A version of this article was first written for Tourisme Montreal
If you travel for food like I do, then you probably like to visit local markets. They’re always on my list of places to visit since they’re the most direct–and colourful!–way of going on a delectable tour of what the local culinary culture is all about. You will almost always discover new-to-you produce, unique local specialties and colourful characters to chat with. Montreal is no different and its markets are some of the best in North America. The Jean Talon Market is my corner store and I love visiting all year long. There are others throughout the city and below are some of my favourite Montreal public markets.
The Jean-Talon Market is one of the oldest and largest open-air markets in North America. It started out as a lacrosse field in the north part of Montréal. The city bought the land after the economic crash of 1929 in order to build a market and create jobs. The market–then called Marché du Nord–opened in 1933 and was mostly frequented by Greek, Italian, Vietnamese and Irish immigrants who would buy live poultry and meat on Fridays and Saturdays.
The Jean-Talon Market is located in the heart of the Little Italy neighbourhood and open year round. It counts 150 local fruit and vegetable vendors at the height of the season, between May and November. In addition to fruits and vegetables, you’ll find flower stalls, an SAQ (Quebec Alcohol Society), spice shops, butchers, cheese and fish mongers, a chocolate shop, an ice cream parlor, an Italian specialty store, pastry stores, artisanal bakeries, a health food store and an array of specialty shops, cafés and restaurants. It’s by far my favourite Montreal market and I actually moved to Villeray 10 years ago just to be close to it.
The Atwater Market was also established in 1933, in the southwest part of the city, just south of the downtown core. This market is famous for its tall clock tower and art deco architectural style, which makes it one of the most beautiful ones in North America. Open year round, it boast an interior space with many butchers and other specialty stores as well as vendors all around the main building selling fresh and seasonal produce, flowers, Christmas trees when in season or other local specialties. The market’s location along the Lachine Canal bike path makes it popular with summer bike riders who stop here for an ice cream cone or a quick lunch. If you do get the chance to have lunch there, stop by the seasonal Satay Brothers stall for one of the best Southeast Asian food in Montréal.
The Maisonneuve Market opened around 1910 in a beautiful Beaux Arts-style building in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood on the east side of Montréal. It was frequented by locals who flocked to the market to purchase produce from farmers, burchers and fishmongers. Much to the clients’ disappointment, the Maisonneuve Market was closed in the 60s, only to reopen in the 80s because of the pressure exercised by local citizens. In 1995, the market moved to its present location–a modern building–where locals continue to flock to shop for local ingredients from their favourite purveyors. Much smaller in size than the Jean Talon or Atwater markets, the Maisonneuve Market offers all the necessity of its larger counterparts including flowers, fruits, vegetables, meats, cheese, fish, baked goods and Quebec-specific products.
A newcomer to the market scene, Marché des éclusiers is located in Old Montreal and open from May to the end of November. A sustainable seafood stall, organic and local fruit and vegetable stalls, a butcher shop operated by Boucherie Lawrence, a coffee shop, a juice bar, a bakery and a pantry stocked with local dried goods, spices and dairy products are all part of what promises to be a great new addition to Montreal’s market scene. Marché des éclusiers will also count a wine bar serving local cheeses, wine and charcuteries and Diablos BBQ Smokehouse as part of their selected vendors.
There are several other, seasonal neighbourhood markets for you to explore. Click here to find out more about their locations and opening hours.