Montreal night life and entertainment is just as exciting as anywhere else, but Montreal is perhaps most famous for its legendary nightlife. Bars stay open until 3:00 am here, which is later than anywhere else in Canada, and even then, few customers leave willingly. As with dining and accommodations, the visitors will benefit greatly from exploring the less touristy areas of the city.
Bars & Clubs
On Friday and Saturday nights, locals either make a beeline towards rue Crescent and rue Bishop or they avoid them like the plague. Traditionally known as the center of Montreal’s Anglophone nightlife, they are now known mostly for their numerous dance clubs (Winnie’s being one of the most famous). Those in search of a more sedate pint in the area can find one at the Irish pub Hurley’s, the charming Brutopia brew-up, and at numerous other places that are popular among an older, English-speaking crowd.
The Boulevard Saint-Laurent is the city’s most famous street, as it is the traditional dividing line between the city’s English and French-speaking areas. Nowadays, booze serves as a very effectivelingua franca, especially on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, when things don’t cool down until dawn. The strip between rue Prince-Arthur and Mont-Royal Avenue features dozens of pubs, clubs, bars and assorted other dives that defy generalization.
In the latter category are the Bifteck, Copacabana and Roy Bar, three friendly, endearing, impossibly smoky taverns attracting a mixture of students and 20-somethings. Shoot some pool or catch a swing show at Le Swimming, cut a rug at Angel’s or the Belmont sur le Boulevard, lounge among the hipsters at Tokyo, or just enjoy the quiet serenity of Else’s, an arty but unpretentious pub full of Plateau-dwellers. It’s all within a 20-minute walk around the Boulevard Saint-Laurent.
You can complete a similar if somewhat less bohemian pub crawl on St-Denis Street, St-Laurent’s more French, polished cousin, located one major street to the east. The action on St-Denis is clustred around Ontario Street in the Latin Quarter (Quartier Latin), where mind-boggling bars such as the Saint-Sulpice compete with the quieter allure of pubs such as l’Ile Noire, Cheval Blanc, Pub Quartier Latin and the Sainte-Élisabeth. The funky, eclectic bars and cafés situated farther north between Rue Rachel and Avenue Mont-Royal attract a suitably diverse crowd: check out Barouf, Quai des Brumes and Bily Kun. This street is home to dozens of patios (or terraces, in local parlance) that are perfect for watching the world go by.
For those unwilling or unable to go softly into the night, after-hours clubs such as Stereo Nightclub will let you stay until at least 10:00 am on Saturday or Sunday morning, but not before extracting at least CAD$20 from your wallet.
Museums & Galleries
Place des Arts, meanwhile, is home to the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal), Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and l’Opéra de Montréal.
The Canadian Centre for Architecture (Centre Canadien d’Architecture) presents exhibitions and multimedia displays that range from the straightforward to the thoroughly bizarre, and as a result has gained a worldwide reputation.
Of course, Montreal is more than a university town on a bender. Museums, galleries, theater, cinema and unclassifiable fringe elements enjoy great public interest from a citizenry for whom the arts represent an integral component of having a good time. An impressive if not overwhelming collection of the European masters awaits visitors at the Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts), whose magnificent premises also host first-class touring exhibitions. TheMuseum of Modern Art (Musée d’Art Contemporain), itself an amazing building, offers a fascinating glimpse into Quebec’s thriving community of modern artists. There are also dozens of smaller galleries, museums and exhibition spaces that dot the cityscape and remain relatively undiscovered by tourists.
Montreal is at the center of the province’s vibrant cinema community, as evidenced by its fine repertory houses and state-of-the-art first-run theaters. The Paramount Multiplex offers stadium seating, state-of-the-art sound and IMAX screens. The Ex-Centris Theatre showcases digital technology along with an impressive program of Canadian and international films. It also hosts the Festival International Nouveau Cinéma every autumn.
That’s just one of the festivals Montreal has to offer. Other film fests include the World Film Festival, International Festival of Films on Art and FANT-ASIA. The Just For Laughs Festival is a joyous yearly tradition, while locals flock downtown to Place des Arts for the outdoor shows associated with the Montreal International Jazz Festival and the Francofolies.
Theater buffs will find both English and French productions. Well-known companies include the Centaur, whose program features in-house Canadian and international dramas; the predominantly French Infinithéâtre; and the National Theatre School (École nationale de Théâtre du Canada), which hosts occasional presentations. Many smaller companies exist in the city, and though some are ethnically oriented, most enjoy a pleasantly diverse audience.
The Place des Arts is home to the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal), Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and l’Opéra de Montréal.
Information on nearly every cultural event in the city, as well as local news and reviews, can be found in the two free arts weeklies, Hour and Mirror, which are available in coffee shops, convenience stores and various other locations.