As I mentioned in my previous post, “Montreal Eats,” my recent visit to Montreal, back to a city that I had 3 and a half years completing my undergraduate degree, consisted of mainly eating and exploring. It was glorious. So now that I’ve posted about my favorite Montreal restaurants, I’m putting together a post of things to do in Montreal…
One of my first adventures back in the city was a bike ride to Old Montreal. Oh I’ve blogged many times about the great Bixi system in Montreal (see posts here, here and here – ha, this one’s even a post about a previous biking adventure in Old Montreal, and yes, that cupcake place is Les Glaceurs, the one I mentioned in my “Montreal Eats” post!) My boyfriend and I grabbed a bike from the Bixi station just up the street from his apartment building, and biked to the Quartier Latin, all the way down St. Denis. This area surrounds UQAM, the Universite de Quebec a Montreal, a French university in the city, and you can find lots of restaurants and bars along St. Denis.
We then made it to Old Montreal…
Dow the cobbled streets that make the area so famous…
And eventually stopped at Les 3 Brasseurs for a beer on the patio…
If you are planning a trip to Montreal, I definitely recommend wandering the streets of Old Montreal to get a feel for the restaurants and boutiques and art galleries that line these quaint, cobbled streets, and to walk along the boardwalk at the Old Port (see previous post here) to watch rollerbladers, bikers and families stroll by on a sunny afternoon.
Parc Jeanne Mance
Another must-do in Montreal is a walk up to Parc Jeanne Mance in the Plateau, a popular recreational park and the site of sunbathers and frisbee players when the sun is out, followed by a walk up Mount Royal, the “mountain” in the middle of the city. The views from the top of the mountain are incredible (see previous post here) and I definitely recommend this walk for anyone visiting Montreal, no matter what time of the year – fall may by the best though!
Another park in Montreal’s Plateau-Mont-Royal district, Parc LaFontaine, features two linked ponds with a fountain and waterfalls. Perhaps the best part about this park is that there are bike paths that run along the park’s western and northern edges. It’s a beautiful/peaceful bike ride around the edges of the park, and I definitely recommend renting a Bixi bike (can you tell that we couldn’t get enough of Bixi?) for an afternoon. Oh and, the park is close to La Banquise, featured in my “Montreal Eats” post, the “best poutine in Montreal.”
I mentioned Atwater Market in yesterday’s post, goodbyes & macaroons, and Marche Jean-Talon is another outdoor farmer’s market in Montreal. Again, a great day in Montreal spent biking up to Little Italy (we switched our Bixi bikes twice and got a little lost but made it eventually!), walking around the area, browsing the market and stopping for lunch. You can find plenty of fresh Quebecois produce here at the market, and I’m pretty sure prices are cheaper than in the local supermarkets. Definitely a great Montreal experience!
The area of Little Italy is very different to the Plateau-Mont-Royal area that I had come to know in university. I had always wanted to explore this area and go to the Jean-Talon Market (featured above) but never found the time. So I made it a priority to visit. We biked up there (it was a ways up, let me tell you!) and walked around Boulevard St. Laurent and Rue Dante, before stopping for lunch at Pizzeria Napoletana, mentioned in my previous post, “Montreal Eats.” If you have a few days to spend in Montreal, wandering through Little Italy is a great way to spend an afternoon! And if you decide to bike up there, be sure to print out a map or have a route planned out on your iPhone or Blackberry, it gets a little tricky the further up you go!
Old Montreal & Parc Jean-Drapeau
Probably one of my favorite adventures, and this one really was an adventure, was when my boyfriend and I decided to bike back down to Old Montreal, and after having spent a little while biking up and down the boardwalk of the Old Port, we decided to bike across to Parc Jean-Drapeau.
So we decided to bike across to Parc Jean-Drapeau. The park is actually an island, well two islands (Saint Helen’s Island and the Island of Notre-Dame – these islands were the site of the Expo 67 World’s Fair held in Montreal, as was Habitat 67). On the islands you will find the amusement park La Ronde, the Canadian Grand Prix track (oh and while biking, we were lead on a detour and we ended up on the track, no big deal), the Montreal Casino and the Biosphere (featured below), as well as music festivals held annually, like Osheaga and Piknic Electronik.
It ended up being pretty stressful… my boyfriend put together a map once we got back home, exhausted mind you, of our entire biking trip (featured below), and I wasn’t surprised when he told me that it was 23.8 kilometers, total!
So A is where we started, in the McGill Ghetto, C and D are Parc LaFontaine (mentioned above, and yes, this whole biking adventure was done on a whim, we had NO idea of what we were going to do when we first took our Bixi bikes out at the first station, at point A), F is Old Montreal, where we decided to bike across to Parc Jean-Drapeau, and as you can see, points G-J are on the island, where the photographs shown below were taken…
We were exhausted on our bike ride back across the island, we decided to go back the way we came even though we could have gone across the Jacques-Cartier Bridge, featured in the photograph above, and it would have been shorter. But it was hilarious, and we had a good laugh when we eventually got home. It was definitely an adventure. Update: if you do decide to bike to Parc Jean-Drapeau, I recommend taking a ferry across from the Old Port to the islands, and then biking around there (the ferry wasn’t running yet when we were there). Also, be warned, the Bixi bike traffic may not be as smooth as on the main island – we had serious trouble trying to get rid of our bikes once we were eventually at the Jean-Drapeau station. Just keep this in mind!
Palais des congrès
In continuation from the post above, we walked from the Old Port, after biking our little buts off from Parc Jean-Drapeau, to the Palais des congrès
(featured in a previous post here). I just love the colored windows, and the way the light shines through on the inside…
These pink trees are pretty interesting too…
Place des Arts
And lastly, before making it home, we stopped by the Place des Arts, the major performing arts center in Montreal (see previous post here). We sat on the steps, watching the fountains (and children playing in the fountains), indulging in DQ Blizzards. It was a wonderful end to an exciting, but exhausting, adventure.
St. Laurent, Plateau
Lastly, one of the major streets in Montreal (and one of my favorites) is Boulevard St. Laurent, lined with restaurants, shops and boutiques, bars and clubs. You’ll find many famous places here, including Schwartz’s Deli, the Montreal-favorite smoked meat, as well as plenty of restaurants I mentioned in my previous post, “Montreal Eats.”
Boulevard St. Laurent is definitely the place to go if you’re looking for an authentic restaurant, a Montreal-experience, a grungy bar full of students, or a place to watch a live band, like Casa del Popolo, featured below.
Lastly, be sure to look through my previous Montreal posts for more advice/information/ideas about visiting or traveling to Montreal. Let me know if you have any questions!