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.”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
This category goes to one place in particular – Kem Coba gelato. Go there.
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.
Public Swimming Pools
With all the taxes come free swimming pools in the warm months. They were usually packed, especially on the weekends.
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.
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.
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!
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.
And now for some other random fun things in Montreal