Author Topic: Things to do in Montreal?  (Read 5393 times)

simonsez

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Things to do in Montreal?
« on: December 09, 2013, 09:53:50 AM »
My best friend's fiancee won a sales contest at work and that means we (wife and I + other couple) have a partially expenses paid for trip to Montreal.  Due to American Airlines "free" ticket vouchers being a pain in the ass and my refusal to upgrade and pay hundreds of dollars, we are arriving a day prior and staying a day later than our friends and will have time to explore on our own.  So, any good hikes or strolls or parks or museums (or anything) worth doing?  I'm open for things to do for 2 people, 4 people, guy stuff, and gal stuff.  We are staying downtown in a small apartment.  We will have a rental car for 1 day out of the 6 we are there.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!


yyc-phil

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Re: Things to do in Montreal?
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2013, 10:08:05 AM »
Congrats, you will enjoy Montreal, a very cosmopolitan town and probably the most European city in North America. You don't say (or I didn't see...) when you plan to go. Summer is the season of festivals and the best time to enjoy the city, its parks, sights, cafés-terrasses, etc. In the summer, the Jazz Festival is really fantastic, and so is the Just for Laughs, with lots of free events in outdoor locations. The obvious places to check out are the Old Montreal and Old Port and the old buildings, museums, restaurants (some in Old Montreal feature Québécois chansonniers), the underground city network and very efficient subway system (get yourself a bus pass depending on how long you are staying. These passes are also valid on the P.-E. Trudeau Airport/Downtown shuttle #747), the cafés on St-Denis street, the Parc du Mont-Royal, museums such as Musée de la Pointe-à-Callières in Old Montreal, etc. For the real Montreal shopping experience, walk the entire Ste-Catherine street from Atwater to the west, to St-Denis and further to the east. If you like the bar scene, head to the Stanley street area. If you are going in winter, make sure you dress for the weather (it feels much colder than what the thermometre says), with good shoes that can withstand cold, salt and slush. PM me if you have specific questions.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2013, 10:10:12 AM by ykphil »

gimp

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Re: Things to do in Montreal?
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2013, 10:25:48 AM »
Montreal is a pretty good city. In the summer it's a huge block party, but you're going in the winter.

Okay, so.

You want to see the river. You want to walk along the river. It's beautiful. Bit cold, though, so dress warm. You might see some fighter jets doing exercises. I also really like the grain silos; they don't look big until you start getting close, at which point you appreciate that most of the grain in north america used to flow through them. I really like massive industrial complexes, but you might not.

Next is old montreal. Go there. Wander, wander, wander. Also see the old fort.

Museums. Yes, they are everywhere and for good reason. Find one that you like and go to it, and maybe a second. You want art? There's art. There are others that are more historical.

I didn't actually much care for the underground system but you might.

Then there are parks. Bit chilly in the winter, but very pretty nonetheless.

Music? Should be.

Bars can be really good. Just look some good ones up on Yelp. I went to a great one; good beer, lots of it, and inexpensive.

Similarly, french cafes. I don't know if that's your thing, and along with bars we're veering into money-spending territory, but I think french cafes can be excellent.

And of course, make sure you go somewhere for a proper steak; the french really know their stuff. French food in general is simply excellent.

Now, for any of the money-spendy activities - bars, cafes, restaurants - be careful to avoid tourist traps. You want little, out-of-the-way places. Tourist traps will be overpriced and bland.

Rachelocity

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Re: Things to do in Montreal?
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2013, 10:39:21 AM »
First, the obvious:  Mount Royal!   My suggestion is to buy plastic roll-up toboggans at Dollarama and go sledding (the best hill is at the corner of Avenue du Parc and Mont Royal).  Bring adequate clothes, and you'll be fine.  If you want something to do indoors, there's the Underground City, which, if you ask directions, is actually a term used primarily by tourists.  It's a bunch of tunnels connecting malls with near-identical stores and slightly-varying food courts, but out-of-towners are always impressed.  The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has an exhibit on Venice that looks wonderful.  There's also the Biodome, the Olympic Stadium, the Cosmodome, etc.  Old Montreal is very pretty.  But all of this is typical stuff which may not interest you at all. 

