We love Montreal there's no doubt about it, but as Montrealers we love our city like a mother loves her child. We tend to ignore the flaws and focus on the good and we would bite the head off anyone who tries to talk shit about it. But maybe we should take a step back too see what tourists think of our city.
Dr. Shamiel McFarlane recently wrote for the Suburban about her short trip to Montreal. Her expectations were pretty high (which I guess is a good thing) but when she got here she was disappointed. She claims that when she arrived at the airport there were no English pamphlets. If this is true then that's a problem, but my first thought was: "Who the hell still uses pamphlets?"
After hailing a cab, she made her way downtown presumably going through highway 20. That's when the disappointment began:
"the decay of the infrastructure; the roads, bridges, pavements. I was aghast....and this is coming from a girl who comes from a third world country"
That's pretty sad, and I'm inclined to agree with her. I worked on Cote-de-Liesse near the airport and for almost 5 years and every time I drove through the area all I kept thinking was: "Is this really the first thing people have to look at when they first arrive here?" There is work being done on the interchange near the airport to make it prettier but that project has been ongoing for almost 5 years now and it's still not done. Plus even it was done, it's a drop in the bucket, everything surrounding the area still looks like shit.
After she got to her hotel she went down to the Old Port and found it charming even though there was a lot of garbage everywhere (if you've been there recently, you know it's true). But in the end it was everything she was promised and she was not disappointed. Which leads us to her truest point in the article:
"So here it is, a juxtaposition of the old world and new yet the old world, in my opinion, has been given far better care than the new."
And that's the sad truth none of us can deny. The tourist hot-spots are pretty and the historical parts of Montreal are being preserved and maintained, but it seems like everything else is being left to crumble.
Why You Need To Go: The island on the river near Quebec City is famous for its colonial villages, orchards, artist shops and views of the surrounding landscape.
The scenic Chemin Royal, which circles the island, takes about an hour to drive non-stop, but there are plenty of irresistible adventure opportunities along the way, like the Seigneurie de l’Île d’Orléans, which is scheduled to open in mid-June.
Distance from Montreal: Roughly 50 minutes to one hour and 20 minutes, depending on your starting point
Why You Need To Go: La route des vins in the MRC of Brome-Missisquoi in the Eastern Townships includes four different scenic routes passing a total of 20 vineyards and multiple restaurants, according to its website.
Distance from Montreal: Two hours (to the town centre)
Why You Need To Go: This little tourist destination has a lot going for it, including the Parc de la Gorge de Coaticook with its 169-metre-long suspended footbridge and the enchanted Foresta Lumina light installation.
Not to mention that Coaticook is home to the famous Laiterie de Coaticook ice cream shop.
Why You Need To Go: This regional tourist hotspot at the tip of Lake Champlain has public beaches, a market and an art gallery all surrounding the Baie de Venise, which hosts water sports and boating activities.
Why You Need To Go: Another regional tourist spot, Magog has a lively downtown, hiking trails through the local Marais de la Rivière aux Cerises and, beginning in spring 2021, the new location of the super-popular Bleu Lavande lavender fields with their picturesque picnic spots.
Why You Need To Go: A little closer to home in Montreal's very own borough of Lachine, visitors can spend the whole day picnicking in the expansive Parc René-Lévesque with its whimsical sculpture garden and views of the river.
Montreal is chalk full of restaurants and activities that all out of towners want to try when they come. Of course you can't bring your friends to all of them in a weekend, but down below is a list of the most epic and popular things EVERY tourist must go try and experience.
Whether it be activities, tourist spots, restaurants, or entertainment there is something on this list for everyone! I guarantee that by bringing your family and friends to these places they will leave with amazing memories and will 514% be back again.
Terrasse Nelligan is a great spot for you and your visitor to have a classy dinner legit in the sky! You can dress nice and enjoy drinks on this rooftop terrasse while having some of their delightful fish tacos. It's a great place for a cute girls night out or for somebody's first night in the city. Oh, and of course who could forget their stunning view of Old Montreal and the Basilica?
L’Gros Luxe never disappoints! Not only can you order several dishes and expect nothing less than heaven on a plate, but you won't break the bank! Their menu is fairly cheap so you can impress your visitor by telling them to order as many things as they like! You can definitely expect the bill to be under $50.
If you've ever had the poutine from La Banquise, then you know that it is undoubtedly worth the wait. The lineups are likely to be longest at dinner time, and between 2:00-3:00 a.m., when everyone is stumbling home from the bar and needs a good poutine to slow them down. This is the ultimate poutine experience your visitor need to expereince!
