If you’re looking for a down-home slice of Europe — but in Canada — most people will recommend Quebec’s largest city, Montreal. If you’re looking for our country’s epicentre of culture, excellent food and that certain joie de vivre — locals will tell you that Montreal is that place to visit.
When you encounter a true Montrealer, the chances are high that you’ll hear them explain one of these four most talked about topics.
1. French, English, or something else entirely?
We’re all aware that most of the population in Montreal speak French. However, did you know that the city has their own vocabulary and slang that are key for travellers to grasp? We’re not talking the entire language — but some of these phrases are important. Subways are called the Metro, variety stores are called depanneurs or “dep” for short, five to seven is happy hour, and patios are more commonly referred to as terrasse’s during the summer months. If you can remember these few words, you’ll be a-okay in the local’s eyes.
Best places to mingle with locals: If you’re looking to test out your French and learn some more local slang, some Montrealers favourite spots include European-style pub Le Sainte-Élisabeth and private tours with an actual local.
2. Bagels are everything — pun intended
Montreal-style bagels are a big deal. Not only can you grab one (or two) for breakfast, lunch or dinner — you can also grab a bagel for a late night snack at one of their 24-hour locations. Why are the hand-rolled bagels are so much better in Montreal? The secret is in the style. Montreal bagels are boiled in water, sweetened with honey and then tossed into a wood-fired oven and baked to perfection. With a bit more dough than the usual favourite morning carb, the flavours seal the deal.
3. What do you mean sugar shacks aren’t candy stores?
Known for being one of the world’s largest maple syrup producers, Montreal has maple syrup farms that are perfect for experiencing the culture and history of the city. Only, rather than call them maple syrup farms and be done with it — locals call these pieces of sweet adventure “sugar shacks.” With traditional meals that are to die for and winter sleigh rides to tour some of the farm facilities, you’re not really a Montrealer unless you’ve visited and taste-tested all of the syrup you can get your hands on.
Favourite sugar shacks to visit: Did someone say maple wine and secret family recipes? La Branche is the place to check out. Looking for something more family-oriented? Bouvrette has sleigh rides, petting zoos and a train to add to the maple syrup experience.
4. It’s okay to have your wine to-go — sometimes
It might seem like a foreign concept for the rest of Canadians, but having drinks in certain public places is acceptable when in Montreal. However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. To drink freely in public is not the case unless the location holds an alcohol-serving permit issued by the Régie des permis d’alcool du Québec. There is, however, a small loophole to have some wine with your picnic lunch. Montreal parks allow open alcohol so long as you are eating a meal and are not breaking the law as far as disturbing the peace and public intoxication go. We know, you would never. Most locals will tell you that summertime drinks in your local park are a rite of passage for anyone visiting the city — whether it’s for a year, a month, a day or an hour.
Montreal is a city whose locals pride themselves on its romance and the preservation of their culture and heritage. When you visit and when you live here, being apart of that vibrant community is a privilege and responsibility. Enjoy the way they do things in Montreal, and join in on the fun!