MTL represent: 100 creative (and fun!) things to experience in Montréal

Isa Tousignant, presented by Tourisme Montréal
MTL represent: 100 creative (and fun!) things to experience in Montréal

For a full century, they’ve been proudly flying Montreal’s flag around the world, tirelessly spreading the word: as destinations for innovation, creation and celebration go, there is nowhere quite like Montreal.

This past week, Tourisme Montréal kicked off their 100-year anniversary celebrations, and in honour of this momentous milestone, we’ve collaborated with our friends at T.M. to bring you the following comprehensive (but by no means complete) list of 100 reasons why, after coming to C2 2019, you need to stay for Montreal:

  1. Discover why Montreal is known as the Festival City — there are well over 100 each year! Right now, it’s the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival, Montréal Sketchfest and Accès Asie, just for starters.
  2. Be awed by the eye-popping murals that colour the city skyline thanks to festivals like MURAL and Under Pressure, not to mention public art organizations like MU.
  3. Get techno at Le XVI XVI, a high-tech, high-dining lounge in downtown Montreal featuring robotic bartender R1-B1. Be warned, he might get flirty.
  4. Strike a pose alongside the outlandish designs of Thierry Mugler at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts.
  5. Get an earful of leading edge music in this musical mecca, a place where jazz, electro, orchestral indie, post-punk and more share the live music scene like old friends.
  6. Explore the contemporary currents that run through indigenous cultures at Ashukan, a unique incubator space on Place Jacques-Cartier in Old Montreal.
  7. Shop some inventive made-in-Montreal fashion by the likes of Nathon Kong, Ying Gao, Denis Gagnon, Marie Saint-Pierre and many more.
  8. Catch a performance — or five — at this year’s edition of Festival TransAmériques, where experimental dance, theatre and performance push the limits of creativity (May 22 to June 4).
  9. No T, no shade, no pink lemonade, see how Montreal’s drag scene lights up the night at Cabaret Mado and Café Cléopatra.
  10. Laugh it up at one of the comedy clubs that help make Montreal a world leader in live comedy and improv, with festivals like Just For Laughs, St-Ambroise Fringe Festival, the Montréal Sketch Comedy Festival and Zoofest.
  11. Live a multicoloured, multimedia experience under the city streets at the Memory Collector installation at Pointe-à-Callière archaeology and history complex.
  12. Hang ten in a cool new shirt by Dime, a Montreal brand anchored in the city’s rich skater culture.
  13. Discover some of the city’s hidden-gem bars, including Milky Way, The Coldroom and, re-opened as of this month, Alexandraplatz.
  14. Get a taste of local craft distilleries — Montrealers make everything from vodka (1769) to gin (Cirka) to black whiskey (Oshlag).
  15. Bar hop from microbrewery to microbrewery — most have kitchens worth the trip in and of themselves.
  16. Explore the uniquely Montreal phenomenon of spring-and-summertime ephemeral markets and cultural spaces. There are tons of them.
  17. Plan a work session in the open-air community office space Aire Commune, reopened this month after the long winter.
  18. Taste the joy of First Fridays, the city’s largest monthly gathering of food trucks, every first Friday of the month on the Esplanade of the Olympic Park.
  19. Seek out some of the landmarks that make Montreal a UNESCO City of Design on an architectural bike tour.
  20. Make Sunday the day of dance, not rest, at Piknic Électronik under the stunning sun in the green expanse of Parc Jean-Drapeau.
  21. Get into the rhythm of things at the weekly Sunday tam-tams party at the foot of Mount Royal, when the park fills with hand-drummers, picnickers and revellers.
  22. Take a load off at the avant-garde Bota Bota spa, located in a moored boat on the shores of the St. Lawrence River in the Old Port of Montréal.
  23. Head up to Mile-Ex to take in the spring exhibitions at Never Apart, a singularly cool art gallery and event space (founded by C2 2019 speaker Dax Dasilva).
  24. Catch some waves in the St. Lawrence River — no really, there’s no stopping surfers around here, who whip out their wetsuits off the shores of Parc Jean-Drapeau.
  25. Rethink the connection between colonialism and drag culture thanks to Kent Monkman’s amazing solo exhibition at the McCord Museum.
  26. Walk around Place des Festivals and get a feel for the city’s unique urban design flavour, especially with projects like the whimsical 21 Swings sound installation.
  27. Take a self-guided walking tour of public art thanks to Art Public Montréal’s suggested trajectories, featuring works by the likes of Irene Whittome, Joe Fafard and Jean-Paul Riopelle.
  28. Look up as you wander Ste-Catherine Street in the Gay Village — that stunning rainbow ball installation is a piece by Montreal artist Claude Cormier.
  29. Follow your visit of the colourful Palais des Congrès with a gander at the pink tree trunks on the ground floor — a work called Lipstick Forest, also by Claude Cormier.
  30. Help inaugurate the 2019 season at the Clocktower Beach, a picturesque hangout spot on the St. Lawrence River in the Old Port.
  31. Check out Canada’s first urban art museum, Musée Roméo, in the happening industrial part of the Mile End district.
