Montreal Gay Guide – Montreal Gay Pride 2018
Planning a romantic vacation to this vibrant center of LGBTQ culture, Canadian history, and cutting-edge art and cuisine
Canada’s second-largest metropolis and one of North America’s leading gay destinations, urbane Montreal occupies a picturesque setting along the St. Lawrence River, in the shadows of 730-foot Mont Royal, which is surrounded by a lovely park for wooded strolls. This French-speaking metropolis (where English is nevertheless widely understood) has become increasingly well-regarded as a hub of style, design, and cutting-edge gastronomy. It’s home to one of the largest and liveliest LGBTQ districts in the world, the Gay Village, but you’ll find plenty to delight your senses and your curiosity throughout the city, from the charming and historic Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal) neighborhood to hipster-minded Mile End.
Check out the website of Tourism Montreal for more trip-planning advice and details.
Montreal Gay Pride 2018
One of the best times for LGBTQ travelers to visit is in summer, when the city’s weather is warm and pleasant. The well-attended annual 2018 Montreal Gay Pride celebration, known officially as Fierté MTL, takes place over about 10 days in mid-August (the dates this year are August 9–19, 2018), with much of the action focused around Parc des Faubourgs, at the eastern end of the Montreal Gay Village (just steps from Papineau metro station). Events are many and include parties and observances specific to trans community, families, the leather community, and more. The festival culminates with a Montreal Pride Community Day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Rue Ste-Catherine on Saturday, August 18, and Montreal Gay Pride Parade from 1 until 4 pm on Sunday, August 19.
The art-filled Hôtel William Gray opened in 2016 in a brilliantly designed amalgam of brand-new and 18th-century buildings. The gorgeous common spaces and see-and-be-seen restaurants invite leisurely lingering, especially the airy Terrasse William Gray, or for a leisurely feast of farm-to-table fare, the stately Maggie Oakes restaurant. Spa William Gray is one of the top venues in the city for an ultra-relaxing and rejuvenating massage or body treatment—the soothing 5,600-square-foot venue has a Finnish sauna, Himalayan salt room, seasonal outdoor pool, and fabulous quartz massage beds. Hip, reasonably priced, and within walking distance of both Vieux-Montreal and downtown in the up-and-coming Griffintown neighborhood, the 18-story ALT Hotel Montreal contains industrial-chic rooms with high ceilings, exposed concrete, comfy modern Italian armchairs, and smartly designed bathrooms with spa-style showerheads. The hotel’s trendy bar offers a generously priced happy hour each day from 5 to 7 p.m. There’s a very nice gym and common terrace, with great views, too.
The Antonopoulos family operates three of the city’s coolest design hotels, all of them within walking distance of one another in Vieux-Montreal, and all with superb restaurants. The 135-room Place d’Armes Hotel opened in 2000 and received a major restoration in 2005, but it’s fashioned out of three meticulously restored vintage buildings. Many of the spacious, smartly furnished rooms reveal ornate original woodwork and have Jacuzzi tubs or huge walk-in showers with “rain” showerheads. The hotel’s AIX Cuisine du Terrior specializes in Canadian game and produce, such as honey-glazed Quebec duck breast with parsnip puree, lemon confit, and cranberries, and Nunavut caribou tartare with mustard and raisins and a port-wine reduction. In the hotel’s Rainspa, schedule a Dead Sea-salt exfoliation or soak in a traditional hammam (a Middle Eastern bath). And in the swank lounge, Suite 701, you can enjoy cocktails while mingling with the sexy crowd.
The same family runs the highly romantic Auberge du Vieux-Port, set inside a beautiful 1882 warehouse, whose 27 rooms have stone and brick walls, hardwood floors, soaring windows, and brass beds. On warm days, relax on the hotel’s rooftop terrace, with its sweeping views of the St. Lawrence River. Here, you can dine on superb seasonal French fare and sip wines from the impressive wine list at Les Ramparts, a cozy space in the hotel’s basement. The third jewel in the group is the charming Hotel Nelligan, with its warmly decorated accommodations – try to book one of the Loft Suites, which have fireplaces and large living areas. On the ground floor, Verses Restaurant serves similar outstanding contemporary fare.
Settled nearly 400 years ago, utterly romantic Vieux-Montreal is the historic hub of Canada’s second-largest metropolis. But along its quaint cobblestone lanes and occupying many of its meticulously restored buildings, you’ll find hip, modern cocktail bars, scene-y restaurants, posh boutique hotels, and even a floating spa and yoga center, Bota Bota.
Vieux-Montreal’s skyline is a mix of the historic and the surprisingly new, as a number of the neighborhood’s older structures have received design-driven renovations in recent years and now house trendy boutiques hotels and see-and-be-seen shops and restaurants. Be sure to visit Place d’Armes, the grand old town square anchored by the iconic, neo-Gothic Notre-Dame Basilica, which dates to 1829. One of Vieux-Montreal’s most interesting draws is Pointe-a-Calliere Museum of Archaeology and History, which has been constructed above the excavated and still-visible remains of buildings that date to the late 17th century. Along charming Rue St-Paul you’ll spy galleries, antiques shops, and posh boutiques, which are also the bill of fare in the mid-19th-century Bonsecours Market, a gorgeously restored former market building with a tin-plate dome that’s visible for blocks. You’ll find several excellent restaurants and bars in or near Bonsecours Market.
