Montreal is one so many cities in one. There is the oldest bank in Canada, the Bank of Montreal at the heart of the old district. Jewish Montreal serves up bagels, sweet and flat, strange cousins to their New York cousins. On the St Helen’s Island, over one long bridge, an amusement park shares space with museums and concert venues. Basically, it has everything one might want for an exciting weekend get away.
1 Metropolitan Montreal is an archipelago
Montreal is a giant island in the middle of a river, approximately 10 times the size of Manhattan. The metropolitan region includes a few other islands. If you decide to go off the beaten track, a car is helpful. In the other parts of the metropolis parking is very easy. After all, Montreal might be way bigger than Manhattan, it is much less populated. If Montreal was populated at level of Manhattan, it would be home to 13.5 million people (which is more than the actual province of the whole province of Quebec and 13 times the actual population of Montreal).
2 Snack throughout the Day
There are so many delicacies in Montreal. Bagels, as mentioned above, are a Montreal specialty. We are pro-St. Viateur. The smell of the bagels, straight out the oven, is intoxicating. Then there is the smoked meat. Again, there is something specifically Montreal about it. We enjoyed the meat at the canonical Schwartzs but also very much enjoy Smoke Meat Pete (despite its ungrammatical title). And then there is Joe Beef. Basically, your heart cracked with every one of the bites mentioned above. So, don’t over do it. (Oh, I forgot to mention the Chinese dumplings and Korean Shabu Shabu…)
Poutine is not a snack–it is an experience. This spectacular concoction of french fries, cheese curds and gravy hails from the province of Quebec. In our last trip we decided to leave no poutine’s untasted. On our last day, after ten days with our cell phones rested on speed dial for our cardiologist, we were finally satiated. Montreal has all forms of poutine. We enjoy La Banquise for its family-friendly diner style. But, be warned. There is no way to eat what you will be inevitably tempted to order.
4 These Roads were Made for Walking
Alright, I am going to contradict myself. Montreal is small. That is to say, Old Montreal is small. As I said above, it is but a fraction of lived Montreal. Spend a day in old Montreal walking around. You can make it around the Old town very quickly, within an afternoon. We decided to do the turn twice, first hitting the architecture, and second ducking into shopping spots.
5 Visit During a Festival
There is seriously a festival every weekend of the summer. Music concerts consume the city throughout the summer. There are festivals of historical reenactments and festivals of anime characters. Many of the festivals are free or have a nominal fee. We were at the Stewart Museum last summer when we got to experience both an electronic music and metal music festival for free.
6 Hit the Market
Even if you are staying at the hotel, the food markets have some of the best the province produces right there waiting for you to sample. Taste some cheese. Get a box of alpine blueberries. Or just walk around with a cup of coffee in hand.
7 Take a hike
The Botanical Garden is a wonderful outdoor sanctuary filled with visitors and locals alike. There are numerous garden spaces, like the Japanese and Chinese Garden. There is also great family activities presented in French and English. Live music is featured throughout the year. Given the size of the Gardens, make sure that you take a water bottle.
8 Go High
Montreal is named for a mountain, more in name and than elevation, that occupies the center of the island. From the top of the mountain, as it were, one can see the city ahead of you. The Olympic stadium features prominently in the skyline. Most shocking, however, might be the army of raccoons who hold court at the viewing site. These masked terrorists attempt to trick treats out of tourists hands. They sit on the benches like furry weekenders, waving their hand-like paws. Hold on to your children; they will be fooled.
9 Do a little window shopping
Montreal is a great shopping town with enclaves full of boutiques. Even if you aren’t in the mood for acquiring goods, make sure to duck into the specialty shops. From those that specialize in Bento to handcrafted light fixtures, there is something for everyone.
10 Art is Everywhere
There are so many museums in this town. But, those aren’t the only place to enjoy art. Montreal has some wonderful street art. Duck down the alleys (it is also a very safe city :>) to see what the people’s artists have done to festoon the walls of the town.
This is the first post of a series about sites along the St. Lawrence seaway.