For people living in Toronto, the city of Montreal is a great little getaway. It’s a change of pace, the people speak a different language and bars stay open for an hour extra. For people traveling through, the place can seem a little dull. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great city to visit, but I believe it comes down to when you visit it in the year. Traveling at the end of September was probably not the best time to visit after hearing all these good things about it. There are things to do, but the city itself is creeping back into its cave and preparing for the hibernation of winter. The following guide will give you an insight of what we did in Montreal and a few suggestions of festivals over the summer.
The city is quite easy to navigate around and everything is relatively close, however if you need to go further afield or have tired legs, jump on the Metro. London has the Tube and New York has the Subway and in Montreal it’s known as the Metro. Tickets can be bought as a single or return. The return if purchased in advance can save you a little bit of money. From the city centre to the Olympic Park return will set you back $6. You will be given a pass that needs swiping on top of the turnstiles to enter.
As fun as riding the Metro is, try not to spend all of your time traveling to places underground. There is plenty to see on the surface. The Old Town architecture contrasts to the more modern style of houses and buildings. Walk through both the Old town and down some streets of the newer town. You might be able to find a surprising street lined with mini balconies and seasonal flowers. Located in the heart of Old town is the Notre Dame Basilica. It is an old catholic cathedral which allows visitors for an admission of $5 or a guided tour for $10.
After walking around the old town, head down towards the port and find Le Magasin General on Rue de La Commune. This is a quaint, little café/ knick knack store is a hidden gem of Montreal. First of all let me talk to you about the café side. Hidden in the décor is a sign reading ‘Best coffee in town’. This is a pretty big call to make and as a coffee snob it had some big expectations to uphold. Long and behold though, as I waited for the Cappuccino, my taste buds yearning for the taste of caffeine, the perfect cup of coffee arrived. The smooth taste was topped off with the perfect amount of foam. People in Toronto should take a lesson on how to make a great Cappuccino. Oh and by the way, the Nutella croissant was the perfect addition. Once you have dined, gravitate next door to have a look around the knick knacks. There are plenty of options of little souvenirs which don’t lean towards the tacky side.
If walking and the Metro is not for you, Dyad Bicycle rental offers tours. They also offer bike rental from $12 for 4 hours or $20 for 24 hours. If you don’t feel like tackling the streets by yourself, you can jump on one of three guided tours. 4 hours is a good amount of time to ride up to Mont Royal. This is an urban parkland overlooking the city centre of Montreal. It can be hard to imagine you are surrounded by trees knowing the city is only about 5-10 minutes away. If you find yourself visiting Toronto on the weekend, there is a group of drummers who meet at the George-Étienne Cartier Monument in Mount Royal Park. This is known as Tam Tams. About 300-400 people turn up, only a handful bring their drums, with most creating an audience for the musically talented. It starts about midday and continues until the sun sets.
After visiting Mont Royal, find your way to Atwater Markets. This is home to fresh fruit and Veg shops which is open daily from 7am. It is a bit out of town but if you don’t mind a walk, you can follow the canal which snakes its way back to the St Lawrence River. Allow around an hour to walk back through. There is a good path for both pedestrians and cyclists.
Montreal was the home of the 1976 summer Olympics and as with any city which hosts the games, a stadium and surrounding area is left over. The stadium is still in use and the adjacent buildings have now become a planetarium, sports museum and the Montreal Biodome. This is a kind of zoo showcasing animals from the tropics, Canadian region and colder climates. Adults are $19.95 and it will take about an hour to get through it all. The Olympic Park area is not the only place to check out. Head across to the small island of Ile Sainte-Helene. Here you will find the Biosphere. An exhibition dedicated to the environment. It cost $15 to enter but free to admire the architecture of the outer ball structure.
Summer seems to be the best time to visit Montreal. It is when the festivals are happening and the public spaces open up a lot more to the public. Here are some suggestions.
Maybe hit up Montreal for the month of July.
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