Compiled by Vacay.ca Staff
MONTREAL, QUEBEC — It’s ironic that a city that’s been clogged with traffic headaches for weeks will make room for some of the fastest vehicles on the planet in a few days. Student protests, focused on the Quebec government’s plans to increase tuition costs, have brought some streets in downtown Montreal to a standstill and the threat of more protests this weekend have already impacted the Canadian Grand Prix, which cancelled its free Friday events intended to spark the festivities in the city. Add to that volatile atmosphere the announced intention of anti-capitalist groups to plan disruptions during the only Formula One race in Canada and it’s not likely the Grand Prix weekend will top its 2011 figure of more than 300,000 attendees.
Still, F1 drivers are global superstars and thousands will be arriving to Montreal as it enters the busiest part of the annual festival season. For those planning a trip for the Grand Prix, or perhaps one of the city’s other great events, here’s a look at what to see, where to eat and drink, and how to best enjoy your time in Montreal.
WHAT TO DO
1. Rent a Bike — Sure, you can’t beat the speed of driving on four wheels in a cart designed by McLaren or Renault, but there’s no better way to see Montreal than renting a BIXI bike and spinning from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. You can rent a bike for $7 a day or just $1.75 for an hour. There are 400 BIXI stations around the city where you can pick up and drop off your wheels.
2. Find a Music Club — Montreal has one of the best music scenes in North America — and not just because the Arcade Fire still calls the city home. In the Mile End neighbourhood, visit venues like Le Divan Orange, La Casa del Popolo and the Green Room to see where the Montreal music scene became a thing to talk about. Catch a show at the historic Corona Theatre, a restored cinema that’s hosted some of the biggest names in both the Canadian and international music industry.
3. Go to a Galaxy Far, Far Away — The Montreal Science Centre is hosting the hugely popular “Star Wars: Identities” exhibit, which delves into the technology as well as the lore of the beloved film franchise. Tickets are $23 for adults — and will take you to a world that’s even faster than the F1 universe.
WHERE TO EAT (FINE DINING)
1. Joe Beef— Beloved by foodies nationwide, Montreal’s iconic restaurant in its southwest neighbourhood packs them in with steak, seafood and a tremendously inventive menu.
2. Les 400 Coups — In Old Montreal, this bistro-style restaurant is headed by 30-something-year-olds who really know their stuff. If you want to dine at a restaurant that’s on the fast track to success, Les 400 Coups is your spot. [Read more and see the video from Vacay.ca]
3. Au Pied de Cochon — If you’re a foie gras lover, this place is heaven. With all kinds of decadent offerings, Au Pied de Cochon is both a landmark and a uniquely Montreal tasting experience.
WHERE TO EAT (CASUAL)
1. Rotisserie Romados — Widely known as “the best chicken in Montreal,” Romados has built up quite a reputation for itself — including making it onto the inaugural Vacay.ca 50 Top Restaurants in Canada List. The extreme out-the-door lineups are reminiscent of those at Schwartz’s. The reason being? Juicy, succulent, fall-off-the-bone chicken that comes in three different (mega)combos and is finished with a delightful piri-piri-esque sauce. [Read more]
2. Icehouse — Established by a transplanted Texan, Icehouse is known for its sensational burritos, including a lobster one that costs $20 and is worth every cent.
3. La Banquise — If you believe that no trip to Montreal is complete without consuming inappropriate amounts of Canada’s most-beloved poutine, you’re not alone. La Banquise is just the place to go if you’ve been barhopping, you’re hungry and it’s 2 am. With 25 different kinds of poutine, drunken Montrealers have been frequenting this place for 40 years. [Read more about Montreal cheap eats]
WHERE TO DRINK
1. Reservoir — Craft beers in a pleasant setting filled with residents in the Mile End and Plateau areas. That’s what you’ll find at Brasserie Reservoir, one of the most under sung bars in Montreal.
2. Dieu du Ciel — This outstanding micro-brewery serves up all of its delicious brews, including an Imperial Coffee Porter that is becoming a thing of legend for beer aficionados across North America.
GETTING INTO AND AROUND MONTREAL
Read our Montreal travel tips on how best to make your way into the city, including tips on public transportation, train service and trip-planning advice.
MORE ABOUT THE 2012 CANADIAN GRAND PRIX WEEKEND IN MONTREAL
Dates: June 8-10, with the race running on Sunday.
Race: The race runs 70 laps and 305 kilometres along the 4.36-kilometre Gilles Villeneuve Circuit set up near the Jean Drapeau Metro station in the southeast part of the city.
Tickets: General admission tickets for the race start at $49, while the least expensive Grandstand seats available are listed at $299 on the Grand Prix website. Click to order Grand Prix tickets online.
Drivers to Watch: Jenson Button of Britain won the 2011 race, narrowly beating Germany’s Sebastian Vettel. This year, Fernando Alonso of Spain leads the F1 standings with 76 points; Vettel and Aussie Mark Webber trailing by three points heading into the Montreal race.
Note: Top photo courtesy of JensonButton.com