By FreshMint Blog food writer and contributor Amie Watson.
With the amazing weather in Montreal recently, the last place you probably want to be eating is inside at your desk. But a restaurant isn’t the only choice for your time-pressed date with sunshine. The Old Port has all sorts of nooks and crannies — hidden gardens, benches, courtyards, picnic tables, parks and fountains to draw us out of hibernation. So in honour of the office escape, here are our top picks for cozying up in Montreal’s Old Port with a sun tan and your lunch, whether that’s a delivered or picked-up FreshMint creation or a sandwich from home:
1. The Hidden Courtyard Behind Gibby’s
A block and a half east of rue McGill, and just past Saint-Pierre, turn right into the courtyard entrance of the same building that houses Gibby’s at 300 Place d’Youville. You might be tempted to plop down on the benches immediately in front, behind the Centre d’Histoire de Montreal, but venture off the street into the Medieval-feeling gated courtyard for a real discovery. (We discovered this one because the FreshMint business office is in the same building. Lucky us!)
2. The David McAllister Tugboat
You’ll find more peace and quiet at this waterside area located at the bottom of rue Queen than anywhere east along rue de la Commune. This quiet quay is home to the rustic, red Daniel McAllister, picnic tables, and a view across the water to some of Montreal’s old industrial buildings.
3. The Garden Walkway at the Cours de Royer
When the summer flowers and budding trees take over this brick-lined walkway, eating your lunch here feels like escaping into a secret garden. The pedestrian-only strip is located on Royer between Saint-Sulpice and Saint Dizier.
4. Coffee and Gelato at Caffe Vito
A quick coffee or gelato at Caffe Vito at the Place du Génie (located by the water next to the Bota Bota floating spa) is the perfect excuse to get outside. Sit in either the Cafe chairs, on benches, or at picnic tables nearby, or do like many and stretch out languorously on the grass behind the kiosk. The kiosk is usually manned by Vito himself with help from his son Bryan. They are both super nice and passionated about coffee!
5. The Square Victoria and Place Jean-Paul Riopelle Fountains
No, they’re not the Bellagio in Vegas (though Moment Factory’s intervention could go a long way, especially since the Place Jean-Paul Riopelle fountain show is only at night), but the Square Victoria and Riopelle fountains have a lot going for them. Both locations boast food trucks, lots of seating, shade for when it gets too hot (do you actually remember that feeling?), and live jazz and latin music throughout the summer. We especially recommend the less occupied benches behind the orange flower-encircled Square Victoria monument for when you want total shade. In Place Riopelle, located just west of the Palais des Congrès and the CDP Capital Centre, you have the added lunchtime challenge of counting the 88 trees from 11 indigenous Montreal trees (e.g. maple and hickory) arranged randomly like computer circuits. And you just thought the city had a strange idea of how to position trees…
6. Follow the Food Trucks
Montreal’s beloved food trucks are once again open for the season. And where there are food trucks, there are usually benches or steps or picnic tables. If you BYO-lunch, however, you can take still enjoy the fun atmosphere created by crowds of ravenous office workers inhaling fries, waffles, tacos. You just won’t fall asleep at your desk that afternoon. There’s park bench seating near the Cité du Multimédia, Quai Jacques-Cartier, Place d’Armes, and Square Victoria where the food trucks roll.
7. The Montreal Science Centre
Picnic tables by Science Centre are prime real estate, and you’ll be lucky to squeeze half your bottom onto a highly coveted nearby bench. But, move a little south and you’ll be rewarded with trees and a noise-covering fountain into a gurgling river.
8. Place d’Youville
Located just below Saint-Nicolas, Place d’Youville is packed in summer when occasional live bands set up to entertain lunchtime crowds on Thursdays and Sundays, playing sailor songs and other music from the 17th and 18th centuries. There’s also the added romantic attraction (odorous deterrent?) of roaming horse-drawn carriages in the area, so mind your step…
9. Boat, kayak and paddleboat rentals
For a nautical adventure/relaxing (and affordable) lunch hour cruise on the Lachine Canal, H2O Adventures rents electric boats (no sailing license requires), kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats. Boats cost $30 for a half hour in a regular boat or $60 for an hour in a turbo, and both seat from one to five people. The company’s location on the south side of the Canal near the Atwater Market isn’t quite the Old Port, but it is in the expanded FreshMint delivery area! Those in the Old Port can rent a pedalboat on the Bonsecours Basin from ÉcoRecréo.
Cover Image: Tourisme Montreal, Stéphan Poulin