The rivalry between Montreal and Toronto has gone past Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s now also about food, lifestyle, culture, and booze (obviously). This face-off gives a blow-by-blow to end years of circumlocution. By Apeksha Bhateja
Round One: Art & Culture
MONTREAL is an old soul (it celebrated its 350th anniversary in 1992). Go on a heritage tour to see the 17th century St Sulpice Seminary, the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, the Old Port, Basilique Notre-Dame, and The Château Ramezay. The one-kilometre-square Quartier des Spectacles in Downtown Montreal is where all the cultural action is. You will be pulled in different directions by Place des Arts, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, and Place des Festivals. At night, more than 30 public spaces are lit up here—illuminated walkways, dramatic lights on buildings, and artistic video projections on nine buildings. After a visit to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts—the largest in the city, discover galleries hidden inside old rustic buildings, refurbished to display contemporary works, such as Arsenal Gallery, Parisian Laundry, and Darling Foundry. The world’s largest theatrical producer, Cirque du Soleil is headquartered in Montreal and tours all over the world. Whenever they are performing in the city, make sure you get the first row tickets. If you’re a fan of the Montreal Canadiens, you have to take a tour of the Bell Centre, home to the 24-time Stanley Cup winner. For a complete calendar of what’s happening in the city, make a pitstop at the Vitrine culturelle de Montréal.
Museum hopping in TORONTO is a sport. From Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art and Textile Museum of Canada to Hockey Hall of Fame and Aga Khan Museum, you can never fall short of options. Then there are contemporary art galleries such as Cooper Cole that have become a part of the city’s identity. Torontonians love theatre and their answer to London’s West End and NYC’s Broadway is The Toronto Entertainment District. Comedy acts, Broadway musicals, concerts, and games— this district is known to be the entertainment heart of the city. Don’t miss graffiti in the city. Visit the Graffiti Alley, a one-kilometre stretch known as Rush Lane. Other cool places include Kensington Market, Gladstone Hotel, and The Ossington Laneway.
Round Two: Nightlife
MONTREAL knows how to have a good time. It has an eclectic mix of microbreweries, jazz bars, live bars, karaoke bars, Latin clubs, African clubs, and after-hour bars. The best part? You will meet a diverse bunch of people here, from dapper men to hippies to college crowd. Or, go to the Gay Village and dance till your feet give up. You must visit Place d’Armes and spend a relaxed summer evening at this terrace bar in Old Montreal; POP! Bar Laloux to listen to live piano (every Thursday; and New City Gas, where DJ Snake, Skrillex, and Chainsmokers have performed.
So here’s the deal about TORONTO: You need to serve food if you’re serving alcohol. No drinking in bars past 2am, and the legal drinking age is 19 (in Montreal, it’s 18). The city has restrictive drinking laws, we get it, but it has everything under the sun from live bars, sports bars, after-hour clubs to jazz bars and dance clubs; casual, swanky, or sophisticated. Some bars that should be on your list include: Blnd Tger, which has arcade games, dancing, tap beer, and bottle service; The Rex, one of the most thriving jazz bars in the city (since the 80s); and Lula Lounge, where you can tap your feet to salsa, jazz, Brazilian, and African music.
Round Three: Festivals
You will walk into a festival in MONTREAL, no matter when you decide to visit. From music, dance, and comedy to art, food, and sports, something is always going on in the city. The most beloved is the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal that has been a must-attend event for Jazz-lovers for 35 years now. In this Jazz show, some 1,000 concerts are organised at indoor and outdoor venues. Also mark your calendar for Just For Laughs, Grand Prix Montreal, Montreal Infringement Festival (touted as an art democracy), Montreal En Lumière, and International Festival of Circus Arts.
If Montreal hosts celebrations every week of every month, TORONTO is not far behind with its list. Some of them get repeat visitors including Pride Week, the world’s second largest gay pride festival (Canada’s cool PM Justin Trudeau was seen marching in the parade this year); Toronto International Film Festival, one of the three most important international film festivals; and Toronto Fringe, the city’s largest theatre fest. And then they have the annual Toronto Food Truck Festival, Toronto Design Week, The Word On The Street for lit fans, the annual 10-day Canadian Music Week, and the Festival of Beer.