While visitors to Montréal can profit monstrously from bus tours – essentially a mobile city sampler pack that offers a taste of everything – they are also the ticket for Montrealers looking to reconnect. Take it from one who knows: there’s nothing quite like taking a tour on a vintage London double-decker bus for falling in love with Montréal all over again, for seeing the city through the eyes of a visitor, and feeling like a tourist in your own town.
There are a variety of double-decker bus tours on offer from May through until the end of October. There are no-stop tours of varying lengths, night-time tours (highly recommended – the view of the city skyline at dusk from the architecturally unique Habitat 67 structures is singular and striking) and guided tours in both French and English, notable for their lively, occasionally zesty commentary. There are also Hop-On Hop-Off tours whereby riders can exit the bus at points of interest and then climb back on the next available bus (they run at regular intervals). The tours follow different itineraries or “loops.”
The tours run in the one-and-a-half to three-hour range for those of us simply looking for a quick and zippy rekindling of our romance with Montréal. For visitors wishing to spend a little more time learning about their new amour, their Hop-On Hop-Off bus ticket is good for two calendar days, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are available at the Tourist Information Center (1255 Peel Street, #100) and buses leave from the adjacent, historic Dorchester Square.
Some useful dos and don’ts:
Do bring something to drink and/or munch on. If you’re on a bus tour that doesn’t make stops, you may find yourself parched and/or peckish at some point.
Don’t forget to dress warmly. It can get cool atop the roofless double-decker buses, especially in the evening.
Do bring sunscreen and/or a hat on warm, sunny days as you are quite exposed to sunlight.
Don’t expect to come back with the same hairdo you left with: it can get windy on top of the buses.
Do get to the bus’s Dorchester Square departure point early-ish. You will want to get a seat on the open top deck with its unobstructed views of the city and not in the closed lower deck.
Don’t forget to go to the bathroom before you go – there are no restrooms on these old carriages.
And finally, do keep your eyes peeled for low-hanging branches when going through treed areas. Depending on the route, some branches are low enough to partially enter the tall buses, so be on the lookout lest you lose your prized sunhat.