It may seem unlikely for a market that’s been welcoming its loyal customers for over 80 years to be considered a hidden gem, but that’s exactly what Montreal’s Atwater Market is. Unlike its more famous counterpart, the Jean Talon Market, the Atwater Market is virtually unknown to tourists. But it’s a cherished favorite of locals, who love its more approachable size as well as its diverse product offering. The market is located in Saint-Henri, a working-class neighborhood southwest of downtown Montreal -- just off the tourist maps -- that has enjoyed a rebirth over the last decade. New, upscale housing projects have transformed the area, and trendy restaurants and gourmet shops -- including critics’ favorite Joe Beef and Quebec’s first cupcake shop, Itsi Bitsi -- have brought new life to the streets surrounding the Atwater Market.
The Atwater Market is divided into two main areas. The interior market is home to dozens of merchants and gourmet shops split between two levels; it is particularly famous for its excellent butcher shops, which offer top-quality Quebec organic meat, wild game and meat products, such as fresh sausages, meat pies and housemade terrines. Other highlights of the interior market include:
- Fromagerie Atwater: Arguably one of the best places in Montreal to sample Quebec’s finest cheese delights, the Fromagerie offers an incredible selection of local cheeses, as well as cured meats, ready-to-eat dishes and locally brewed beers. The perfect place to stock up for a picnic.
- Boulangerie Première Moisson: The Boulangerie is a Montreal institution, with 18 bakeries scattered in and around the city. The Atwater Market’s location features a mouth-watering selection of fine cakes and desserts, excellent breads and French pastries, as well as sandwiches, quiches, fresh salads and daily hot dishes that customers can enjoy in the bakery’s sunny atrium.
- Le Vrac du Marché: Virtually all the nuts, dried fruits, legumes and candies you can think of are sold here in bulk, as well as a large selection of gourmet products from Quebec and around the world.
- Chocolats Geneviève Grandbois: One of Montreal’s finest chocolate makers offers an array of unique sweets. Chocolate-obsessed owner Geneviève Grandbois has studied in Belgium to master the art of creating intriguing and addicting flavors such as the extra-virgin chocolate, with a ganache center infused with peppery olive oil, or the maple chocolate, filled with maple butter and maple-caramelized pecans.
- Brûlerie aux Quatre-Vents: The perfect place to refuel after grocery shopping, this tiny coffee shop’s space is occupied mainly by a large roaster, which produces fragrant coffee beans on site daily. More tables are available outside the shop, in the market’s hallway.
While merchants inside the market are open year round, the exterior market changes with the seasons. During the late fall and winter, it is one of the best places to snag a beautiful, natural Christmas tree or stock up on maple products. When spring arrives, the exterior market becomes lively with flower and produce vendors, as well as popular seasonal restaurants. Locals line up early to enjoy the Satay Brothers’ finger-licking good Southeast Asian cuisine or Crêperie du Marché’s authentic sweet and savory buckwheat crêpes.
How to Get There
The market is located on Atwater Street, close to the Lionel-Groulx metro station. The Lachine Canal, a popular recreational area with a scenic bike path that connects the Old Port of Montreal to the Lachine Marina, is easily accessible from the market via a pedestrian bridge, making it the perfect spot to enjoy your gourmet purchases as a picnic.