By Amanda Little
Montreal is a Canadian city that is remarkably European styled, with breathtaking architecture, majestic museums, tempting restaurants, lively parks, charming cafes and more. The people are friendly and fashion forward, and mainly speak French! There’s so much to explore here, but first:
Find Your Transportation
While walking Montreal is possible, it's also limiting. Zipping around on a rented bike is probably the best way to see the sights the beautiful city has to offer. Renting a car is also a possibility, but if you’re looking to get into the local culture, explore some of the 310 miles of bike lanes racing across the city. Stop by a Bixi station to pick out of a 5,000 strong fleet of gray-and red bikes. At just 5 Canadian dollars ($3.90) for 24 hours, it’s also among the cheapest.
1. Join the chorus on the Musical Mile
While picky music fans have moved on, there is still no visiting the Mile End district without some live entertainment. Visit the places popular bands like Arcade Fire got their start, wander through bars and open spaces where up and coming bands still perform, and join in the fun. Visit Divan Orange for smaller crowds, but those looking for bigger entertainment can go to Il Motore. If you want to know who’s playing, pick up either Mirror or Hour, both of which are free weeklies discussing art, music, and performances.
2. Explore Old Montreal
Wander across history-rich cobblestones along lines of indie boutiques for some of the best shopping in Montreal. Pick up trendy pieces from homegrown designers, shop through painstakingly crafted ceramic houseware, and seek out that statement piece that will garner attention and compliments at your next social outing. But if you’d like to take a break from shopping, you could explore the history and galleries in the area. Explore DHC Art, one of the leading contemporary art museums, the 17th century Notre-Dame Basilica, Montreal’s Science Center, or the Museum of Archaeology and History.
3. Stroll through many markets
Montreal has a stunning market scene, both open air and closed, that offers a variety of tasty friuts, local delacicies, and endless maple products. Visit the most well-known of them all, Jean-Talon, to get an understanding of the vibrant market life, or head to Atwater for a local vibe. If you haven't seen Old Montreal yet, be sure to stop by and explore the unique shopping experience of Bonsecours Market as well!
4. Dig into local dishes
From poutine to foie gras, Montreal serves up outstanding street food or fine dining with flair. Stop by cozy local haunts for calorie-heavy poutine, visit five-star restaurants for fine dining experiences, and explore everything in between. There are tons of meat-centric places to grab a bite, but some will surprise you, like Mckiernan, which has its own organic garden. Pick out boutique restaurants serving up dishes on hardwood cutting boards, revel into high-end tapas with unusual side dishes like venison tartare, or just pick out the best smelling street vendor and dig in. Don’t let looks fool you in Montreal; sometimes the food served up in tin baskets or wrapped in red-checkered paper is the best you’ll eat.
5. Don’t forget dessert
Montreal is known for having a marvelously tasty chocolate scene. Wander past fancy chocolatiers and locally-owned chocolate shops and do your best not to enter every single one. Pick out a sweet treat to have on the spot or take home with you! If you’re visiting in warmer months, be sure to stop in at one of the equally countless ice cream shops, offering varieties of flavors beyond imagination.
6. Shop 'til you drop
Wander along the charming Rue Amherst, lined with design shops and boutiques, and search among it all for the treasures they hold. This tiny niche area is packed with hidden treasures if you’re willing to look for them! Or, head up to St. Laurent and explore the Plateau neighborhood, filled with boutique shops, charming stores, and trendy, chatty people.
7. Get in touch with nature
Visiting the beautiful Olympic Park is a perfect way to spend a day outdoors. Get a feel for local wildlife, explore the Biodome, the Insectarium, and the Botanical Garden with over 22,000 different species of flora! Or you could visit Mount Royal Park, one of the largest parks in the city. Stroll along the green until you come to the park’s namesake, Mount Royal, the nearly 800-foot mountain that erupts from the middle of the city. Aside from hiking, visitors can go cycling, skating, picnicking, tobogganing, and more.
8. Party the night away
Pack your dance shoes and light up flower crowns, because Montreal is nearly overrun with Euro-style techno music. The coolest parties around all feature electronic artists and digital music, at both indoor and outdoor venues. Check out popular places like Neon and Le Belmont Sur Le Boulevard to rave with the crowds, or sit in at Velvet Speakeasy for a more low-key vibe. If you’re visiting during the summer, join the fun at Saint Helen’s Island where ravers are barefoot, sporting tattoos and piercings, and throwing the biggest bash of the summer thanks to Piknic Electronik.