A city as beautiful as Montreal probably doesn’t need another travel blogger gushing over it, but I’ve never been one for expectations, which means gushing shall ensue in this post. Montreal is a very unique city to the rest of Canada. There’s something about it, the mix of old and new, the prominence of art no matter where you turn your head, and the fact that food and music play such a large part in the lives of Montrealers has been making me think that this is where I’m meant to be. At least for a while. Unfortunately, that won’t happen anytime soon, so in the meantime, I’d like to write down 6 reasons I love Montreal.
1. Good Eats Montreal
Many people say you can taste the hard work and love that Montrealers put into every dish. Whether its from the baguettes at a local bakery, fresh vegetables from the Jean-Talon Market, a delicious late evening dinner at Van Horne or a 2:00a.m poutine at La Banquise. Montreal is jam packed with incredible restaurants, pubs, and deli’s. You could spend an entire summer in Montreal and barely scratch the surface of the Montreal food scene. While there are countless must-have eats in Montreal, I personally love walking down Rue Sainte-Denis or Saint-Laurent Boulevard with the sole purpose of throwing caution into the wind and trying something new out on a whim.
2. Montreal Culture
The fact that Montreal is the most well known bilingual city in Canada, and that housing and commerce mix seamlessly throughout all of downtown, encouraging a populated downtown feel, it’s no wonder Montreal is known to many as the cultural capitol of Canada. It truly is a unique city, different than all others in Canada. Besides being one of the most walkable cities in Canada, the city boasts a massive art & music scene that continues to showcase Canada as more than just hockey-loving lumberjacks. Did I mention Montreal (and Quebec in general) have escaped the draconian liqueur laws that the rest of Canada – excluding Newfoundland – have to deal with. Wander down to any corner store (or Dépanneur en français), and grab a case of beer or a bottle of wine. No questions asked. This is my type of city.
3. Montreal Tam-Tams
The Montreal Tam-Tams are something I came across this summer. Something I’d never heard about, but after being in the city for a few days, I kept hearing it from everyone I spoke to. “You have to see the Tam-Tams!” locals would proudly exclaim. Thousands of Montrealers gather each Sunday at the George-Étienne Cartier Monument in Mount Royal Park and proceed to start a massive drum & dance circle. If you can’t drum, you dance, and if you can’t dance, you smoke pot or have a beer, and if you don’t smoke or drink, you play frisbee or just people watch. It’s a mix of artists, hippies, stoners, musicians, and those young, and young at heart who gather to be a part of something during the summer.
Tam-Tam’s start around 1pm and continue until sunset. They’re free to the public, just show up and join in on the festivities. If drum circles aren’t really your thing, there’s also a DJ Booth setup for fans of electronic music, or if music in general isn’t your cup of tea, head back into the woods and watch the LARPers (Live Action Role Players) beat the crap out of one another with swords and shields.
Note: Drinking in public is technically illegal, so be careful. It’s sort of an unwritten law that nobody will rat you out at Tam Tams, just be sure to only bring cans, and don’t try to be the drunkest guy in the park. Also, pot isn’t legalized in Canada, no matter what anybody tells you. Just use common sense.
4. The Streets of Old Montreal
Walking around Old Montreal during lunch, or even better, at sunset is the perfect way to see why Montrealers are so proud of this magnificent city. Between the countless patios & restaurants, the fresh air, the open park space, the gentle breezes rolling off the Fleuve Saint-Laurent, or the steady buzz of people relaxing and talking, it’s easy to see why so many fall in love with this city.
5. Montreal is a Bike-friendly City
No Canadian city does bikes quite like Montreal. During the summer months, and even the winter months for many, bikes (or Les Vélos en français) are the best way to get around. If you’re just visiting the city, don’t worry, BIXI will have you covered. BIXI’s (which stand for Bike-Taxi) are located throughout the city, and with a quick swipe of your credit card you’ll be on your way with your very own bike. Return the BIXI to any of the countless BIXI stands and carry on with your day. It’s a great way of getting from “Point A” to “Point B”, while burning off a couple of extra calories. Bike paths are found nearly everywhere in Montreal, ensuring minimal interaction between bike and car.
6. The Multitude of Montreal Festivals
Montreal is a city filled with festivals. No matter what time of year, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re a music junkie, a fan of contemporary art, a sci-fi geek, a film-buff, Montreal can deliver. I was recently in Montreal for POP Montreal International Music Festival with 4 other travel bloggers, and managed to catch a few shows. With the ease of getting around by foot, bike, or public transportation, it’s easy to squeeze in countless awesome indie acts.
For the last couple of years I’ve been telling myself, “I’m going to live in Montreal someday“. Lately, I can’t help but think that might actually pan out. With each visit to Montreal, I find myself loving the city more and more. There’s so much to see and do in Montreal, I worry that I’m missing out on experiencing one of the most culturally diverse cities in Canada. In the meantime, I’ll just have to enjoy it from afar.
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For more on my adventures with the Explore Canada Cross-Canada Travel Bloggers, check out out Canada Keep Exploring! Special thanks to the folks at the CTC for giving us the opportunity to show us around two of Canada’s most vibrant and cultural cities.