Montreal has a reputation for decadence among gays in the northeastern US, but that's not exactly right. This is not a hedonistic capital like Rio or New Orleans. Rather, gay life here is very urban, in a pre-gentrification way. Montreal is what New York might have become if that city had found a way to lower crime without pricing the Village People out -- that is, if the Village People had all got iPhones and developed a fondness for hockey and karaoke.
The largest city in Quebec still has a large "gay ghetto," full of specialized bars that manage to stay in business even without overflow crowds and $12 drinks. There are a number of bathhouses competing for business, with theme nights and spanking-new equipment and several strip clubs catering to various tastes. Downtown, there are grand department stores and plenty of bookstores, both things that are quickly disappearing from major cities in the US.
Though everyone seems connected to the web here, the gay scene is not yet dominated by Craigslist and Grindr: it's still considered good form to chat guys up in a bar or on the street. Enjoy it while it lasts!
Montreal Focus - by Mathew Hays
Upon arrival in Montreal, dubbed the Paris of North America by many who’ve visited, queer tourists often dive directly into the Village. And it’s an impressive strip — size queens note how long it is, stretching along Ste-Catherine from the Berri metro station all the way east to Papineau. But a good many of the city’s gay citizens don’t actually live in the Village, and recent successes in night-life ventures have reﬂected what many Montreal experts know all too well: the entire city is a little bit queer.
For three years, François Guimond organized Mec Plus Ultra, a monthly night catering to a primarily gay crowd, usually at The Belmont, the mainly straight club at 4483 Blvd St Laurent, Mont-Royal, in the heart of the Plateau. “We hired good DJs, people who would not play top-40 music. No typical club or house music allowed!” He says they relied on an element of surprise with each night. “We brought in an electric bull. We even tried a religious theme one night, with an angel going around asking people for their confessions. We got theatrical and interactive, and people liked it.”
Guimond thinks conventional wisdom about the internet killing queer nightlife is not the case in Montreal. “I think one can complement the other. Now people go out and meet someone, then friend them on Facebook. It’s an easy way of staying in touch and getting to know someone better . . . If anything, the success of Mec Plus Ultra showed us how eager people were to go out again and connect in person.” “I think a lot of people just weren’t going out for a while, people who felt there weren’t nights that reﬂected their tastes and sensibilities. We put on some stupid games, like giving people stickers and then they had to ﬁnd their match with whoever had the corresponding sticker. People liked it because it helped to break the ice and got people talking to each other.”
The past four years also saw the rise of another queer phenomenon, Faggity Ass Fridays. The night wasn’t just a way of reaching out to those who were bored by other clubs; it was started by activists who were astonished by the provincial government’s decision to abandon sex education in classrooms after some deemed the province’s sex ed curriculum too racy. Shocked, a number of activists banded together to create Faggity Ass Fridays, with proceeds going to Head and Hands, a youth organization that created a peer-based sex education program to ﬁll the gap. FAF became something of an institution, generally held last Fridays of the month at the Playhouse (5656 Ave du Parc), with live musical acts (a rarity in queer circles) and guest DJs.
These events took place in the Plateau and in Mile End, two lively neighbourhoods with high-end restaurants, funky gift shops and hipster cafés, interspersed with traditional Jewish, Greek and Portuguese merchants. After seeing the response to FAF, Desjardins decided the neighborhoods and their queer residents were being underserved, so last summer she and a posse of friends launched The Royal Phoenix (5788 Blvd St Laurent) queer bar, club and restaurant. The response surprised everyone, including Desjardins herself. “Wow. We had hopes, of course, but we didn’t see it coming — not like this.” The Royal Phoenix routinely has lineups on weekends, and a kitchen, serving a number of healthy dishes, plus Saturday and Sunday brunch untl 4pm. “To me, The Royal Phoenix is a reﬂection of the best things about Montreal,” Desjardins says. “I think it comes back to our European roots. People in Montreal are very emotional. You know, when I go home for Christmas, a family gathering always ends in song and dance. People in the rest of Canada are a bit stiffer. DJs will tell you: people in Montreal are a lot quicker to get up and dance once the music starts playing.”
