Why is Montreal such a unique city to visit? Many visitors of Montreal spend much of their time visiting the “must-sees” like the modern architecture, a tour of the ‘old Montreal’, and the great museums that this Canadian / Quebequois city has to offer. Nothing wrong with that of course, but you will spend much of your time with fellow tourists.
We suggest experiencing like a local of course, for a more rewarding experience! Our Spotters love local eateries; the unique neighborhoods riddled with lovely hidden spots and the energetic, open feeling of the city. This is what they want to share. Here are our picks for some of the most unique, local gems in Montreal, discovered by our very own team of Spotters.
Yoga by sunlight
Montreal is home to all sorts of locations where you can practice a large range of activities. Zéro Gravité is a multipurpose space on Papineau Avenue just east of downtown Montreal. They have all these beautiful climbers making their way up and down 11m of wall height in the main room.
Besides being a very popular climbing center, my favorite part of Zéro Gravité is its yoga studio upstairs. With its creaky wooden floors, greenery, high ceilings, and windows spanning across an entire wall, the space is charming and well suited to its purpose.
The morning classes are filled with natural light, which I really enjoy in my yoga practice! —Lucia Capretti
Green oasis in the city
In the summertime, if I’m not out of town, I like to enjoy the green spots that Montreal offers us. One of my favorite choices: Jeanne-Mance Park. It’s huge – 14,2294 hectare (1,531,639 square feet), separated by Park Avenue, just at the foot of the famous mountain in Montreal: Mount-Royal.
The park features a variety of activities (playground for toddlers, paddling pool, tennis and soccer court and an outdoor skating rink all winter) or you can just sit on the gras and enjoy the green surroundings!
It’s also a great spot to admire the colors of autumn of the Mount Royal just in front. — Julie Gauthier
Hidden cocktail magicians
A backyard door away from the street. All walls painted in black, it’s night even by day, only a painted colorful door is the sign that something might be happening behind this brick wall. This is where you will find Atwater Cocktail club.
The drink menu isn’t endless. It consists of a careful selection of interesting drinks, I call the bartenders the magicians, and with good reason too. They will ask you what you like and a few minutes later you can observe the man or the woman behind the bar being busy selecting bottles, spices, fruits, and other accessories to create something special for you.
Lynchian I wrote: it’s the red color, the curtains to leave the stage and a skull saying “see you next time”. — Jérémie Gerhardt
Summery, sweaty tango nights
In summer it is bursting of activity in Montreal, it can be hard to keep up with all the good stuff! This event is for those nights that are a little bit more chill (and maybe romantic), but still very enjoyable. In a charming park (Parc Laurier) in the Plateau neighborhood, you can let yourself get enchanted by romantic tango tunes whilst watching the “tangueros” dance in the warm summer air.
For those of us who love to dance, and will not be satisfied with solely watching, don’t worry! It is an open event, which means you can try it out and get a free tango lesson by Tango Libre.
It’s a great way to get a taste of Argentina and meet suave people — Jeremy Petrus
Technology & drinks
La SAT (La Société des Arts Technologiques) can be found in the old red light district, an area of the city with many interesting places to visit.
The place was originally created as a laboratory in 1996. The original goal was to create a place for the new generation of creators of the digital era to develop VR, immersive technologies and high-speed networks.
The best part of this place is the satosphere, where you can immerse yourself in a 360° experience! Besides being a technology-focused venue, you can also grab a drink or a bite to eat here, listen to some live music or discover new artists.
La Société des Arts Technologiques is a fantastic multidisciplinary place — Julie Gauthier
The magic of a little boutique
In Montreal, there is a little boutique called Unicorn, stuffed with local designers such as Mélissa Nepoton, Ève Gravel, Betina Lou, Grob, Barilà and much more! They have a large collection since they stock so many different local talents. Their clothing is tasteful and ranges from dresses to shoes and bags, a true fashion paradise.
The décor is calm and collected: black and white, but of course, you will find some hints of unicorns in there (because duh!). The place almost looks like a little art gallery!
And for those of us who’d rather stay in (or happen to not be in Montreal), luckily they also have a website where you can buy their clothing online!
The two owners have great taste and talent, it’s personalized and we feel good in this place — Julie Gauthier
Let yourself be surprised
Personally, I’m a big fan of going to the movies without watching the trailer first since it gives so much away and I like a good surprise. If you agree you will love Kino Kabaret.
Every first Friday of the month you can experience Montreal’s independent movie scene through one of Kino Kabaret’s short movie events. A new topic is picked every month, and participating teams have a specific number of hours to write and produce a short movie.
The events are quite popular, so if you want to good seat make sure to be on time!
Short movie events are perfect for satisfying your love for new creations, and kino kabaret events are made for us — Jérémie Gerhardt
Love-infused home-baked treats
Cocoa Locale is a small homestyle bakery, that offers a narrow selection of delicious sweet treats. However their main specialty is cupcakes, with special ingredients are ginger, cayenne, tea, and red peppers.
The owner, Reema Singh, is an adorable lady who spreads her love through her baking. If you decide to stop by for a little treat, make sure to do it early as she sells out quite fast!
When I’m asked to bring dessert at a dinner thing, I always think of her, and which cake or pie it will be this time — Jeremy Petrus
As I walked along the street in Ville-Emard on a rainy day, out of the corner of my eye I saw a pop of color down an alleyway, so I decided to investigate. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered a mural of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, by a street artist named Elisa Frank.
The mural perfectly captures Frida Kahlo’s likeness, and she is surrounded by beautiful colorful flowers which drew my attention.
I like that the mural is in such a residential area down an alleyway where you would least expect it. A wonderful surprise and a must-see for any Frida Kahlo fan. — Dasilva Arthur
An original and stylish cubbyhole, tucked under the stairs of Mont-Royal Avenue. La distributrice is not the first to occupy that particular gap, but it is clearly here to stay.
Everything about this place is beautiful: from the wooden interior to the branding and packaging, this place has style! And the higher mention goes to the exquisite coffee taste, texture and warmth. The owner even fitted the small space outside with a wooden bench and greenery. It’s tasteful, delicious, and welcoming!
I am pleased to see that more and more often there is a queue. In the short wait – they are fast these baristas! — Julie Gauthier
Beautiful urban decay
The area of St-Henri was home to several industries including tanneries, textile and malting factories in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
While most of these factory buildings have been demolished or converted, one that remains is the abandoned malting factory on St-Remi street. I like to look at it and wonder what it and the surrounding area used to look like in all of its former glory.
Abandoned since 1989, the malting factory (and its giant Silos) is an eye-sore for some, but for others, it’s a prime example of how urban decay can prove interesting! — Dasilva Arthur
As far as flea markets go, this is the place. A bit off center, the Marché St-Michel can be a genuine adventure! It’s not always easy to search in this kind of organized chaos but when you do find something incredible or just fun, it’s all worth the hunt
Getting lost in this maze full of precious junk is a real treat. There are two floors to explore; you can find great furniture (originals), vintage toys, ancient tools, snappy dresses, books from the last century, and way more.
Remember to bring cash and that the place is covered, so rain or shine, you can get your fix. — Jeremy Petrus
More hidden gems, check out Spotted by Locals Montreal.