Montreal is the second largest city in Canada, and is best known for its European charm. Its vibrant summer months host larger-than-life festivals, celebrations, and an influx of tourists that are excited to see what the edgy metropolis has to offer. This cultural capital is actually an island that is surrounded by the St. Lawrence River which runs through the province of Quebec—Canada’s only predominantly French-speaking province. As a result, Montreal has a unique cultural draw to visitors who come to admire its architecture, art scene, and of course, legendary bagels. Montrealers have a zest for life that is satisfied by the many activities that the city has to offer.
When it comes to exploring a new destination, most travellers are looking to hop off the beaten path and experience the parts unknown. Whether it’s a trip to the local dive bar to watch a Montreal Canadiens—or “Habs”—game, or a stroll through the city’s boroughs, Montreal is a treasure trove of restaurants, cafes, and attractions that will provide you with unique stories to recount to your friends of your time in the city. With June coming to a close, the summer holidays are in full swing for many, and what better time is there than the present to explore one of Canada’s most popular cities? Live like a local with this comprehensive list of Montreal’s hippest hideaways for foodies, music lovers, adventurers, and even sweet tooths.
In plain sight of Mount Royal—the mountain that lies at the heart of Montreal—Café Santropol is one of the hippest spots to eat in the Plateau neighbourhood. Serving piled-high homemade sandwiches, as well as savoury soups, specialty coffees, and decadent desserts, Santropol has something on the menu for everyone. The café’s story began in 1976, as an attempt to save the building from demolition. Previously a plumber’s store, the space was remodelled and developed into the eatery that it is today, thriving among Montreal residents that are fond of its hipster atmosphere. Its fenced-in backyard garden is the perfect spot to enjoy a sandwich and soup. Café Santropol should be at the top of the list for any visitor that prioritizes a quality meal, calm ambience, and a unique dining experience.
Have a hankering for a cone? Indulge in your craving with a visit to La Diperie, one of the most popular ice cream shops in the city which specializes in chocolate-dipped ice cream cones. With stores sprawled across the entirety of Montreal, and even onto the neighbouring island of Laval, it is as popular for its delicious concoctions as it is for its aesthetic. In the Plateau neighbourhood, the shop’s iconic turquoise wall is an Instagram hotspot among millenials. As for the eats, each cone consists of vanilla ice cream coated in flavoured chocolate and layered with a topping of your choice. Chocolate flavours and topping choices range from classic combinations like dark chocolate and pretzels to more unique fusions like lemonade and graham crackers. Now serving chocolate-dipped ice cream sandwiches, La Diperie is the perfect place to head to on a hot summer’s day if you have an insatiable appetite for sweets.
Celebrate the end to a great weekend with an electronic dance party on the other side of the St. Lawrence river. With different acts every Sunday from May 20th all the way through to September 30th, Piknic Électronik is a weekly electronic music festival held in Jean-Drapeau Park. Only a short journey from the downtown by Montreal’s subway line—better known as the metro—this festival attracts people of all ages looking to spend a chill afternoon in the sun. The event features multiple DJ stages between 2- and 10:30- pm that perform in front of eclectic crowds. Food trucks are set up throughout the park that offer a variety of snack options, and bars-on-wheels serve up unique drink concoctions to thirsty visitors. Even if you’re not a fan of electronic music, tickets to Piknic Électronik average around $20, and are the perfect way to enjoy a fantastic afternoon spent with friends, food, and chill vibes.
The Botanical Gardens
When Montreal hosted the 1976 Olympic games, they built one of the most unique stadiums that, even today, is recognizable at first glance. Nowadays, the stadium has been turned into the city’s “Espace Pour La Vie,” or “Space for Life.” Harbouring an incredible biodome, planetarium, insectarium, and of course, the botanical gardens, what was once the center of international sport in the 1970s is now a fantastic getaway for tourists and locals looking to enjoy a bit of nature within the city. The Montreal botanical gardens—located across from the stadium—is 75 hectares large, and features an expanse of outdoor gardens as well as 10 greenhouse exhibits. Within the greenhouses, visitors can examine unique bonsai collections, tropical ecosystems, and orchid oases. For around $20, you will receive access to the greenhouses and gardens for the entirety of the day. Be sure to visit the Japanese and Chinese gardens to witness their impressive architecture and thriving ponds.
Mad Hatters Pub
If you’re hungry, thirsty, and looking for entertainment—whether it be in the form of a sports game on TV or a game of drunken jenga—the dimly-lit Mad Hatters Pub on Crescent Street is prepared to satisfy your every need. Since 1993, the bar has provided locals with tasty food, quality drinks, and good times. Mad Hatters is part dive bar and part entertainment center, featuring ping pong tables, giant jenga sets, and pool tables that will keep you and your friends entertained for the whole night. From their $5 food menu, you can order a burger, a poutine, or even a bowl of cereal if you find yourself there between 10- and 3- pm.