Montreal is famous for its old-world charms: the cobblestoned streets of the Old Port, the historic architecture and monuments dotted throughout the city, the French menus posted in restaurant windows. But the city’s European influences are most evident in the way locals embrace life’s small pleasures – things like spending a tranquil moment in nature or lingering over a glass of wine at lunch.
These five experiences will introduce you to the local way of life in Montreal.
1. Go “Au Naturel”
Natural wines may be trendy, but in Montreal, they’re more than a passing fancy. These funky, rustic tipples make up the majority of some of the city’s most celebrated wine lists – and the entirety of others.
Try a glass at downtown wine bar Pullman – if you’re lucky, they might be pouring the latest vintage from Pinard et Filles, a local vineyard with a cult following among Montrealers (one of the winery’s recent releases sold out within an hour of hitting store shelves.) Further west, St. Henri’s Bar Loic serves an ever-changing lineup of intriguing bottles, from skin-contact whites, or “orange” wines, to pét-nat (pétillant naturel), or natural sparklers.
2. Feel the Rhythm
On Sunday afternoons, Mont Royal Park is the scene of a gathering called the Tam-Tams. Sometimes described as a throwback to hippie culture, the Tam-Tams center on drum circles and good vibes. Some attendees come to play music, while others prefer to dance, picnic, or just observe. The gatherings draw diverse crowds: young and old, families and students, Montrealers from all walks of life.
Although the Tam-Tams is technically unofficial and impromptu, events usually take place from noon onwards, weather permitting.
3. Eat Local
You’ve probably heard of poutine, a Quebecois staple consisting of fries, fresh cheddar cheese curds, and brown sauce. But many of this province’s other delicacies aren’t as well known.
During a short, hotly anticipated seafood season (from early spring through summer), the city’s favorite restaurants and snack bars showcase local snow crab, lobsters, Nordic shrimp, and sea urchins. If it’s your first time tasting Quebec seafood, ask what’s fresh at any spot run by the Joe Beef culinary empire, which also includes Liverpool House, Le Vin Papillon, and Vin Mon Lapin.
4. Watch the Walls
The quickest way to find out where a Montrealer lives is to ask about their favorite mural. In a city known for its street art, discovering your neighborhood’s graffiti is a rite of passage.
During the summer, international artists gather to collaborate on new works along Boulevard Saint-Laurent for the annual MURAL festival. An official, local-led walking tour lets you get up close and personal with around 25 of these paintings. Or plot your own route using one an online map, like this one created by local developer Vernon Lillies.
5. Get on Your Bike and Ride
With more than 500 kilometers of cycle-friendly pathways – from Dorval in the West Island, to Laval on the North Shore, and beyond – the Greater Montreal bike path network is arguably easier to navigate than the city’s congested roads. Public BIXI bikes are stationed throughout the city – you can rent them by the ride, or opt for a long-weekend pass if you’re in town during certain holidays.
Whether you book your getaway at the Hilton Montreal/Lavalor the Hampton Inn and Suites Montreal Dorval, Hilton staff can direct you to their favorite neighborhood spots. Click here to view Hilton offers.