As with Mec Plus Ultra the club’s raison d’être, was to do something that wasn’t happening before. “We liked the idea of a club where there was a lot of crossover: we have some nights when we play a lot of jazz, other nights fusion, other nights hip hop. And that’s reflected in our clientele; we have a very varied group of people coming in. “I’m not pretending that Montreal is some kind of utopia. I know it has its problems, but I often feel like the different cultures aren’t clashing here — they’re living together quite well. I feel like that’s what happens at The Royal Phoenix, too.” “We have 20 employees, and if they have a good suggestion, I’ll implement it within 24 hours. I listen to the staff. They’re the ones on the ﬂoor, working hard. It’s very important for me to have a friendly staff, with everyone knowing they contribute in a valued way to the overall success of the bar.”
Guimond and Desjardins will now be combining forces. Guimond is organizing a new night, Audio Porn Club, to be held on select Saturdays at the Royal Phoenix. “As you can tell by the title, we’re putting an emphasis on offering a different music menu for people who want to go out,” Guimond says. “We’re going to be bringing in international DJs as well as the best Montreal has to offer.” “Our main goal,” Desjardins says, “is to give people the space they’ve always wanted.”
Montreal-Trudeau Airport, about 20 km (or 12 miles) southwest of the city, is not served directly by the Metro system, but an STM bus (route 747) will take you to downtown, 24/7. There's also a regular bus (route 204) to the Dorval bus / train terminus. A taxi to downtown costs a fixed fare of C$42. The Aerobus shuttle is an easy and inexpensive option at C$16. It leaves every half hour in the daytime and drops you off at the central bus station, which happens to be one block from the Gay Village.
Rail service from New York City, Penn Station, is a scenic 9-hour trip along the Hudson River past Lake Champlain. See the Amtrak website for schedules and rates.
From Toronto there six daily trains, downtown to downtown, taking 4-5 hours, and four trains daily on the 2 hour run between Montreal and Ottawa. From Quebec City, a 3-hour trip, there are three daily options - also one train most days from the Atlantic provinces. See Via Rail for info on these and other routes throughout Canada.
For Coach/Bus services see the websites of Trailways and Greyhound for service from most major US and Canadian cities. Coach Canada covers most Canadian connections, plus Buffalo, NY to Montreal service by way of Toronto.
Central Montreal is quite walkable; a stroll from Campus in Le Village to La Baie department store downtown takes about 20 minutes. For street addresses, remember to distinguish between "Est" and "Ouest" on major thoroughfares.
The Metro is clean and reliable, and it operates until about 12:30am. Single fares are C$3; one day cards $8 and three days are $16. But one of the best ways to see montreal is by bike. Montreal has many bike paths throughout the city and along the river and canals.
The BIXI , Montreal's public bike-sharing system, has over 400 stations, from April through November. Sign up with a credit card for 24 ($7), or 72-hour ($15) memberships, or for 30 days or one year. Print your unlocking code to access a bike for unlimited trips from any station, to return to that or any other. Half hour trips cost nothing extra, and up to 90 minutes is just $3.50, but after that it's $7 per half hour. So check back into a station, take a break, and start back at zero.
The Gay Village, or simply Le Village, is the obvious destination for gay travelers, but if in Montreal for more than a day, you should take advantage of the citywide gay-friendliness.
Old Montreal. The riverfront district is undeniably touristy; still, it's a must-see for art gallery and architecture fans.
The Plateau, with Boulevard St-Laurent at its heart, has the most vibrant night/weekend scene in the city. There aren't so many specifically gay places, but there's plenty of eye candy on the streets. Mile End is the adjacent neighborhood, known for artists and the band Arcade Fire -- touted of late as a hotbed of creativity, but still retaining a refreshingly off-the-beaten-track feel. See our recent Xtra article on the district: A Dash of Gay and Hip.
Septentrion B & B (Leseptentrion.qc.ca) in the Laurentians, is Quebec's only five-star gay inn. Les Chutes (waterfalls) de Ste- Marguerite du Lac Masson, are nearby in Ste Adele.