Since you will have the car for one day, my suggestion is that you take a drive to the Laurentians and eat at http://www.aupetitpoucet.com/.  It's traditional Quebecois food, a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the portions are ginormous!  Check out the prices on the STM website before deciding what kind of bus pass to buy.  They also offer discounts (http://www.stm.info/en/offers-and-outings/Merci-program/merci-holiday-coupons) on certain attractions such as the McCord Museum.

Check out meetup.com for the Urban Hikers club, which has walking tours for a nominal fee on Saturday mornings.  You'll learn a lot about the city.  There's also the possibility of a get-together with the 5-6 MMM MTL peeps such as myself, but obviously a picnic will not be on the agenda at this time of year! 

ETA that, depending on when you go, you may be able to catch my son's band.  Assuming you like alternative hardcore punk music, that is :-) [/shameless plug]  They're good, they play at places with interesting beers on tap, and I'm usually at their shows. 
« Last Edit: December 09, 2013, 10:42:57 AM by Rachelocity »

huadpe

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Re: Things to do in Montreal?
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2013, 10:56:48 AM »
Most of the people have you covered here re: attractions.  I just want to emphasize that you need to dress -really- warm if you're gonna be out walking all day in winter.  My usual when I was at McGill was sweatpants under jeans, t-shirt+sweatshirt+winter jacket, hat, gloves, scarf. 

Disregard this totally if you are going in Spring/Summer, but keep in mind that March will still be pretty wintry there.

gimp

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Re: Things to do in Montreal?
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2013, 11:06:28 AM »
Most of the people have you covered here re: attractions.  I just want to emphasize that you need to dress -really- warm if you're gonna be out walking all day in winter.  My usual when I was at McGill was sweatpants under jeans, t-shirt+sweatshirt+winter jacket, hat, gloves, scarf. 

Disregard this totally if you are going in Spring/Summer, but keep in mind that March will still be pretty wintry there.

Agreed. Assume it'll be -10F or even a bit colder. If you're a little overdressed, you can fix that; if you're underdressed, not so much.  And assume that you need to stay comfortable for 2-3 hours at a time in that weather. It's actually usually warmer than that but again, it pays to be prepared.

Sure, you have a warm coat and warm pants. But there are two things that people like to forget: feet and hands. You want warm shoes and warm socks; wool socks are good. And you want warm gloves. The extremities will be cold first. Don't forget about them.

simonsez

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Re: Things to do in Montreal?
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2013, 11:14:07 AM »
Sorry!  Forgot to mention I will be there this Wednesday, December 11th to Tuesday the 17th.  We have the car partially because we are heading up to Mont Tremblant to ski for the day, so we should have plenty of warm clothing packed already in our planning for this trip.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2013, 11:19:37 AM by simonsez »

Khao

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Re: Things to do in Montreal?
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2013, 11:37:20 AM »
No one mentioned the Quartier Des Spectacles yet, but you HAVE to go there! In the summer, this is where all the festivals are and it's basically a party 24/7. Even if it's less busy during the winter, there are always interactive art exhibits. Starting this week up to February 2nd, there's an exhibit called Luminotherapy, you can see the website about it here : http://www.quartierdesspectacles.com/en/luminotherapy/ with a map showing all the places you can go to see the exhibit. Also I think the architecture over there is really cool and it's a fun place to go to for a walk. One of the exhibits that's a blast (but that's only available during summer I think) is called 21 swings. It's basically swings with interactive light and sound. Here's a video of it in action : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Llmq2hYWXHo

Gerard

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Re: Things to do in Montreal?
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2013, 07:19:07 PM »
In some funny ways, Montreal's actually a better city to live in than to visit... a lot of its pleasures only become obvious after a while (e.g., food culture, bike culture, live for today culture). If you can walk through a not-too-touristy section, you'll get a bit of a feel for it. Maybe up St-Laurent from about Mont-Royal or St-Joseph to Saint-Viateur, turn left on St-V and walk to Av. du Parc, left on Park to Laurier, left on Laurier back to St-Laurent. Turn down a side street whenever you feel like it, stop in for a coffee or a bagel (http://www.stviateurbagel.com/bakeries-and-cafes/St-Viateur_Bagel_Shop) or a calzone (http://www.yelp.com/biz/patisserie-and-boulangerie-clarke-montreal-2)or a spanakopita or a beer or five (at Dieu Du Ciel, maybe: http://www.dieuduciel.com/en/home.php).

