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. And we are LIVING for it! The atmosphere here is one of the best we've experienced from all the different gay scenes we've been to around the world. There's always something going on, with plenty of bars, clubs, after-hours clubs, saunas, strip bars, cafes, and more, to suit everyone.
We visited Montreal in the height of summer during the Fierte Pride in August. My god, these guys sure know how to have a good time! We'd happily return in a heartbeat.
Montreal is sexy. Montreal is proud. Montreal is energetic. Montreal is bold. Above all else, Montreal is open, ready and WAITING to embrace you in!
This is our gay guide to Montreal featuring all the best gay hotels, bars, clubs, things to do, and more, to help inspire your trip. Be sure to also watch our vlog about the first-ever Fierte Canada Pride in Montreal right here:
What we cover in this guide
Is Montreal a gay friendly city?
Short answer: hell yeah!
This is definitely one place we felt absolutely comfortable walking the streets holding hands. Put it this way, even at government level there is immense pride in the city's LGBTQ community – for Montreal Pride, not only the mayor and the Premier of Quebec led the parade, but alongside them was the country's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Lovely Justin also happens to be one of Montreal's famous residents, who made this beautiful speech about diversity:
“Diversity is the engine of invention. It generates creativity that enriches the world”
Canada generally has always been at the forefront of LGBTQ rights, being one of the first countries to legalise gay marriage and with one of the most progressive transgender laws in the world. Montreal, in particular, has always been a bedrock of acceptance and cultural diversity, to the point where it has developed the largest gay village in North America (see below), and also hosts many gay events throughout the year.
To get a feel for gay Montreal, we highly recommend watching this short gay web series called Montreal Boy: Some Strings Attached, made by the tourism board and Logo TV (let's just repeat that part: the tourism board of Montreal commissioned this series: a sure-fire sign that a city truly welcomes and celebrates its LGBTQ community!)
Le Village Gai: the gay neighbourhood of Montreal
Montreal's gaybourhood, otherwise known as Le Village Gai or just The Village is famous for being the largest gay neighbourhood in North America. It's literally an entire district of the city, even officially recognised in tourist city maps and searchable in social media location tags.
This is the heart of the city's LGBTQ community, based along the mile-long Saint Catherine street, bordered by St Hubert Street to the west, De Lorimier Avenue to the east, Sherbrooke Street to the north and René Lévesque Boulevard to the south.
The Gay Village dates back to the 1980s when it used to be a poor working-class neighbourhood. It was first occupied by gay and lesbian businesses after they were forced out from downtown Montreal. Over the years, the area gentrified massively to become the pink bubble of fun it is today.
During May-September, St Catherine Street is closed to cars, allowing the cafes, bars and restaurants to spill out onto the pavements to create outdoor terraces, giving the village an exciting buzzy atmosphere. We love it just for this! It also has a rainbow crossing to mark its starting point.
Gay hotels in Montreal
Montreal is one place in the world where you know most hotels welcome LGBTQ travellers with open arms. We've never had any issues booking a double bed as a gay couple travelling in Montreal, especially at the large chain hotels.
We've set out some of the best gay friendly hotels for all budgets, either which we've tried and loved, or were recommended to us by fellow LGBTQ travellers:
Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth
Why we love it
- Luxurious and famous hotel in the heart of the city
- Lovely spa, swimming pool and fitness centre
- Beautiful rooms and suites
- Excellent restaurant, cocktail lounge and coffee shop
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 Ono, where they staged one of their week-long Bed-Ins for Peace non-violent protests against the Vietnam War in 1969 (specifically: Room 1742 which you can book for yourself). 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! When we stayed here for the Fierte Canada Pride, the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was not only staying here but in the same corridor as us! (Cue Stefan's many pathetic attempts to try “Hello housekeeping!”) 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 and suites at the Fairmont are comfortable and gorgeously designed, with lots of bold art on the walls. As well as being right in the heart of the city there is so much to do inside the hotel. For example, they have an indoor swimming pool, a state-of-the-art fitness centre and a luxurious spa offering lots of wellness treatments. We loved dining at their Rosélys restaurant (famous for its French food) and also recommend getting a few cocktails at the sophisticated Nacarat Bar. They also have a cafe called Kréma which does the perfect morning brew (unless you wanna head to Timmies for a “double double and a box of Timbits” – ask your Canadian friends to translate that!).
