The Quartier Latin of Paris is famous for its bohemian vibe, with students roaming cobblestone alleys in search of a cheap meal, a good book, or a café in which to while away the hours. But you don’t have to fly to France if you want to experience the same atmosphere. The area around the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) has a such similar feel that it’s been named after its Parisian counterpart.
Montreal’s Latin Quarter isn’t on the same scale as the one in Paris. Basically, it’s just Rue St. Denis, between UQAM and Rue Sherbrooke, a few blocks to the north. Wander too far from St. Denis, and you’re no longer in the “Latin Quarter.” It’s such a specific slice of the city, that it shouldn’t even be considered a real neighborhood.
But what a great slice it is. Although the definite highlight is Rue St. Denis with its crowded bars and restaurants, almost all of which have terraces in the summer, there are a couple other spots which merit attention.
First is the Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec (BAnQ), one of the most impressive libraries into which we’ve ever set foot. With five floors that store an insane collection of music, movies, magazines and books, it’s both massive and beautifully designed, and feels more like a museum than a library. One cool touch is the glass walls which allow you to watch a book’s journey from the “return slot,” through the library to an automated sorting station.
Near the BAnQ, we found the Cinémathèque Québécoise, which has been collecting and archiving world cinema for over fifty years, protecting it for future generations. Every day, they screen a few films, from newer art-house releases to classics you’ve probably never heard of. As an example of their eclecticism, two of the cycles showing during our visit were “Tango and Cinema” and “The Avant-Garde Mutes.”
We now turned our attention to Rue St. Denis, the heart of Montreal’s Latin Quarter, where almost every building is a restaurant, almost every restaurant has a terrace set up, and almost every terrace is completely full. With patience, we managed to grab seats at Cinko, where all of the plates are just five dollars… definitely a dining concept that must appeal to students.
After eating, we found a couple of cool bars that also seem geared to the younger generations. One was Arcade Montreal, with a bunch of old-school arcade games, but even better was the Randolph Pub, with its collection of over 1000 board games. In the evenings, this place gets packed to capacity, with people eager to disconnect from Facebook and interact with actual humans over a drink and a fun game.