Belgo (372 Ste-Catherine Street W. â€“ See individual galleries for opening hours)
With over 30 galleries and artists’ studios housed in one building, the Belgo offers plenty to satiate your visual arts fix. Remember: when it comes to arts sightseeing, it’s totally okay to skip that geography lecture. So take the day to explore its five floors.
Crtllab (3634 St-Laurent Boul. â€“ Wed.-Sat. 12 p.m.-5 p.m.)
Nestled between the bars on the St-Laurent strip, Ctrllab is a great place to check out if you want to see work from young artists. Their residency program, which lets artists actually create and live in the back room of the gallery for a two-month period, is one highlight. With new exhibits and events nearly every week, this is one gallery to keep your eye on.
Museum of Fine Arts (1380 Sherbrooke St. W. â€“ Open Tues. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Wed.-Fri. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.) Regular admission is free, the Gaultier exhibit is $9 for 13-25, $7.50 on Wednesday nights.
Steps away from Concordia’s downtown campus, the MMFA offers two ultra-modern buildings bearing art from nearly every century and style, perfect for when you have a couple of hours to kill in between classes. Besides being the place to take in some Rembrandt and Picasso, make sure to go before Oct. 2 to check out the exhibit dedicated to fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier, in all its talking-mannequin glory. You won’t believe it ’til you see it.
MusÃ©e d’art contemporain (185 Ste-Catherine W. â€“ Open Tues.-Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., open until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays) Admission is $6 for students, free on Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Walk long enough through the underground hallways connected to Place-des-Arts metro, and you’ll stumble upon this modern art mecca. It’s small enough for a visit that won’t leave your eyes bloodshot from all the technicolour goodness, but big enough to hold as many artworks from up-and-coming contemporary artists as your little heart desires.
Second hand bookshops
Encore (5670 Sherbrooke St. W. â€“ Open Mon.-Sun. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., with extended closing hours of 9 p.m. Thursday-Friday.)
It’s hard to ignore Encore, and not just because they have an awesome selection of secondhand books, records and moreâ€”it literally stands out because of its aqua green colour, easily making it the nicest-looking storefront in NDG. Make sure to bring a rip-proof bag (or a pair of helping hands) for this one, ’cause you’ll most certainly be walking out with more than one treasure.
S. W. Welch (225 St. Viateur St. W. â€“ Open Sun.-Wed. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Thurs.-Fri. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.)
Chances are, if you ask any book lover to name their go-to bookshop on the island, they’ll mention S.W. Welch. With an amazing selection of rare and secondhand books at prices that won’t leave you begging for bus fare to get back homeâ€”not to mention the super-friendly staffâ€” it’s well worth the visit. What’s better, it’s steps away from Montreal cultural landmark (and makers of the tastiest carbs on the island) St-Viateur Bagel.
Best cafes to write at
Kafein (1429 Bishop St. â€“ Open Mon.-Thurs. 9 a.m.-1 a.m., Fri. 9 a.m.-3- a.m., Sat. 12 p.m.-3 a.m., Sun. 12 p.m.-6 p.m.)
The shisha may be gone, but this Bishop Street gem still manages to draw in all kinds of crowds. Not only do they have mismatched furniture you can melt into for hours, but they keep things mellow by playing music like The Smiths. Bonus: they may just have the best vegetarian chilli in town.
ShaÃ¯ka (5526 Sherbrooke St. W â€“ Open Mon-Wed 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Thurs.-Fri. 7:30 a.m.-12 a.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-12 a.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-9 p.m.)
Taking over a corner right across NDG park, practically anywhere you sit inside this cafe will feel like your own private nook. Besides serving a mean cappuccino in bowl-like large cups, they have art from local artists hanging on the walls to inspire you.
Gawk-worthy metro art
Though it’s a little out of the way (unless you’re planning a trip to Village des Valeurs, which is only a block away), the honeycomb-resembling installation that hangs from the ceiling is photogenic and dazzling enough to be well worth the extra minutes of travel.
Before stepping into the streets of Old Montreal, stop for a minute to take in the huge stained glass windows that line the walls of the station. Go right in the middle of a sunny day to witness the best (sober) psychedelic colour effects.