By Anastasia Mills Healy
It took my family weeks to stop greeting everyone at home with “Bonjour, Hello!” after five days in Montreal. It’s a bilingual city so everyone hedges their bets and uses both salutations, then continues the conversation in whatever language you answer in.
This was just one way the city makes it easy for visitors. Montreal is clean and safe, the subways are easy to use (and kids ride free on weekends), people are friendly, it’s incredibly international, and there’s such an amazing number of things to do and neighborhoods to explore that five days didn’t feel like enough.
Fancy dangling upside down on a seven-story roller coaster or hearing a Buddy Guy set? How about watching models own the catwalk or baking a tart with one of the world’s most famous pastry chefs? The list is endless, but here are twenty suggestions for fun things to do in Montreal this summer.
1. See Formula One racing at the Montreal Grand Prix, the biggest sporting event in Canada, June 7 to 9.
2. Hang upside down 70 feet in the air on a new seven-story loop roller coaster: Chaos at the Six Flags amusement park La Ronde is scheduled to open on May 11.
3. Check out shows by Buddy Guy and scores of other top musicians at the 40th Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, spread across twenty venues from June 27 to July 6.
4. See the city from the 20-story Ferris wheel La Grande Roue. Its gondolas are enclosed and climate controlled; one of the 42 has a glass floor.
5. Prepare to smile for eighteen straight days at the Just for Laughs Festival July 10 to 28.6. Take a class with one of the world’s most famous pastry chefs. Christian Faure baked for Monaco’s royal family, worked with Alain Ducasse, and has held the title of world’s best pastry chef. Maison Christian Faure is a pastry shop, café, and pastry school in Old Town Montreal. You haven’t had a macaron until you’ve had one of his.
7. Ride a two-story glass funicular up the world’s tallest inclined tower. The Montreal Tower is taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which is on a 5-degree angle versus this one’s 45-degree angle. The Tower is part of the site that hosted the 1976 Olympic Games.
8. Pack your au courant outfits to fit in with the half a million fashionistas who attend the Montréal Fashion & Design Festival August 19 to 24. Make room in between shows to see the Thierry Mugler: Couturissime and Montreal Couture exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Art.
9. Old Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica is stunning but add an impressive sound-and-light show called “Aura” and be prepared to be truly wowed. Tickets sell out, so purchase in advance.
11. Put your toes in the sand at the Village au Pied-du-Courant, a pop-up beach, boardwalk, and dining and entertainment area.
12. See dramatic street art June 6 to 16 during MURAL, an international public art festival, and/or download the Graffmap app to explore Montreal’s 850 murals. Another app, Cité Mémoire, provides context for historical characters that are projected in the evenings throughout Old Montreal.
13. Check out the panoramic view from the top of Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Mont Royal Park. This was Olmsted’s first solo commission after splitting with Calvert Vaux; there are guided walks and bikes rides.
14. Take a yoga class and/or have brunch 46 stories above the city at Place Villa Marie, the city’s only 360-degree-view public space.
15. Saber your own Champagne bottle. Staff at the city’s only Champagne bar La Champagnerie will show you how.
16. Climb aboard a floating spa and chillax in a sauna with city views. Bota Bota is on a boat in the Old Port.
17. Learn about Aboriginal cultures from North, South and Latin America August 6 to 14 during the First Peoples’ Festival, which includes performances, a parade, and movies.
18. Walk on a glass floor built atop the city’s 1642 foundation at Pointe-a-Calliere museum, where you can also traverse blue-lit subterranean stone sewer tunnels.
19. Sample 500 beers from 100 international breweries at the free Montreal Beer Fest May 22 to 25.
20. Play hundreds of free board games, video games, and more at Mondial des Jeux Loto-Québec, held outside downtown every July.
Offering a green respite in the heart of the city, Hotel Bonaventure’s indoor-outdoor rooftop pool is surrounded by pathways lined with thick foliage and waterways populated by ducks. This large hotel has newly renovated split-level suites with an upstairs bedroom and an open-floor plan dining room-kitchen-living room that hides Murphy beds on the lower level.
Near the Bell Center like Hotel Bonaventure, Hotel Le Crystal is one block from the nightlife of St. Catherine Street. This independently owned boutique hotel’s small, outdoor rooftop hot tub is a major bonus as is its indoor pool and excellent Thai restaurant.
Overlooking Place Jacques Cartier in Old Montreal, Hotel William Gray has two rooftop terraces and a spa.
The city’s Golden Square Mile district is where to find the Ritz-Carlton, the new luxury boutique hotel Le Mount Stephen, and the 169-room Four Seasons Hotel Montreal, due to open next month. Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson will have a restaurant at the Four Seasons; a spa, fitness center, and skylit indoor pool add to its amenities.
Tourisme Montreal: https://www.mtl.org/en.