Stefan Arestis | Aug 29, 2017 | 4
Gay Guide Montreal: our favourite bars, clubs and hotels
Montreal has one of the biggest gay villages in the world. It’s literally an entire neighbourhood, officially recognised in city maps and social media tags.
And it’s got balls. Lots and lots of balls!
Seriously – each year, between May-September, Le Village Gai has a large display of around 200,000 pink balls hanging down across the main street, the mile long Rue Sainte-Catherine.
This is also the heart of the gay scene of Montreal, with plenty of bars, clubs, after hours clubs, saunas, strip bars, cafes and more, to suit everyone. This is our gay guide to Montreal featuring the best bars, clubs, hotels and things to do, following our visit during the Fierte Canada Pride in August 2017.
Table of Contents
Gay bars and clubs in Montreal (open till 3am)
There are many gay bars in the Gay Village of Montreal. We recommend to just head there and see where the night takes you – there’s always something happening every single night of the week.
Note that in Montreal, there’s a blur between what is a bar/club. Most are both and are open until 3am due to the licensing laws. After 3am, people head to “after hours” clubs. These are a few of our favourite gay bars/clubs in Montreal, which close by 3am, unless otherwise stated:
- Sky Bar: Sky was the most popular and famous gay bar in Montreal and we loved it. It’s in a large building spread over 3 floors with a restaurant on the ground floor called Le Branché, an large rooftop bar and a dancing venue with drag shows.
- Le Stud: although officially a bear bar, everyone is welcome and that’s why we love it. It has a really friendly atmosphere with an outdoor drinking area during the warmer months and a large dancing area inside. On a side note, bear boys may want to check out the Urs bear shop down the road.
- Cabaret Chez Mado: Mado Lamotte is Montreal’s most popular drag queen who became famous for hosting one of the biggest drag shows called Mascara. Cabaret Chez Mado is her home where she hosts some of the city’s best cabaret and drag acts particularly on Tuesday and Saturday evenings.
- Bar Le Cocktail: best gay bar in Montreal for karaoke and drag shows. Every evening a live DJ hosts the karaoke, which goes on till late. On Fridays before 10:30pm they have Happy Hour. We loved the friendly fun atmosphere – it feels like being in a gay Cheers bar.
- Aigle Noir/Black Eagle: very cool bar, friendly atmosphere and open every day of the week. We came here on a Friday evening when it was heaving, but really enjoyed it.
- Club Unity: Unity is huge, with 2 dance areas playing a mix of electro/pop music. It also has a VIP lounge and an large rooftop terrace, which we loved for chill out. It’s open Wednesday to Sunday evenings from 10pm.
- Bar Renard: very stylish gay friendly bar, which almost every gay local recommended to us as their favourite place for cute boys and cocktails! It’s open everyday from 1pm and also doubles up as a restaurant during the day.
- Titanic Montreal: for something different, check out this gay owned cafe in Old Montreal. It’s a great place to come for lunch or coffee during the day – we recommend their delicious mac and cheese. It’s open Monday to Friday until 4:30pm.
Gay after hours clubs in Montreal (open after 3am)
These are the gay bars/clubs in Montreal open later than 3am, which are locally referred to as “after hours”:
- Stereo Nightclub: Stereo was THE after hours club everyone talked about when we were there. Sadly these two Nomadic Grandmas couldn’t quite keep up and went home after Sky Bar closed at 3am! Stereo is open only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning from 2-10am and primarily features house & techno music.
- Circus: the other favourite gay after hours club in Montreal, which plays a mix of electronic, house, trance and techno. Circus is open Thursday to Sunday mornings from 2-9am.
Gay strip bars and saunas in Montreal
Gay strip bars are a thing here. Every local gay guy we met told us we have to visit a gay strip bar at least once in Montreal. The dancers are extremely talented and due to the lax laws, they bare everything. The best gay strip bars in Montreal include:
- Stock Bar: it was the Tripadivsor reviews that really sold it for us, boasting the sexiest men in North America and it doesn’t disappoint!
