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Pedal Power on Montreal: An Essential Tour Guide


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As I discovered, a grab-and-go bicycle tour of Montreal, Quebec, is the best way to see the city.

In This Montreal Tourism Article You Will Discover:

  • How To Best Get Around Montreal
  • The Nature of The Bixi Bike
  • Top Spots To Visit

A short, unexpected summer shower washes sweat from the brows of Montrealers reeling from 30-degrees-plus temperatures and 60 per cent humidity. It’s twice as hot and twice as humid today, in Quebec’s largest city, as it had been when I departed Vancouver the week previous. But the midsummer storm has cooled the air, encouraging me to tackle Montreal the way it was meant to be seen: via velos!

Montreal By Bike

Throughout Montreal, banks of bicycles — called Bixis — are available for on-the-spot, automated rental. Simply slip in your credit card, take an available bicycle (velos) and ride. When you’re done, return the Bixi to any rental station you see. A simple $5 fee allots riders a 24-hour rental period, with some nominal additional fees for multi-hour rides. (A full day’s worth of bicycle sightseeing could cost less than a single taxi fare.)

Plateau Mont Royal


Plateau Mont Royal, one of Montreal’s coolest neighbourhoods.

Plateau Mont Royal could be Montreal’s quintessential urban bicycle destination. One of Montreal’s hippest neighbourhoods, the area is characterized by wrought-iron staircases, brick and stone architecture, cafes, open-air restaurants and boutique shopping. Once off Rue St. Denis, the main route into the area, traffic is calmed and bikes outnumber cars. I find it to be a perfect introduction to bicycling Montreal.

I feel I should tuck a baguette under my arm, and wave “Salut mon amies!” as I pass café patrons whiling away the hours in gossip and laughter. I resist, and begin an uphill grind to the east of the Plateau.


Cycling around Beaver Lake, Mount Royal Park, Montreal.

Mount Royal Park

A gravel pathway, wide as two-lane-road, winds around Montreal’s Crown Jewel — Mount Royal Park — leading cyclists, joggers and strollers on a sweaty jaunt to the 233-metre summit. Designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead — famed architect of both New York’s Central Park and Vancouver’s Stanley Park — 692-acre Mount Royal Park can easily be a day-trip in itself. I take a leisurely roll around Beaver Lake, up past the famous Chalet Mont Royal and into my top park-picks: the non-denominational Mount Royal Cemetery and the Catholic Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery.

Some may find it morbid, but I love historic cemeteries; the real history of a region is always within those who lived and died here.

Plus, historic cemeteries are usually set in the most gorgeous real estate, such as the northern slope of Mount Royal.


Mount Royal Cemetery, Mount Royal Park, Montreal, Quebec.

Vieux Montreal

Bixi bikes have terrible brakes — something I discover first-hand during my 40 km/h scoot down the southern side of Mont Royal. I pinch both front and back with every ounce of hand strength I can muster and ease to a stop inches before the urban traffic of Avenue du Parc. Even through downtown Montreal, though, bike travel is easy — stick to the main bike routes and you’ll be fine. I arrive at Vieux Montreal (Old Montreal) moments later, park my Bixi at a bank outside Jacques Cartier Place and step into Europe. Four-hundred-year-old stone buildings, bistro patios, a symphony playing in the streets — this is the Montreal of your dreams. At the waterfront, would-be Cirque du Soleil performers try-and-fail on the tourist trapeze. It would be perfect, if it had just a few less tacky souvenir stores to offend the eyes.


Vieux Montreal (Old Montreal) — the most European quarter in the city.

At this moment, the sun reappears. I’ve been riding all day; I’m hungry and tired. Ahead, a wooden sign juts out from the stonework: Montreal Poutine. Hmmm — I think I’ve earned a plate…

Guilt-free poutine? Just one more benefit to putting pedal power on Montreal.

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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

1 comment… add one
  • Jose Jul 28, 2011 Link

    Je me souviens! Some hotels have complementary bikes too.

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