Tourist guide: Montreal

Montreal has just been elected the best city for students in the world. Having my two best friends studying at McGill was the best excuse to spend 10 days of my Easter break in this astonishing town. I took notes of the best I visited, in order to share them with you.

I was staying in a wonderful area called Le Plateau, which is also known as the hipster district. Indeed, the walls are all filled with different colourful graffiti’s and you will be tempted to take pictures every ten minutes. The artists change the graffiti every year thus making the city look young and vibrant. On top of that, there are endless camera shops throughout the whole district. The best thing about this area is the vintage shops. My personal favourite was Eva B, a 3-story bazaar in which you can find anything and everything ranging from 19th century dresses to cowboy boots. Le Plateau is therefore the perfect area, which allows you to discover the city through long walks along the beautiful artistic streets.

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If you want to eat, there are unquestionable restaurants such as La Banquise, which serves the best poutine in town. You might find yourself asking what poutine is; Basically, Canada has two renown dishes: maple syrup and poutine. It’s made with French fries and cheese curds topped with a light brown gravy. Even if this sounds really greasy and most certainly unhealthy, La Banquise knows how to do it and you shouldn’t leave Montreal before having a taste! If you want something less authentic but just as tasty you should eat at Arepera. It’s a Venezuelan restaurant which makes oats pancakes filled with different toppings. I had the ‘La Llanera’ which is filled with avocados, feta and beef. It was just a perfect combination and ideal for a lunch break during our long touristic walks.

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After having nourished your body with delicious food, you will have strength and energy to keep walking for the rest of the day. Indeed, it’s useless in Montreal to take the tube or even the bus, everything is close and connected. To continue, you should go to the Mount Royal. It’s a kind of a trek but definitely worth the effort. Once you reach the top, you’ll have a panoramic view of Montreal’s skyline and realise that Montreal is actually an island. There is a building with window pane where you can buy hot chocolates and drink it in indoor chaise longue while looking at the amazing view. For dinner, I highly recommend the Marché 27 which is a Tartare Bar (raw meet and fish). Le Plateau has many options for you to finish your day: the clubs and bars are everywhere. There are some fancy ones where you’ll have to dress classy. Appartement 200 is one of them and its particularity is that it’s set as a real apartment. In this sense, there is a living room, kitchen etc. For instance, if you book a table, you’ll be drinking in bed. Other ones in this genre are école privée. The music there will be house and techno. If you want something more chill, you should go to Tokyo or Muzique which are more Rn’b music. The most renown by the McGill students is Café Campus where they go every Tuesday. It is retro music ranging from the 60s to the 2000s. It can be seen as the equivalent of our Smack or Pop. After that, have a good sleep because Le Plateau is only a small part of the city.

The second day, you’ll have to go to Downtown Montreal which can be seen as the New York of Canada. Indeed, it is only immense skyscrapers and the more active part of the city. If you want to go shopping, Sainte Catherine Street is the most accurate. It is the equivalent of Oxford Street in London. After that, you should take a coffee break or have lunch in a perpendicular road called Crescent Street where every terrace is packed during the summer. You’ll find numerous very affordable restaurants and bars. Personally, I went there when it was snowing but I still had the best Sangria under outdoor heating blocks. For the rest of the day, I recommend to visit McGill. It is the biggest university in Montreal and its architecture on campus is just astonishing. Little anecdote, the downtown buildings are filmed in movies that are supposed to take place in New York. Indeed, it’s cheaper to film in Montreal than New York and therefore the Canadian film industry is raising. For instance, they used McGill to recreate Harvard. The next step would be to slip into something nice and fancy and have dinner at Grinder. It is expensive but worth it. It’s more of a meat place but has a good variety of food. To go out, there is SAT which is techno but has the particularity of projecting animations and art pieces on a dome while people are dancing. A bit further, there is New City Gas that often has some international Djs such as Tiesto or Alesso. When I was in Montreal I was there to see Bakermat for only 16$ and with a festival-filled atmosphere due to the club’s size.

For the third day, the Vieux port is a good shot. You’ll have less to walk around and it is more calm than the other quarters. Chinatown is close to it and you literally feel like you’re in Beijing. The restaurants are cheap and tasty. I visited China Town Kim Fung where waiters are walking around tables with food carts and you have to pick what you want from there. It’s a really disorienting experience but you will love it. If you go on January, you have to try Igloofest, an outdoor festival on the port. If not, don’t worry, you can still go to places such as Tommys or Crew Café. Crew Café used to be a bank and is now a working place/café. The building itself is impressive and cosy for a break. For the night, Velvet is a fancy night club which has events, (check their website to be sure of the music!)

So yes, Montreal is surprising. It is a mix of three differing nationalities: American, French and Canadian.  You can therefore speak English and French at the same time. It has so many good restaurants that it was hard to pick the best. Key touristic knowledge to have is that the bills can be split (even if you share an appetiser you can share the price of it!) but you will always have to add a15% tax over the initial price and 15% for the tips. Therefore, a t-shirt for example in a shop isn’t as cheap as it looks, so beware! However, I highly recommend this city because it has so much to offer and you will meet a lot of people since a great part of its population is student based.

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