CPRS Board Member Montreal City Guide

This year, the Canadian Public Relations Society's National Conference visits Montreal, Quebec and delegates are arriving to the city from across Canada. With so many potential things for CPRS 2015 attendees to do, three CPRS national board members with different perspectives on Montreal have collaborated to bring you this guide.

  • Joanne Fortin, APR, FCPRS is a long-time CPRS & SQPRP member who has lived in the Montreal area her whole life.
  • Sarah Milner, APR has been splitting her time between Victoria, BC and Montreal for work since 2012.
  • Everett Martin grew up in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and relocated to Montreal from Vancouver in 2011.

(1) What's the best way to get around Montreal?
Joanne: Montreal's metro (subway) and buses are among the best ways to get around in the city. Also, if you have a bit of time, take a guided tour to discover the city's many hidden corners.

Sarah: I'm a fan of exploring the city by foot – in comfortable shoes! I love seeing all the different cultures and hearing a different language spoken on almost every block; it makes one feel part of something much bigger and more interesting than themselves.

Cycling is my favourite way to navigate Montreal, and the wonderful Bixi system makes it easy for almost anyone. Whether you're coasting down Mont Royal, cruising through downtown traffic, or exploring the suburban paths that criss-cross the island, biking is the way to go!

(2) What part of Montreal is not to be missed?
Joanne: I recommend the Montreal Botanical Gardens, considered among the most interesting in North America. They bring together some of the world's unique treasures, including rare plants, Art Deco buildings, Chinese gardens, and various species of indigenous plants and trees collected from the northern regions of Quebec.

Sarah: The Old Port is by far my favourite area of town. You have that old European feel from the buildings, churches and cobblestone streets, plus great restaurants, fun shops and water views.

Everett: I live in The Plateau, and a walk through that neighbourhood shows visitors the "real Montreal". Some highlights include historic Square Saint Louis, great restaurants and live music venues, the bagel shops and hipster cafes of Mile End, and the relaxing "joie de vivre" on display in Parc Lafontaine.

(3) What's the most overrated Montreal activity that visitors should skip?
Joanne: Chinatown, which consists of just a few streets.

Sarah: Poutine-eating! French fries, gravy and cheese curds are overrated ;-)

Everett: Sainte Catherine Street…in its entirety. The same brands as elsewhere in Canada, but with higher taxes and ruder salespeople. Check out Maison Ogilvy or Simon's, if you must, but then head up to Sherbrooke Street West to see McGill University and the Golden Square Mile museum district, instead.

(4) What cuisine must visitors try in Montreal?
Joanne: One of Montreal's great attractions is its selection of restaurants for all tastes…a true foodie's delight! The city is full of places to suit any budget. Visit St-Laurent Street, where you will discover Montreal's multiethnic side. There, you'll find Portuguese, Italian, Eastern & Western European, and much more…not to mention the bars and shops that made "The Main" famous. On the nearby streets of Rachel or Duluth, you're treated to simple menus and friendly atmospheres, where you can enjoy high-quality craft beers.

Sarah: French. There are so many options that don't have to break the bank. Always, check Urbanspoon, RestoMontreal or Tripadvisor for guidance.

Yeah…or even rustic French-Quebecois fusion, if you're feeling adventurous. No matter what you choose, the quality for price in Montreal is amazing. Only things I'd avoid are steak and fresh seafood; not bad, but just not priorities here. Mid-range places (Joanne mentioned Duluth Street) often have "bring your own wine" (and beer) policies with no corkage fee! So stop by the SAQ (liquor store) or a dépanneur (corner store) and pick up something to go with dinner. Oh, and speaking of beverages, the independent espresso houses in Montreal are top-notch, so do yourself a favour and skip the chain stores.

(5) Where should I shop in Montreal?
Joanne: If you're looking for some unique finds, I suggest the aforementioned Saint Laurent Boulevard, or Greene Street in the West of the city (near Westmount, where English is the predominant language.)

Sarah: Montreal has world-class public markets. Atwater Market is located near the picturesque Lachine Canal walking path and caters to tourists, weekenders and well-heeled locals. Meanwhile, Jean-Talon Market is the dynamic hub of activity that straddles Little Italy to the south, and Parc Extension to the northwest. You won't regret a trip to either market, and both are easily accessible via the Orange metro line. Be sure to bring cash and test your negotiation skills!

Everett: I echo Joanne's recommendation of Saint Laurent Boulevard (between Mont Royal Ave & Bernard Street) and Sarah's nod to the awesome public markets. I'll also suggest the great independent clothing stores of Laurier Street between St Laurent and de l'Epée, and the beautiful antique dealers (and eateries) on Notre Dame Street West between de la Montagne and Atwater.

(6) What defines a Montreal visitor experience?
Joanne: A marvelous city with a human dimension, where life is good!

Sarah: Multicultural, multifaceted and multilingual.

Everett: Historic, accessible, safe, and just different enough to keep things interesting.

We wish all CPRS delegates a great time in Montreal…on this visit, and your next one!

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