15 Things that we love about Montreal, Canada

15 Things that we love about Montreal, Canada

We rented an apartment through Airbnb for a month between July and August. The city has been on our shortlist of places to visit again since our brief trip to Montreal and Quebec in 2014. Turns out it was a wonderful decision to stay for as long as we did and we are looking forward to coming back soon! We’ve even talked about trying to purchase a rental property in the city so we can come up whenever we want (renting it out on a short-term basis while not there).

We covered a lot of ground during our month – walking, biking and jogging all over the city. Here are the 15 of things we feel Montreal excels at:


Residents of Quebec pay a lot in sales tax (approximately 15%), but it seems like there are quite a few amenities to make up for the expense. For instance, the parks in Montreal are generally all well-kept, abundant and offer a variety of activities. In general, it feels like a very green city and with all the trees the air just feels “pure.”

Parc Outremont (also one of our favorite neighborhoods). Unfortunately, no dogs are allowed in the Outremont parks. We did sneak Nora in for a quick dip in the pond.

Parc Jarry was less than an mile from our apartment and we went there often for picnics, to swim at the pool, for the very large dogpark and for Nick and Nora to chase squirrels.

They have squirrels that are almost fully white here!

Nick and Nora enjoyed many picnics during our stay.


Big grocery stores are hard to find in the city, whereas neighborhood markets and specialty shops prevail. The largest and our favorite market is Jean Talon on the north side of the city, but the Atwater market is also nice. Both are leagues better than most farmers markets that you might find in the US.

Jean Talon market in the northern part of the city in little Italy where we stayed for the month.

Bike Friendly

For a city which is blanketed in snow and frigid temperatures close to six months of the year, Montreal has a surprising number of bike lanes. You can get most anywhere you want to go safely, the drivers are cautious around pedestrians, and the city bike-rental stands scattered thoughout were actually pretty popular with residents!

Bike lanes along the Lachine canal. This is also nearby to the St Amboise brewery.

Elisa on her new foldable fixed-gear bike, which we made great use of in Montreal. Our apartment faced a road with bike lanes going in each direction, so we often watched bikers commuting out our window.

Gardens / Greenspace

Almost all the houses in Montreal come with a small garden plot out front. The locals seem to mostly let things go wild which is fun. The city also boasts a botanic garden which gets our vote for the best botanic garden (that we have ever had the pleasure to visit) in North America.

Cindy and Elisa in the botanic garden. Unfortunately, it was the hottest day of the whole month during our visit and we got locked out of seeing part of the garden.

Montreal botanic garden

Leaves that look like watermelons in the botanic garden.

350 year old bonsai in the botanic garden

Another excellent bonsai specimen.

Flowers are everywhere in public spaces of the city. This was one part of a giant field of flowers.

There are several community gardens in the city.

Joie de vivre

It might be just the impression we get from always visiting in the summer, but the folks in Montreal really seem to enjoy a balanced life with lots of hanging out in parks, cafes, restaurants and taking long strolls wherever.

Another great café.

There is a fried chicken place in little Italy that provides a full picnic basket to take to the nearby park. The chicken was just okay but the novel idea was great!

Café Waverly in the mile end neighborhood (right across the street from the videogame giant Ubisoft headquarters)


Balanced Belgian beers are Mayne’s favorite and that seems to be the most popular style of beer in the area. The local brewery St Amboise has delicious brews (and an awesome beer garden by the Lachine canal), and the Unibroue beers which are found all over the states are even cheaper and more fresh.

Pastries and Bakeries

Elisa is a master of hunting out the best bakeries in town and we found quite a few. Being heavily French-influenced, Montreal has more than its share of patisseries and boulangeries. Our favorites are Au Kouign Amann, the Cheskie bakery and Guillaume.

The cat café where a dozen or so cats crawl around while you eat. Kinda a fun idea.

Tasty looking pastries.

Ice Cream

This category goes to one place in particular – Kem Coba gelato. Go there.

Kem Coba gelato is phenomenal! On a weekend, the line stretches around the corner but moves quickly. The owners are a husband and wife – he is from France and knows how to make killer gelato, and she is from Thailand and brings unique flavors to the party.

Delicious Cuisine

Yokato Yokabai ramen on Rue Rachel is about as authentic, savory and delicious as one could ever hope. We were glad to give Cindy her first taste of legit ramen!

We found this awesome Vietnamese grocery store/café not far from little Italy. The Banh mi were really good and cheap.

Schwartz’s deli is probably the most popular restaurant in Montreal. We tried to go multiple times but the line was always crazy long.

Street Art

During our visit to Berlin, Germany we decided that they must have the best street art, however Montreal is our new top pick among the cities that we have visited. It is evident that the city values art – it seems that they sponsor some of the artists – and there were several new murals going up while we were there. It’s easy to take the murals for granted, but the amount of work that went into them was surprising.

Street art near Parc Jarry.

Street art.

Street art.

Street art.

More street art.

Public Swimming Pools

With all the taxes come free swimming pools in the warm months. They were usually packed, especially on the weekends.

Free public pool in Parc Jarry.

A much smaller kiddie pool.


Summer is a peak festival time in Montreal (although there are also some interesting looking winter festivals). We visited a food fest, a comedy fest, an Italian fest and a giant music fest during our one month.

Osheaga music festival 2016. The venue was great. We like music fesitvals again after this one.

Osheaga festival was the first festival we’ve been to that had portable urinals for men. What a great idea! It made the lines for Elisa and the porta-potties much more manageable.

Summer Weather

We have only ever been to Canada in the summer. We love it – it’s usually partly cloudy, somewhere in the 70s’, no bugs warm enough for shorts but not hot enough to get all sweaty. Locals say ya, it’s great but winter sucks. Guess we’ll have to find out and come in the winter sometime. It does seem like the locals celebrate the warm weather and are out and about lots.

Like Europe, Montreal has tons of terraces for their restaurants.

The city government even puts up terraces for anyone to enjoy.


Montreal seemed to be fairly diverse in terms of population. We like places that don’t have mono-cultures since it means more fun restaurants to try and festivals to go to!

Le Petite Italie, or Litle Italy is the cute neighborhood that we stayed in and really came to enjoy. We made friends with some of the neighbors and enjoyed the feeling of a community in a big city. True to its name there are still many people of Italian descent living in the neighborhood. Spread out throughout the city are little pockets of various ethnic groups.

Outdoor Activities

Montreal is an island, which means there are plenty of water-related activites around. In addition, the Laurentian mountains are just an hour or so away you can enjoy hiking during the summer and skiing – if you are into that sort of thing – in the winter. Personally we want to return in the fall for some hiking and maybe stay until snow covers the ground and visit some of the great spas tucked away in the forests that we heard about.

We rented a two person kayak for a tour of the St Lawrence river at the Parc National des Iles de Boucherville. Elisa found some wild lotus blossoms while I was trying to keep us from crashing through the brush on the bank.

And now for some other random fun things in Montreal

Randomly we came across a bit coin exchange. The geek in me was very excited.

Fun shopping is to found on Boulevard St Laurent

Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal perched near the summit of Mont Royal has an excellent view of the southwest side of the city.

Montreal still has Bell telephones throughout. This was the only time that we saw one in use though..