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A diverse city made up of distinct neighbourhoods, Montreal is rich in culture and history – much of which can be enjoyed al fresco. Discover the essential eats and key outdoor experiences to seek out in Quebec’s biggest city.
Set at the confluence of Francophone and Anglophone cultures, Montreal is Canada’s second largest city and the cultural capital of Quebec. From enjoying urban vistas of Mont Royal (Mount Royal) and soaking up the sun at the beach to diving into history in the streets of Old Montreal and kayaking on the Lachine Canal, here’s our curated selection of experiences that will help you discover the best of outdoor Montreal.
Montreal has become a hub for urban art and graffiti. One of Montreal’s main streets, Saint-Laurent Boulevard is a great place to begin a mural-spotting adventure, thanks not least to the annual MURAL international street art festival. A second top pick for urban creativity is the Plateau Mont Royal neighbourhood, which is also home to a range of charming boutiques and coffee stops to fuel your artistic adventure. Start your tour of this area on the Mont-Royal Avenue.
Known as Montreal’s bohemian quarter, Mile End is dotted with hip cafés, laidback Greek eateries, brunch spots and stores selling vintage clothes, secondhand books and vinyls. If you’re looking to keep your spending to a minimum, pick up a coffee from Café Olimpico and simply saunter the streets. Pro tip: look out for the neighbourhood’s numerous ruelles vertes – alleyways converted into green space, offering something of an urban oasis in the midst of Mile End.
Montreal might not be your first thought when planning a beach break, but the city isn’t short of options when it comes to stunning waterside spots. Just 30km (18.6mi) from downtown, the sandy L’Île Charron beach is free to access and open year-round. This prime swimming destination on the southern shore of Longueil is also home to volleyball courts and a public golf course. An ideal choice for a day trip, L’Île Charron beach is accessible via public transport during the summer months – take the RTL Bus des Îles shuttle on summer weekends from the Longueuil–Université-de-Sherbrooke metro station or the Croisières Navark river boat. Even closer to the centre of Montreal, Jean-Doré beach on Île Notre-Dame has a huge swimming area and plenty of watersports activities. To get there via the metro, exit at Jean-Drapeau station and walk to the left of the metro exit to catch the 767 bus.
No trip to Montreal would be complete without sampling poutine – fries, gravy and cheese curds that come together to create one of the most quintessential Quebecois dishes. Pick up a takeaway portion from La Banquise – go for a classic or perhaps try La Royale with pulled pork, apples and bacon – and eat it picnic-style beside the lake in La Fontaine Park.
Dating back to 1933, Jean-Talon Market is one of the oldest public markets in Montreal. Set at the heart of the city’s Little Italy district, the farmers market hosts the best local farmers, bakers, fishmongers, and butchers, while it’s also a one-stop shop for flowers, ice cream, spices and alcoholic drinks. As one of North America’s largest open-air markets, Jean-Talon is famed for its lively atmosphere and colourful produce. Consider picking up picnic supplies here before heading to Jarry Park.
For a journey into the past, take a self-guided tour of Old Montreal. This historic neighbourhood set on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River dates back to the 17th century and is undoubtedly the city’s most opulent and elegant quartier. Stroll through the area’s most prominent public squares – Place d’Armes, Place Royale, and Place Jacques-Cartier – and check out the 18th-century Château Ramezay residence with its French colonial-style Governor’s Garden. If it’s impressive architecture you’re after, marvel at the Palladian-style Bonsecours Market and the Notre Dame Basilica, before stopping by the Second Empire-style City Hall and the former “Wall Street” of Canada, St-Jacques Street. Pro tip: to snap a picture of the oldest building in Old Montreal, head to the Sulpician Seminary, opened in 1687.