Jacques-Cartier Bridge, Montréal, Canadva. (Photo by Eva Blue on Unsplash)

Top 5 Things to Do in Montreal ( … When Not at the Jazz Festival)

Humans do not live on jazz alone. Even the most music-obsessed reveler at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, one of the planet’s best music fests, occasionally has to step away at some point to eat, drink, and enjoy all that Canada’s most cosmopolitan city (sorry, Toronto) has to offer. The good news? A city as vibrant, atmospheric, and culturally abundant as Montreal gives you plenty of options.

Here are our Top 5 things to do in Montreal when you’re not at the Jazz Festival.

  1. Read the Room in Montreal’s Best Bookstore

Visit Librairie Drawn & Quarterly, a Montreal staple that’s as much of a cultural hub as it is a bookstore. It holds regular literary events, fusing a love for the written word with its commitment to the city’s cultural sophistication. The store also celebrates its Quebecois roots, placing a special focus on authors who write about an area where a majority of residents speak French. Also, lovers of books and graphic novels can stay abreast of the store’s activities by reading the store’s blog, which includes entries in both English and French. And if you can’t get to the main shop, you can check out the satellite store that specializes in children’s lit. It’s called La Petite Librairie Drawn & Quarterly — which is just too damn cute for words.

  1. Pay Your Respects at the Leonard Cohen Mural

One of Montreal’s favorite sons has been properly honored with a giant mural at 1420 Crescent Street. Leonard Cohen, a hugely popular poet and singer-songwriter, died in 2016 at the age of 82. But he lives on in the 10,000 square-foot mural that rises 21 stories tall, towering over the city’s downtown Golden Square Mile area. The enormous artwork is fitting for Cohen, a literary and musical giant whose poetry and songs continue to inspire writers and artists everywhere.

  1. Rise Above it All at La Grande Roue de Montreal

There’s no better way to get to know this beautiful city than to sit in one of 36 gondolas in this beautiful Ferris wheel that’s nearly 200 feet tall.

  1. Immerse Yourself at Pyramide PY1

Standing on the Old Port, next to the St. Lawrence River, is a pyramid (of sorts) that could be one of North America’s most inventive entertainment experiences. Sprung from the fertile mind of Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, Pyramide PY1 is a multimedia show that MTL.org promises to be “a technological and emotional odyssey that transports audiences across the universe, from the Big Bang to today.” Even better, the pyramid-shaped spot transforms after hours into the city’s wildest nightclub, featuring DJs, live music, and from floor-to-ceiling video screens.

  1. Have a Drink or Three at Nestor

This speakeasy-style watering hole in Plaza St-Hubert, not far from Little Italy, offers understated ambience and cocktails from the Prohibition-era, when jazz exploded in North America’s national consciousness. Nestor is the perfect place to enjoy a drink while you’re either coming from or going to a jazz concert.

Swing in the Future: The Return of MLB Baseball

Lastly, tuck this one away for future visits to Montreal. Major League Baseball, which broke the city’s heart by moving its beloved Expos out of town in 2004, has floated a plan for the Tampa Bay Rays to play part time in Montreal by 2024. In less than five years, MLB might return to Montreal, which always deserved to keep its Expos and professional baseball in town.