While some Montrealers may roll their eyes at this choice, it would be ridiculous not to include Schwartz's on this list. I mean, both locals and tourists know all too well that the food is amazing and a must visit!
This is the place to go for a classic Montreal Breakfast. All you really need to know about this Montreal institution is that the bagels are amazing: super moist, slightly dense, bursting with that iconic Montreal bagel flavour, and just as delicious un-toasted as they are served up crispy. Yum? Yum.
Ah yes, the perfect way to relax with your BFF from out of town is by treating yourselves to a spa day. Personally, I recommend Bota Bota since it is only $45 before 11 am and after 6pm for their water circuit. Not only do you relax, but you also get to see Montreal from a whole other angle with the stunning views you receive on the boat's deck and in the main pool that looks over the whole city!
Head on down to Allez up for a rock climbing adventure with your sporty friend from out of town! This is a perfect activity for those athletic tourists since Allez Up has have walk-ins every Sunday from 1-5PM!
If you want to spend your last day in Montreal relaxing but you don't always have money to go to a spa, then head down to the Ceramic Cafe! You can enjoy a lovely painting experience with some coffee on a nice raining spring day. It's literally open until midnight!
Enjoy the sunshine we are going to have this spring by going biking along the Lachine Canal. It is absolutely stunning and a great way to stay active while having fun with your touristy friend. If you are wondering where the hell you are going to find a bike, don't worry! Montreal has Bixi bikes that are actually free on the last Sunday of every month tor 5$ for the day!
For $20, you can enjoy zip-lining through Old Montreal! This is a great activity for those adventurous friends of your that are coming from out of town. At the end of the zip-line you can hit up Terrasse Bonsecours for a drink.
Atwater Market is an absolute must visit location in Montreal especially if you only have 24 hours! You will be surprised on just how much time you can spend at Atwater Market, especially in this nice weather we've been having lately! It is literally my happy place and the variety of restaurants always serve fresh food. Plus, you can just walk around all day and enjoy a nice stoll along the Lachine Canal or buy plants (cacti YAS)!
If you are more on the active side, why not gather some of your friends that came on a road trip to Montreal with you for an early morning hike to watch the sunrise! Not only will you stay fit, but you will also have a gorgeous view of the city and I suggest bringing a picnic for a nice brunch!
From 9-5pm every day of the week you can check out Montreal's superb botanical gardens! It includes 75 hectares of facilities and greenhouses and plenty of exotic plant life to make you feel like you are in a whole new world. It is absolutely stunning and the park area makes for a great little picnic area! Plus, during the month of October there is the Garden of Lights!
Why not check out the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to see their spectacular exhibits, FOR FREE! This is a win-win situation, everyone under 30 gets free entrance to the permanent exhibits! You don't have to spend any money and you get to walk around and view beautiful pieces of art.
See all of Montreal on your first day in Montreal with your best bae from out of town for cheap! The Montreal Observatory is absolutely stunning and very romantic especially if you go at night under the stars.
For a great birthday bash dinner if you are coming from out of town, I suggest checking out Kampai! Their Japanese garden beer paired with their superb dishes will blow you mind! It's a great place for a lovely dinner and also a night out with drinks since it turns into a hip bar/club after dinner service!
For a nice casual night out with all of your gang and no reservations, I suggest heading to Fitzroy! They have a huge space that boasts plenty of pool tables, couches, video games, plants, and two bars. It's hella lowkey and no heels required. Plus, everyone wants to be seen in a picture on their palm leaf wall!
Bar Darling isn't just a typical bar, it's also a cafe! You can now have Tequila at 1PM to start off your day and coffee at Midnight to keep you up for a LIT AF night ahead at this amazing bar. So, forget about those average places that just serve dinner and then transform into a bar and check out Bar Darling where you can enjoy all of life's wonder... Coffee and Alcohol. This Plateau cafe-bar is officially changing the game in Montreal!
Perché Bar Terrasse just opened and trust me, the drinks are just as good as the views! You can enjoy their tapas/entres menu that features tacos and small snacks while sipping on some cocktails as you enjoy the view from the 8th floor.
Everything just seems more ordinary and boring when you see it every day, but when you see the city through the eyes of a tourist experiencing it for the very first time, it really make you appreciate how awesome this place.
Let's see what these tourists had to say bout Montreal.