Montréal’s outdoor culture fills parks, gardens and farmers markets the moment the temperature ascends above freezing. Even the ubiquitous BIXI bike share stations appear well before the year’s last flurry. Here’s a snowdrift worth of activities and amenities to see in Montréal this spring.
Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History
The beautiful Éperon Building, replete with L’Arrivage, one of Old Montréal’s favourite luncheon locales, sits on the very site where Father Vimont held mass to celebrate Montréal’s founding in 1642. The Pointe-à-Callière complex features an archaeological crypt, a historic pumping station and the Archaeological Field School, among other attractions.
Lachine Canal National Historic Site
Time Magazine called it “The Third Most Beautiful Urban Circuit in the World.” This nine-mile path conveys cyclists, inline skaters and others through the park. Late spring sees kayakers take to the historic canal, the city’s byway past the Lachine Rapids that secured Montréal’s place as the economic hub of Canada. Rent a bike from Ma Bicyclette, a BIXI from one of over 400 stations, or a kayak from H2O Adventures and let your voyage begin.
Festooned in festivals
Always Google “Montréal Festivals” before coming here. The city hosts more than three-dozen festivals from March through June, including the famous Montréal International Jazz Festival, MUTEK electronic music festival and Blue Métropolis, the International Literary Festival. Looking for fringe theatre instead? Check out the St.-Ambroise Fringe Festival.
Take up residence alongside the major spring festivals at the Place Des Arts plaza or sip an espresso on Place Jacques Cartier in Old Montréal. Bohemian Le Plateau comes alive with outside seating, though no onlooker should forego the opportunity to enjoy a glass of wine while gazing down upon Rue Ste Catherine. Terrasses Labo Culinaire Foodlab takes lounging to new heights on the Société des Arts Technologiques (SAT) roof, complete with live indie music and art videos displayed across adjacent façades.
Explore the St. Lawrence
The St. Lawrence River originates in Minnesota, forms the Great Lakes and eventually flows into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean. Jet boating through the Lachine Rapids provides an opportunity to experience exactly why shipments had to be portaged around the rapids before the Lachine Canal was constructed in 1825, and is a great way to welcome the arrival of spring in Montréal.
Vélo de Montréal
89% of Montrealers own a bicycle and 81% of those ride at least one day a week. The city celebrates its two-wheeled passion with The Go Bike Montréal Fest in late May. The city closes the streets and 35,000 riders of all ages partake in the Tour de L’ile de Montréal along a 52-kilometer route. Concerts, exhibitions and impromptu galas round out the weekend-long celebration.
Step along the Plateau district’s Boulevard St-Laurent to breath in scents from the city’s diverse ethnic cultures and trendiest cafés. A walk through the Plateau culminates in Little Italy with a trip to the Jean-Talon Market, home to scores of purveyors such as flower vendors, cheese makers, fruit stalls, crépe stands and North America’s first olive oil shop.
Montréal’s five major public markets remain open year-round, but another dozen or so farmers markets pop out of the ground each spring in Montréal. Marché Saint-Jacques will be 150-years old in two years. Located south of Parc La Fontaine, the art deco building sprouts plenty of outdoor vendors, especially florists. Montréal’s stylish reputation is well placed inside Marché Bonsecours, an Old Montréal staple that provides fashion instead of produce. Look also for al fresco mini markets around several of the city’s Metro stations.
Food truck renaissance
Though a culinary cliché in most North American cities, Montréal’s food trucks only appeared in 2013. The first carts arrived on Montréal streets in the early 17th century when Dutch bakers sold their bread to factory workers. These and others were banned in 1947, when the city’s powerful restaurateurs decried hygienic concerns to drive out competition. Today’s tightly regulated mobile kitchens often park within steps of a convenient picnic locale.
Parks and gardens
Montréal possesses almost 1,500 parks and public squares. As spring in Montréal arrives, active locals and ambitious travellers traverse forested trails up 765-feet to Mont Royal. Spend mellower afternoons, meanwhile, strolling the 185-acre Jardin Botanique, followed by a visit to the annual “Butterflies Go Free” exhibition, where insectarium staffers release 15,000 to 20,000 individuals representing 75 species.
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Have you experienced spring in Montréal? What are your favourite things to do at this time of year? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.