Hop on a BIXI bike rental and explore Montreal like a local. (Photo: Alamy)
It’s no secret that Montreal is one of the most charming cities in North America, an alluring mix of new and old situated on a hilly, heavily-wooded island in the middle of Quebec’s St. Lawrence River. What’s less obvious, however, is that you easily sample the highlights of this city in just one day thanks to BIXI, the city’s pioneering bike-share program.
Launched in 2009, BIXI currently serves more than 3,000,000 riders per year. Whether you take one or all of the following suggestions on how to spend a perfect day in Montreal, isn’t it time you added your name to the list of BIXI faithful?
Start Your Morning in Old Montreal
After renting a bike using your credit card from the BIXI stand nearest to your hotel (check Google Maps if it’s not conspicuous), chart a course for “Vieux Port,” Montreal’s Old Port, the de facto heart of Old Montreal.
If you’re hungry, park your bike (there are several BIXI stands in the area) and walk to one of the cafés on the Place Jacques-Cartier pedestrian street to grab a coffee and a croissant.
Otherwise, set immediately to exploring the sights of the district, which include the 17th-century Notre Dame de Bon Secours church, Bonsecours Market and the original Cirque du Soleil, where you can catch a performance later in the evening if one is taking place.
Bike Back in Time to the 1967 Expo Site
As the morning sun rises in the sky, bike north along Rue Notre Dame, stopping briefly in Montreal’s Chinatown before heading over the Jacques Cartier Bridge to the Île Ste.-Hélène (Saint Helen’s Island).
Here you’ll find the remnants of Montreal’s 1967 World Expo. A dazzling collection of futurism from the past, Expo 1967 centers around its most selfie-worthy structure, the spherical Biosphère de Montréal (Montreal Biosphere).
Have a Late Lunch — and a Laze — in Mile End
Once you cross back over the Cartier Bridge, it’s about another 30 (uphill) minutes to trendy Mile End, which may or may not be Montreal’s hippest neighborhood — to be safe, only make this claim to people you meet here and not, say, in the Latin Quarter (Montreal’s famous gay village) or Westmount, where many of the city’s non–French speakers reside.
Hipsters (and bikes!) notwithstanding, Mile End is all about café culture, so grab a lunch sandwich at Arts Café or a panini at Club Social. Belly full, lay your bike down and enjoy a sunny laze in a nearby park, such as Park Jeanne Mance, which is technically located just east of Mile End but is en route to your next destination.
Watch Sunset from Mount Royal
Your last uphill riding stretch of the day — you’re headed from Mile End to the peak of Mount Royal via the steep Chemin Remembrance — will be the most strenuous but also the most rewarding. Indeed, the views of skyscraper-filled downtown Montreal, the St. Lawrence River and most of the other sights you’ve seen today make a sunset panorama from the top of Mount Royal priceless.
And that’s to say nothing of the fact that your ride down will take you through the iconic campus of McGill University, whose students are sure to show you some of Montreal’s best nightlife after your perfect day. It’s probably best if you (permanently) park your BIXI, however — biking drunk is not only tacky, but it may soon be illegal in Quebec, as well.