Hôtel William Gray
Why we love it
- Amazing boutique luxury hotel
- Wonderful spa, swimming pool and gym
- Rooftop terrace dining and drinks with a view
- Multiple restaurants and a cafe
This is one of Montreal's best boutique luxury hotels. Lush, sexy and uber romantic!
It's located in Old Montreal facing Place Jacques Cartier. And my god it's absolutely gorgeous! The hotel's buildings are stunning examples of 18th-century history, created by building a glass tower on top of the historic Maison Edward-William-Gray and the Maison Cherrier. Now the buildings are home to this stunning boutique spa hotel that you'll never want to leave!
The rooms are huge, often with incredible views. Some have a private outdoor terrace. We loved the hotel's rooftop terrace, where you can dine in the rooftop restaurant, or just have a cocktail and enjoy spectacular views of the city. The indoor Maggie Oakes restaurant is also a stylish haven, with lots of dark wood and a pop of green from the succulent wall. Perche is the terrace restaurant, which also has an adjoining cafe. We particularly enjoyed the big lounge room space, with a library, pool table and another bar.
Hôtel William Gray also has its own gym, handy for burning off all those poutine calories. The hotel spa is also incredible, with a luxurious hot/cold thermal circuit, a Himalayan salt room, Finnish sauna, steam room, experiential showers, cold room, herbal sauna and a seasonal outdoor pool. You can even relax in one of their Gharieni spa beds that involve a healing warm quartz massage bed or a Spa Wave sound therapy system. You're guaranteed to leave the William Gray feeling truly pampered!
Sir Montcalm Gite B&B
Why we love it
- Gay friendly accommodation IN the gay village
- Intimate and beautifully appointed rooms
- Gorgeous terrace garden for relaxing
- Welcoming and friendly hosts
Sir Montcalm Gite is a very gay friendly B&B located right in the heart of the Gay Village of Montreal.
This is ideal if you want to be right in the heart of all the gay action and still have the peace and serenity you associate with a boutique hotel. Sir Montcalm is like a little oasis of tranquillity from the busy Gayborhood outside. The interior terrace garden feels like your own personal jungle, where you can chill with a glass of wine in one hand and your beau in the other.
With just three guest rooms, a suite and a loft, this is a truly intimate B&B experience, plus the host André makes you feel like part of the family. The rooms are all cosy and comfortable but we definitely recommend booking the suite or loft for that little bit extra je n'ais ce quoi! The suite and loft both feature French doors opening onto the garden as well as a romantic Romeo & Juliet-style balcony overlooking the courtyard below.
There's a shared kitchen where guests can prepare their own meals, although you are also just steps away from the cafes and restaurants in the Gayborhood of Montreal. The breakfast is a big highlight – plentiful and everything home-cooked breakfast each morning; in the summer months, it's so nice to have your breakfast in the garden outside. The shared areas of the house are also lovely to relax with a book, with the ambient music oozing out around you.
Why we love it
- Luxurious hotel with bold and quirky design
- Truly pet-friendly with lots of extras for cats or dogs
- A divine 1940s-style bar for cocktails
- Excellent fitness centre
The W is one of our favourite international hotel brands. It is notorious for being super gay friendly with a global policy for diversity and inclusion. On a more local level, in 2017 when the city was hosting the first Fierte Canada Pride, the W Montreal held the LGBTQ Queer Me Out event.
W Montreal is a luxury design-driven hotel, located in the Banque du Canada building right on the line between Downtown Montreal and Old Montreal. It's particularly popular with younger gay travellers in their 30s and 40s, but of course, they welcome everyone!
Bold design and bright colours are King at the W Montreal, along with plenty of quirky artwork on the walls. This was also the first pet-friendly hotel we'd encountered, offering pet-friendly rooms with dog/cat beds, food/water bowls, “Bark Box” treat boxes and even dog sitting/walking facilities. Gym bunnies will be delighted with the fitness centre: it's massive, with super modern equipment and lots of bold bright colours!
There are no on-site restaurants at the W, but this is isn't a big deal as there so many great dining options nearby. In terms of inhouse bars, however, you need to check out the Bartizen. It's a beautifully designed space which captures the feeling of a 1940s-style lounge with felted seating and stunning dark tones, creating an intimate spot for a cocktail. They also specialise in Quebec gin and tonics, to which they even add perfumes…let's just say you certainly won't forget your G&T&P here in a hurry!
STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL
Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, avoiding any nasty surprises when you check in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off your first booking.
Gay bars 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” and “club”. Most places combine both and are open late until 3am (due to the lax licensing laws). After 3am, people head to “after hours” clubs. So to differentiate between the two sections, we've put in this bit the best gay bars/clubs, which are open until 3am, and the “after hours” ones we've listed in the “Gay Clubs” section directly underneath.
Complexe Sky is the biggest gay club in Canada! It's also the most popular and famous gay bar in Montreal. We loved it. It's in a large building with a restaurant on the ground floor called Le Branché, then four floors with different styles of music above that, concluding with a rooftop terrace with a pool and hot tub. Our favourite part was definitely the Cabaret area, where there are regular fierce drag shows, but basically the entire building is one big go-to for gay gay gay party and fun!
Located at 1474 Rue St-Catherine Est, the different parts of Complexe Sky have different opening times but most of them are open from 4pm until 3am.
Although Le Stud is officially a bear bar, everyone is welcome and that's why we love hanging out here. It has a really friendly atmosphere with an outdoor drinking area during the warmer months and a large dancing area inside. Look out for their themed nights or longer events like “Polar Bear Week” and the “Full Moon” parties. The connected L'Antre BBQ + Grill does fantastic pub food with burgers, hot dogs and poutine to keep all those rumbly bear tummies happy.
Bar Le Stud is located at 1812 Rue St-Catherine Est and is open daily from 10am until 3am.
Mado Lamotte is Montreal's most popular drag queen. She 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. You don't need to be fluent in French to have a rollicking time, but knowing a few words and phrases will help you get some of her more subtle jokes!
Cabaret Mado is located at 1115 St-Catherine Est and is open every day from 4pm until 3am.
This is the best gay bar in Montreal for karaoke. Every evening a live DJ hosts the karaoke, which goes on till late. On Fridays before 10:30pm they have a Happy Hour. We loved the friendly fun atmosphere – it feels like being in a gay Cheers bar, albeit a very chic one! There are two levels to the bar as well as a lovely terrace that's nice to sit outside in summer.
Located at 1669 Rue St-Catherine Est, Bar Le Cocktail is open daily from 2pm – 3am.
Aigle Noir (French for Black Eagle) is a cool “man's” bar, similar to other Eagle bars we've been to around the world. It's friendly and cruisy, with three different bar sections. On the mezzanine level, there is a sports bar in case you want to pretend to be a hetero dude grunting over football (we tried and failed!). We came here on a Friday evening when it was absolutely heaving, but really enjoyed it, especially on the terrace.
Located at 1315 Rue St-Catherine Est, Aigle Noir is open every day from 8am til 3am.
Whilst the name says “Club”, we found Unity to be more a bar environment, which became a dancy space later in the evening. It's a big gay complex, much like Complexe Sky, but not as massive. It has 2 different dance areas playing a mix of electro/pop music as well as a VIP lounge and a large rooftop terrace. The rooftop terrace is quite a romantic spot in the evening when there's a cool breeze and you can see the stars shining bright above. Unity also hosts awesome themed parties (like for Halloween) and drag shows.
Club Unity is located at 1171 Rue St-Catherine Est and is open Wednesday to Sunday evenings from 10pm until 3am.
Bar Renard is a very stylish gay friendly bar, which almost every gay local recommended to us as their favourite place for “cute boys and cocktails”! It doubles up as a restaurant during the day, serving delicious meals, with lots of vegetarian and vegan options. Bar Renard is the perfect spot to begin your night, maybe with some of their delicious cocktails on the terrace surrounded by greenery…
Located at 1272 Rue St-Catherine est, Bar Renard is open every day from 3pm to 3am.
Gay clubs in Montreal (open after 3am)
As mentioned above, these are the main gay clubs in Montreal, which for the sake of this guide, are the places open after 3am. Locally these are referred to as “after hours clubs”. When it got to around 3am in the Gayborhood when the gay bars (listed above) where closing, we found that most of the local gay guys who wanted to keep partying either headed to a sauna or to one of the following after hours clubs:
Stereo was THE after-hours club everyone recommend to us. Playing primarily house and techno music until well into the next morning, Stereo apparently has an excellent sound system. Couple this with friendly staff and delicious drinks and you're bound to have you a gay ‘ole time. Sadly these two Nomadic Grandmas couldn't quite keep up and went home after Sky Bar closed at 3am!
