Weekend City Picks: Montréal
Arts & Entertainment
Get your culture fix all in one place in this hybrid venue that's a gallery, studio space, event venue and pop-up store all rolled into one. Showcasing the best of emerging Canadian talent, Phi Centre hosts weekly film screenings, regular art exhibitions and an impressive roster of international music acts in a sleek, modernist space.
Experience Montréal's vibrant street art scene at this gallery space and creative silkscreen print shop. Located in downtown Montréal and at the center of the Montréal MURAL festival, the gallery not only features many of Montréal’s best urban artists, but lets you take a piece of the city home with you with its extensive on-site print shop.
For a taste of old-world European elegance, feast your eyes upon this grand Gothic Revival basilica, outfitted with its Limoges stained glass windows from France that depict 350 years of Montréal's religious history. Built in 1829 on the site of an older and smaller church, Montréal's most famous landmark still attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year with its palatial interior, the famous Casavant organ and the Gros Bourdon, said to be the biggest bell in North America.
This impressive, multi-venue performing arts complex is the crème de la crème of Montréal's entertainment offerings. Akin to New York's Lincoln Center, the complex unites five performance spaces, including the Maison Symphonique de Montréal. It has two main performance arts spaces: Théâtre Maisonneuve, a nearly 1,500-seat modern-day rendition of a classical Italian theatre; Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, which hosts the city's opera company; and the smaller, 400-seat Cinquième Salle, for concerts and modern dance productions.
Food & Drink
Tucked away along a scruffy strip of The Main, this neighborhood gem is a critics’ favorite for its fresh take on locavore fare. The minimalist and intimate bistro continues to impress after a recent makeover and pairs Quebec ingredients and exotic touches with mouthwatering results.
As one of the hottest restaurants in Montréal, if not all of Canada, Joe Beef is a must-stop destination for any culinary traveler. Well-known for decadent, meaty dishes like the Foie Gras Double Down, this rustic gastropub boasts delicious lighter fare rooted in traditional French and Quebecois cuisine that you can enjoyal fresco in the outdoor garden.
Affectionately called PDC by Montréalers, this restaurant helped put Montréal on the culinary map with its fortifying food and gut-busting Quebecois staples. Enjoy the open-air dining room during the city's brief summer months, and try the famous canard en conserve (duck in a can) or the plateau of seafood.
Like their French ancestors, Montréalers take their artisanal boulangeries (bread bakeries) and pâtisseries (pastry shops) pretty seriously. No visit to Old Montréal would be complete without a buttery, flakey pastry in hand and a stop at Olive & Gourmando, the café that makes the best brownies in town and other delectable sweets.
The only way to truly get to know a city is to taste your way around it. As one of the largest and oldest farmers' markets still operating in North America, Jean-Talon brings together the best the city has to offer, whether it’s raw-milk cheese, fresh pastries or oysters shucked to order. It also serves up fantastic people-watching.
Experience living history at this museum, which rests upon a real-life archeological site in Old Montréal. On the very spot where the city was founded in 1642, parents can explore the lower level crypts where objects from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries were first discovered. Meanwhile kids can learn what it would have been like to live on a sailing ship from the interactive Pirates or Privateers exhibits.
One could spend days exploring the massive Space for Life complex, the iconic stadium constructed for the 1976 Summer Olympics that encapsulates four science and nature institutions. Start off with Montréal's Biodome, a realistic indoor display of ecosystems from around the world with all the live flora and fauna that inhabit them.
This state-of-the-art facility promises a futuristic experience unlike your typical star show theater. Grab a beanbag, look to the stars and enjoy an interactive program of captivating visuals and animated sounds that will delight little ones and kids-at-heart alike.
Get up close and personal with the St. Lawrence River's Lachine Rapids, and don't forget to bring a towel. This high adrenaline, jet boating experience is the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day down by the Old Port. The 75-minute boat ride splashes through the oncoming waves of the Lachine Rapids for a thrilling and unforgettable ride.
Work up a sweat and catch a bird's eye view of the city at the first urban acrobatic park in North America. Also known as Parc Exalto, it offers acrobatic adventure challenges for all ages and skill levels, featuring high-flying circuits, a soccer zone, mini-golf and an acro-bungee trampoline that will send you soaring.
Take advantage of the city's more challenging terrain and start your day with a walk, bike or snowshoe up the "Mountain." While technically a hill, it offers seven kilometers of gently graded scenic hiking, featuring a stunning lookout point and Beaver Lake, where you can skate or paddleboat depending on the season. Reward yourself with a flakey pastry from Au Kouign-Amann when you reach the top.
When it’s warm outside, Montréal is one of the best cities in the world for a bike ride. Using the Bixi bike-sharing system, visitors and locals can cruise along this dedicated bike path that winds along the Lachine Canal for around 30 km (round trip) and finishes at the Parc René-Levesque, which offers views of a marina, old churches and lighthouses in Lachine.
Taking a cue from fellow Montréal natives Cirque du Soleil, Ecole de Cirque de Verdun offers you the chance to learn some gravity-defying tricks of your own. Hone your acro-trampo skills, aerial techniques and juggling with balls, pins or rings all while getting a great workout.
While not renowned as a surf spot, Montréal is a surprisingly great place to surf, kayak and paddleboard without worrying about rough ocean waters. Kayak Sans Frontieres (KSF) is a one-of-a-kind water sports center that offers courses, equipment rental, discovery outings via kayak, river surfing and Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) and even yoga and fitness classes all while floating on the St. Lawrence River.
With its collection of over 22,000 plant species, ten conservatories and more than 20 thematic gardens spread out over 185 acres, this sprawling garden is recognized as one of the world's largest and offers a scenic year-round respite from the metropolis' downtown. Stroll through the Japanese Zen garden or learn about the principles of yin and yang in the Chinese Garden, then stay for cocktails and live jazz on the patio during the summer.
Travel back in time along the worn cobblestone streets of Vieux-Montréal. Download a walking tour or simply wander around this historic neighborhood where the city was born. Starting at the Place d’ Armes, opposite the Notre-Dame Basilica, observe the restored 18th- and 19th-century structures that now house shops, boutique hotels, galleries, cafes, bars and apartments and finish your tour at the Vieux-Port (Old Port).
As the retail landscape changes, this timeless department store still marches to the beat of its own in-store bagpiper. Reflecting the Scottish heritage of the city, Montréal's most famous piper marches around all five floors, every day at noon, surrounded by designer wares, exclusive French cosmetics and the massive chandeliers that define the store.
Sainte-Catherine Street is Montréal’s main commercial corridor, with everything from high-end department stores like the Bay, Simons and Birks to indie boutiques lining the street. Don't miss Canada's largest open-air sidewalk sale that takes place every July, and take a shopping break at a local café while listening to a local busker entertain the crowds.
Stretching through the Mile End and outer neighborhoods, this stylish strip teems with well-heeled shoppers and offers some of the best shopping boutiques and culinary experiences in the entire city. Shop for local up-and-coming designers at Une Ile En Amerique, snag some snazzy kitchenware at Les Touilleurs and bring something home for the kids at Enfants DesLongchamps.
A favorite e-retailer among the fashion set, this luxury store opened its two-story boutique in historic Old Montréal in December 2010. In addition to stocking designers such as 3.1 Phillip Lim, Alexander McQueen, Balmain, Comme des Garçons, Dsquared2, Jil Sander, Maison Martin Margiela and Yves Saint Laurent, Ssense also offers a special service where you can order products directly from its online shop for you to try on physically without the obligation to purchase. It's the best of both worlds.