Awakening from the slumber of a long winter, summer in Montréal is an extravaganza of options. An international metropolis dressed in the charm and accessibility of old-world Europe, the cultural hub of ‘la belle province’ offers it all. To get the most of your summer lounging, sit back at one of these outdoor spots and soak it all in.

Strings of rainbow colors sway above a pedestrian-only street in Montréal © Jason Najum / Lonely Planet
The Gay Village in Montréal has many lovely outdoor dining options for LGBT and non-LGBT travelers alike © Jason Najum / Lonely Planet

Waterfront in Old Montréal

Start along the cobblestone streets of Old Montréal, where the smoky-gray buildings and impressive architecture remind you why many consider Montréal the most European city in North America. This part of town is also known as the Old Port (Vieux-Port), so walking the main street of Rue de la Commune means walking along the shores of the St Lawrence river.

At the western edge of the strip, where the sleek corporate buildings of Rue McGill hit the water, you’ll find Marché des Éclusiers. This outdoor bar and restaurant has a relaxed feel, offering a full selection of drinks and a fresh grilled bavette to be remembered. On Thursdays and Saturdays the space also holds a farmers market, showcasing local producers with rotating food and drink options.

People walk down a lovely European-style section of Montreal in the sunlight, with brightly colored umbrellas seen on the sides of the street in the background © BakerJarvis / Shutterstock
The lovely Rue St-Paul is a charming section of the Old Port in Montreal, and has many outdoor dining options including the Jardin Nelson © BakerJarvis / Shutterstock

Stroll east along the water or hop on a Bixi bike rental and you’ll reach Place Jacques-Cartier, the unofficial center of the Old Port. This walking street is lined with great old buildings and a variety of patios and restaurants. However, these options can be overpriced and the surrounding streets offer many alternatives, so have a stroll and save your dollars.

Instead check out Jardin Nelson, a café/restaurant at the bottom of Place Jacques-Cartier set in an impressive courtyard that offers live jazz and a touch of Paris. Or walk a few blocks down charming Rue St-Paul to the Hotel Nelligan and head up to the rooftop restaurant for drinks, bistro-quality food, and a great view.

Summer in the Southwest

A few minutes west of Old Montréal, just south of the city’s downtown core, are the twin neighborhoods of Little Burgundy and St Henri. These former working-class boroughs, although thoroughly gentrified in recent years, have managed to keep much of their original character. A mix of pedestrian-friendly residential streets and quaint high-end eateries, along with the allure of the Marché Atwater and the Lachine Canal, have made this area one of the most popular in town.

Walk along Rue Notre-Dame for a wide selection of outdoor eating and drinking choices. Have a seat at one of the Burgundy Lion’s two patios for good pub fare and a cold pint. Or head next door to Geppetto’s front terrace for authentic wood-fired pizza and some people-watching.

The interior of a restaurant in Montreal, in a glass-walled canal barge © Jason Najum / Lonely Planet
Sit on the roof of the permanently docked Canal Lounge, or dine under the glass windows with a maritime theme © Jason Najum / Lonely Planet

Stroll a bit further and turn left and you’ll hit the Lachine Canal, a waterfront area with bike paths, picnics and boat rentals. It’s here you’ll find the Canal Lounge. This boat-bar is permanently docked near the Marché Atwater, nestled along the canal in front of a lovely pedestrian bridge. The 45 yr-old boat was renovated by the owners in 2015 and turned into an upscale cocktail lounge. Sit on the boat’s rooftop for some fresh air or inside for some maritime ambiance. The friendly owners moonlight as bartenders and whip up finely-crafted cocktails in a chic but warm atmosphere. A great place to stop for a drink.

If a casual beer is more your thing, head a few minutes farther west along the canal to the St Ambroise Terrasse. The McAuslan Brewery is one of Quebec’s most successful microbreweries and has turned the front of the property into a wonderful spot for beer and sunshine. Picnic tables and a barbecue restaurant are set in a wide open green space, with Mount Royal and some famously derelict silos in the background. It’s a favorite spot for locals who want to unwind with a cold one fresh from the brewery.

Several bright red umbrellas dominate a sunny patio with patrons drinking and socializing. In the distance is a dilapidated building © Jason Najum / Lonely Planet
The large open space at the McAuslan Brewery is a popular spot to sample the microbrewery's wares © Jason Najum / Lonely Planet

When you’re done at St Ambroise, walk down the street to Riverside. This new arrival in the neighborhood has taken over the land of those abandoned silos and turned it into a hip spot for good music and fine drinks. The group at Riverside have incorporated the derelict silos into their concept, honoring the history of one of Canada’s first malting grain suppliers and the contemporary graffiti artists who use the abandoned site for their art. Stay past sunset for some late-night fun.

Downtown Montréal and beyond

If you find yourself downtown, head east past the popular shops on Rue St-Catherine and stop by the Pub Ste-Élisabeth. This absolute gem of a patio has some of the nicest outdoor seating in town, with more than 50 feet of green ivy covering the terrace walls.

Walk another two blocks and you’ll hit the city’s Gay Village. This portion of St Catherine street is closed to car traffic during the summer and has many great outdoor food and drink options. Walk the streets under a canopy of Pride colors and hang out in one of the world’s most vibrant and integrated gay communities. A good option for both the LGBT or non-LGBT traveler.

People sitting at restaurant at table outside © Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock
The Gay Village in Montréal has many lovely outdoor dining options for LGBT and non-LGBT travelers alike © Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock

Finally, impress your travel companions with your insider-knowledge by stopping at Vices & Versa. This casual bistro offers more than 40 artisan beers on tap with a solid food menu and a charming back patio. Hidden across a quiet park at the edge of Little Italy, this is a great non-touristy spot for some summer lounging with locals. Enjoy.

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