Located at 858 Rue St-Catherine Est, Stereo is open only on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 2-10am.
Circus is the other favourite gay after-hours club in Montreal, which plays a mix of electronic, house, trance and techno in three different rooms. In fact, it's the biggest after-hours entertainment complex in Canada! World-renowned DJs often appear here as well, keeping the beats going long after all the other bars have closed. As you might expect, with a name like Circus, there are sometimes even circus-y themed nights, with an erotic twist…
Located at 917 Rue St-Catherine Est, Circus is open Thursday to Sunday mornings from 2-9am.
Gay strip bars 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:
It was the Tripadivsor reviews that really sold it for us, boasting the sexiest men in North America. And it doesn't disappoint! Located in the heart of the gay village, Stock Bar provides hours of sexy entertainment in the form of fit men gyrating on stage, often in costume (until they take it off of course) and pole-dancing. The layout of the bar looks almost exactly like the one from the Channing Tatum movie “Magic Mike”!
Stock Bar is located at 1171 Rue St-Catherine Est and is open Tuesday – Sunday from 8pm until 3am.
Campus is less touristic than Stock Bar, with a mix of gay boys and groups of (straight) women. There are two bars offering prime views of the stage (should you need a stiff drink while fanning yourself!) Campus is also open during the day, so you don't have to wait until dark to enjoy the, erm, delights within… Day-time strippers are usually more twink-like while those working the night-shift are more of your butch bodybuilder types.
Campus is located at 1111 Rue St-Catherine Est and open Monday – Friday 3pm-3am, Saturday/Sunday 1pm-3am.
Gay saunas in Montreal
There are two gay saunas in Montreal, conveniently located right in the heart of the Gayborhood… So, as you stumble out of Club Unity or Le Stud at closing time at 3am and try to decide where to go next, if you don't go to one of the after-hour clubs, then you'll most likely be joining the queue to enter either Oasis or Sauna GI Joe:
What's not to love about Sauna Oasis? It's open 24 hours a day, has a glory hole room and free WiFi! Not to mention the fact that there are more than 100 different rooms including private ones you can rent for a bit of fun, a steam room, dry sauna, oversized spa, a voyeurs/exhibitionists area and x-rated movies for your viewing pleasure. Oasis really is the place to come for fun, no matter the time or day!
Located at 1390 Rue St-Catherine Est, Oasis is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Another 24/7 gay sauna in Montreal, which appeals more to the fetish crowd, is the oh-so-naughty Sauna G.I Joe. The facilities are spread out over four floors, including a roof terrace. There are lots of private rooms some featuring your very own sex swing. There's also all the sauna amenities you would expect like a steam room, dry sauna and spa, along with kinky extras like glory holes and play areas.
Sauna G.I Joe is located at 1166 Rue St-Catherine Est and is also open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Gay cruising in Montreal
To be honest most gay guys looking for play in Montreal now use Grindr to connect with locals. This has dramatically reduced the outdoor cruising options. However, the following are places that locals told us are still quite popular for gay cruising, but we can’t vouch for them ourselves:
- Piscine Hochelaga: located at 1870 Rue Davidson
- Olympic Stadium Hall's toilets: located at 4141 Pierre de Coubertin.
Gay events in Montreal
Since it's such a gay friendly city you can bet there are plenty of fabulous events just for us LGBTQ folk! Montreal Pride in August is definitely the biggest and best, but be sure to check out the others we've listed. For more, read our favourite gay events in Montreal.
Fierte Montreal Pride – August
Every year in August, Montreal has an incredible gay pride event attracting 2 million people! Everyone gets involved, families, allies and the whole 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 a fantastic, fun party atmosphere going on till late.
Black & Blue Festival – October
This is a large gay festival of social, cultural, sports and party events that take place over a full week in October, which also coincides with the Canadian Thanksgiving (second Monday in October). It started in 1991 and has been going strong ever since. The Black & Blue Festival raises money for HIV/AIDS charities and attracts more than 80,000 people from all over Canada, U.S.A., Europe, Australia, South America and New Zealand.