Tremblant (Tremblant.ca) is a ski resort 90 minutes north of the city. In the summertime the great expanses of waterways are great for an odyssey by canoe.
For a night in Quebec City two hours from Montreal, Le Coureur des Bois (15rue Ste. Ursule; website) is a Franco-Canadian gem at the heart of Vieux-Québec.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts / Musee des beaux-arts de Montreal (1379-1380 Sherbrooke W) is the grand dame of Canadian museums.
Museum of Contemporary Art / Musee d'Art Contemporain de Montreal (185 Ste-Catherine W) opposite Complexe Desjardins, has many exhibits of interest.
Notre-Dame Basilica (116 Notre-Dame) is a 350 year-old neo-gothic basilica where Celine Dion got married.
Pointe-a- Calliere (350 Place Royale) showcases archaeology and history in Old Montreal.
Biodome de Montreal (4777 Pierre-de- Coubertin) illustrates the continent's four ecosystems beneath the dome.
Media & Resources
The free monthly magazine Fugues is the best source for gay events and attractions in the city. Almost entirely in French, it has bar listings with English translations, and not-so-subtle ads. Read their online pdf editions cover-to-cover. Each May Fugues publishes a Rainbow Guide (Guide Arc en Ciel) - a gay-interest bilingual tour guide for the Montreal area.
2B Magazine is an English language magazine from the same publisher as the French-language RG Magazine and Etre. They also publish the excellent Le Guide GQ -downloadable as a pdf file - in both French and English.
QueerMontreal is Montreal’s gay & lesbian online guide with searchable maps; bilingual, all inclusive, up to date.
For "hard" news of interest to the gay community, log on to the Montreal section of Xtra.ca.
GayRadioBec.com is Quebec's French-language gay internet radio service.
The Hour, a free weekly in English, has general arts info as well as alternative-press news. The Montréal Buzz blog has the insider scoop on arts, fashion, design and gastonomy, as well as a section of rainbow pages. It's hosted by Tourisme Montréal, another good online source of visitor information.
The City of Montreal website has info on their many resources and attractions - including festivals, museums, the Planétarium, Botanical Garden, parks and libraries - plus sports and recreation facilities such as the 51 indoor, and 74 outdoor pools managed by the city.
For locations and website links to businesses listed below, see our Montreal gay map & listings pages.
Abri du Voyageur Hotel (9 Ste-Catherine; 514-849- 2992) appeals to the budget-conscious traveler, also has efficiency suites.
Hotel Bourbon (1574 Ste-Catherine E; 514-523-4679) 31 rooms and 5 suites.
Hotel Dorion (1477 Dorion; 514-523- 2427) convenient to Bar Taboo with overnight or short-term rooms, each with private bath, some with Jacuzzis and fridge.
Hotel Felix (1274 Ste-Catherine E; 514-525-2424) across from Beaudry Metro, some rooms have hot tubs, outdoor terrace.
Hotel Gouverneur (1415 St-Hubert; 514- 842-4881), large high-rise chain hotel with indoor pool, above the Place Dupuis shopping arcade.
Hotel Manoir Des Alpes (1245 St-Andre; 514- 845-9803) French/Portuguese flavor, late continental breakfast, modern comforts at modest rates, free parking.
Hotel St- Andre (1285 St-Andre; 514- 849-7070) hotel with modern decor, moderate prices, in-room continental breakfast, free parking.
Hotel Ste-Catherine (1674 Ste-Catherine; 514-527-4440), spacious and inexpensive basic rooms by the hour or the day at the heart of the Gay Village.
Hotel Stay Centreville (910 Blvd Maisonneuve E) modern, urban renovated en suite rooms, 32 inch TVs, breakfast, Wi-Fi, in Gay Village near Berri-Uqam Metro and bus station.
Accommodations: Bed & breakfasts
At these B&Bs, most hosts and guests are gay. Full breakfast is the norm. Find links and more options at our map & listings tab.
Absolument Montreal (1790 Amherst; 514-223- 0017) hip urban B&B, film-themed rooms, luxury amenities, gourmet breakfast until noon, all-season garden hot tub.