- Campus: this is less touristic than Stock Bar, with a mix of gay boys and groups of (straight) women.
In terms of gay saunas in Montreal, there are two main ones. As you stumble out of Club Unity at closing time at 3am and walk down the village, you’ll notice a big queue to enter the following:
- Oasis: what’s not to love – it’s open 24 hours, has a sling room and free WiFi…
- GI Joe: another 24/7 gay sauna in Montreal, appealing more to the fetish crowd.
Gay events in Montreal
- Fierte Montreal Pride: every August, Montreal has an incredible gay pride. Everyone gets involved, families, allies, as well as the LGBTQ community of the city. We visited the Fierte Canada in Montreal in August 2017 and absolutely loved it. It features a moving Moment of Silence to commemorate LGBTQ pioneers, after which, the parade culminates in the Gay Village where there is fantastic, fun party atmosphere going on till late.
- Black & Blue Festival: this is a large gay electro/techno dance music festival which takes place during the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (second Monday in October). It started in 1991 and has been going strong since. It raises money for HIV/AIDS charities and attracts around 70,000 people.
- Image+Nation Gay Film Festival: the annual 2 weeks queer film festival of Montreal, which highlights revolutionary storytelling. It takes place in late November / early December and in 2017 it celebrated its 30th anniversary.
- Igloo Fest: from mid-January for a month, Igloo Fest takes over the Old Port of Montreal for a large electro music festival each weekend. Whilst it’s not an exclusively gay festival, it’s extremely popular with the LGBTQ crowd. One highlight is the unique #Iglooswag winter wear competition.
- Piknic Electronik: this is a large electronic music outdoor festival every Sunday afternoon from May to September at the Parc Jean-Drapeau. Like Igloo Fest, it’s not exclusively gay, but all our local gay Montreal friends raved about this one as well.
- Festival TransAmériques: a popular annual 2 weeks dance and theatre festival taking place in May/June, with workshops, debates and performances.
- Just For Laughs: the largest international comedy festival in the world held every July for 1 week. It features dozens of stand-up acts, comedy galas and free events.
For more, check out our 5 favourite gay events in Montreal.
Gay friendly hotels to stay in Montreal
We had no issue getting a double bed as a gay couple anywhere in Montreal. Most places are extremely welcoming to LGBTQ travellers. These were the gay friendly hotels we tried and loved or were recommended to us by fellow gay travellers:
Fairmont Queen Elizabeth: luxury hotel where the celebrities stay
We stayed at the Fairmont during the Fierte Canada Pride in Montreal, located in downtown Montreal. It is regarded as one of the best luxury hotels of the city, made famous by John Lennon and Yoko, where they staged a week long Beds-In for Peace non-violent protest against the Vietnam War in 1969 (in Room 1742). You can watch the full documentary about it on Yoko Ono’s YouTube channel.
The Fairmont is the place where celebs and famous people will most likely stay when in town, so you know you’re in good hands here. When we stayed here for the Fierte Canada Pride, the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was also staying on the same corridor as us. In addition, the gay pride parade passes right outside the front door of the Fairmont, so you can watch it from the comfort of their outdoor terrace with a birds eye view.
Rooms at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth start from $313/£240 a night. You can check availability and read more about it on Tripadvisor.
Hôtel William Gray: boutique luxury hotel in the Old Town
This is one of Montreal’s best boutique luxury hotels, very romantic and perfect for couples. It’s located in Old Montreal facing Place Jacques Cartier.
The rooms are huge and you can also book rooms with private outdoor terrace. We loved their rooftop, where you can get drinks and enjoy spectacular views of the city. The William Grey also has its own spa and gym, handy for burning off all those poutine calories.
Rooms at the William Gray start from $260/£200 a night. You can check availability and read more about it on Tripadvisor.
