Exploring Montreal Like a Local
Montreal is one of those cities where you can easily spend a week living life as a local, rather than as a tourist.
Cafés and bars, creative spaces, parks, outdoor café patios—these are all core to the daily life of a Montreal resident. A laid-back lifestyle filled with music, parties, and a love of the outdoors makes the city a superb destination for just hanging out and chilling.
If a relaxing time away from the crowds sounds like your ideal holiday, here are some great ways you can experience authentic Montreal living.
Head to the mountain
Mount Royal is small for a mountain, but absolutely huge on green space and Montrealers love it, because it’s their backyard.
Go and see the “tam tams,” a totally informal gathering of drummers and dancers who meet up at the huge statue at the foot of Mount Royal, weather-permitting, every Sunday. It’s a fun, hypnotic and totally peaceful gathering, where everyone, young and old, is welcome. Just a tiny way up the hill, you can watch scores of locals play out medieval battle scenes in all their foam-weaponed glory. The DIY gear and costumes are impressively creative! Later, climb the winding road to the top of the mountain and join picnickers, couples, families, and friends as they relax, enjoying the sun and scenery around Beaver Lake.
Take it outside
When the mercury climbs, Montrealers like to get out in the wide open spaces. On the southeast side of town, people like to bask on the banks of the Lachine Canal, or jog, bike, and roller skate along the scenic path that lines its shores. While there, stroll through the sculpture garden of the Musée plein air de Lachine, an open-air museum filled with interesting artwork.
One of the most common ways locals enjoy the great weather is by putting on a swimming costume, and then diving into one of the city’s public pools. If you have to pick one, the Aquatic Complex at Parc Jean Drapeau is a fan favorite.
For a great summertime stroll, check out the trendy Plateau and Mile End neighbourhoods. Their back alleys, or “ruelles” as they are called here, are filled with beautiful street art, hidden green spaces, and local parties.
Do brunch or coffee
Montreal has hundreds of great indie cafés, serving up espressos, cappuccinos or lattés to happy neighbourhood clients. No matter where you walk, you’re bound to bump into locals enjoying a hot cup of coffee, in places buzzing with conversation and ambiance.
Montrealers do brunch well and often, maybe because they’re recovering from the night before, or maybe because they love a lazy start to the weekend. Whatever the case, a leisurely brunch is not only delicious, but it gives you a great insider’s peek on life as Montrealers live it.
Meet up for drinks and music
Mingling and socialising are carved into the DNA of Montrealers. If you want to soak up the local scene, pubs, microbreweries, and wine bars are usually packed with diverse crowds from around the neighbourhood. Dieu du Ciel, Brasserie Réservoir, and Isle de Garde are just a few great options for sipping on a local brew in good company. For wine lovers, Pullman, Accords and Buvette Chez Simone are all reliable stops, while those who prefer champagne and bubbly usually convene at La Champagnerie.
And since Montreal is home to the world’s largest jazz festival, find out how this music genre moves us year-round at Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill, House of Jazz or Plateau darling Quai des Brumes. Montreal has been the breeding ground for many an indie band (Arcade Fire, anyone?) and its live music bars are excellent spots to tune into the ever-exciting local music scene. Check out Casa del Popolo, Sala Rossa, Café Campus/Petit Campus, Bar Le Ritz PDB or Fairmount Theatre to see what could very well be the next big thing.
Sip cocktails on an outdoor terrace
While similar to the aforementioned “meeting up for drinks,” the terrace scene is in a category of its own. The outdoor terrace, and its much-loved tradition of glass-clinking and chatting, holds a special place in Montrealers’ hearts.
Order your favorite cocktail, sip slowly, and people watch or join a random conversation—the local won’t mind. Tucked-away treasures like Boris Bistro, high perches like Terrasse Nelligan, FoodLab, Le Newtown, and the soon-to-be-open terrace of downtown’s spanking-new Renaissance Hotel are magnets for hip crowds and the start of a very long night.