  32. Tour some of the city’s coolest independent art galleries, whether it’s the large gallery within Arsenal (C2’s former home), the Darling Foundry, the Parisian Laundry or the galleries in the Belgo.
  33. Listen to kompa tunes while sampling a Haitian menu that will transport you straight to the island nation at art-covered resto Agrikol, owned by MTL indie-rock royalty Win Butler and Régine Chassagne of Arcade Fire.
  34. Learn a new skill — there are short intensive workshops in everything from weaving to glassblowing given by experts across the city.
  35. Perfect your skills in the kitchen with a cooking class — or a wine appreciation class, or a chocolate making class… Great. Now we’re hungry!
  36. Tickle the ivories to an audience of passersby on one of the 50 public pianos distributed on various street corners.
  37. Indulge in the city’s famous gastronomy scene with a meal/happening at the Foodlab, Montréal Plaza, Toqué! or so many mouth-watering others.
  38. Book a stay at the brand new Four Seasons Montréal, an architectural jewel boasting Marcus, a restaurant by world-renowned chef (and C2 2019 speaker) Marcus Samuelsson.
  39. Take a load off or brainstorm at the drop of a hat in one of Montreal’s many “placottoirs,” i.e. public seating areas designed for chats right there on the street.
  40. Seek out some of the city’s famous verdant back lanes, known as “ruelles vertes” in French — they’re rare and special unpaved lanes that act as tiny parks for happy locals.
  41. Make Sunday morning shine with the perfect Yoga Brunch-with-a-view combo at the stunning observatory on the summit of Place Ville Marie.
  42. Experience reality of a different kind at the Phi Centre, where the virtual-reality programming always has something satisfyingly mind-bending to offer.
  43. Soak up the immersive sounds and sights at an event in the Satosphere, an amazing domed electro performance space at the SAT.
  44. Enter the Old Port pyramid of PY1, the latest brainchild of Cirque du Soleil/Lune Rouge founder and C2 2019 speaker Guy Laliberté, for a high-tech, multi-sensorial experience you won’t soon forget.
  45. Hop on a BIXI and explore the city — Montreal’s easy rent-a-bike program has hundreds of pickup and drop-off spots throughout the city.
  46. Discover the Montreal startup HQ Notman House, a technology hub that provides office, event and communal space for the entrepreneurial set.
  47. Dive into the city’s world-leading AI ecosystem, renowned for these five reasons — and many more.
  48. See how creative Montreal gets with beautiful-but-defunct buildings at extraordinary spaces like Crew Collective & Café, Salon 1861, Bain Mathieu and Écomusée du fier monde.
  49. Grab a coffee on-the-go — literally — thanks to Café Pista’s barista on wheels, a seasonal mobile café that rolls around the streets of Montreal.
  50. Dive into the cocktail scene at the unusual Club Pelicano, a bar designed in homage to the city’s bath house scene of yore — only one of the city’s amazing cocktail spots.
  51. Play your cards right with a night at the Montréal Casino, where you won’t want to miss a meal at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon followed by a show.
  52. Rest up after the three-days of C2 with a night of camping in the heart of the Old Port – yep, you read that right. Book yourself a tent at Village des Écluses.
  53. Find out why Montreal is home to global electronic music phenomenon MUTEK and MEG with a tour of our EDM scene.
  54. Take a moment to gaze at the light installation on Jacques-Cartier Bridge after dark, conceived by Montreal-based creative greats Moment Factory to reflect the rhythms of the city.
  55. Bask in the lights at AURA, an immersive animation of history and spirituality at the Notre-Dame Basilica.
  56. See the city’s history come to life on a stroll around Old Montreal after dark thanks to Cité Mémoire, featuring projections on building sides, the streets — even trees.
  57. Catch the reimagine remount of Alegría, one of the most popular Cirque du Soleil touring shows in its history, performed under a big top in the Old Port.
  58. Discover the breadth of Montreal’s claim to circus fame at La TOHU, on a circus-themed AML dinner cruise, or at one of the National Circus School’s shows.
  59. Dig into creativity at its most… earthy at Parc Jean-Drapeau, a giant island cultural park created in the 1960s with the dirt and rock excavated while constructing the subway (metro) system.
  60. Stroll along the brand new Espace 67 plaza linking two Parc Jean-Drapeau landmarks: the Biosphere and Alexander Calder’s iconic sculpture, Trois disques.
  61. Take a self-guided architectural tour along the Lachine Canal, where the landmarks include Silo 5, the Five Roses sign and Moshe Safdie’s famous Habitat 67.
  62. Find the action at the Olympic Park. Whether on the Esplanade, at the Montréal Tower or in the Sports Centre, there hasn’t been a dull moment here since the 1976 Olympic Games.
  63. Go play in the vast Frédéric-Back Park, just one of the inventive green spaces that make the site so very stroll friendly.
  64. Get adventurous with some water sports a few kilometres away from the C2 Montréal site with Saute-Moutons, a jet-boating experience on the Lachine Rapids.
  65. Taste how creative Montrealers get with their rooftop spaces — if we’re not growing entire gardens on them, we’re collecting honey that you can buy through Alvéole.