Alexandre Logan (1870) B & B (1631 Alexandre de Seve; 514- 598-0555), centrally sited prestigious house restored to original splendour, gourmet kitchen, tranquil garden with sundeck and shower.
Aubergell B&B (L'Un et L'Autre) (1641 Amherst; 514- 597-0878), affordable rates, cozy rooms, underfoot comfort with heated floors and plush carpets, semi-private & private bath.
BBV Bed & Breakfast Du Village (1279 Montcalm; 514- 522-4771), great values, private baths, interior parking, engaging owners, in the heart of the gay village.
Escogriffe B & B (1264 Wolfe; 514-523-4800) elegant Gay Village guest house, full American breakfasts, affectionate cats and smart dog, rooftop terrace.
Le Chasseur (1567 St-Andre, 514-521-2238) relaxed and very affordable, shared or private bath by Baudry Metro station in Gay Village, also with private apartment.
La Conciergerie (1019 St-Hubert; 514-289-9297) indoor whirlpool, roof deck, cruisy gym, glass-enclosed breakfast nook overlooks garden.
La Loggia (1637 Amherst; 514-524-2493) B&B/Gite with urban garden, includes workshop brimming with works of Canadian artists.
Maison Des Jardins (1365 Logan) gay men only relaxed B&B at heart of Village. Generous breakfast, year-round outdoor spa and massage.
NuZone B&B (1729, rue Saint-Hubert; 514-524-5292), central, men-only, clothing-optional, comfortable.
Ruta Bagage (1345 Ste-Rose; 514-598-1586) grand Victorian on quiet street, huge windows, full breakfast, sunny terrace.
Sir Montcalm (1455 Montcalm; 514- 522-7747), urban chic decor, two and three-room suites with private bath, community room with fireplace where four-course breakfast is served, free gym passes.
Two hours west of Montreal, the Inn on Somerset (282 Somerset St, W Ottawa; 613-236-9309; innonsomerset.com), simple getaways, complete gay wedding packages, romping or resting; custom beds have reputation as among the best, and host, George, takes special pride in them.
Nightlife - bars, clubs, cabarets
Quebec men are not shy about their bodies, and Montreal has a long tradition of handsome guys entertaining others by stripping down to skin. The larger clubs feature between 15 to 40 dancers each night. Dancers begin sets slowly, casually dressed in street clothes, sometimes in fantasy costumes, to end up at finale, strutting aroused, in full priapic glory. Those who catch your fancy will provide private lap dances in secluded lounges, for a little extra cash.
Campus (1111 Ste-Catherine E), world-famous Montreal nightclub, muscle-buff guys strip down and show off for men every day 3pm-3am (except Sunday for women), with dimly lit VIP private section for one-to-one attention.
Stock (1171 Ste-Catherine E), nude male dancers of all kinds, shower shows, large VIP lounge, two backrooms, open seven nights. Wednesday women's night. See the website for dancer photos and sign-up for live feed of stage performances and "getting personal" sessions, from 8pm local time.
Taboo (1950 De Maisonneuve E), nude male strippers; fresh, lithesome and energetic dancers. Reopened late 2011, new management, restored popularity after a rocky patch last year.
Bars: Leather, bears
Aigle Noir | Black Eagle (1315 Ste-Catherine E) leather, rubber, kink and fetish men's bar, pool table, intense murals.
Katakombes (1450 Ste-Catherine E), new men-only levi/leather/fetish bar, open nightly to 3am, events, pool table, DJ dancefloor.
Stud (1812, Ste-Catherine E) men-only bar favored by bears and leathermen but friendly to all guys. Dancing, wide music variety, theme nights, non-stop sex videos.
Cabaret Cleo (1230 St-Laurent) real-girl strippers at street level, and drag shows on the second floor.
Cabaret Mado (1115 Ste-Catherine E) the campiest drag shows in Montreal, seven nights a week.
Boa Vista (1560 Ste-Catherine E), two-level roof-deck nightclub above Le Milsa; great views, Thursday and Saturday women's nights.
Club Date (1218 Ste-Catherine E) popular piano and karaoke bar with diverse crowd.