Image+Nation Gay Film Festival – Nov/Dec
The annual Image+ Nation Festival Film LGBTQueer Montreal (now that's a mouthful!) is an 11-day long queer film festival which highlights revolutionary storytelling. It takes place in late November/early December and in 2019 celebrated its 32nd anniversary. This is a wonderful way to experience both local and internationally produced films that amplify the voices of LGBTQ storytellers.
Igloo Fest – Jan/Feb
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, although we think the icy decor, projections and winter-themed activities are what truly make it feel like an Arctic wonderland.
Piknic Electronik Montreal – May/June/July/Aug/Sep
This is a large outdoor electronic music festival that takes place 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. As it takes place during the summer months, the outfits are a lot skimpier compared to Igloo Fest…just sayin'...
Festival TransAmériques – May/June
Festival TransAmeriques (or FTA) is a popular, annual 2-week dance and theatre festival taking place in May/June. With workshops, debates and performances galore, you'll find plenty to enjoy if you're in the city at the right time. There are usually around 25 different performances taking place in more than 15 venues throughout Montreal, including outdoor spaces, so check their website for all the details.
Just For Laughs – July
This is 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 all over the city. Attracting more than 2 million people to Montreal, there are often huge comedy stars performing along with undiscovered talent. If you like a good laugh (and seriously, who doesn't?) then you have to catch some of this rip-snorting event in person!
Gay cafes in Montreal
For when you just need a quick bite, breakfast or cup of Joe, Montreal has some wonderful cafes to check out. These are our favourite gay owned and gay friendly cafes we loved in the city:
Unfortunately, we didn't spot Leo DiCaprio here, but Titanic Montreal is still a fabulous gay owned cafe in Old Montreal. It's been around for over 20 years and is a great place to come for lunch or coffee during the day. They specialise in home-style classics, big sandwiches and antipasto. We particularly recommend trying their delicious mac and cheese (with three kinds of cheese) on a cold day, or one of their amazing deli-style sandwiches with all sorts of cured meats to choose from. You can also order deluxe boxed lunches or big picnic hampers with everything you need for a romantic meal in the park!
Pourquoi Pas Espresso Bar
Pourquoi Pas Espresso Bar, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways… Well, firstly, the coffee here is uh-maaazing, with lots of different delicious varieties. The baristas are super friendly and often make cute latte art on your drink for you which is a sweet touch. Speaking of art, there's always artwork on the walls done by local artists, which you can purchase if you love it. Then there are the scrummy pastries for those who need something sweet with their coffee (guilty!), not to mention the gluten-free varieties and their non-dairy milk options.
De Farine et D’eau Fraiche
Ladies who brunch head straight to De Farine et D’eau Fraiche! With all the charm of a cosy French cafe, they serve incredible pastries and breakfast dishes as well as the freshest of made-to-order baguettes. Everything is just so pretty here too, with so much attention to detail that you almost don't want to eat your food… we said almost! No way we're leaving a decadent red velvet milkshake or crepes with chocolate and strawberries go to waste. Don't worry if you don't have as much of a sweet tooth, you'll be equally satisfied by the shrimp tacos, tortilla soup, salads and smoked salmon on toast.
Directly next door to Club Stereo, Cafe Lulu is (not surprisingly) popular with the all-nighter party boys! Aside from that, it's also a great place to come for brunch. Some of their best prizes include decadent crepes, French toast, yummy omelettes, bagels and plenty of pastries. You can even have a ‘hair of the dog cocktail' with your breakfast if you need it! We loved their coffee, as well as the smoked salmon on a bagel for lunch. The staff here are incredibly warm and friendly, plus they make everything on the spot as soon as you order – so you know it's as fresh as can be.
La Grain Brûlée
We just love La Graine Brûlée because it's super colourful and quirky. Make sure you check out the leopard printed seats, mini Ferris wheel, graffiti-covered cubby holes and small nooks that make it look like a playroom, complete with old Nintendo games! The menu is small and simple, but still delicious. With wraps, sandwiches, and small plates, it's perfect for a snack while hanging with friends and playing Super Mario Kart. This unique cafe is located on the west side of the Montreal gay village right by the Berri-UQAM metro station. It's THE place to take a selfie to kick off a great night out in the Montreal gay village.
Best gay restaurants in Montreal
The Montreal gay village has many different excellent restaurants to grab a bite to eat. Whether you're craving something healthy or some deep-fried chicken, you'll manage to find mouth-watering treats at wonderfully inclusive businesses. We've listed below some of our favourite restaurants, but for more mouth-watering inspiration, be sure to check out our guide to the best gay restaurants Montreal.
