Upteenth Q about visiting Montreal
September 15, 2022 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Questions about four sides of the snowflake that is me below the fold. I might realize what the other two sides are later...

DRIVING: I could drive or fly (from the Midwest US). I’d prefer to drive and have my car. Will it be inconvenient and/or expensive (e.g., finding parking at destinations, overnight parking)? Or can I easily get to see the things I want to with public transportation? I have the impression some of the places I’m interested in are not easily accessible with public transport.

LODGING: Looks like marijuana is legal there. I hate the smell of it. On a trip to an American city where it’s legal, I had a horrible time finding modestly priced hotels that didn’t stink, stink, stink. What’s the story in Montreal? Any Mefites have a nice little vacation rental? :-D

SIGHTSEEING: I’ve listed some places of potential interest (as well as “not for me” stuff, to round out the picture). I like things that quirky, beautiful, unusual, intelligent, artistic/creative, thought-provoking. What might be missing from my list?

FOOD: Any rec's that are on the casual, moderately priced side?

Timing: Based on my cursory review of temps, if I can’t make it happen between now and mid-October, I may postpone until spring.

Bagels in the historic Jewish Quarter
Markets: Atwater, Bonsecours
Botanical Garden
City Hall
Lachine Canal
Latin Quarter
Little Italy
Mile End
Museum of Contemporary Art
Museum of Fine Arts
Notre Dame Basilica
Notre Dame des Neiges cemetary
Old Montreal
St Michel Flea Market
St Paul Street, Old Port
Ste Catherine St
Street murals along St Laurent Boulevard

ZERO interest in:
Heights: anything to do with hills, mountains, climbing things, or long vista views
Loud spaces
Nightclubs, night life, alcohol
Chinatown (unless it has something that makes it outdo every other Chinatown in North America)
$$$ meals
Being north of my residential latitude during the winter months
posted by dancing leaves to Travel & Transportation around Montreal, QC (10 answers total)
Best answer: Just on your driving/parking question: Montreal is not a fun city for driving. Lots of twisty/one-way/narrow little streets, other drivers are kind of aggressive/bad, parking is scarce and sometimes sketchy. (When I say sketchy, I mean a dude with a vacant lot that he chains up at night, sometimes earlier than promised.) Also all signage is in French.

It's better than Manhattan, but much worse than, say, San Francisco or Minneapolis or Toronto.

FWIW personally I would drive only if you plan to keep your car at the hotel the entire time, and walk/take taxis/public transportation in the city itself.
posted by Susan PG at 11:03 AM on September 15 [1 favorite]

Best answer: sightseeing:

* there are LOTS of murals near st laurent (not just on the street, but on the nearby side streets)
* the jean talon market is my favourite food market, it's a lot cheaper than atwater

* pastry shops: mamie clafoutis, kouign amann are both amazing
* there's lots of good French food if you like French food. I don't have a specific recommendation though (maybe l'express?) Many places are bring-your-own-wine.
* for poutine: patati patata, maamm bolduc, frite alors
* in general, Cult Montreal just released their best of montreal 2022 (pdf), they have lots of good cheap restaurant recommendations
posted by oranger at 11:09 AM on September 15 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Re: Car -- Everything on your to-do list is within a 10-minute walk of a metro station. The metro is very good, clean and reliable in Montreal, highly preferable to driving. Unless there's additional places you didn't list, you won't need a car to do any of the things you want to do.

Having a car in Montreal is doable as a local (I have a car, in fact), but as a visitor it's a huge hassle. There is no free parking in downtown; expect to pay around $20/night for garage parking. In the less-central neighborhoods there's free street parking, but the parking signs are pretty cryptic if you're not used to them, and it's very easy to accidentally park somewhere you're not allowed and end up with a $100 ticket.
posted by mekily at 11:18 AM on September 15 [5 favorites]

Best answer: This is a very particular slant on the timing question, but: I visited Montreal in October before the pandemic. There were a *lot* of wasps. No, more than that. More than that. Keep going. Yep, now you've got it.

The wasps get a mention in the Wikivoyage entry. This is unusual. Still, I read it and thought "well, yes I have a wasp phobia, but that says specifically in the height of summer; we're visiting in autumn; it'll be fine!". It was not fine. Nobody got stung, but there were *far* too many wasps. And given the Wikivoyage mention, I assume it was not just a boom year for wasps.

So... yeah. If you're OK with wasps, September / October will be a perfectly good time to visit. But if you're allergic, phobic, or just find it hard to keep your cool around them, I would recommend waiting for the spring.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 11:27 AM on September 15

Best answer: You are sensible to make mid-October the cutoff. Some years it stays mild and mellow till the end of the month, but it often gets damp and chilly toward Halloween.

Spring in Montreal doesn't really spark till May, though. Between mid-March and May there's a gray period when trees are still bare and the receding snow leaves the streets icky. Early to mid June is lovely, though.

Everything on your list is easily accessible by metro or, at most, metro plus one bus. Taking the bus is normal and not considered déclassé. Buses have a recorded voice telling you which stop is coming up so you won't get lost, and you can ask a bus driver e.g. to let you know when you've reached the cemetery gates. (Side note: Notre-Dame-des-Neiges is huge. Be ready for a hike.)

mekily is right about your car. Parking is difficult and especially so in the denser, older parts of town you're most likely to want to visit. Unless you have unmentioned mobility problems, buy a transit pass for the period needed.
posted by zadcat at 12:41 PM on September 15

Best answer: I've stayed at l'appartement hotel and the residence inn downtown and didn't notice any weed smell there.

I live in NYC and weed stench is ubiquitous since it's been decriminalized ( I do indulge but don't want to smell it everywhere), I didn't notice this in MTL.
posted by brujita at 1:14 PM on September 15

Best answer: If you're there before the end of October, the Botanical Gardens have a "Gardens of Light" exhibit after dark. The ticket gets you into the gardens (and the Insectarium) during the day - not much will be in full bloom but it's still worth walking around. Then come back after dark for the light show.

And if you like quirky, artistic and beautiful don't miss Montreal's alleys. The Green Alleys (Ruelles Vertes) are one of the most charming features of the city.
posted by Gortuk at 6:14 AM on September 16

Best answer: We had so much fun doing a ~2.5 hour bike tour in Montreal that we immediately went on the next tour the same day (different route). It's been a while, but I think we went with the Fitz tour company. It was a really cool way to see a bunch of neighborhoods, and the guides were very fun and very talkative about life in Montreal for young people - which was fun for not-exactly-young people.
posted by Mid at 6:25 AM on September 16

Best answer: I just got back from Montreal like 2 days ago! So, +1 to what ManyLeggedCreature said about the wasps. No one got stung but they were EVERYWHERE, which was a shame because it made eating/drinking outside less pleasant.

With regard to driving: there is a TON of roadwork happening right now. We took a couple Ubers to various places and even they were having some trouble navigating all of it. There was definitely work on Saint Laurent, which I got the impression was one of the main streets. We walked a lot and that was fine. My friend went to the Botanical Garden and really enjoyed it.

Get some Haitian food while you are there! We went to Le TiBoeuf (just like a little takeout place) and it was great. Atwater market had lots of vendors, and has some nice park space by the canal to have a little picnic. Enjoy your trip!
posted by Bunny Boneyology at 7:08 AM on September 17 [1 favorite]

Check out the Belgo building for a multitude of art galleries:


posted by sebastienbailard at 8:38 PM on September 21

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