How to Burn it Off
In the warmer months (April to November), the hands-down best way to get around Montréal—between meals and beyond—is on bike. Launched in 2009, the city’s Bixi bike-sharing program is, in our experience, one of the more successful ones out there (cash-flow problems notwithstanding), with docking stations aplenty, comfortable bikes, and its end goal achieved: providing an efficient, inexpensive way for both residents and visitors to get around the city. While the former might be more interested in a 30-day or one-year membership, visitors can choose from 24- ($7) or 72-hour ($15) access; within that time period you’ll pay a varying fee if you borrow your bike for 31 minutes or longer ($1.75 for 31-60 min, $3.50 for 61-90 min, etc.). Smart travelers, however, will time their rides to be 30 minutes or less, for which there’s no additional fee. Our best advice: Arm yourself with a good map and approach the pay station with a plan of action for the best way to get to where you’re going in 30 minutes or less, noting where the nearest docking station is. Also, use caution, particularly on the streets of downtown—helmets are not required, and many main roads do not have bike lanes.
If you’d like to bike for longer periods of time without having to pay extra (or dock every 30 minutes), you should rent your own bike. Conveniently located across from the bike path in Old Montréal, Ça Roule (27, rue de la Commune Est, map) is a popular rental shop, with all-day rentals starting at $28 (per-hour and half-day options are also available), including helmets and locks. One of the best (and best-known) biking routes is the lovely ride along the waterfront, from the promenade du Vieux-Port down along the Lachine Canal Path and back (Marché Atwater is a good turning-around point, as is local-microbrewery Brasserie McAuslan). For a longer, continuous scenic ride (about 22 miles/35 km), try this route: Start at the Atwater market and ride southeast to the Les Berges cycle path, which follows the St. Lawrence River; bike down and around pretty Parc René-Lévesque; and return to downtown/Atwater/the Old Port via the Lachine Canal Path.
If a guided tour is more your style, Ça Roule’s Montréal on Wheels has some interesting options, with four-hour excursions costing about $69.
Urban-hike, we mean, which could mean walking or jogging the peaceful, car-free Lachine Canal Path (see above), exploring neighborhoods entirely on foot, or—our favorite—hiking up Mount Royal at Parc du Mont-Royal (map), the green jewel of Montréal’s park system. To be fair, it’s more of a hill than a mountain, but it is a nice, effective uphill burn via switchbacks or stairs (the latter is better if you’re pressed for time). Frommer’s has a good overview of the various routes up. Tip: Sundays in summer are a particularly good time to people-watch afterward, around the George-Étienne Cartier Monument on the park’s northeast side, where “Les Tam-Tams” play hand drums and souvenir vendors set up.