“The Main,” as St. Laurent Blvd is known to Montrealers, is not the longest street in the city, nor is it the oldest, but there is no better place to take the pulse of the bustling metropolis.
The Main, as St. Laurent is known to Montrealers, bisects the city both literally (addresses increase to the east and west from it) and figuratively as the divide between the English and French speaking communities of the city. In the April/May 1981 issue of Canadian Geographic, writer Jennifer Harper walks a portion of the Main from the Montreal harbour to the heart of downtown, a few blocks from where I lived for a few years, describing the street’s people, sights and sounds. [Read the full story here]
Reading Harper’s description of the city, it’s amazing how little has changed in 35 years. Walking St. Laurent you will pass through the dozens of cultures that make Montreal arguably the most culturally European city in North America. Within a few blocks you can visit Hungarian butchers, Portuguese chicken vendors and a Jewish tombstone carver’s yard. If you get hungry, a visit to Schwartz’s Deli for what many deem the best smoked meat in world will fill you up (just be ready to wait in line). Or, if you crave something sweet, cross the Main from Schwartz’s for an ice cream cone from Ripples, a shop Leonard Cohen is said to frequent when in his home city. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to indulge in some of the best shopping and nightlife in the city.
From the harbour on its south side to the Riviere des Prairies in the north, St. Laurent is, as Harper puts it, “the street of streets.”