A vibrant multi-cultural and bilingual (French/English) city, Montreal is known for its hospitality, food, fashion, and joie de vivre. It has much to offer to a variety of tourists and ex-pats, from sightseeing to savouring delicious cuisines. Experiencing the city like a true local is quite easy and usually involves walking, grabbing a coffee, eating, and having drinks with friends. Here are 5 tips should you crave the true Montrealer’s experience:
1. Hang out at a local coffee shop
With its large student population, Montreal loves its local coffee shops. Every neighbourhood has its own hidden gems, with their charming décor, inviting pastries, and ethically sourced coffee. Sip a perfect cup of café au lait, complemented by a warm, crispy croissant and sophisticated décor at one of these locals’ café favourites: Chez Milo & Fine (Petite Patrie), Tommy (Old Port), Crew Collective Café (Old Montreal), and La bête à pain (Ahuntsic and Griffintown).
2. Enjoy a 5 à 7 (cocktail hour)
A classic after-work tradition, the apéro in Montréal takes place from 5PM to 7PM. Grab a gin and tonic, or a locally crafted beer, at one of the city’s many bars and lounges. La Buvette chez Simone is always a good choice with its hip venue, delicious charcuterie platter and excellent drinks. For a cocktail and a panoramic view of the Old Port and the St. Lawrence River, head to Terrasse Nelligan, a rooftop patio at the chic Hotel Nelligan (named after a famous French-Canadian poet). Located in the former Canadian Fur Company warehouse, Bar Furco is the place to be after a long day at work in downtown Montreal. With its elegant, modern, and welcoming space, you will leave all your worries at work, while enjoying a selection of bio wines and delicious cocktails with your friends and coworkers.
3. Go Habs Go!
In Montreal, hockey is like a religion and everyone here is a fan of the Montreal Canadiens, the oldest hockey team in the world. With its 24 Stanley Cups, the Montreal Canadiens is the most decorated team in the National Hockey League (NHL). On game nights, you will find a great number of Montrealers -- who could not secure a ticket at the Bell Center -- in sport bars (such as La Cage aux Sports, Brutus, and La P’tite Grenouille) watching and cheering for their beloved hockey team.
4. Shop till you drop
As the third-largest center of clothing manufacturing in North America, it is no wonder that Montreal is a fashionable city. The typical Montreal style can be described as confident and creative, while carrying the roots of its multicultural origins. It is simultaneously North American and European, with a good portion of eclecticism, and combination of old and new, to stay on budget. The Mile End is home to some of Montreal’s best small boutiques of locally made and artisanal clothes. For a menswear store with great prices and style, try Frank + Oak, Matt & Nat for eco-friendly bags and accessories, Boutique 1861 for vintage-inspired affordable dresses, and La Montréalaise Atelier for a true Montreal-style, practical and unique clothing.
5. Stroll Around the City
Traffic in the city is unbearable and so are the many construction sites, as Montreal’s urban landscape is constantly evolving. Walking, biking, and taking the metro are your go-to modes of transportation. The city has a solid public transportation system, including BIXI, a bicycle sharing system. Montrealers walk around the city especially in the summer, fall, and spring as they are on hibernation mode during the snowy, cold winter. The best walking spots in city are situated in Old Montreal. With its cobblestone streets, neo-gothic architecture, many festivities, and the Old Port’s urban beach, Old Montreal is a great escape from the busy, modern, urban setting. In the evenings, Crescent Street in downtown Montreal lights up with its many restaurants, pubs, and nightclubs. There, under a beautiful mural illustrating Leonard Cohen, locals mingle with tourists, and the international celebrities who are in town filming their new productions at Mel’s Studios not far away. Finally, in the evening, Montrealers like to drive up to Mont-Royal’s belvedere, a coffee or the at hand, to watch the city’s urban lights fuse with the stars in the sky. Parked in the middle between the city and the sky, they discuss about life, hopes, dreams, and that new restaurant that just opened in Griffintown.