Getting off the beaten path in Montréal is a piece of cake, because Montréalers have a knack for reinventing their city in a creative… and even somewhat delinquent way.
When Leonard Cohen, one of the best-known and most-loved Montréalers in the world left us, a statue wasn’t raised for him; instead, mural artists were asked to paint a building in his honour. From now on, at 1420 Crescent St., the poet keeps watch over downtown with his benevolent gaze.
It goes to show what kind of energy inhabits this beloved city of artists, namely thanks to affordable housing costs and the abundance of cultural events. These creative Montréalers also have a talent for reappropriating forgotten spaces and making them welcoming. For example?
The Van Horne overpass, which towers over Mile-End and Saint-Laurent Boulevard, used to look like… well, the underside of an overpass: a kind of wasteland where abandoned bikes cohabitedwith stray bumpers. But little by little, in the early 2000s, DJs started throwing underground parties for music lovers. Then artists were commissioned to paint its pillars, and the city set up urban furniture where parents can take a break while their kids play. Now, an important cultural event takes place every summer under the overpass. This year, the Mile-Ex-End Festival featured acts like Broken Social Scene and Eddy De Pretto, as well as comedians Guillaume Wagner and Adib Alkhalidey.
Montréalers may not make their way up to the Olympic Stadium observatory on Saturday mornings, but they will gladly attend events that take place at the foot of the famous leaning tower, whether to kick off the food truck season or to attend the Jackalope Festival’s skateboard competition. Every Wednesday of the summer, another iconic location, Orange Julep, is taken over by vintage car fans.
Even big institutions have a bit of a rebellious streak. Why settle for a mere visit the Notre-Dame Basilica? Every day, you can watch Aura, a light show designed by Moment Factory (the studio that, has created installations for Arcade Fire and Madonna shows), which shows the iconic church in an entirely different light. Feel like going to a museum? A few nights per year, the Contemporary Arts Museum presents the Nocturnes du MAC, allowing visitors to browse the exhibitions with glass in hand, to the sounds of a well-known DJ until 2 a.m.
ESSENTIAL TO BRING BACK: Le Montréaler magazine: in the style of The New Yorker, 55 local illustrators designed a cover for an imaginary magazine. A graphic novel from the Paul series by Michel Rabagliati, to visit Montréal through different eras. A recycled fur hat from Harricana, to get through the winter in style.