100 creative things to do in Montréal

Isa Tousignant

Isa Tousignant is an art and lifestyle writer based out of Montréal's ecclectic Park Ex neighbourhood. She is Contributing Editor for Canadian Art magazine and freelances full-time for a wide variety of magazines and brands. She’s also a jewellery designer and passionate about animal costumes and their role in contemporary art.

100 years already?! At Tourisme Montréal, we’ve been sharing our love for the city for a century now – and our pride is only growing. Montréal is unique in the world for its constant innovation, invention, creativity and joyful spirit – the city practically promotes itself. Here are 100 exciting creative things to do so you can start tapping into that famous Montréal energy.

1. Experience why Montréal is known as Festival City – there are over 100 a year!

2. Eye the eye-popping murals that colour the city skyline thanks to festivals like MURAL and Under Pressure, not to mention artful organizations like MU.

3. Hang ten in a new cool shirt by Dime, a Montréal brand anchored in the city’s rich skater culture.

4. 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. Find your bearings at stores like Empire and KSF.

5. Get an earful of music in this musical mecca, 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 Cultural Space, a unique incubator space on Place Jacques-Cartier.

7. Shop some inventive made-in-Montréal fashion by the likes of Nathon Kong, Ying Gao, Denis Gagnon, Marie Saint-Pierre and many more.

8. Book a meal – or five – at this year’s edition of MTLàTABLE, Montréal’s restaurant week offering incredible multi-course meals for a fraction of the cost.

9. No T, no shade, no pink lemonade: see how Montréal’s drag scene lights up the night at Cabaret Mado and Cabaret Cléopâtre.

10. Laugh it up at one of the comedy clubs that help make Montréal a world leader in live comedy and improv, with festivals like Just For Laughs Festival, St-Ambroise Montréal 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, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex.

12. Get your beat on in the snow this winter at Igloofest, an incredible, three-weekend, open-air EDM festival that promises to keep you warm.

13. Discover some of Montréal’s hidden-gem bars, including Milky Way, The Coldroom and Clandestino.

14. Get a taste of local craft distilleries – Montrealers make everything from vodka (1769 Distilleries) to gin (Distilleries Cirka) to black whiskey (Oshlag Brewery & Distillery).

15. Bar hop from microbrewery to microbrewery – most have kitchens worth the trip in and of themselves.

16. Meet Montréal makers of all sorts at some of the many craft fairs, starting with the grand poobah, Salon des métiers d’art du Québec, at Place Bonaventure.

17. Play as you work with a brainstorming session in one of the city’s coolest co-working spaces.

18. Taste the joy of First Fridays, the city’s largest monthly gathering of food trucks, every first Friday of the month at the Esplanade of the Olympic Park.

19. Seek out some of the landmarks that made Montréal 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. Discover another side of Mount Royal by joining in on one of the free activities courtesy of Les amis de la montagne – they know all of this landmark’s secret best spots.

22. Take a load off at the avant-garde Bota Bota, spa-sur-l'eau, located in a moored boat on the shores of the St. Lawrence River just off Griffintown.

23. Head up to Mile-Ex to take in the latest exhibitions at Never Apart, a singularly cool art gallery and event space.

24. Strike a pose in Old Montréal, home to some of the city’s hottest fashion designers (including Denis Gagnon and Philippe Dubuc) and cool stores like SSENSE, Espace Pepin, Rooney, Michel Brisson and Off The Hook.

25. Get food for thought and a feast for the eyes at either the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal or the McCord Museum, all in the heart of the city.

26. Walk around Place des Festivals and get a feel for the city’s unique urban design flavour.

27. Take a self-guided walking tour of public art works thanks to Art Public Montréal’s suggested trajectories, featuring works by the likes of Irene F. Whittome, Joe Fafard and Jean-Paul Riopelle.

28. Wander through Square Dorchester to admire the "sliced" Victorian-inspired fountain, and take a romantic stroll on the pedestrian bridges, designed by Montréal landscape architecture and urban design firm Claude Cormier + Associés.

29. Follow your visit of the colourful Montréal Convention Centre with a gander at the pink tree trunks on the ground floor – a work called Lipstick Forest, also by Claude Cormier.

30. Enjoy a stroll along Verdun Beach, an project where you can hang, chill and swim – season permitting – on either sand or grassy knolls.

31. Check out Canada’s first urban art museum, Romeo's Museum, in the happening industrial part of Mile End.

32. Tour some of the city’s coolest independent art galleries, whether it’s the large gallery within the Arsenal, the Darling Foundry or Parisian Laundry.

33. See one of Guy Laliberté’s latest projects in action – a start-up fund called – that finances creativity in action.

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. Twinkle the ivories to an audience of passersby on one of the 50 public pianos distributed on various street corners.

37. Indulge in Montréal’s famous gastronomy scene with a meal/happening at the Foodlab, Montréal Plaza Restaurant, Restaurant Toqué! or sooo many mouth-watering others.

38. Book a stay in one of the unique boutique hotels Old Montréal has to offer, like Hôtel William Gray, which mixes Greystone-history with cutting-edge comfort.

39. Take a load off or brainstorm at the drop of a hat in one of Montréal’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 Society for Arts and Technology.

44. Have an impromptu dance party at one of the city’s hot dance clubs. There’s fun happening every day of the week!

45. Hop on a BIXI between April and November and explore the city – Montréal’s easy rent-a-bike program has hundreds of pickup and drop-off spots throughout the city.

46. Discover the Montréal start-up HQ right atop Mount Royal: Notman is a technology hub that provides office, event and communal space for the ingenious and entrepreneurial set.