Le Saloon Bistro Bar
Le Saloon Bistro Bar was the very first restaurant we tried in the Montreal gay village. We love it because as well as being a gay institution of the village for over 25 years, they serve up delicious North American dishes like hearty burgers, tartars and healthy salads. They also do bloody delicious Bloody Caesar cocktails! We loved sitting outside on the tiny terrace surrounded by plants, with rainbow flags flapping over our heads as we watched the world go by. Le Saloon is a lovely spot for breakfast, lunch or just a cheeky drink before heading out in the gay village for the night.
Le Red Tiger
Le Red Tiger was our favourite Asian restaurant in the Montreal gay village. Here they specialise in Vietnamese street food, which is ideal for sharing with friends. We loved their noodle soups as well as the decadent sticky mango rice. They also do some pretty spectacular cocktails like the Bà Den Lemonade, a sultry blend of bourbon, amaretto, organic apple juice, oolong tea, vanilla syrup, lemon juice and mint. Also, look out for the stylish and unique wall murals depicting images of Vietnamese life, with a twist…!
Although Rotisserie St-Hubert is not too fancy, we like it because it's the perfect place to get a quick bite to eat that isn't too unhealthy – or for something really greasy and delicious when you need it! St-Hubert is a well-known chain of restaurants in Canada, but this one is conveniently located right in the middle of the Montreal gay village. They specialise in rotisserie chicken and ribs but also offer a gluten-free and vegetarian menu. However, the chicken with fries, Piri Piri sauce and coleslaw is their classic, for a reason! They also offer brunch, with a variety of fluffy Belgian waffles and breakfast burgers!
With a mish-mash of retro tables, chairs, and quirky knick-knacks, Le Cagibi is a hip but relaxed space. They specialise in vegetarian cuisine (with plenty of vegan options as well) while also focusing on making the environment queer-friendly and inclusive. It's a lovely spot to relax over a meal or a cuppa, chatting with locals, reading or studying in the comfy window seats and enjoying the sunshine. We loved their filling smoothies and the breakfast burrito (with homemade vegan chorizo) but most of the menu is seasonal so you'll have to see what's on offer when you're there!
We sure are spoiled for choice when it comes to healthy, local and organic places to eat in Montreal, with Crux Comptoir another prime example. Part juice-bar, part cafe/restaurant, Crux Comptoir creates some of the prettiest (and most Instagrammable!) smoothie bowls, along with healthy salads, wraps, sandwiches and more. They have plenty of gluten-free choices, like their ‘tonics' which contain shots of wheatgrass, turmeric and other healthy ingredients! If you live by the mantra “my body is a temple” then you will definitely want to come and worship at Crux Comptoir!
Things to do in Montreal
As the largest city in Canada's Quebec province, you can bet there are lots of exciting things to see and do in Montreal. These are a few of the not-to-miss sightseeing highlights in Montreal that we loved the most:
The balls of the Montreal Gay Village
We promise you it's not a dirty analogy! During the non-snowy months of May to September, a stunning art installation called Pink Balls is hung above the main pedestrianised road (Rue St-Catherine Est) running through the Gay Village. Pink Balls is an installation made up of 170,000 pink balls, designed by architect Claude Cormier. During the Fierte Canada Pride, the balls are changed to the 18 colours of the rainbow flag to celebrate gay Pride. We love it because it not only has an awesome name – 18 Shades of Gay, but it also gives the gay village an incredible effect, unlike anything else we've ever seen before.
Montreal street art tour
Street art murals are very popular across Montreal, particularly in the Plateau neighbourhood, which is not too far to walk from the Gay Village. There's even an annual mural festival which takes place over 11 days in June. During the festival, you can watch murals being painted live by world-renowned artists, as well as enjoy music, exhibitions and artist talks. We recommend taking a tour with the gay owned Spade & Palacio to explore Montreal's street art. The guides are gay locals who are extremely passionate about their city and know all the best spots to find gorgeous street art. They also do bicycle, food and Old Montreal tours.
Exploring 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 and also go inside because the interior is incredible! Outside, many of the roads are still cobbled and with horse-drawn carriages toting tourists around, it evokes the feeling of a bygone era. You can join a walking tour of the Old Montreal neighbourhood, which is a wonderful way to learn more about the history and architecture of this beautiful city.
