businesses away from those other areas, making it the main gay district in the city.
The Village was bursting at the seams by the 90s, growing stronger and more successful each year, which led to its expansion along Amherst Street. Numerous antique shops left the area, leading to more gay-owned businesses opening. Change was in the air!
The Village was thriving and was accepted politically, and by heterosexuals. The entire district was growing more attractive, with buildings undergoing major face lifts, making it an appealing place for all Montrealers to visit.
The Village is the heart and soul of the LGBT community of Montreal and is celebrated each summer as Sainte-Catherine St. transforms into a pedestrian street, with a canopy of multi-coloured balls strung overhead from spring to the end of summer.
A visit to the Gay Village in Montreal is a must for anyone, tourist or native, for that matter. There’s delicious food no matter what your taste buds desire to be enjoyed inside tastefully decorated restaurants and bistros, or in the fresh air on the outdoor terraces (and there’s lots of them).
The LGBT community also hosts one of the most colourful, vibrant parades each year, known as Montreal Pride.
An In-Depth Look at the Gay Village Montreal
Enjoy drinks, coffee, or dine on one of the many outdoor terraces of popular, and tasteful bars, cafes, and restaurants in the Village when the weather warms up. Try Le Saloon, a bistro bar that has been offering great Canadian food with a relaxing atmosphere for 25 years, located at 1333 Rue Sainte-Catherine Est.
If you prefer seafood or French cuisine then you have to head over to Kitchenette Montréal, located at 1353 Boul. René-Levesque Est. But, you’ll need reservations at this incredible spot where you’re just about guaranteed a friendly staff and a delicious 5-course sophisticated meal for a steal!
If you’re in the mood for Japanese or Chinese food, then Uchi is the place for you. You’ll find this gem over at 1799 Amherst Street. The pleasant staff and the atmosphere are a bonus to the delicious food served at Uchi, whether you choose sushi or szechuan. It’s a great spot for lunch, and you can bring your own wine. After enjoying your meal, stroll along Amherst Street which is renowned for its antiques shops and lovely boutiques.
These are just a few examples of the more than 80 dining venues in the Village, so get out there and enjoy Montreal. Stay into the night and experience the lively club scene. There are so many things to do in the Gay Village, including shopping and numerous events. Hotels in the neighbourhood can accommodate tourists and Montrealers who take the time to really explore their city.