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Montreal's Hottest Nightlife: Stepping Out in Montreal




The well-known Montreal music scene entails more than just the music of her famous ones such as Leonard Cohen, Celine Dion, Corey Hart, Arcade Fire and A Simple Plan. The contemporary scene includes more than 300 local bands that often get their start in Montreal then show up later in Toronto and New York. 

Montreal offers a wide range of good dance clubs and bars. Here you will find our favorite Montreal venues. For an authen­tic Mon­tréal bar expe­ri­ence com­plete with good, local music, search out the hole-in-the-wall places with old wooden floors and tin ceil­ings. Some of these more intriguing locales that exude that "Joie de vivre" are found on the French side of town, roughly St. Lau­rent and points east.

Drink specials abound before 8 pm all over the city and regardless of what language you speak, bars for the most part, are laid back and friendly - if a bit loud - but that's all part of the fun. Whether you're craving a warm pub experience or an alternative dance workout, Montreal will not disappoint. The older crowd will appreciate the city's upscale but never pretentious wine and cocktail bars and various jazz clubs too. 


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POP! bar a vin


Montreal's favorite wine bar is conveniently attached to a wonderful restaurant, Laloux and indeed even shares some of the same menu offerings which pair wonderfully with the epic wine lists that include tasty organic varieties. Wine selections include some interesting options from France, which can be difficult to find in the rest of Canada. The tapas plates of sardines, cheese and charcuterie are carefully chosen to pair with each wine selection but it's the tasty combinations on their flatbread pizzas that are the real draw here while the "pop!" refers to their creative "poptails". The mid-century Danish teak furniture adds to the hip and sophisticated ambiance that still feels warm and inviting.


Sir Winston Churchill Pub Complex
Photo courtesy of Photo Courtesy of Winnie's

Winnies is a cozy living room-like bar - just as the original owner intended and it's part of a pub complex of two other spaces including a dance bar on the upper level called Katrina's that specializes in cocktails and DJ music. Winnies is a great spot if you're traveling alone as the other patrons are quite chatty and friendly as you would expect for a neighborhood pub, an old favorite of Montrealers including the writer, Mordecai Richler. The bar offers two for one specials from 4:30 pm until 8 pm and pitchers of cocktails are $20.00 on Wednesday evenings.


Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill
Photo courtesy of Photo Courtesy of Upstairs Bar & Grill

This intimate spot complete with candle-lit tables and vintage records adorning the walls is a favorite of jazz fans across the country who can hear seasoned pros as well as up and coming musicians. There are enough bar seat too so those traveling solo will fit right in. The excellent bistro-style food and drinks-including good wines by the glass are reasonably priced to match the cover charge, which rarely tops $12.00. It's also serves Spanish tapas dishes and good scotch. The crowd includes jazz fans from mid-college age to seniors. The staff are pleasant and helpful. The room can get a bit stuffy but an outdoor patio provides relief. You can also sit there and enjoy the music without paying cover charge especially if you arrive without reservations. The club is conveniently located near the downtown business hotels.


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Billy Kun is the more sophisticated sister bar of Le Cheval Blanc, easily identified by the signature stuffed ostrich heads adorning the walls running the length of the barroom. It serves the same great brew as Le Cheval Blanc but the location is more accessible on Mont Royal near St. Denis around the corner from the Mont Royal Metro station. It's also a great spot to relax, drink absinthe and take in a jazz quartet. It's more popular with the 30 plus crowd of professionals and successful artists and most of the conversations seem to be in French. Its low light setting is perfect for date night although the music can get a tad loud for conversation.


A favorite beer-drinking spot, Le Chavel Blanc is a bit out of the way on Ontario Street in Montreal's east end and off the beaten tourist track . It's a small, casual, semi-chic upscale 50's retro kind of place with sparkling tile and intimate low lighting that's perfect for a night out talking with friends. The best beers are those that are brewed on site - particularly the smooth and rich cream ale. The prices are very reasonable for craft beer too. The crowd is mostly mixed French English but predominantly French - particularly the mostly bilingual staff and the ages range from early 20's to early senior.


Foufounes (slang for electric ass) is a lively and eclectic spot at 185 east Ste. Catharine, easily recognizable by the huge spider sculpture attached to the wall of the main entrance. It has been a downtown staple since the early 1980's. Foufounes is pretty happening all year round but the patio strewn and hung with oversize metal sculptures and cartoon figures set against a graffiti covered wall define the hip urban summer patio experience. The three floor club and bar regularly features top local bands and has hosted well-known acts like Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana. The crowd is quite mixed but the vibe is always friendly and laid back.


Le Divan Orange
Photo courtesy of Photo Courtesy of Le Divan Orange

It's ironic that Le Divan Orange provides comfortable sofas because sitting down and /or relaxing is the last thing on your mind once the music starts. The place is colorful with lots of interesting art hanging about and mostly well designed, except that the bathrooms are behind the elevated stage that otherwisse allows for maximum visibility. The crowd (which changes depending on the wide variety of French and English music playing)is really into music which is quite experimental and goes on until the wee hours. It's possible to hear variations on Funk, Country, Gospel, Blues and Hip-hop - sometimes in the same evening.


Club-Soda
Photo courtesy of Photo Courtesy of Club Soda

Club Soda's medium-sized, 800-seat concert space sits in a great downtown location and is perfect for performances of all stripes from the "Just For Laughs" comedy fest to name acts from the International Jazz Festival to Burlesque shows and everything else in between. The second floor of the two storey spot offers the best views and more private seating. It's often possible, with a little elbow jostling, to get close to the band on the first floor. The space tends to be a bit on the narrow side but high ceilings allow for half-decent acoustics. The light shows are well done too.


If you want to meet regulars and check out the latest Montreal sounds this ultimate dive bar (in a good way) is where you want to be. But just because it's a dive doesn't mean it's cheap - cover charge can hit 10.00 and pints of beer top $6.50. Try to time your visit with your musical preferences i.e. Sunday nights are best for Bluegrass fans, while Swing junkies will want to show up on Wednesdays, but check first. Sometimes the bands start late - around 11 pm. Like many of Montreal's best spots it's a bit on the small and crowded side with a real arty, original decor.


Vegetarian restaurant/coffee shop by day, happening indie music venue by night. Casa Del Popolo's (people's house), offerings vary widely from playwrights doing spoken word to a soloist on acoustic guitar to new country. It's popular with the hipster/neo-hippie set and quite laid back too. Its claim to fame is the launching spot for well-known bands other indie music and draft beer in an intimate 55-seat setting. Mixed drinks are available but best to stick with the excellent beer and good deals on scotch. The reconverted cigarette machine sells mini music cds. Be sure to check out the intimate back patio in between sets - perfect for smokers.


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Meet Sherel Purcell

Sherel Purcell is a travel writer who specializes in golf, Montreal and Quebec, contemporary art, cycling and food and wine. Her articles appear on USA Today's 10Best, About.com, Aol, Matador,...  More About Sherel

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