Bota Bota Spa
Bota Bota Spa is a unique and luuuuush spa in a large historic river ferry. Bota Bota offers numerous opportunities for relaxation with multiple heated pools, saunas, hot tubs, baths and treatments. We definitely recommend it as a romantic evening treat, particularly their Water Circuit at sunset which takes place in the floating garden part of the boat. There's also a divine floating restaurant called La Traversée where you can enjoy a gourmet meal before, during or after your spa time. They have regular events and packages for special occasions like Valentine's Day too.
Mont-Royal mountain views
The city of Montreal got its name from the nearby mountain of Mont-Royal. This 233 metres (765ft) high mountain is the iconic symbol of the city from where locals get their bearings. You can hike up or drive to the Belvedere Observatory at the top for the best views of the city. There's a large park on the sides of the mountain where you can spot wildlife like squirrels, racoons, beavers, foxes or skunks. There are also lots of fun things to do here, especially in winter when you can access the snow tube and toboggan run or go ice-skating on Beaver Lake.
Observatoire Place Ville Marie
Located in Downtown Montreal, the Observatoire Place Ville Marie is another popular place for awesome views of the city but these ones come without all the effort of climbing a hill! To get to the 360° observation deck you ride an elevator to the 46th floor where you can enjoy seeing the city of Montreal spread out before you. There's also a fabulous restaurant in the tower called Les Enfants Terribles, which serves up delicious burgers, poutine, tartars and more, all with a stunning view on the side. You can also come here for a yummy brunch or perhaps a romantic sunset cocktail before hitting the gay bars and clubs.
Taste Montreal's most famous dishes
Montreal is home to some pretty amazing cuisine. First up is poutine – the perfect hangover dish! A poutine is fries served with cheese curds and topped with gravy. One of the most famous places to try poutine is at Patati Patata.
Another local culinary staple to try in Montreal is the smoked meats. The East European Jewish immigration to Canada in the 1900s brought with it culinary gems like smoked meats. Schwartz's is the most famous deli with queues going around the block (helped by the fact that it has been part owned by Celine Dion since 2012!)
Finally, don't leave Montreal without trying a few bagels. The best can be found at one of the many bagel bakeries in the Mile End neighbourhood.
Museum of Fine Arts
The Musée des Beaux-Arts is the most prestigious museum of Montreal and the most visited in Canada! They have a fascinating display of free outdoor exhibitions in front of the museum and along the main road outside, which are worth checking out. Tickets to enter the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts are affordable though, and well worth it once you see what's inside. The collection includes incredible local and international art, with special exhibitions of Canadian Inuit art as well as cutting-edge modern pieces. If you're at all interested in art or history, then we highly recommend a visit.
Ziplining over the Montreal Old Port
We love activities that really get the heart pumping, and Montreal's Old Port area has a lot on offer. There is a science centre, an IMAX Theatre and an urban beach (in summer). But what really grabbed our attention was the Montreal Urban Zipline. We jumped at the chance to jump off a 100-foot tower and soar across the Old Port on a 1,200-foot cable. The feeling of weightlessness is absolutely thrilling and the views ain't too bad either. For those who prefer less adrenaline-inducing activities, you can also ride on the Montreal Observation Wheel – the tallest Ferris Wheel in Canada.
Spot wolves and bison at Omega Park
Not far from Montreal lies Omega Park, a truly awesome location where native wildlife roams free. In some cases, you can even interact with some of them. This isn't like a zoo where the animals are caged, but they roam free as you drive along. Though in some areas, you're not allowed to leave your car. Some animals you may spot include wild wolves, bison, deer, elks, boars, buffalos and foxes. You can visit Omega Park on a day-trip from Montreal, which also includes a visit to Montebello Lodge. Montebello Lodge is the largest log building in North America, built back in 1930, and is now a Fairmont Hotel.
Plan your trip to Montreal
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Montreal. Read on to find out everything the gay traveller should know before they go.
How to get there: Montreal is easily accessible from other parts of Canada or the US via trains, buses or even boats. If you are flying into the Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport then you can reach downtown Montreal in about half an hour via train, bus or taxi. We personally like to book a private transfer when we're arriving in a new place so that we don't have to juggle luggage on public transport or stress out if our flight is arriving late at night.
