Ultimate summer guide to patios in the Gay Village

Richard Burnett

Montréal’s summertime patios – called “terrasses” by both English and French locals – are an idyllic way to while away leisurely hours sipping hot espressos or cold cocktails while people-watching.

Montréal’s streets are filled with style-savvy yet easygoing, fun-oriented Montrealers, and you can see all kinds strolling along the lively one-kilometre-long Aires Libres pedestrian mall on Sainte-Catherine Street in the Gay Village.

The pedestrian mall is open from May 3 to September 24, and stretches east from Place Émilie-Gamelin near Berri-UQAM metro station to Papineau Avenue, and is filled with patios and LGBTQ establishments to suit all tastes and thirsts.

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Al fresco lunches and family fun

A choice summertime destination, les Jardins Gamelin returns to Place Émilie-Gamelin at the western end of the Village, just outside the Berri-UQAM metro station, from May 17 to September 30.  Les Jardins Gamelin is essentially an oversize patio covered by a spectacular suspended sculpture that forms a luminous canopy. The site opens daily at 7 am and features bar services at its snack bar, which opens weekdays from 11 am to 11 pm and from 9 am to 11 pm on weekends. Click here to check out the daily cultural programming, including renowned DJs and live performances. Free admission.

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Constellation of drag stars

The patio at Cabaret Mado is one of the busiest LGBTQ bars in the Village and a great place to spot celebrities and drag queens. Named for Montréal drag icon Mado Lamotte, Mado’s statue doubles nicely as the marquee to her drag nightclub. Another Montréal drag legend, Madame Simone – renowned for her outrageous hats and headgear – often works as the club’s “door bitch” in summertime.

Leather and denim

Montréal’s Black Eagle is called Aigle Noir and is home to one of the cruisiest patios in the Village, mainly serving the leather and denim communities, but also popular with bears and the athletic crowd. A true Montréal classic.

Star gazing

Enjoy a pitcher of ice-cold Sangria on the patio of the street-level Complexe Sky, one of Montréal’s oldest and largest LGBTQ establishments. Or gaze up at the stars – and the shirtless bartenders – on the hugely popular Sky rooftop patio where sunsplashed patrons can also dip into the rooftop pool or jacuzzi!

Queer hotspot

Bar Renard is one of Montréal’s trendiest bars, popular with LGBTQ and straight young hipsters. The music is never too loud, the waiting staff is cute, the bar boasts a wide selection of wines, microbrewery beers and cocktails, as well as a streetfront patio in the heart of the action. Meanwhile, inside, because of its floral décor, Renard’s unisex washroom has become an iconic selfie location.

Island in the sun

The Haitian rum cocktail bar and restaurant Agrikol on Amherst Street is brought to you by Régine Chassagne of famed Montréal rock band Arcade Fire and Toronto eatery The Black Hoof. Chassagne’s parents emigrated to Montréal from Haiti, so Chassagne knew just how to package Agrikol, which boasts a lantern-lit rear patio that is a leafy oasis in the big city.

Rooftop oasis

If you make it past the street-level Stock gay-male strip joint, upstairs at the Club Unity disco you will discover a true Montréal oasis: a grandiose rooftop patio in the heart of the Village, with DJs, dancing and some of the most stunning views of the city.

Queens in the city

Legendary Montréal female impersonator Michel Dorion’s classic Bar Le Cocktail is a terrific nightclub to see live shows by many of the best drag performers in the city – including Dorion – and Le Cocktail’s comfortable patio always draws a great mix of people.

Where everybody knows your name

Sports bar Le Normandie on Amherst Street is a terrific local watering hole where patrons can get liquored up cheaply. A local institution since 1981, the tavern features karaoke inside and has one of the nicest and busiest summer patios in the Village.

Bear city

Though officially a bears club, Bar Le Stud on the eastern edge of the Village welcomes all types of men, and all types go. Open since 1995, their motto is, “Stud Bar is a bar for men where men enjoy men!” There is plenty to do inside the labyrinthine nightclub, which boasts two popular patios – one on Sainte-Catherine Street and the other on Papineau Avenue. Both patios bask in the warmth of the sun until late evening.

Rainbow-coloured pedestrian mall

The lively one-kilometre Aires Libres pedestrian mall on St. Catherine Street in the Gay Village stretches east from Place Émilie-Gamelin near Berri-UQAM metro station to Papineau Avenue from May 3 until September 24.

This summer, the city’s iconic “Rainbow Balls” installation is a veritable canopy that covers the entire pedestrian mall – including the patios outside the many bars, cafés and restaurants – made of 180,000 rainbow-coloured resin balls. 

These “Rainbow Balls” can be seen from as far away as the Jacques Cartier Bridge and from the air, and has become so popular that tourists visit the strip on double-decker buses just to take pictures.

The Aires Libres pedestrian mall also hosts a variety of activities all summer long, including free nighttime outdoor movie screenings of hit movies with LGBTQ themes. Click here for summer 2018 programming.

Richard Burnett

Richard Burnett, blogger

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

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