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Local Spotting: Our Favourite (Not-So) Secret Summer Spots in Sunny Montreal

Summer has finally officially arrived! That means, as Canadians, we need to get out and soak up every last sweet ounce of warmth in the next two months before the looming threat of winter gradually reinstates cabin fever. (Oh Canada, indeed.) 

Our favourite spots may not be top secret, but you’ll find our team here making the most of our Montreal summers.  

1. Jean-Talon Market

Where to find it: Not actually on Jean-Talon Street, but just off of it. The Market sits on a giant block between Henri-Julien and Casgrain, flanked by two side streets appropriately indicating you’re in the Market area. If you miss the street signs, you’ll surely notice either the multitude of vendor tents or the sudden mass of market-goers.

Why we love it: It’s impossible to pin down one thing to like about Jean-Talon Market, given that you’re standing in a pantheon of local meats, cheeses, veggies and other wonderful delights. Speaking individually for a moment, I personally love to go and stare at the bushels of wild blueberries when they’re at peak season. Not even eat any, just stare. They’re almost too perfect to disrupt. (After a few hours, though, I buy and consume them. I’m not a monster.)

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Marche Jean-Talon market

2. Gema Pizzeria

Where to find it: If your compass is set to Montreal north, it’s on the south-east corner of Dante and St. Dominique, right in the heart of Little Italy. It has the least-noticeable signage of each spot on the four corners of that particular intersection, but you’ll immediately get that it’s neither “Dante” nor “Inferno” (well played, whoever came up with that one).

Why we love it: Close your eyes, plant your index finger on the menu, land on any pizza (dietary restrictions notwithstanding) and you’ll go home happy. If at all possible, save a tiny corner of your stomach for the octopus salad, a few suppli (Roman-style, deep-fried rice balls oozing with cheese) and some frozen custard. You may need a bigger belt or, at the very least, a few friends to assist in the indulgence.

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Check out Yelp reviews

3. N Sur Mackay

Where to find it: Mackay Street’s eponymous bar, just off St. Catherine West, is a well-concealed hole in the wall, so unless you see the copper N from the outside, you might just walk right by it. Take the stairs down into the speakeasy and tie one (or several) on.

Why we love it: It’s not uncommon for nu-speakeasies to give off a very pretentious vibe, but this joint is about as laidback and welcoming as it gets. It also doesn’t hurt that the bartenders at N are smart cookies. They certainly don’t skimp on their selection of whiskeys, gins, etc. and their knowledge of what tastes good with what is readily apparent in their creative concoctions known to be spiced up with cordials and bitters.

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Check out Yelp reviews

4. Terrasse St-Ambroise

Where to find it: Nestled around the side of the Brasserie McAuslan, the big brewery on St. Ambroise Street, a little ways back from shore of the Lachine Canal.

Why we love it: That Terrasse St-Ambroise has one of the biggest patios in Montreal is not only great because it’s theoretically easier to score a table, but because it’s a livelier spot to drink outdoors (if lively is your jam, of course). Plus, there’s the added benefit of having your beer made right there on the premises, which means fresher pints on tap.

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Check out Yelp reviews


5. Société des arts technologiques (SAT)

Where to find it: Along St. Laurent, just before you hit Rene-Levesque. If you’re in Chinatown, you’ve gone too far, but it’s still only a couple blocks back. At night, you’ll see many, many coloured lights in its front window signalling that you’re in the right place.

Why we love it: Some of the most wildly imaginative forms of art and entertainment can be found within the walls of SAT. Aside from hosting the annual Mutek Festival, highlighting digital art and electronic music, you could just as easily end up immersed in a virtual reality installation as you could partying the night away inside its modular theatre, Satosphere. It also houses the FoodLab with rotating chefs and mixologists creating exciting menus every week. Our fave feature? It has one of the greatest terraces downtown.

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6. Aires Libres

Where to find it: Down St. Catherine Street East from St. Hubert to Cartier, right over your head. You don’t need to crane your neck to see it, but you might catch yourself doing it anyway while staring in admiration.

Why we love it: We don’t need a reason. It’s just freakin’ beautiful. Get your cameras and filters ready because, aside from already being one of the city’s most Instagrammable spots, it’s a milestone year (10 years) for the colourful canopy, which is sure to draw crowds. Its 180,000 balls — formerly solid pink throughout, now a rainbow made up of 18 different shades — serve as a perfect celebration of diversity, making it a hit with locals and tourists alike.

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Want to read more local spotting? Check out our first edition on Montreal here, and our ode to California here

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