And I second previous suggestions to wander around Old Montreal!

Capsu78

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Re: Things to do in Montreal?
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2013, 08:51:10 AM »
And some of the best cheese fondue that I have had outside of Holland... perfect for a winter night.

yyc-phil

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Re: Things to do in Montreal?
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2013, 09:00:30 AM »
And some of the best cheese fondue that I have had outside of Holland... perfect for a winter night.

This might be the start of a war between Holland and Switzerland...Luckily, we all know that cheese fondue is indeed French, and the war will be avoided :D

Rachelocity

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Re: Things to do in Montreal?
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2013, 09:05:41 AM »
For a "food experience" which could include chocolate fondue,  Juliette et Chocolat is hard to beat!

ScienceSexSavings

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Re: Things to do in Montreal?
« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2013, 09:13:20 PM »
Definitely try Dieu du Ciel beer, St Viateur bagels and Queue de Cochon meats!

simonsez

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Re: Things to do in Montreal?
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2013, 08:47:47 AM »
Just got back from Montreal yesterday, and thanks for the suggestions everyone!

Here are some more details for those that may be curious:

4 of us stayed in an apartment we found on VRBO for $100/night.  It was a nice 2 BR with in-unit washer/dryer, full kitchen, and wifi.  It was on the 1400 block of Amherst down in the Village right off Ste. Catherine.  The location really worked out great as the 747 bus dropped us off at the Berri-UQAM station which was only a few blocks from the apartment.  It was close to an IGA and were able to cook a few meals at the apartment.  We walked to the Stadium Olympique and took the car up to the top as well as took a gander at the Jardin Botanique.  Did the Biodome, too as my wife LOVES penguins.

We did Mount Royal and walked all around there.  It was neat at the Chalet that they had the arrows pointing to the various landmarks.

Spent a day at Mont Tremblant skiing and then had dinner at Creux Du Vent in Val David (just off 117).  I highly recommend the dinner (not to poo-poo Mont Tremblant by any means, but I'm just a terrible skiier) for anyone wanting to get an excellent Quebecois meal.

Did the whole Vieux Montreal and the Vieux Port.  Walked all around and went into shops and looked at the city hall, Bonsecours building (sp?), Jacques Cartier square, Sciences building, basically every block was covered!

Went to the Bonaventure convention market, that was interesting.  Purchased a few Christmas gifts there.

Walked around Little Italy and the Latin Quarter.  Explored much of the Village.

The Luminosity displays were cool although I'm not sure if they were all working properly.  We loved the one with reflectors that created a maze but no music was playing and it didn't really light up even though it looked like there were fixtures overhead that would do something.  Ah well.

Very impressed with the underground city.  Toward the end of the trip, we were very comfortable using it to shave off a few blocks of outside walking if we knew where our destination was.  Very functional as well as interesting to explore in its own right.  I think it is better than the skyway in Minneapolis, although both are neat and smart infrastructure.

Took yellow line one stop (from Berri which was our home base metro station) over to Jean Drapeau.  Explored the Levis Tower and the Biosphere.  The restaurant over there was closed until January (can't recall the name) but it was fun to walk around and get a different vantage of the city.  Didn't make it to the other island to see the casino and the other attractions.

Even though it was cold (Mont Tremblant was -15 F in the morning and "warmed up" to -5 F), I could've continued walking all around that area (Montreal + the Laurentians).  Beautiful place with a ton of culture.  I'll have to try a summer trip at some point in the future.  Thanks again, everyone!

essjay43

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Re: Things to do in Montreal?
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2013, 09:04:45 AM »
The casino is definitely worth it. It's not like a typical casino you might see int he States. Large windows and great views of the river. In the summer, you can sit on the balcony and have a few drinks.

Gerard

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Re: Things to do in Montreal?
« Reply #15 on: December 18, 2013, 01:56:14 PM »
Thanks for the trip report! And yeah, definitely try to head back in the summer. Montrealers go for all-out fun during the months that it's warm enough to be out there. Kinda like they do in Finland, but with better food.