The subtle breeze and sun kisses enveloped every inch of skin. At that exact moment, on that ledge atop Mont Royal, the city of Montreal stole my heart. Although the friendly and frequent French greetings of Bonjour and Bonsoir certainly helped, the atmosphere is what captivated me. Tally in great wine and the Quebecois genuine good-naturedness and you’ve got a recipe for pure enamorment.
Here are seven experiences that you must have while in Montreal:
Get Lost in Parc du Mont Royal
I stood atop Mont Royal, basked in the scenic view– Observed as the selfie sticks and cameras shot through the air, queue pouts and peace signs, and the impending #blessed tags. “Excusez-moi” came a high-pitched voice over my shoulder preceding a photo request, I deduced as she gestured at her camera. I snapped a couple of shots. “Merci beaucoup,” she said cheerfully before walking away.
I approached the ledge, the skyline beckoning, Downtown Montreal, and Vieux-Port de Montréal sat serenely beneath us, an untrodden mass of forestry sat in the rear.
This 764-foot hill is the work of New York Central Park co-designer Frederick Law Olmsted. Although his designs weren’t seen to fruition due to the country’s suffering from a depression in the mid-1870s, Parc du Mont Royal remains a huge attraction for tourists, cyclists, and dog walkers.
Street Art Browsing
A casual stroll through Le Plateau is where you will find some of Montreal’s most popular street art; works of social and political commentary. Le Plateau street art is where I learned about the city’s ongoing drug problem and how the community rallied to fix it. Tags scrawled in bold hues and some more artistic works, which indicated careful execution, were presented in alleyways and secluded passageways. Check out this handy Google Maps which pins locations for awesome street art.
The tidy streets of Montreal paint a stark contrast between the city and NYC. Beautiful homes, trees, and flowers lined Le Plateau streets. It was a beautiful day in Le Plateau– The sky beckoned between the gaps of the vine-covered townhouses as the fresh air filled my lungs, leaving me invigorated for the day ahead.
Like Mont Royal, La Fontaine Park was a brief commute from the Airbnb where I stayed. Grab a blanket and a good book and spend the day chilling out in the park, surrounded by an array of excellent restaurants and cafés to choose from if you get hungry.
Explore on Foot or Via Public Transit
Not only is this an economical alternative to cab fare, using public transit allows for an anthropological approach to your experience of the city. I invested in the 3-day pass and received access to buses and subways. The only time I used an Uber was for my Airbnb commute from the airport. Otherwise, I toured the city on foot. So be sure to pack some comfortable shoes!
Peruse Rich Architecture
Cobblestoned streets and the Gothic Revival beauty that is the Notre-Dame Basilica, adds to Montreal’s charming, European-inspired architecture that is in itself a reason to visit. From the Biosphére to Habitat 67, the controversial suburban sprawl that stands against an infinite blue sky, Montreal merges the old with the new in a sublime juxtaposition.
Hands down, Montreal has the best coffee I’ve ever tasted. The city is mostly known for its art, music scene, and poutine, but Montreal also offers an excellent coffee-culture. Montreal purveys many charming cafés. Keeping in mind that it’s polite to greet the locals in French, I ensured that I memorized my order. I went from café to café requesting un café chaud or un café glacé depending on what the weather was like. The decor varied from kitschy to modern and I couldn’t help but be reminded of some of my favorite Brooklyn hipster coffee shops.
It’s not difficult to discover Montreal’s love for wine. Restaurants and wine stores offer great tasting local wines, Burgundy, and Bordeaux at very reasonable prices.
On evenings you’ll be happy to discover Montreal’s vibrant nightlife where restaurants and bars are met by herds of peckish and gregarious, French-speaking people.
Explore Montreal Loves Carbs! And Wine!