As the largest city in the Canadian province of Quebec, Montreal offers everlasting opportunities for dining and drinking. But what if you’re travelling solo, you’ve never visited Montreal before, and you don’t know a soul?
Attitudes toward solo travelling and dining are all over the spectrum and comfort levels can range from a firm “No, never. Absolutely not.” to a more relaxed “I don’t mind. I enjoy being able to sit back and watch what’s going on around me.” Wherever your comfort level lies, you can always make the best of your solo adventures, and to do that, there’s no city better than Montreal.
Travelling solo in an unfamiliar city is all about getting out, being surrounded by people, and wrapping yourself in the energy of that city. Start your day with a trip to the Jean-Talon Market (7070 Avenue Henri Julien). Located in Little Italy, this indoor-outdoor foodie paradise opened in 1933 and is Montreal’s largest farmers market. You will be just one person in the crowd as you browse fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables, rich in colour and inviting you to take them home.
On the southern fringe of the market is boulangerie Première Moisson (7075 Avenue Casgrain). The heavenly scent of fresh-baked bread will lead you in the door, but once inside you will find many more reasons to stay. Cakes and pastries decorated to perfection are lined up like soldiers and your taste buds will dance once you feast your eyes on all the sweet and savoury delights. Order a latte, a bite to eat, and seat yourself outside to observe the comings and goings of the Jean-Talon market in the morning sunshine.
If you’re alone you can skip the wait, make your way to the front, and with a bit of luck there will be an empty space at the counter with your name on it.
If there is one place in Montreal where those dining solo have a clear advantage, it’s Schwartz’s (3895 Boulevard Saint-Laurent). Located in the artsy Plateau district, it’s the oldest diner in Canada and is world-renowned for its smoked meat. With this distinction, however, often comes a line of people stretching down the sidewalk, all waiting patiently for a table. If you’re alone you can skip the wait, make your way to the front, and with a bit of luck there will be an empty space at the counter with your name on it.
Even if you have to wait, your reward will be worth it. The smoked meat sandwich with mustard is tangy, moist, and so tender that it melts in your mouth. When combined with side dishes of hand-cut French fries, coleslaw, or pickles, you will be in Schwartz’s heaven.
After releasing your inner glutton, you may feel the need for a walk. Mount Royal Park is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Schwartz’s, and if you were not so full from your smoked meat sandwich, this would be the perfect place to enjoy a small, solo picnic. Instead, wander along the walking trails and if you’re particularly ambitious, the view from the summit is one of the best vantage points from which to see downtown Montreal. If that takes more energy than you have, then be sure to pass by the Sir George Etienne Cartier monument along Avenue du Parc. On Sundays the sounds of percussion instruments and the smell of marijuana float through the air, and you’ll be right on time for the weekly Tam Tam session.
No trip to Montreal would be complete without poutine, so whenever your craving strikes, head to La Banquise (994 Rue Rachel Est). This functional and not at all fussy restaurant is open 24 hours per day and has a lively ambiance thanks to the colourful tables, buzz of conversation, and familiar cooking sounds escaping from the out-of-sight kitchen. La Banquise also serves a variety of Quebec craft beers and has suggested poutine and beer pairings posted in the restaurant.
Travelling solo can sometimes result in an odd schedule, so for an all-day breakfast, try Cora. There are several locations throughout Montreal and Cora restaurants are all about promoting a great breakfast. With so much to see and do in the city, and at whatever time, you certainly don’t want to miss the most important meal of the day.
Traversing the streets of Montreal on foot is an excellent opportunity to spot unique street art and graffiti, and if your walk leads you to Bubble Thé Resto-Lounge (1925 Rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest) the giant, though somewhat weathered boba cup perched above the entrance is a clear indication that you’re entering bubble tea utopia. This is a quiet oasis off the busy Rue Sainte-Catherine and the white leather booths are a great spot to reflect on and wind up your solo adventure in Montreal.
As Montreal is located in the world’s second largest country, Canada, all payments are in Canadian dollars (CAD). The time zone is GMT-5 hours in standard time and GMT-4 hours in daylight savings time. Montreal enjoys four distinct seasons, and summers are warm to moderately hot as well as humid. Winters are crisp, snowy, and sometimes windy, while spring and autumn are mild and not as prone to the extreme weather patterns of summer and winter.
Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL) lies 20 kilometres from downtown Montreal and the usual options of car rental and taxi are available at the arrivals terminal. However, the most cost-efficient way of reaching the city centre is with the 747 P-E-Trudeau/Downtown bus. It runs 24/7 and makes several stops in downtown Montreal, with the final stop being Berri-UQAM metro station. A one-way fare costs CAD 9 and can be used on all Montreal public transport for a 24-hour period. If you’re staying for a few days, the best thing to do is to purchase a 3-day card for the price of CAD 18, and make use of the efficient bus and metro network.
Old Montreal – Together with the Old Port, Old Montreal is the birthplace of the city. The cobblestone streets, Notre-Dame Basilica, and expansive views of the St. Lawrence River will bring on a sense of nostalgia for the charming village that Montreal once was.
Montreal Markets – The Jean-Talon and Atwater (138 Avenue Atwater) markets are two of the largest but if you’re in the area, Maisonneuve Market (4445 Rue Ontario Est) and Lachine Market (1875 Rue Notre-Dame) will also add some colour and flavour to your life.
Just for Laughs Festival – If you’re lucky enough to be in Montreal in mid to late July, then the Just for Laughs comedy festival is a must-see. Centred around Place des Arts, you can enjoy side-splitting laughter with traditional stand-up comedy and unique theatre performances. Street acts are free and prices for stand-up and theatre shows vary.
For more information on Montreal festivals, events, attractions, hotels, and services, please visit Tourism Montreal.
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