10 Random Things To Do In Montreal
Here are ten tips on what to see and do in Quebec’s beautiful metropolis
Montreal is the largest city in the Canadian province of Quebec and one of the oldest cities in North America. It has a turbulent history of French and English occupation and has been torn between waves of separatist nationalism and finding its place within Canada. Montreal combines the adventurous concrete jungle of a North American city with lots of European flair. This city is one for foodies, bike enthusiasts, artists and francophiles. Here are ten things you should do if you find yourself in Quebec’s metropolis:
1. Enjoy the European flair of Vieux Montréal
The city was founded in 1642 and the city’s long history can be felt when you stroll through the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal. Wander along Saint-Paul and Notre-Dame Street and check out the Old Harbor, Bonsecours Market, the historic Hotel de Ville and the Place des Armes with the stunning Notre-Dame Basilica.
2. Practice your French
Whether you couchsurf, use Airbnb, are staying with friends or are just interacting with locals you randomly met in a bar, the chances are high that their preferred language is French. Montreal is the biggest city besides Paris where the dominant language is French so why not take the chance to brush up that high school French you have all but forgotten. Most people in Montreal speak English but I find it is always appreciated to try in the local language first.
3. Go to the markets
Montreal has several great markets where you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, cheese, meat, pastries – basically everything your inner foodie desires. During my stay I lived near Jean Talon Market and can recommend it wholeheartedly. Another great one is Atwater Market in Saint Henri.
4. Have a picnic in the park
Once you’ve stocked up on delicious treats head to one of Montreal’s many beautiful parks, for example Parc La Fontaine, Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park or Park Jarry and have a picnic. You can watch people play Frisbee, Ping Pong or Bocce and listen to someone jam on their string instrument of choice. Maybe you’ll even try to join in if you feel daring. Also, you might be able to catch one of the free concerts that are put on in the parks during the summertime.
5. Try Quebec’s signature dish poutine, join the discourse on Montreal vs. New York bagels … just eat as much excellent food as you can
Your food adventures don’t have to stop at the markets. Montrealers love great food and it shows. The choices are almost overwhelming. Montreal bagels for example are different from New York Bagels. They are a little more chewy and less salty than New York bagels and are baked in a wood fire oven. Try one with cream cheese and salmon at Fairmount Bagel and see which one you prefer.
Another thing to definitely try while in Montreal is Poutine. The concoction of fries, gravy and cheese curds is probably the most ugly looking signature dish of any place I have been to but that doesn’t take away from it’s yummy-ness. I especially recommend it for those 3 a.m. munchies or as a hangover cure. La Banquise is open 24 hours and has over 20 different versions of poutine. For a fancy treat check out Au Pied de Cochon. They offer a special Foie Gras poutine.
6. Take a bike ride along Canal de Lachine
Montreal was ranked the most bike friendly city in North America by the Copenhagen Index. There are so many bike lanes and a lot of people make use of them. The bike rental system Bixi has a ton of stations which you can find via the app Spotcycle. Rent a bike for $7 per day or $15 for three days and stay out in the sun from spring to fall instead of ducking away underground to take the metro. I recommend a ride along the Canal de Lachine.
7. Hang out at the Olympic Park
Take some time to explore the site of the 1976 summer olympics. The architecture of the Olympic Park still gives off a futuristic vibe. The park’s former velodrome has been turned into the Biodome which houses recreations of four different ecosystems found in the Americas. The Olympic Park is located right next to Montreal’s stunning Botanical Gardens.
8. Hike to the top of Mont Royal
The city gained it’s name from the big hill in its mid. The hill is a park and you can join bikers and joggers on their way to the top for an amazing view over the city from Kondiaronk Belvedere. Mont Royal also features the Mont Royal cemetery, a small man-made lake called Beaver Lake, a short ski slope, cross-country skiing trails, a sculpture garden and Smith House, an interpretive centre.
9. Explore the vintage shops in Mile End
Mile End is a trendy neighborhood in Montreal’s Plateau-Mont-Royal district. There are tons of little bars, restaurants and shops. It’s especially fun to rifle through the vintage collections of second hand shops like Lost and Found or Annex Vintage. Also check out Drawn and Quarterly, the bookstore belonging to the comic book company of the same name for some quirky reads.
10. Discover Montreals amazing street art
I am a big lover of graffiti and street art in general so whenever I go to a new city I keep out a special eye for it. There is a lot of great art scattered across the concrete and brick surfaces of Montreal, especially along Saint Laurent Boulevard which is also the site for Montreal’s annual Mural Festival.
In just a few short days Montreal has become one of the favorite places I’ve ever visited. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!