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From the chic art galleries of the Golden Square Mile to the funky shops of the Mile End and the trendy eateries of Saint-Henri, come summer each of Montreal’s arrondissements flings open its windows and throws its very own version of a street party – and everyone’s invited.
It all starts with more than a dozen streets in residential and commercial neighbourhoods turning into pedestrian playgrounds (find the complete list at ville.montreal.qc.ca/ruespietonnes). This makes rubbing elbows with the locals all the more interesting. Al fresco dining, impromptu performances by local circus institutions such as the incredible Montréal Complètement Cirque, outdoor art galleries such as Galerie Blanc and more are all on the menu.
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One of the most pleasant pedestrian walkways in the city is Promenade Fleuve-Montagne, a 3.8-kilometre path that winds its way through heritage institutions such as the 1929 Bell Telephone headquarters, and past public art installations like the 1967 Hector Guimard Art Nouveau metro-station entrance, a gift from the city of Paris. Built in celebration of Montreal’s 375th anniversary, the path takes you from the Saint-Lawrence River to the iconic Mount Royal Park while visiting notable areas such as Old Montreal, the downtown core and the McGill campus.
And if you happen to be strolling through town on a nice Sunday afternoon, the Mount Royal Tam-Tams is the best spot to hang out with the locals and listen to some music. The spontaneous drum circle is open to any percussionist willing to follow the beat and create an ephemeral concert of sorts that, on a good day, can last for a few hours. Hop off your BIXI (the city’s short-ride bike-rental service), grab a snack and join in the dancing, if only for a short while or as you’re making your way from downtown to the Mile End. The detour is worth it, as this event is the personification of Montreal’s off-the-wall spirit.
Food lovers will be happy to know that Montreal’s dining scene is still as enticing as ever. New establishments, such as BeauTemps, Barranco, BarBara, Mastard and a few dozen more have enthusiastically opened their doors. From fine-dining establishments such as Le Club Chasse et Pêche and Montréal Plaza, to the neighbourhood casse-croûte such as Chez Tousignant, restaurants have learned to master the art of takeout and have turned out creative cuisine throughout the year. This summer is no exception, and many of the city’s best eateries are taking advantage of the bounty of local ingredients to create incredible to-go meals as well as gorgeous picnic baskets for diners to enjoy outdoors with a chilled bottle of wine or local craft beer.
Food trucks are also scheduled to make appearances in a few residential neighbourhoods, with some, including Le Gras Dur and Mi Corazon Le Taco, strategically located around parks (montreal.bestfoodtrucks.com). This summer more than ever, Montrealers will be enjoying their city’s great outdoors and everyone’s invited to join.
Nature escape in the city
When looking to commune with nature, Montrealers in the know head to Frédéric-Back Park. Located northeast of the downtown core, the former quarry is a work in progress and, once completed in 2026, is set to become the biggest environmental rehabilitation project in the history of the city. Easily accessible by public transit or bicycle, the 153-hectare park (that’s half the size of Central Park) is home to a 5.5-km bike path, many walking and jogging trails, picnic areas and outdoor art installations. It’s also the stage for many sports and cultural events.
On the east side of the park, look out for the round, alien-looking white pods that are designed to cover biogas collection wells. The phosphorescent spheres emanate a green hue at dusk, adding to the surreal look they lend this part of the park. In the Boisé Est sector is a belvedere with 360-degree views of downtown, Mount Royal and the Olympic Stadium’s leaning tower – the best spot in the city to witness one of Montreal’s fiery sunsets.
And in the west part of the park, you’ll find the Taz indoor skate park. It’s also where the Stade de soccer de Montréal rises out of the ground in perfect harmony with its surroundings. This architectural marvel was designed by superstar local firm Saucier et Perrotte and has won several architecture awards.
Frédéric-Back Park is located within the Saint-Michel Environmental Complex, which also encompasses the La Tohu and Cirque du Soleil circus centres. These institutions offer a host of tours, including activities that explore the park and all it has to offer.
Set to open this month, the Humaniti Hotel is within walking distance of downtown’s buzzing streets and shopping district, as well as Old Montreal’s cobblestone lanes and old-school charm. It’s the first Marriott Autograph Collection hotel in Quebec. Be sure to take a dip in the rooftop pool.
For a more intimate stay, the Griffintown Hotel offers beautifully designed modern condos with all the comforts of home. The one- or two-bedroom apartments are located in one of the hippest neighbourhoods in Montreal, and are surrounded with cool restaurants, cafés and shops.
Downtown’s Le Germain Hotel has gone through major renovations inspired by the design aesthetics of Expo 67. Six floors were added, as well as a bar on the main floor and a French bistro, Le Boulevardier. Located within walking distance of most of Montreal’s great museums and shopping, it’s also pet-friendly and allows you to check out whenever you like.
Located in Little Italy, the Jean Talon Market is Montreal’s largest open-air market and one of North America’s biggest. Open since 1933, it is solely devoted to food – so if it’s a souvenir you’re looking for, you won’t find any here, unless it’s a can of maple syrup or other local product. Open 361 days a year, the summer version of the market is a delight to explore, whether you’re a gourmand or not. From uniquely Québécois foraged wild plants at Les Jardins Sauvages to more conventional produce, the outdoor stalls are brimming with colourful stacks neatly lined up like edible works of art. It’s a great place to grab some oysters on the half shell from AquaMare, a whole cooked lobster from Les Délices de la Mer, or a spicy sausage sandwich from Balkani for lunch. You’re likely to spot the city’s top chefs doing the same.
On the other side of town, with a prime location along the Lachine Canal, the Atwater Market is easily recognizable by its art deco tower. Also operating since 1933, you’ll find the same kind of lovely stands displaying local fruit and vegetables at this market. Its Pôle des Saveurs is where you’ll want to head for a variety of lunch options offered by the many outdoor stalls. The Satay Brothers and their Singaporean specialties are a must-stop.
The best feature about these farmers markets, though, is not their incredible bounty, but the extraordinary people who inhabit the aisles. From farmers to fishmongers, spice trekkers, bakers and cheese makers, they all have incredible stories to tell. It’s best to head there on a weekday, when they have more time to chat. If you catch them on a good day, they may even share a bite or two of a new treat they’re stocking or working on.
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