47. Dive into Montréal’s word-leading artificial intelligence ecosystem, renowned for these five reasons – and many more.

48. See how creative Montréal gets with beautiful-but-defunct buildings at extraordinary spaces like Crew Collective & Café, Le 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 Montréal.

50. Dive into the cocktail scene at the unusual Club Pelicano, a bar designed in homage to Montréal’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 Casino de Montréal, followed by a show.

52. See Montréal design from up close and personal in one of the city’s hottest Golden Square Mile hotels: the Four Seasons Hôtel Montréal, Hotel Birks Montréal, Le Mount Stephen Hotel, the freshly retrofitted Hôtel Le Germain Montréal and more.

53. Find out why Montréal is the founding place of the global phenomenon of MUTEK and MEG Montréal Festival 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 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 Montréal history come to life on a stroll around Old Montréal after dark thanks to Cité Mémoire, featuring projections on building sides, the streets – even trees.

57. Catch the next show at Le Monastère, a stunning venue in the St. Jax Anglican church downtown, now an incubator space for graduates of Montréal’s world-famous circus school.

58. Discover the breadth of Montréal’s claim to circus fame at La TOHU, on a circus-themed Croisières AML dinner cruise, or the National Circus School Annual Show.

59. Discover creativity at its most… earthy at Parc Jean-Drapeau, a giant island cultural park created from scratch in the 1960s with the earth excavated to create the subway system.  

60. Stroll along the brand new Espace 67 plaza linking two Parc Jean-Drapeau landmarks: the Biosphère and Alexander Calder’s sculpture, Trois disques.

61. Take a self-guided architectural tour along the Lachine Canal, where the landmarks include Silo No. 5, the Farine Five Roses sign and Moshe Safdie’s famous Habitat 67.

62. Find the action at the Olympic Stadium – whether on the Esplanade of the Olympic Park, 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 Montréal so very stroll friendly.

64. Get a crash course in coding at Kikicode, where kids aged 4 to 99 can up their computational, electronic and robotics expertise.

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. Design your own food tour with this list of musts for first-time visitors to Montréal.

67. Discover Leonard Cohen’s Montréal with a tour of his neighbourhood and his cultural heritage.

68. Get a look at some of the progressive work of women architects all over Montréal, from Expo 67 remnants to Place Bonaventure to Westmount Square.

69. Stay at the cutting edge of architecture and its impact of everyday life at the erudite Canadian Centre for Architecture, an epicentre of rigorous thought since 1979. 

70. Taste the Caribbean in one of Montréal’s sunny island restaurants, shining examples of Montréal’s incredibly rich international food scene.

71. Take in the rainbow of fall colours within the city itself or just a short drive out to  see nature shine in full technicolour.

72. See the city by e-scooter by day or by night with a tour led by Dyad – no drivers’ licence required.

73. Go shopping for some made-in-Montréal 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 Montréal dance.

75. For the love of ballet, prance over to Place des Arts for a performance by the world-famous Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal.

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, the lounging areas and the people watching make for the best lazy afternoon.

78. Make like a mole and explore the Underground Pedestrian Network, a unique 33-km long network under the downtown core uniting shops, hotels and subway stations.

79. Do an alternative type of art tour throughout Montréal’s metro stations – i.e. subway stops – along a wide range of historical periods and styles.

80. Expend some physical energy creatively at the Ministry of Cricket & Other Homeless Sports. Or how about a game of spikeball in a park?

81. Discover the little known world of Montréal hat designers with a visit to the city’s oldest remaining hat store, Henri Henri, or discovering a new generation at Heirloom, Opheliehats or Harricana par Mariouche.

82. Hunt down Montréal-made ceramic arts by the likes of world-famous Pascale Girardin or up-and-comers like Atelier Make, YYY and ceramik b.

83. Feed your soul AND your stomach while getting some interior décor inspiration from some of Montréal’s most stylish restaurants.

84. Explore the range of flavours available among the city’s vast 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, Cinéma du Musée and Cinéma Beaubien.

87. Shop at EB Games in the Centre Eaton de Montréal for a take-home piece of Montréal’s top-notch gaming culture thanks to producers like Ubisoft. (Assassin’s Creed, anyone?)

88. Relish some natural splendour at the constantly developing Space for Life, a creative complex dedicated to the natural sciences uniting the Montréal Botanical Garden, the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium and more.

89. Exercise your photographic talents by shooting Montréal’s most photogenic spots – no trip is complete without a few shots of the city’s signature spiral staircases.

90. See a Montréal invention – IMAX – in action at the Montréal Science Centre, where you can see volcanoes on the biiiiig 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 Montréal.

93. Love lamps? See the light at local stores like Lambert & Fils and BELANGERMARTIN, whose fixtures are well worthy of your luggage.

94. Test your creative logic and cooperation skills – and anxiety levels! – in one of the escape rooms at A/Maze Escape Games.

95. Ride the third wave of coffee shops by hopping among Montréal’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 Librairie Drawn & Quarterly, whose Mile End 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. Have your own private Montréal bagel-off – do you prefer Fairmount Bagel Bakery or St-Viateur Bagel? (It’s okay to say both.)

Isa Tousignant

Isa Tousignant is an art and lifestyle writer based out of Montréal's ecclectic Park Ex neighbourhood. She is Contributing Editor for Canadian Art magazine and freelances full-time for a wide variety of magazines and brands. She’s also a jewellery designer and passionate about animal costumes and their role in contemporary art.

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