Want to head to Montreal, Canada? Here are ten great tips that go beyond the traditional guidebook so you can explore Montreal a little differently.
1. For a beyond the guidebook experience, visit the Villeray neighborhood, which is where I live. Hop off at the Jean-Talon metro station (subway) on the orange line, and walk west toward the Jean-Talon market. Take some time to explore it, then buy produce for a picnic.
Continue west on Jean-Talon Street until you hit St-Laurent where you’ll turn right. Two streets north, you’ll find the Park Jarry, a beautiful park many people overlook. Stroll along and relax, eat what you bought and do some people watching. If you’re lucky, you’ll even see some slackliners and could join in on an outdoor yoga or karate class.
Once you’re done, take Villeray Street to the east. It’s a great little street to get a feel of the residential neighborhood. Stop for a coffee at Café Vito, have our traditional dish poutine at Frite Alors, have a drink at Miss Villeray, buy an original souvenir at the shop at the corner of Henri-Julien Street, grab a cupcake at Mlles Gâteaux or an awesome baklava at Pâtisserie Villeray. Continue your exploration of the neighborhood (Castelnau and Jarry streets are also interesting) or head back to the metro station by walking on St-Denis street.
2. For those wanting to experience local culture, you can’t get more local than visiting a coffee shop or sipping a cocktail on a terrace during the summer months. During a festival is also a great time to be in Montreal. We love to eat out with friends or escape the heat in our parks, so that’s a great way to go local. Rent a Bixi bike for the day and let your intuition guide you.
Poutine. Photo courtesy of Joe Shlabotnik.
3. For someone wanting a traditional meal, you HAVE to try poutine. It’s basically a meal consisting of fries covered in gravy and curd cheese. It’s not only for tourists, we love it and eat it too. There is also an ongoing “war” about the best poutine places as well as its birthplace, so everyone will have a different opinion about where to eat one. Most people agree the Banquise is the best place in Montreal for a true poutine fest!
4. For those wanting to partake in some adventure, one of the fun places to go is the Canal Lachine. You can stroll along the water or bike. It’s even possible for the bravest to surf in the rapids. A lot of locals go there and, although you need a little bit of previous experience, it’s possible to ride the waves for some afternoon fun. If you do like surfing, you can also do some interior surfing at Maeva Surf in Laval. There are also interior skydiving, climbing and trampoline centers that can be fun for a rainy day.
5. If you’re a backpacker or budget traveler heading to Montreal, know that our hostels are well rated, so they are a great place to sleep on the cheap. Save on transportation by buying a day or week pass. Montreal is easily walkable or cyclable too, so venture out. You’ll find interesting stuff along the way.
Produce markets are a great way to eat on a budget. Some prices are steep in more popular markets, but you’ll be able to sample products and chit-chat with the owners, which will transform eating into a full-on local experience. Grab bites here and there instead of having a 3 course meal. If you want to, remember most appetizers in restaurants are enough for a meal for most people, so you won’t need to order an entrée. A day on Mont-Royal or walking around near the Stadium are also ways to see the sights on the cheap, as they don’t require any money, but you’ll have some great photos to take home!
Parc Jarry. Photo courtesy of abdallah.
6. For those wanting to assimilate into local culture, learning a little bit of French will go a long way. Most people speak enough English to converse with you, but saying bonjour (good day), s’il-vous-plaît (please) and merci (thank you) will show your good intentions. Don’t forget to tip, as well. You may not be accustomed to it, but we have a 15 % tipping policy here (taxis, waiters, coffee shops, etc.).
7. For a local accommodation with character, try to find an apartment for rent on Airbnb. You know the ones with typical Montreal spiral staircases? Those are a great option. Sleep in a bed and breakfast to be able to interact with locals and not only tourists. Also, find a hostel or hotel out of the tourist zones.
8. To sip a drink paired with a beautiful view in Montreal, head to a terrace. We love having a drink outside in the summer months after so much cold weather. Here are some of my favorites. But beware, as in most cities, going for drinks isn’t a budget affair!
- Terraces Bonsecours in the Old Port
- Terrace du Labo Culinaire de la Société des arts technologiques
- Le Sainte-Élisabeth bar (interior garden though)
- Suite 701
- Bistro des Moulins
- Hôtel Nelligan’s rooftop terrace
- Café des Éclusiers
- And soooooo many more…
Craft cocktails. Photo courtesy of star5112.
9. To party like a local in Montreal, downtown Montreal has dozens of great places to go out. If you’re looking for more of a budget experience, try pubs and bars and stay away from streets like Crescent or Sainte-Catherine. If you want glamor, then business district has some chic places to explore!
10. For a must-experience day or weekend trip, Quebec City is only 2.5-hour bus ride away. During the fall
months, don’t miss heading north for some incredible colors in our forests. Go apple picking too! Just outside of Montreal (a subway ride away), Laval has great shopping malls, restaurants, parks and bike paths to explore.
Contributed by freelance writer Jennifer Doré Dallas, who is a blogger, backpacker, foodie and paparazzi who has traveled to 35+ countries.
Top photo credit: Downtown Montreal. Photo courtesy of bryanscott.