Visa requirements: While US residents can visit Canada without a visa, residents of some other countries (UK, Australia, most European countries) need to apply for an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) to enter Canada if arriving by air. There is only a small fee for an ETA and it doesn't take long if you have the necessary documents. Of course, citizens from other less privileged countries do need a visa. You can check your visa requirements and apply for your ETA or Canadian travel visa here.
Getting around: Montreal has an excellent public transport system to get around, including a clean and fast subway system as well as buses. If you purchase a Montreal Attraction Pass you'll be able to visit lots of the city's top attractions as well as enjoy unlimited public transport access for three whole days!
Power Plugs: Canada uses power plug types A and B which is the same as throughout the United States, China, Japan and most countries in Central America. Travellers to Montreal from other countries will need to bring a travel adaptor with them.
Travel insurance: Things can go wrong when you're travelling, from missed flights to lost luggage, illness or injury. For your trip to Montreal, we definitely recommend getting travel insurance, and we personally always use WorldNomads Travel Insurance. They offer comprehensive cover at affordable prices, plus it's easy to make a claim online if you need to.
Safety and Security: Even in a country as safe as Canada and a city as safe as Montreal, sometimes things happen during travel where we need immediate help. For anything from advice to emergency evacuation, we like to use Close Circle's “virtual bodyguard” app to stay safe while we're travelling. At just the swipe of a button on your phone, their team is alerted and on hand to help you. Read more about why we love Close Circle in our guide on how gay travellers can stay safe while travelling.
Vaccinations: All travellers to Montreal should be up to date with routine vaccinations for things like measles, mumps, rubella etc. Depending on where in Canada you will be going and what you might be doing there then you may also need to be vaccinated for hepatitis A, hepatitis B or rabies. Check the most recent advice from the CDC and speak to your doctor before making travel plans.
Currency: The currency in Montreal and the rest of Canada is the Canadian dollar. The currency code is CAD and the symbol used is $ although sometimes it's written as CA$ to distinguish it from US or other dollar sign currencies. Currently, US$1 converts to about CA$1.33, €1 is roughly CA$1.46 and £1 is worth around CA$1.72.
Tipping culture: It's generally expected that you will tip for good service in Montreal and throughout Canada. Like the United States, Canada has a strong tipping culture so how much you leave will indicate how good you thought the level of service you received was. Have a look at this guide for details on exactly how much you should tip in Canada at different places if you're not familiar with tipping cultures.
Internet access: Montreal has one of the world's largest free WiFi networks, with 825 access points across the city! However, if you are planning to be doing a lot of work or needing reliable internet access at all times then you might prefer to bring a portable WiFi device with you.
Online privacy: While Montreal's free WiFi is easy to access it does not guarantee encryption and privacy. If you want to ensure you can access the web securely while you're in Montreal then we recommend using a VPN like those provided by ExpressVPN. Their VPNs are reliable and it's very affordable to organise for your travels.
Accommodation: We always use Booking.com when looking for accommodation in Montreal because they have the best selection and prices! They also offer free cancellation on many listings and excellent customer support that's available 24/7.
Sightseeing and adventure: For more fun things to see and do in Montreal, make sure you check out GetYourGuide. We love finding things to do with them because they have so many choices, it's easy to book online and they also have fantastic online customer support available 24/7.
When to visit: Montreal has four distinct seasons so deciding when to visit really comes down to what sort of weather you'd prefer or which events you want to attend. Winter can be quite magical with the snow but if you prefer warmer temperatures then the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn will provide cheaper prices, especially for accommodation. Also, summer is filled with lots of festivals so there's that too!
Gay map of Montreal
Here's our gay map of Montreal to show you where all the gay bars, clubs, hotels and sightseeing highlights we've mentioned in this post are located. Use it to plan your own amazing gay trip to Montreal!
For more inspiration:
- Read why we think Canada is one of the most gay friendly countries in the world
- As well as all our favourite gay friendly restaurants in Montreal
- While you're in Canada make sure you also head to the gay bars and clubs in Toronto
- There are also plenty of fun gay events in Toronto
- If you're travelling with your lover, check out these romantic things for gay couples to do in Toronto as well
- Read our gay guide to the city of Vancouver
- Don't miss out on the most incredible snowy pride event in Whistler
- And if you like snow you will love this guide to the best gay skiing holidays around the world
- But if you prefer sun and sand to snow, check out our guide to the best gay cruises instead!