Childhood memories of summer nights in Montreal included family trips to the Big O (aka the 1976 Olympic Stadium) to watch the Expos baseball team with my dad, followed by the excitement of live music in the city’s underground and an incredible fashion show from the seats of one of the many patios in town. Everything from bikinis to bridal parties strolled by, enthralling my young imagination and inspiring my adult memories.
As Canada’s second largest city, Montreal is a cultural centre with a European feel. Did you know that Montreal is actually an island? Found at the confluence of the mighty St Lawrence and the Ottawa River, Old Montreal’s position on the shores of the St Lawrence has maintained it’s historic European feel while thriving as a hip, world class destination, loaded with cultural exhibits, trendy districts, fantastic boutiques and a joie de vivre that transcends the generations.
Planning a weekend in Montreal? There is something for everyone and you may well find that one weekend is not nearly enough! What does your Summer In Montreal Bucket List look like? Here are my top things to do in Montreal:
Patio Culture – what is summer if time is not spent on the patio, watching the world go by as you sip on your pre-dinner cocktail or beer? Known as the Cinq à sept (literally, “five to seven”), the 5 à 7 is a Quebec tradition – anglophiles may know it as “happy hour” or “wine and cheese”! Either way, relax and watch the world go by in one of Montreal’s many patios and bistros. Perhaps the wafting aromas of summertime grilling will tantalize your senses as sit atop the rooftop patio with views you have to see to believe at Terrasses Nelligan. Terrasses Bonsecour, also in Old Montreal, offers a great selection of drinks, including a water bar with waters from around the world!
Urban Beach – Montreal’s answer to summer, save some time to check out Clock Tower Beach. Walking distance from the cobbled streets of Old Montreal, this urban beach brings a vacation feel with its imported sand, parasols and summer bar. Perfect way to chill out after experiencing Montreal’s vibrant night life! Just remember – no swimming allowed at this urban oasis!
Nightlife – Montreal is famous for it! Sultry night of jazz, cutting edge electro and indie music, or live bands in the pub…the night is young and Montreal knows how to party! Looking for something a little different – the Royal Phoenix on Saint-Laurent Boulevard has an eclectic mix of life performances, stand up comedy nights and a Roller Derby Girl pillow fights! Say what???
Cobbled Streets of Old Montreal – Old (Vieux) Montreal underwent a renaissance in the 1980s with historic buildings transforming into trendy restaurants, fantastic bistros and art galleries showcasing the talent of the region. Throughout summer, the cobbled streets of Old Montreal also plays host to street artists, horse drawn carriages and glimpse back in time to 18th and 19th centuries. Take the time to stroll the cobbles at night as the magic of lighting glows at dusk against the old stone facades of this historic district.
Museums – Looking for a focus on Montreal – Pointe-à-Callière‘s Museum of History and Archaeology will take you back to where it all began – the birthplace of Montreal. For a comprehensive listing of museums in Montreal, visit the Montreal Museums site with fact sheets for each museum.
Biosphere - The architectural masterpiece that is the Biosphère was originally the United States pavilion during Expo 67. Found on Île Sainte-Hélène at Parc Jean-Drapeau, this unique site features exhibitions and activities with an environmental flair – get a better understanding of major environmental issues with interactive exhibits featuring water, air, climate change, biodiversity, sustainable development and responsible consumption.
Le Petit Navire – Take a cruise along the waterways of Old Montreal with a 45 minute cruise aboard Le Petit Navire. Cruises depart hourly from the Jaques Cartier Pier, sharing Montreal from a new angle. Be pampered by the friendly crew as you discover the charms of the Old Port of Montreal basins.
Bike Tours - Old PorDiscover Montreal’s beauty and charm on two wheels with Ca Roule Montreal. Choose from a variety of tour options including architectural, taste or the classic pulse of Quebec tour. This group really knows their stuff having won the Grand Prize from Tourism Quebec and certificates of excellence from Trip Advisor. Work up an an appetite in the sunshine…you won’t regret it!
Foodie Scene – The food scene in Montreal is so diverse, it warrants a post of its own! Whether looking for fine dining experiences, Parisian bistros or an opportunity to dive into the Poutine culture that has flourished in Quebec, Montreal has it all! And don’t forget those amazing Montreal bagels and smoked meat – both could be considered institutions of the Montreal culinary scene! To top it off – food trucks have joined the ranks of foodie choices in town, hitting the streets with a burgeoning popularity. And yes…there is an app for that! (Check the Montreal Food Truck App for locations).
Mural Festival – Street Art has taken over one of Montreal’s busiest districts with spectacular urban art that has injected life onto 20 buildings. While the Mural Festival itself ran from June 13 – 16, the works of art by local and international artists and have truly redefined Saint-Laurent Boulevard.
Local Markets – Spend Sunday at the market…Montreal has 2 famous markets to choose from! There multicultural flavours of Jean-Talon Market have been attracting big crowds for years. Check out the specialty shops that feature spices, oils, cheeses, meats and delicious pastries. Or, head out along the Lachine Canal to the Atwater Market, open since 1933. Grab a bixie bike in Montreal for a morning riding along the canal and a chance to sample the fine foods and horticultural products of the region!
Mont Royal – The jewel of Montreal, Mont Royal’s 200 hectare park is full of life and activity. Walk or bike your way to the top for the best views of Montreal. Looking for a special experience – summer afternoons on Mont Royal, you will find one of the most original musical events in Montreal – the “Tam Tam Jam”. The Sunday gatherings attract people of various backgrounds, and often dozens of tam-tam players perform their art at the same time. Montrealers and visitors alike have come to play music and dance or sit back and enjoy this free Sunday festival in the park.
What about you…what does your Summer In Montreal Bucket List look like?
- Montreal Bucket List – Unique winter experiences you have to try
- The Great Escape – Montreal Canada
- Mural Festival brings new life to Montreal
- Montreal Gazette – looking at the foodie industry
- The Famous Bagels of Montreal