We give Montreal a lot of flak.
Perhaps it’s the arctic winters, or the simple fact that most of our time in this city is spent suffering through boring classes and soul-sucking midterms (I don’t know, have we talked enough about how #done with school we are?), but we rarely give Montreal the praise it deserves.
This city is truly our home, and a great one at that. If we want Lebanese food at 3am, Montreal provides. If we feel like karaoke-ing till dawn on a random weeknight – Montreal has that. If we have a craving for bingo with a drag queen, guess what? Montreal can give us that too.
We’ve lived here for almost three years now. We know the goods (like the city’s best poutine places) and the bads (the dirty slumlord tactics around the student ghetto) and everything in-between, and the verdict? Overall, Montréal is pretty damn cool (or chouette, as the cool kids say – actually, no, don’t ever say that.)
So, for anyone out there who has never been to our uniquely exciting, bilingual city, we urge you to come visit (although those who have never experienced a true Canadian winter… plan accordingly and come May-September, when the city is radiantly alive). To give you a little extra push, here are 11 Awesome Things About Montréal.
1. A casual stroll along any busy Montreal street will surely result in the discovery of some random street party. Case in point: this snowboarding competition on rue St. Denis
2. Mont Royal provides stunning city views with practically no effort (seriously, only a 10 minute walk to the lookout point)
3. True Montrealers don’t let winter get to them. In fact, they party through it.
Igloofest is a two-week long outdoor music festival in February. I’ll never forget the night an old roommate stumbled into our apartment talking about how amazing the music was and then blanched when she realized she couldn’t feel her feet. Party on!
MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE is a street festival held during the dark days of February and it was something I couldn’t believe when I saw it for the first time. The festival plops itself down onto le Quartier des Spectacles on the busy Rue Sainte Catherine and stays there for a few weeks. There are fire pits for roasting sausages and marshmallows planted around the street, intermingling with ice sculptures, pulsing lights, a Ferris wheel, an insane zip-line, and a larger-than-life ice slide. And it’s all free.
There is always, always, always something happening in Montreal. Unlike some cities that hibernate through their grayness and wait for spring (ahem, Toronto), Montreal never stops being beautiful.
3b. That being said, the summer festivals are also out of this world. The International Jazz Festival, Just For Laughs is all about comedy, Osheaga always boasts the hottest artists of the year, and Picnik Electronic is an outdoor music festival that takes place every Sunday throughout the summer. Also every Sunday? Tam Tams at Mont-Royal, which isn’t exactly a festival but definitely has that vibe, plus a bit extra…
4. Montréal winters are so cold that any temperature above 0 degrees Celsius is cause for celebration.
And really, this one is about the people who live here. Resilient to the core. Troopers. Sad sacks need not apply.
5. Montreal car rental companies let 18 year olds rent cars. We have Hertz rentals to thank for our amazing road trip memories.
5b. And speaking of road trips, Montreal is surrounded by wonderful little places to visit. Gorgeous Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks are just a quick jaunt south, Mont Tremblant is 1.5 hours northwest, and Quebec City is just about 2 hours away! So while you’re here, you can get out there.
6. The French signs and street conversations make you feel like you live in Europe. You can get by with only English, but the French here is not a tourist gimmick. It is the living language of most of the people from here, and it should be respected and enjoyed.
7. Bixi bikes are cheap bikes for rent available all over the city. You can check them out of a rack on one city block and put them back at another. It’s that simple!
8. Beautifully intricate cathedrals among the towering skyscrapers.
A short walk through downtown Montreal guarantees at least three cathedral sightings amidst the office buildings.
9. Old Port (Old Montreal). Winding cobble stone streets, awesome architecture, and great views of the St. Lawrence River.
10. All the malls are connected through underground passageways lined with shops and restaurants, all to minimize time spend out in the bitter cold.
11. Poutine. French fries, gravy, and cheese- what’s not to like? And in Montreal you can get every type of poutine imaginable. My personal favourite: guacamole and sour cream poutine. (Hey, don’t knock it till you try it).
On second thought, forget all our other reasons. Just come for the poutine.