Cocktail (1669 Ste-Catherine E) lounge & karaoke bar, amateurs and performers in drag, games.
Gotha (1641 Amherst) mixed gay/straight, Anglo/Francophone crowd, cozy cocktail lounge, fireplace, local art, below Aubergell B&B rooms, summer patio.
Le Drugstore (1360 Ste-Catherine E) large multi-level complex, open patios, pool tables, weekend dancing, drag shows, women's favorite Village venue.
Relaxe (1309 Ste-Catherine) unassuming local pub with pool tables and older crowd.
Rocky (1673 Ste-Catherine E) older locals' neighborhood bar, pool table, all-day erotic male videos, karoake nights.
Royal Phoenix (5788 Boul St-Laurent), in hip/queer Mile End neighborhood, mixed gay/straight men/women crowd, terrace bar/restaurant, dancing, live music, comedy, Saturday and Sunday brunch - 10am-4pm; relaxed, fun vibe.
Studio Backstage (1661 Ste-Catherine E), mixed crowd "artist hangout."
Apollon (1450 Ste-Catherine E), new-concept Thursday Hip Hop and weekend House video/dance "boite" dance club, Village epicenter.
Circus (917, Ste-Catherine E) mixed 18-plus after-hours dance club, three rooms of house-urban-techno-trance music til the sun comes up.
Club Bolo (2093, rue de la Visitation), Friday and Sunday country music club, line dancing lessons, monthly Saturday special nights (closed the Sunday after).
New City Gas (950 rue Ottawa), downtown 18+ Techno/House weekend dance club, live music and special events. See Produkt.
Sky (1474 Ste-Catherine E), popular three-level dance complex, gay/straight, young/old; drag cabaret, pub, roof terrace with Jacuzzi and outdoor pool.
Stereo (858 Ste-Catherine E), mixed gay/straight after-hours dance club goes all night until noon the next morning, top-class DJs.
Unity (1171 Ste-Catherine E) city's largest gay dance club in three rooms, international DJs, mixed mix, live shows.
Circuit & special parties
Bad Boys Club Montreal (Bbcm.org) series of circuit parties include: Hot & Dry; Twist Weekend; Black & Blue Weekend; Bal des Boys Weekend, and Red Weekend. See the website for dates.
Coq at Théâtre Telus (1280 rue Saint-Denis), periodic men-only dance parties, DJs, VJs, sexy dancers. See Coq for dates.
Bath house heaven, Montreal has more pleasure palaces than anywhere else in North America. Facilities usually include dry saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs, massage rooms,labyrinths, porn lounges, snack bars, and towel-clad cruising.
Bain Colonial (963 Colonial), in the Plateau, old-fashioned style natural stone steam system, dry sauna, whirlpool, gym, massage, videos/TV, rooftop and garden terraces, private rooms, mature guys.
G.I. Joe Sauna (1166 Ste-Catherine E), leather and fetish men, private rooms, hot tub, snack bar, dry and wet saunas, kinky play scene.
Sauna 226 (243 Boul des Laurentides, Laval), sauna, video/TV lounge, glory holes, cabins and rooms, blackout area.
Sauna 1286 (1286, Ch Chambly, Longueuil), three floors of rooms, open 24/7, cabins, suites, sauna/steam, whirlpool, parking available.
Sauna 3481 (3481 Montée St-Hubert), steam/sauna on Montreal south shore in Saint-Hubert, massage, Jacuzzi, cinema auditiorium, glory holes, sex toy sales, snack bar.
Sauna 5018 (5018 St-Laurent), open 24/7, three levels, terrace, massages, porn cinema, dark rooms, glory holes, popular with students, in the Plateau.
Sauna Centre-ville (1465 Ste-Catherine E), popular at Village center, two levels, open 24/7. 60 single or double rooms, deluxe suite, snack bar, internet. Dry sauna, steam, whirlpool. Under-30 age special rates and Bad Boy Club Montreal tie-ins.
Sauna Oasis (1390 Ste-Catherine E), very popular, 24/7 dry and steam sauna in the Village. Porn movies, glory holes, private rooms, snack bar; Nude Mondays, Foam Thursdays.
