Hit The Streets of Montreal
It is hard to believe summer is nearly over. It's time for a last-minute memory maker for you and your kids. Hop in the car and head down to Montreal for incredible food, rich culture, an awesome vibe and a plethora of things to do. There is something going on day and night to fill your mind, body and nurture your soul. No matter if you're a Montreal veteran road-tripper or are a first-time visitor, you will be astounded by what the city has to offer. Montreal is quite the paradox, steeped in history and yet constantly in a state of renewal. The city is always brimming with new restaurants, new bars, incredible hotels and unique cultural experiences.
Walk This Way
The best way to explore Montreal during warmer weather is to hit the streets on foot, or on two wheels.
Hit of history
Technology has surely changed the way we travel. While unplugging with your kids is usually the preferred option, it isn't in this case. Explore Old Montreal like never before when you download the Montréal en Histoires app. This app takes you on a tour of the city. As you walk or bike around, you'll be introduced to a host of characters from Montreal's past and hear their stories. In the case of Leonard Cohen, hear his music as acrobats from Cirque du Soleil dance in a video projection on a clocktower on the water.
The soundtrack is available in four languages and the displays run from dusk to midnight until the end of August, with reduced hours from September – May. Staff are stationed at each stop to provide assistance.
Phenomenal doesn’t even begin to express the unbeatable glimpse into Montreal's architecture when you look up and around you. You will be in awe of the opulent buildings. What is amazing is that some of the historical sites have been transformed into cafés, restaurants or hotels all the while retaining their original beauty.
There is a mix of old and new everywhere. Centuries-old buildings, postmodern skyscrapers and public art pepper the streets of Old Port. The traditional feud between two of Montreal’s founding heritages (English and French) has resulted in fascinating architectural outcomes. In squares across Montreal, there are buildings that are steeped in French heritage (ie. the Notre Dame Basilica) juxtaposed with buildings infused with English heritage (across the square stands the former headquarters for the Bank of Montreal, a symbol of anglo power.) Place d’Armes is a must-see in the heart of Old Montreal. Be sure to check out the two statues in the square: the French Poodle and the English Pug.
If you are like myself and are not much for cycling, you may not notice it but Montreal has a fantastic bike route system throughout the city. Take advantage of it. If you don’t have a two-wheeler with you, head up to the bike/café rental shop, Spade and Palacio. They rent bikes that are appropriate for cyclists of all levels.
You can spin around town on your own but consider taking one of their tours. The Beyond the Bike Lanes tour takes you to secret hideaways where locals have taken over alleys and created ecological havens. Learn about the history of different neighbourhoods and the quirkiness that sets them apart. This is not a tourist trap. It is a glimpse at genuine Montreal by people who love their city. Beyond the Bike Lanes offer foot tours as well, so be sure to check out the Spade and Palacio website for what they have to offer.
Every summer artists from around the world come to paint masterpieces on the walls of buildings during the Mural International Public Art Festival. While the festival occurs in June, the artwork stays up for years which means you can see masterpieces from years ago. Some are outstanding, some eclectic and others are just plain out of this world. The festival is meant to celebrate the creativity and democratization of urban art.
It has been a real evolution from graffiti to art and it is such an amazing thing to see these larger-than-life paintings. Building facades become canvases and it is breathtaking. Your kids will love it. It is like an open-air museum where local and international artists have left their mark.
Hit the hay at the W. It is centrally located and hip While it attracts young, wealthy, eclectic clientele, it is reasonably priced for its location and still perfect for families.
Right from the time you walk into the W lobby, you instantly feel uber cool. The rooms are large, the amenities fantastic and the beds are dreamy. They have magnificent suites for families (a bit of a splurge of course) but the rooms are equally as perfect.
The hotel prides itself on providing outstanding customer care, and it excels at that. It will cater to your every whim. Don’t just believe me. Test them on it.
The gym is fantastic, so if you feel the need to burn off some calories or energy, you are covered.
Everything about Montreal is decadent and the joie de vivre extends to your coffee cup and plate.
Roam the streets from café to café for pastries and delectables. There is a vibrant café culture in the city waiting to be explored. Excellent coffee choices or espresso bars are tucked away in local neighbourhoods or located in the heart of downtown, such as the Crew Collective and Café.
There is no question it is one of the most beautiful cafés in the world. It's ornate features including the cathedral and gothic-style mosaic ceilings will take your breath away. Originally a bank, it now serves as a collective workspace and coffee shop.
Another coffee pit stop worth making is Tommy Café on Notre-Dame. It is a tropical coffee joint, which in August may not seem like a great attraction but it will in February. The lush, plant-filled interior is very ecologically kumbaya in its feel.
For more substantial food, try hitting McGill Street. It is like a foodie heaven where restaurant after restaurant line the street. Boris Bistro is amazing but the whole McGill Sreet is a food mecca.
While I am always wary of hotel bars and restaurants, W’s Nom Nom is fantastic. It has an Asian-inspired flare and serves exceptional dumpling dishes. The breakfast buffet has a Euro feel that is supremely satisfying. For something stronger, try one of Bartizen's Quebec gin concoctions.
Stuff to do
The museums and art galleries around Montreal are endless. One that the kids will get a kick out of (and truth be told so will you) is the free Barbie Expo. See Barbie and her pals dressed up in every kind of costume at the largest permanent Barbie Expo in the world.
If touring the streets isn't enough, take a ride on the Montreal Observation Wheel which offers an incredible view of the city. They are staples in major cities such as London, UK, Orlando, Las Vegas, Dubai, New York, Osaka and now, there is one in beautiful Montreal. They never disappoint.
Did you say Ziplining? Yes, ziplining in downtown Montreal may sound odd but kids love it. It is the first urban zipline circuit in Canada. MTL Zipline offers you a thrilling experience while discovering Montreal from a bird’s eye view.
Need more walking? Stroll along the Lachine Canal to the Atwater Market. The Lachine Canal runs 14.5 kilometers from the Old Port to Lake Saint-Louis. The Canal is more than an inland waterway. It is also an accessible urban park that is brimming with rich history.
The fact is this is just a peek at some of what Montreal has to offer. There is always something phenomenal going on!
Head to Montreal for a fantastic trip the whole family will enjoy!