As a Montrealer I thought I was likely to have seen all that there is to see in and around the city. It wasn’t until early this January,
when an Australian friend of mine came to visit Montreal for the first time, that I realized I had underestimated and overlooked some of the great things our city has to offer. Being a tourist in your own city may sound silly but I bet that you will not regret it. I started off as a tour guide for my friend, but could not hold back my own “oohs” and “aahs” as we trekked through the city’s most famous sights, restaurants and activities.
My friend was lucky enough to arrive during one of the craziest snowstorms of the year which, aside from the initial shock, left him in awe at his first sight of snow. While he marvelled at all 50 cm I, along with other friends, failed to share his enthusiasm. Nonetheless, we had plans for him, plans that were sure to include a Montreal classic: the poutine. Devouring a delicious poutine at the popular Poutineville was not a new experience for me, but watching the Aussie drool over the innovation that is fries, gravy and melted curd cheese was nothing short of fun.
Mount Royal was stop number two. I vaguely remember hiking up Mont Royal for a college gym class but sadly could not remember what anything looked like. Montreal’s infrastructure is distinct and impressive, something I had never bothered to notice before.
It would be crazy to visit Montreal and not check out the great shopping in the downtown area. I have walked Ste-Catherine St. more times than I can possibly imagine, but I have never walked into the prominent Montreal retail establishment that is Ogilvy because I’m a student, and let’s be honest, students are not their demographic. It was pretty cool and it did shed a light on the higher end side of the city.
Not only did I take for granted the variety of stores downtown, but walking along Ste-Catherine, from shop to shop, became such a habit, that I sometimes forget how accessible and accommodating our underground malls are.
Discovering Mont Tremblant was another surprise for both me and my friend. Already thinking like a tourist, I realized how great it is that in just an hour’s time one can go from a busy metropolitan city to a quaint little village. It’s full of great winter sports like skiing, snowboarding and dog sledding, but if you prefer just enjoying the feel of walking through what looks like a Christmas village, there’s a gondola ride where you can take in the view over a maple taffy.
Seeing Montreal through the eyes of a tourist – you begin to notice shops and buildings that you would normally overlook as you’re rushing from one place to another. Walking through the streets with fresh eyes forces you to take a moment, look around and maybe think about the history behind the range of buildings and monuments.
It’s kind of sad to think that it isn’t until friends or family come from out of town to visit that we discover more of our city. Montreal is here for the taking all year round and I surely plan to start taking full advantage of it.
Feel like taking on the role as a tourist in the city? Here are few places locals don’t usually think to try that will surely give you the full Montreal experience!
Fitz and Fowell Co. Montreal tours
Put aside your pride and join in on an outdoor tour across Montreal. No matter the weather, Fitz and Fowell offer creative ways to discover the city. Rather than shy away from the cold winters, they embrace the weather and organize snow tours that not only include the usual ice skating at Beaver Lake and Lafontaine Park, but snowshoeing in the Mont-Royal woods as well.
If you’d rather wait until you can pull out your spring jacket, there are walking tours along the Main designed specifically for foodies, as well as a Plateau and Outremont tour with a side of yoga. The best part about Fitz and Fowell is that you can personalize your tour, organize it as a private event, or do a self-guided tour with a prepared picnic basket full of local products.
For more information visit http://www.fitzandfollwell.co/.
Ice fishing village
Who says you need to head north to ice fish? Whether it’s on your bucket list or just feel like getting in touch with your Canadian roots, the Old Port is now offering the opportunity to ice fish across 300,000 feet of ice. For $10, they give you all the equipment you need, a place to shelter yourself from the cold, and access to a snack bar with daily specials from Chef Daren Bergeron.
For more information visit http://www.villagepecheblanche.com/.
During the school semester, we become so accustomed to eating in class or grabbing a quick slice of pizza in between metro stops, that we forget all the great food gems that surround us; local restaurants with an international taste. Most of Montreal’s food hotspots are hidden and squeezed in tight between buildings. Some of these landmarks include Schwartz’s and their famous smoke meat, Romados and their juicy Portuguese rotisserie chicken, Moe’s Diner and their Big Ed burger, and Pizza Napolitana for none other than a margherita. A personal local favourite is Wilensky’s, not only for their traditional salami and bologna sandwich special, but because they’ve been around since 1932 and they haven’t made a special yet without mustard!
St. Joseph’s Oratory
We all know it’s there, but honestly, when was the last time you actually visited St. Joseph’s Oratory. Whether you’re religious Catholic or not, St. Joseph’s is a beautiful mountaintop basilica that is definitely worth the visit. It is the biggest shrine dedicated to St. Joseph and has been designated at a National Historic Site in Canada. Aside from its beautiful gardens, skyline view, and candlelit room displaying thousands of crutches, the basilica interestingly enough houses the heart of Saint André of Montreal.
Montreal Space for Life
Montreal Space for Life is the Insectarium, Biodôme, Botanical Garden, and Planetarium that have joined alliance to provide a place where humans can get a better understand of nature and science. There are always interesting exhibitions occurring now, we have the privilege of visiting one of the most exciting events, Butterflies Go Free. For $11.25, you could visit the Botanical Garden’s Main Exhibition room that is currently housing over a thousand butterflies and moths. If bugs aren’t your thing, the Montreal Space for Life is always hosting interesting events and bringing in new creatures to capture your attention.