Aubergell Gay B&B: perfect guesthouse for the scene queen
The Aubergell is a gay B&B located right in the heart of the Gay Village of Montreal, just 2 blocks from the main street, St Catherine Road. It’s owned by cute gay couple Dominic and Mario, who treat their guests like family, making you feel like you’re in your very own Canadian home.
It’s got a fun outdoor terrace, which is a great place to hang out before hitting the gay bars down the road. This is the place to stay if you want to be located on the doorstep of the Montreal gay scene.
Rooms at the Aubergell start from $170/£130. You can check availability and read more about it on Tripadvisor.
W Hotel: super classy and super gay
The W is a luxury design-driven hotel, located in the Banque du Canada building in Old Montreal. It’s particularly popular with younger gay travellers in their 20s/30s. The W is also the first pet friendly hotel we’ve encountered. It offers pet friendly rooms, which includes dog/cat beds, food/water bowls, “Bark Box” treat boxes and even dog sitting/walking facilities.
Rooms at the W Hotel start from $260 /£200 a night. You can check availability and read more about it on Tripadvisor.
Airbnb: for a more affordable local experience
You can find some really affordable deals on Airbnb for a shared room with a local or entire apartment all to yourself. Some condos will even have their own gym and pool. Definitely worth checking out if you prefer a more local and independent experience.
If you sign up here, you can claim £30/$40 off your next booking.
Things to do in Montreal
These are a few of the not-to-miss sightseeing highlights in Montreal:
- Street art tour: street art murals are very popular across Montreal, particularly in the Plateau neighbourhood. We recommend taking a tour with the gay owned Spade & Palacio. The guides are gay locals who are extremely passionate about their city. They also do bicycle, food and Old Montreal tours.
- Old Montreal: the Vieux-Montréal is the oldest part of the city with many beautiful colonial buildings, some dating back to the days of New France in the 1700s. The gothic style Basilique Notre-Dame church was our favourite site, which you should definitely check out.
- Bota Bota Spa: this is a spa set in a large boat, with numerous heated pools, saunas, baths and treatments. We definitely recommend it as a romantic evening treat, particularly their Water Circuit at sunset.
- Mont-Royal mountain views: this 233 metres (765ft) high mountain is the iconic symbol of the city from which locals get their bearings from. You can hike up or drive to the Belvedere Observatory at the top for the best views of the city.
- Au Sommet Skyscraper: located in Downtown Montreal, the Au Sommet is another popular place for awesome views of the city. It’s also got a fabulous restaurant, which serves up delicious burgers with poutine.
- Try poutine at Patati Patata: this is one of the most popular diners to try poutine – a local specialty of fries with cheese curd and gravy. It’s gooood! Especially on a Sunday afternoon when you’re nursing a hangover…
- Smoked meat at Schwartz’s: the East European Jewish immigration to Canada in the 1900s brought with it culinary gems like smoked meats. Schwartz’s it the most famous with queues going round the block. We loved it and definitely recommend the experience. Tip: if you’re a group of just 2 you’ll get in quicker, skipping the long queue.
- Bagel mania in Mile End: bagels are another famous culinary prize here, with some of the best bagel bakeries in the Mile End neighbourhood. The recipe was brought over by Russian immigrant Isadore Safman back in 1919 who opened up one of the first bakeries here called Fairmont Bagel.
- Museum of Fine Arts: the Musée des Beaux-Arts is the most prestigious museum of the city and most visited in Canada. They also have an fascinating display of outdoor exhibitions in front of the museum and along the main road outside, which is worth checking out.
To get a feel for Montreal, we highly recommend watching this short gay web series called Montreal Boy: Some Strings Attached, made by the tourism board and Logo TV. It’s super cute, the guys are very cute and we found it an awesome introduction to the city.
And…watch our vlog about the first ever Fierte Canada Pride in Montreal right here: