April 10, 2013 ─ From restaurants to nightlife to shopping to sightseeing, there’s a lot for the LGBT community to enjoy in Montréal. And not just in the Village, either: while our Gay Village is one of the largest in the world, many gay-welcoming activities and attractions can be found city-wide.
Montréal in the summertime hosts an abundance of festivals, including Aires libres, Piknic Electronik, Divers/Cité, of course, Pride. For up-to-date descriptions of happenings and venues, be sure to check out The Montréal Buzz, the Tourisme Montréal blog with the insider scoop on the city. And be sure to check dates before you book your trip!
The BIXI (bike + taxi) rental biking system is one of the best ways to visit Montréal landmarks. Simply “borrow” a bike from one station, pedal to your destination, and return it to any BIXI station, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from May to November.
DAY 1 – OLD MONTRÉAL AND THE GAY VILLAGE
Get your adventure rolling at the communal dining tables of Le Cartet, a charm-filled breakfast and brunch locale, before heading to Montréal on Wheels, a centre that rents out a wide range of bicycles and accessories. The centre’s accredited guided bike tours provide for an amazing way to visit landmarks and sites across the city.
For lunch, there’s no lack of choice in this neighbourhood. Head over to the picturesque Place Jacques-Cartier to find your resto du jour. Then, take a stroll down Saint-Paul Street where you will find chic art galleries and designer shops, including Michel Brisson, Reborn, and the boutique of legendary fashion designer, Denis Gagnon.
For art of a different kind, head to the DHC, a space for exciting and relevant contemporary art exhibitions, or to Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History, a national historic site that rises above the actual remains of the city.
A trip to Old Montréal would not be complete without a visit to the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal, an impressive Gothic Revival cathedral built between 1824 and 1829, and the site of the wedding of the illustrious gay icon, Céline Dion, and manager René Angélil!
Why not take a moment or two (or more) to relax at one the neighbourhood’s wonderful spas? Scandinave Les Bains Vieux-Montréal or Bota Bota, spa-sur-l’eau will have your refreshed and ready to explore.
When it’s time for a tipple, Aire Libres in the Village is ideal! St. Catherine Street is turned over to pedestrians, making it an ideal place to hang out and watch the world go by as you blithely sip a drink on an outdoor patio.
For supper, Carte Blanche serves up an elegant dining experience with genuine fine cuisine made with fresh, local products.
DAY 2 – DOWNTOWN
Begin your day with a hearty, delicious breakfast at Café Vasco da Gama where fresh, quick meals are served up with Portuguese flair and hospitality.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the city’s foremost repository for art and artefacts from pre-antiquity to the present day, is a fabulous place to while away the morning. Or, check out the Canadian Centre for Architecture, an international research centre and museum recognized for the richness of its collections and the quality of its exhibitions.
Downtown offers numerous lunch options proximate to prime shopping locations, including La Maison Simons is an LGBT fav with stylish collections for men and women; M0851, a Montréal-based boutique that has built an international reputation on fine leather, linen, and cashmere bags, clothing, and accessories; and finally, the grand Birks jewellery store, where you can admire luxury brand rings, watches, flatware, and cutlery, as well as have a snack, coffee, tea, and, even a glass of wine, at the cozy, yet elegant, Birks Café par Europea.
A visit to the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, Canada's premier museum devoted exclusively to contemporary art, is a pleasant end to your afternoon.
As the sun sets, head back to the Village to check out some of the city’s best antique and vintage dealers on Amherst Street. Then it’s off to Le Saloon, a Village institution serving western-fusion fare in an electric atmosphere with top-notch DJs. From there, continue discovering the Village’s many entertaining bars and nightclubs.
DAY 3 – MILE END AND THE PLATEAU MONT-ROYAL
Mile End and the Plateau Mont-Royal are fantastic Montréal neighbourhoods that feature exterior wrought-iron staircases, stone masonry and incredible diversity. In the Mile End quarter, streets of interest include, Fairmount, Saint-Viateur, and Bernard and their crossing arteries. Start off the day at Faimount Bagel Bakery: since 1919, this Montréal institution has been treating customers to traditional bagels baked in a wood-fired oven.
A stroll to Waverly Street will take you to Dépanneur le Pick-Up, a convenience store (dépanneur in French)/eatery/art space that boasts a mouth-watering menu of hot sandwiches, soups, salads, and innovative brunch and dinner specials. From there, the Charlotte Hosten boutique features a wide selection of intricate and unique handmade jewellery.
Another Mile End essential is Le Cagibi on Saint-Laurent Boulevard. Often compared to a community centre of sorts, it’s not uncommon for patrons to find themselves amongst a mélange of musicians, artists, students, and bike messengers who all appreciate the inviting bohemian décor.
Just a few blocks south lies the Plateau Mont-Royal, a.k.a. “The Plateau”, where you can find even more cafés, restaurants, and boutiques. Head farther south on Saint-Laurent, and you’ll reach Laïka, a restaurant/Wi-Fi café/bar/lounge frequented by trendy locals and visitors and, of course, Schwartz’s, Montréal’s smoked meat institution that has welcomed celebrities and guests from all over the world since 1928.
There’s nothing better after a smoked meat sandwich than a jaunt up Mount Royal, or “the Mountain”. On Sunday afternoons once the snow melts, music-makers and dancers in the hundreds – if not thousands – encircle the statue of Sir George-Étienne Cartier to revel in the beat of the Tam-Tams. Bohemian fun at its finest!
From there, continue down Saint-Laurent Boulevard to Prince Arthur Street. A summer hotspot, street artists and musicians add character to this now revitalized pedestrian zone overflowing with cafés and restaurants. At its end lies the eye-catching 19th-century homes of Square Saint-Louis.
Walk east through Square Saint-Louis to Saint-Denis Street, lined with stylish shops featuring creations from Québec fashion designers, beautiful wares for the home, and treasures of music and literature. Home also to an abundance of restaurants, cafés and bistros, it’s a great place to enjoy a last meal before heading home from your Montréal adventure.
À la prochaine!