A city of great architectural austerity, impressive cultural contributions, and burgeoning creativity, Montreal can also be pretty darn (but delightfully) weird. From maple-centric menu offerings and a cathedral-based light show to gin-and-perfume tastings and a sewer-system walk, the city really does have it all. Don’t believe us? Here’s a list of Montreal’s quirkiest offerings.
Emblazoning the nation’s flag, shading the city streets, and sweetening the metropolis’ sweets, the maple tree is emblematic of all things Canada. And a trip to Montreal wouldn’t be complete without a comprehensive sampling of the tasty treat it produces. Though many suggest visiting the famed sugar shacks outside of Montreal, staying within the city boundaries will yield a host of maple-centric eateries as well. Anyone wanting to do the city proud should head to the cozy nook that is Flyjin Cafe (417 Saint-Pierre) and pick up an iced maple syrup latte — though you may want to hold off until the weather is a little bit warmer. Those who may not have as intense a sweet tooth (but still want to experience Montreal’s maple flavor) should try the more savory apple, ham, and maple crêpe at La crêperie du marché. And if you’re looking for an all-out sugar bonanza, you should should venture to Délices Érable & Cie, which offers an abundance of maple syrups, candies, and confections.
Those set on exploring the trendy neighborhood of Mile Ex should pay a visit to Never Apart Gallery (7049 St-Urbain), a multi-purpose, non-profit arts and culture space that wows all who visit. Although the gallery features a rotation of exhibits, the offerings are always unique, generally interactive, and beyond inventive.
Whether it’s a piano that generates light-up graphics when played, a painting that projects sounds and patterns onto the canvas, a meditation room meant to model a sun-soaked field, a darkroom with an orbiting moon meant to model space, a laser show with aluminum foil and smoke, or quirky pop art, visitors are in for a total treat. At its heart, Never Apart is about bridging gaps in the community and creating a space for acceptance and creativity. You can stop by and experience its mission from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Saturday.
Montreal is a city that pairs its legacy of architectural beauty with the ingenuity of its creative community. AURA — a luminous, meticulously coordinated light show that takes place within the city’s ancient basilica of Notre Dame — is the perfect example of this juxtaposition.
Designed in 2017 to celebrate the city’s 375th anniversary (its terquasquicentennial, to be exact), the spectacular received a reprisal in 2018 due to popular demand. And it’s no wonder — the soaring scores and accompanying light patterns are absolutely mesmerizing. The basilica is scheduled for two viewings an evening (excepting Sundays) through 2019, so visitors have plenty of time to plan a visit to experience this light trip.
The city of Montreal straddles the ancient and the futuristic through its many culture offerings, but none so inventively than Société des arts technologiques (SAT) (1201 St Laurent Blvd), which continually wows audiences with its exhibits, performances, and culinary pursuits. Founded in 1996, SAT is a non-profit focused on furthering art and science research, as well as developing virtual reality enterprises and creating immersive technologies.
The most exciting of its experiences is its innovative Stratosphere, a 60-foot- (18-meter-) tall dome that displays projected video, often alongside a live musical act. Visitors are encouraged to claim one of the dozens of giant floor pillows, make themselves at home, and turn their faces dome-ward for an incredible 360-degree video experience that is simultaneously relaxing and riveting. After you’ve enjoyed this singular show, head a few steps outside the dome for dinner at SAT’s lauded Food Lab restaurant, a culinary experience as unique as the space itself.
Jugs of Gin
If gin is your drink of choice, make a beeline to the W Montreal — but don’t forget to dress to impress. Once inside the hotel’s famed (and stunningly atmospheric) bar, prepare to be amazed by the countless shelves of gin — the bartender will attest to the fact that the venue stocks over 50 different types of the spirits, much of which is made locally with Canadian ingredients.
The masterfully crafted cocktails have been created with an accompanying essential oil “perfume” spritz as a finish, which elevates subtler notes of the drinks’ ingredients. We recommend the Canopee (which has hints of juniper), the Wendigo (completed with a spritz of ginger), or the Dandy (topped with a mist of vanilla). And, if you fall in love with the W’s bar (we won’t blame you), be sure to return for Gin and Tonic Thursdays, where they debut a new drink every week — at 52 new gin drinks a year, that’s a resolution-worthy decision!
People aren’t quite sure what to call Pointe-à-Callière in Old Montreal. Part museum, part archaeological site, and part interactive art exhibition, the venue hosts a number of fascinating displays about life in the oldest part of the city, including the lasting legacy of Canada’s First People and the struggle of French settlers who battled winters, floods, and famine to establish their colony.
In addition to showcasing the first settlement walls built 376 years ago, the museum features a number of ancient archaeological cooking and hunting sites and a fascinating exhibit of the city’s old sewer system — the latter of which has been magnificently repurposed into a music- and light-filled walkway that allows visitors to experience the magic of human ingenuity and the beauty of engineering. We can attest to the fact that it’s the most pleasant sewer walk we’ve ever experienced!
Did we miss any of your favorite offbeat locales in Montreal? Let us know in the comments below!