I’VE PARTIED MY WAY through most major Canadian cities, but Montrealers just get it right. I’ve started out many nights having a casual beer at an Irish pub, or having a glass of wine at a fancy restaurant, only to end up at a techno gay bar a few hours later, dancing on a podium…alone.
And those are just Monday evenings.
It’s also a city of foodism, so once you’ve chugged back a bottle of wine or a pitcher of sangria, you can head to a 24-hour restaurant for real poutine with squeaky cheese curds (La Banquise).
Yes, Montreal is very drunkard-friendly. I moved here, after all.
A few things to learn before you come:
- Booze is ridic cheap compared to the rest of Canada — you can buy a 24 of beer for $15.
- You can purchase alcohol at the dépanneur (convenience store).
- Bars don’t shut down until 3am, or later (most provinces other than Newfoundland shut down at 2).
- As soon as spring hits, it becomes terasse season…meaning almost every restaurant, pub, and club has a patio, deck, or rooftop area.
- You can smoke cigarettes on most terasses.
- Thursday is a big party night out, with lots of Happy Hour specials. Plan accordingly.
- “Apportez votre vin” means “Bring your own wine.” You can do this at MANY restaurants.
Crescent Street gets a bad rap for being the place to go if you’re an obnoxious tourist, a dude wearing a polo with a popped collar, or a bleached blonde wearing 9-inch heels. These are only partially true assessments and should be taken with a grain of salt (and tequila).
My first impression of the street was from the terasse of Sir Winston Churchill, watching hoards of attractive men and women spill in and out of clubs, pubs, and restaurants. Sexy plainclothes firemen cruised by on their truck, apparently just checking out the female scenery. The whole place was a glorious invitation to sin. Sin freely!
For a quieter pub atmosphere, check out Brutopia brewpub for tasty $5 pints. Try the raspberry blonde.
If it’s Irish tunes you’re after, go to Hurley’s. Incidentally, it’s where all the Newfoundlanders hang out. Ask for Screech.
Saint Catherine Street East and The Village
In addition to being drunkard-friendly, Montreal is also extremely gay-friendly. This makes it a delightful playground for gay drunkards.
During the summer, Saint Catherine Street East shuts down to traffic and becomes pedestrian-only. The area is known for Les Boules Roses, literally The Pink Balls, for the pretty pink balls strung up across the street.
Start off at Saloon for eats and drinks (order a Caesar), then head to the rooftop of Sky for a piscine de sangria (a pool of sangria). Dance your face off at Bar Apollon, or watch a live cabaret show at Mado.
St-Laurent & St-Denis
Most Montrealers will tell you the best party streets are St-Laurent and St-Denis. Fortunately, these are only a five minute stumble from each other.
On St-Laurent, you’ll find more “posh” bars and cafes. Factory is my favourite, with a ritzy but chilled out vibe and a cool terasse on the street. Cafe Melies is a bit pricier, but their sangria is served with a slice of orange. They’re classy like that.
If you want divey, go to Bifteck. Cute boys hang out there. Then go to Tokyo, which has some of the best terasses in the city…you just have to fight your way through the disco to get there. When you’re done, go to Patati Patata for $5 hamburgers and $3 beers. They’re not the most delicious around, but you’ll be drunk and everything tastes good.
Rue St-Denis is more laid-back. My favourite is a pub called La Distillerie, where your booze is served up in a mason jar. Seriously. Then go to Le Saint Bock, a brewpub with crazy good service and the best nachos I’ve ever had. Whisky lovers, go to L’ile Pub Noire.
Hands down the most touristy spot in the city, you’ll find a lot of Montreal’s fine dining options here…and pricier drinks. The views are worth it, though. Grab afternoon drinks on La Grand Terasse next to the square where performers swallow swords or juggle knives. It’s gimmicky as hell, and fun.
Go to Mechant Boeuf for apps and eats (steak, and don’t forget to dip your fries in mayo). Then, for one of the best views in the city, go to the rooftop of Suite 701. If you’re like me and can’t help but fantasize about men in business suits, this is the place for you.
It has great views of Notre-Dame Basilica too.
My first time at TamTams in Parc du Mont-Royal was over a year ago on my maiden voyage to Montreal. Back then I thought it was just a bunch of hippies and free spirits beating drums around the George-Étienne-Cartier monument.
I returned this weekend, a full year later, to find one of the coolest parties I’ve ever witnessed. Apparently last year there was too much sun in my eyes to pay attention.
Every Sunday, this drum circle gathers at the park from early in the afternoon until sundown. Anyone can join in, and all drumming is improv. Thousands of Montrealers come each week to spread out blankets on the grass, smoke pot, drink booze, eat, and throw Frisbees or footballs around. I hung out with my roommate James and his friends, drinking gin and tonics, and sunbathing.
There is a DJ booth set up at the Mordechai Richler Gazebo, where folks flying high have dance parties. Bring sunscreen in case you can’t find a shaded area. Clean up your junk — TamTams are a tradition and you don’t want to be that jackass who ruins it for everyone. Yes, it’s fine to drink, just be responsible. The area is patrolled by police.
It’s exactly what you think it is: DJs spinning at Parc Jean-Drapeau, every Sunday. Piknic Electronik is a big-ass dance party that happens from 3pm to 9pm, where hipsters and professionals alike come to hang out.
You’re allowed to bring a bottle of wine or three regular-sized cans of beer per person, as long as you have a picnic too. No, that doesn’t mean a bag of chips. Admission is $14 but the fun is FREE. Now you just have to decide…Piknic, or TamTams? Oh, Montreal. You make life so difficult.