  66. Soak up some of Yoko Ono’s genius in her solo show at Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain — appropriately shown during the 50th anniversary of John and Yoko’s famous bed-in at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth.
  67. Discover Leonard Cohen’s Montreal and cultural legacy with a tour of his neighbourhood.
  68. Get a look at some of the progressive work of women architects all over Montreal, from Expo 67 remnants to Place Bonaventure to Westmount Square.
  69. Bask in happiness at the exhibition Our Happy Life: Architecture and Well-Being in the Age of Emotional Capitalism, at the superb Canadian Centre for Architecture, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary.
  70. Get to the root of indigenous cuisine at the Roundhouse Café on Cabot Square downtown, where treats like sweet bannock go perfectly with a hot cup of Joe.
  71. Tap your toes to the open-air folk dancing that happens every warm-weather Monday and Thursday nights at Beaver Lake, near the top of Mount Royal.
  72. See the city by e-scooter by day or by night with a tour led by Dyad — no driver’s licence required.
  73. Go shopping for some made-in-MTL souvenirs that are actually — no, really — cool.
  74. Take in some of the best of international contemporary dance at the stunning Wilder Building, the HQ of Montreal contemporary dance, currently showing Marie Béland + Marie Chouinard + Alan Lake.
  75. For the love of classical ballet, prance over to Parlami d’Amore by the world-famous Grands Ballets Canadiens.
  76. Count your lucky stars that you’re in time to catch the great Kent Nagano’s last-ever season at the helm of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal.
  77. Chill and hang at the Place des Festivals, where the fountains, lounging areas, swings and the people watching make for the best lazy afternoon.
  78. Make like a mole and explore the Underground City, a unique 33-km long network under the downtown core uniting boutiques, hotels, metro stations and more.
  79. Do an alternative type of art tour throughout Montreal’s metro stations, spanning a wide range of historical periods and styles.
  80. Expend some physical energy creatively at the Ministry of Cricket & Other Homeless Sports — or just join in a game of spikeball in a park.
  81. Discover the little-known world of MTL hat designers with a visit to the city’s oldest remaining hat store, Henri Henri, or to Heirloom Hats, Ophelie Hats or Harricana By Mariouche, part of the new generation.
  82. Hunt down Montreal-made ceramic arts by the likes of the world-famous Pascale Girardin or up-and-comers like Atelier Make, Mérida Anderson Ceramic and Ceramik B by Basma.
  83. Feed your soul and your stomach while getting some interior décor inspiration from some of Montreal’s most stylish restaurants.
  84. Explore the range of flavours available among the city’s seemingly infinite selection of BYOB restaurants.
  85. Get down with a one-off dance class at cool schools like Studio Danse Montréal, École de danse contemporaine de Montréal and Studio 303.
  86. Relax in a dark room with some top-notch cinema by the likes of local luminaries Xavier Dolan or Denis Villeneuve in neighbourhood movie theatres like Cinéma Moderne, Cinéma du Parc and Cinéma Beaubien.
  87. Shop at EB Games in the Montréal Eaton Centre for a take-home piece of the gaming culture that reigns over the city thanks to world-leader Ubisoft (Assassin’s Creed, anyone?).
  88. Relish some natural splendour at the constantly evolving Space for Life, a creative complex dedicated to the natural sciences that unites the Botanical Garden, Insectarium, Planetarium and more.
  89. Exercise your photographic talents by shooting Montreal’s most photogenic spots — no trip is complete without a few shots of the city’s signature spiral staircases.
  90. See an MTL invention — IMAX — in action at the Montréal Science Centre, where you can see volcanoes on the big screen. Did you know this is also the birthplace of peanut butter, the Wonder Bra and the search engine?
  91. Watch theatre at its best at spaces like MainLine Theatre, Centaur Theatre and the Segal Centre for Performing Arts.
  92. Head to any blockbuster cinema of your choice for an eyeful of world-leading, award-winning special effects made in Montreal.
  93. Love lamps? See the light at local stores like Lambert & Fils and BELANGERMATIN, whose luminaries are worthy of your luggage.
  94. Test your creative logic and collaborative skills in one of the escape rooms at A/Maze.
  95. Ride the third wave of coffee shops by hopping among Montreal’s best indie cafés.
  96. Treat your taste buds to the local brunch scene — from Eggs Benedict to breakfast poutines, it’s a thing to behold.
  97. Awaken your collector’s instinct and go antiquing along Notre-Dame Street in the Quartiers du Canal. Maybe before dinner at Foiegwa?
  98. Get to know Montréal’s rich comic heritage at Drawn and Quarterly, whose Mile End world headquarters is chock-full of works by Julie Doucet, Guy Delisle and Julie Delporte.
  99. Satisfy your sweet tooth by testing treats at all the best and most creative pastry shops in town.
  100. And finally and fittingly… Have your own private MTL bagel-off — do you prefer Fairmount Bagel Bakery or St. Viateur Bagel? (It’s okay to say both.)


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Photo credit: Michael Reeder, courtesy of Tourisme Montréal