Directly north of Vieux-Montreal, the commercial City Center exists on two main levels, literally. There’s the neighborhood at street level, with its skyscraping office towers and busy streets, and there’s Underground Montreal, a subterranean maze of shops, restaurants, and boutiques designed to keep pedestrians from the city’s harsh winter elements. Several City Center museums and cultural institutions celebrate Montreal’s design legacy. There’s the Canadian Centre for Architecture, one of the world’s foremost architectural collections, contained appropriately inside a visually memorable buildings. The museum here regularly stages provocative and thoughtful exhibits related not just to architecture but also urban planning and interior design.
The nation’s oldest museum (opened in 1860), the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is another great cultural institution, with its fine collections of everything from Canadian paintings to contemporary works to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Persian antiquities. Foodies shouldn’t miss fabulous Faubourg Ste-Catherine, in the western end of the City Center, a stunning market building with dozens of unusual food outlets, trendy clothiers, and crafts boutiques.
Up the hill from the City Center, many student- and hipster-infested restaurants, coffeehouses, and shops line the streets of the Plateau. Do not pass up a chance to dine at L’Express, one of the most hallowed restaurants in the country, with the ambience, design, and cuisine of a classic Parisian brasserie. Rue St-Denis is the heart of the city’s collegiate Latin Quarter, and as you follow it down from the Plateau you’ll reach the city’s spectacular new main library (La Grande Bibliotheque du Quebec), which is sheathed in translucent green glass. With well more than 1,000 armchairs and hundreds more study carrels and computer stations, it’s a great place to read or relax on a cold or rainy day.
Peruse the houseware shops, fashion boutiques, and smart eateries of the city’s multicultural Mile End neighborhood.
Just a few blocks east of the city center, the Gay Village contains one of the world’s larger concentrations of bars, restaurants, and shops frequented primarily by gays and lesbians. The somewhat gentrified main commercial spine, Rue Ste-Catherine, nevertheless wears a slightly gritty veneer that recalls its history as an honest, working-class, francophone neighborhood. It’s truly a something-for-everyone district, with hard-core leather bars, unabashedly steamy strip clubs and bathhouses, see-and-be-seen bistros, romantic cafes, sassy club-wear boutiques, festive video bars, throbbing warehouse discos – you name it.
For nightlife, again options are many, but there are a few highlights. Fans of leather and Levi’s have been frequenting Aigle Noir (Black Eagle) Bar for years. Cabaret Mado is a raucous and spirited drag and sing-along bar. You could spend the whole day exploring Le Drugstore, a multilevel complex with numerous bars, some guy-oriented and others catering more to women, as well as a restaurant, newsstand, and pool hall. The Bourbon Hotel Complex contains gay accommodations and several bars and restaurants – it tends to cater to a pretty lusty bunch, including the trendy Inferno disco. And the handsomely furnished Sky Pub Club is the city’s most popular gay club – there are several spaces here, from a disco to a male strip bar to a cabaret.
In Vieux-Montreal, admire the skyline and sip bubbly at 8th-floor Terrasse Place d’Armes, which is open seasonally from late spring through early fall.
In addition to plenty of gay bars, most of them in the city’s bustling Gay Village, Montreal a few very popular gay saunas and bathhouses, the most famous being 10,000-square-foot Oasis Sauna (1390 rue Saint-Catherine E, 514-521-0785), which is steps from numerous Gay Village bars and like most of the others is open 24/7. The management is so sure you’ll have a good time that they’ll refund your admission if you don’t encounter at least 10 other clients at the sauna during the first two hours of your visit. This is rarely likely to happen, especially on weekends, when Oasis can actually become quite packed with both locals and tourists. Other bathhouse fun in the Village can be had at easy-on-the-wallet Sauna Centre-Ville, which tends to pull in a somewhat older bunch, and fetish-minded GI Joe Sauna. All three of these spots are on the main drag, rue Saint-Catherine E. You’ll also find gay saunas in other parts of Montreal, such as Sauna 5018 near the trendy Mile End district, and historic Colonial Bath, a curious spot that dates way back to 1914 and draws an interesting mix of gay and straight guys, including a number of Eastern European guys who have been frequenting this place for decades—it has a lovely rooftop terrace, too. Finally, near Beaubien metro stop, there’s Sauna St-Hubert, which though compact is well-maintained and often sees pretty good-size crowds.
Warehouse-chic Le Serpent, in Old Montreal, serves flawlessly executed—and unabashedly decadent—modern Canadian fare to a stylish crowd. A longtime romantic charmer in the Gay Village, Mozza is an affordable, BYOB Italian restaurant that’s perfect for a romantic meal—the intimate candlelit dining room exudes charm.
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