Sauna Pont-Viau (1-A de Nevers, Laval), open until 3am weekends, 24-hours on weekends, dark rooms, glory holes; Bear Soup social night every 3rd Saturday evening.
Sauna St-Hubert (6527 St-Hubert) small alternative sauna, gay, bi and trans mixed ages/ mostly mature guys, open 24-hours on weekends, naked nights, uninhibited play scene, sling and glory holes, popular "lingerie Tuesdays."
Many of the following places are popular for dejuner (breakfast), diner (lunch) and souper (supper). In Montreal it is customary to provide separate bills for each person, but waiters will generally ask first.
1000 Grams (1495 Ste-Catherine E) former Kilo Cafe, longtime Village favorite bistro with iconic funny faces out front, terrace, sandwiches of all kinds, cakes galore; fruity drinks and ice cream frappes, beer and wine.
Bato Thai (1310 Ste-Catherine E) good Thai, large portions, easy on the wallet.
Cafe/Bar at La Cinémathèque québécoise (335, De Maisonneuve E), bistro-style meals, gourmet coffees, terrace seating, film screenings, multimedia experimental works, works of both young and accomplished artists, GLBT meetingplace.
Cafe Depot (1800 Ste-Catherine E) central, late-night coffee and sandwiches, free WiFi.
Chez Cora Dejeuner (1017 Ste-Catherine E) fabulous breakfast, fruit bowl.
Club Sandwich (1570 Ste-Catherine E) over 60 different sandwiches, tasty breakfast, poutine (gravy on french fries and cheese -- local staple).
La Colombe (554 Duluth Av E), old favorite, casual but fine dining, French menu, game meats, bring your own wine.
Le Commensal (1720 St-Denis) gourmet veggie and vegan buffets, one of seven area locations.
DSens (1330 Ste-Catherine E) French bistro cuisine, elegant setting, weekend brunch.
EstAsie Restaurant (1320 Ste-Catherine E) East Asian food, stylish decor.
Folies En Vrac (1368 Ste-Catherine E) nicely priced made-to-order sandwiches.
Le Gout du Viet Nam (1389 Ste-Catherine E) a trip to Saigon.
Liquid Nutrition (1303 Ste-Catherine E) smoothies, healthy snacks.
La Perle de l'Extreme Orient (1350 Ste- Catherine E) fine Vietnamese dining.
Le Milsa (1560 Ste-Catherine E), Brazilian-style Churrasco, charcoal-grilled meats, as much as you can eat, wine selection and bar.
NüVü Bistro-Expériences (1336 Ste-Catherine E), Gay Village hotspot, tapas, á-la-carte lunch & dinner menus.
Planete (1451 Ste-Catherine E) global cuisine, exotic cocktails like Up Uranus and I'm Your Venus.
Resto du Village (1310 Wolfe) cozy 24-hour gay restaurant, poutine, pudding Chomeur, big portions, reasonable prices.
Saloon (1333, Ste-Catherine E) gay restaurant, Western theme, salad, pizza, grilled meats and fish.
Second Cup (1351 Ste-Catherine E) nationwide coffeehouse chain, tea, lots of eye contact Village locale.
Starbucks (1301 Ste-Catherine E) for a caffeinated buzz, sandwiches, cake and muffins.
Strega (1477 Ste-Catherine E) pasta heaven, rave reviews, good prices.
Tabla Restaurant (1329 Ste-Catherine E) Bangladeshi-Indian fare, vegetarian, meat and seafood.
Shopping & services
Fetiche Armada (1201 Ste-Catherine E), leather, rubber, underwear, sports gear, toys, Mr B products, sex shop.
Priape (1311 Ste-Catherine E) casual clothing, underwear, beachwear, leather gear, toys, video DVDs, books, magazines.
Physotech Plus (1657 Amherst) exclusively male. Massage, hair styling,tanning, skin care, laser hair removal.
Wega Complex (930 Ste-Catherine E) the porn place, with peep shows, movies,merchandise.
Dollarama (911 Ste-Catherine E) bargains for a buck.
SAQ (1250 Ste-Catherine E) affordable connoisseur booze.
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