The French-speaking city of Montreal, Canada is a pretty phenomenal place to visit with its eclectic dining, neo-European atmosphere, art, culture, architecture and its open-minded attitude towards everyone including the LGBT community. Harmony is even part of the city’s slogan so feel free to be yourself when you visit. During our trip to this world-class city, I had an excellent opportunity to explore it and experienced what it had to offer.
Serendipitously, a friend of ours happen to visit the city at the same time as us so we explored a lot of the nightlife together. We spent a week in the city, and as a result, I explored many of the things which make the city such an amazing place to visit.
There are hundreds of things you could do in this city and I could list every single thing but we don’t have the time …and I don’t have the patience. This list is especially helpful if it’s your first time visiting the city. Of course, some of these items are not typical Montreal suggestions but it can be fun to shy away from what all the other tourists are doing. These were some of my favorite things I did while there and I feel the list will help you launch your own Montreal adventure.
1) Explore Old-Montreal.
You walk down old cobblestone streets and are surrounded by wonderful architecture that reminds you of a European city. Except you aren’t in Europe, you’re in North America. Montreal is known as a city that blends European and North American cultures and you can really gain an understanding of that in Old-Montreal. You can meander through its streets for hours but the best place to start is Saint-Paul Street. It’s filled with shops, restaurants, and souvenir shops. It’s also one of the most picturesque street in Old-Montreal.
2) Visit the Biodôme.
This institution is incredible. Housed in what use to be Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, the Biodôme replicates four ecosystems including their related animal and plant species. A lot of the facility is dedicated to animals commonly found in Canada. My favorite animals were the Puffins! In one section, birds are everywhere and it feels like you are walking in a real life situation. The Olympic Park also houses the Montreal Botanical Gardens which are phenomenal!
3) Shop at one of the markets.
Locals tend to do a bit of their shopping at markets and it’s a great way to see how life in the city really is and interact with locals. You can also try a lot of fruits, honey, maple syrup, and other foods while you are there. There are two main markets in Montreal; Jean Talon and Atwater. While we were there, we visited Jean Talon and it was such an awesome experience. Produce is arranged in perfectly symmetrical patterns and we snagged some delicious souvenirs such as cider, beer, and maple syrup.
4) Go to Mont-Royal
Mont-Royal is a must when visiting Montreal for the first time. It’s free and a lovely walk. There is also a bus that goes up if you are anti-walking. From the top, you have wonderful views of downtown Montreal as well as the mountains.
5) Eat some smoked meat.
Smoked meat is a staple in Montreal and with good reason, it’s delicious! When we Montreal, we thought it would be fun to visit Schwartz’s for smoked meat. We walked from Old Town to the restaurant and the line was infinitely long. I’m not the type of person to wait in a line too long for a meal recommended for tourists. We ended eating at the restaurant next door that time. Later we managed to another deli where we had a wonderful smoked meat sandwich…I think it was called Lester’s Deli.
6) Gaze at the street art.
One thing I loved about Montreal was the sheer quantity and quality of street art. Every wall around every corner had murals of some sort painted on them. Be sure to take notice of these things because many of the murals are just astounding.
7) Explore China Town.
We stayed at the Westin in Old-Montreal and our hotel was fairly close to the entrance of Chinatown. The area is not as big as Chinatown in New York City or Washington DC but it is still rather impressive. You can find interesting gift shops, grocery store, restaurants, and bakeries in this area. We ended up eating at a noodle shop, having pastries at a bakery, and then taking part in a short meditation session in the square.
8) Visit Basilique Notre-Dame.
As I’ve written many times before, one of my favorite things to do when I travel is to visit religious buildings. This church is quite impressive with its Gothic facades and beautiful chapel. It’s an imposing structure and well worth a visit. You can also see the giant organ inside the building. For us gays, it can be considered a place of pilgrimage as the dive, Celine Dion was married there. At Christmas the church is known for its light show too.
9) Have a bagel.
Montreal bagels are delicious. I think the bagels are boiled in honey water before they are baked which gives them a very distinct flavor. Just have one and you’ll see what I mean.
10) Walk around Le Village.
A lot of tourists refer to this section of the city as the Gay Village as it is, for all intents and purposes, the gay district of Montreal. Instantly recognizable by the strings of pink balls hanging over the street, this district is home to Montreal’s gay strip clubs, gay discotheques, gay bars, and gay bathhouses. It also boasts various retail and clothing shops catering to the gay community. If you are looking for gay culture, this is where you’ll find it.
Good times can be had by all!
So there you have it! Use this as a starting point and you’re bound to have an amazing time in Montreal. It’s probably one of my favorite trips we’ve taken thus far!