As the Beatles famously sang, "Can't buy me loooove... unless it's for 20 Canadian dollars or less, in which case you probably can, so long as you know where to go, yeeeeah." Well, proving just how ahead of their time the Fab Four really were, here's where to head out in Montreal for a wallet-friendly good time that doesn't skimp on the romance.
1. Go out for a signature Montreal dinner
Three very solid Montreal restaurants offer whole menus devoted to the thrifty dater, the first being L'Entrepôt Mont-Royal, whose entire menu is set at $5 per plate. L'Gros Luxe is a solid second option, as a majority of the menu is priced between $4-$8 (just keep in mind you probably won't be able to order drinks while maintaining the “cheap date” price range). Saving the best for last, Patati Patata is a small diner that serves some of the best poutine in the city for well under $10.
2. Have a wine-centric picnic in the park
What sets Montreal apart from almost all other cities is the legality of drinking in parks, so long as you have a picnic with you. (Truthfully, the “picnic rule” is rarely enforced, so if you and your date would rather just spend your cash on wine and just get lightly buzzed in the sun, you can probably do so without getting into much trouble.) Any park would work for your date, but the best among folks who want to be romantic are Parc La Fontaine, and Parc Sir-Wilfred-Laurier, mainly because they have beautiful scenery and other couples rocking a wine-centric picnic.
3. Get a little cultural at a free museum
Art-loving lovers will dig the amount of free museums available to all in Montreal. Museums that are always free include: the Montreal Musuem of Fine Arts' permanent collection, McGill's Redpath Museum, the outdoor Musée de Lachine, and all exhibitions at the Cinematheque Quebecoise. If you time it right, you can also head to Montreal's Museum of Contemporary Art (free Wednesdays from 5-9pm), the Canadian Centre for Architecture (free Thursdays from 5:30-9pm), and the McCord Museum (free Wednesdays from 5-9pm).
4. Hold a Montreal bagel-off
No city takes bagels as seriously as Montreal (yes, we mean you NYC) and that fact is embodied by the never-ending “Montreal bagel war” between Fairmount and St-Viateur. With both found in the Mile End, and only a couple of blocks apart from one another, it takes no time at all and barely any cash to get a few bagels from each spot, sit on a bench or in the park, and decide upon which is the superior bread ring. (Note, that while this is a very cheap Montreal-centric date, this could lead to a potentially relationship-shattering dispute.)
5. Bike/BIXI along the Lachine Canal
A 14.5km path following the shimmering Lachine Canal, and named one of Time magazine's most beautiful urban circuits in the world, the Lachine Canal bike path is the perfect venue for a slightly sporty date. Free to all, cycling along the Lachine Canal won't cost you a dime. If you and your date don't have your own bikes, don't sweat it -- you can just get a 24-hour BIXI for $5 a piece.
6. Check out Quartier des Spectacles
As the name suggests, Quartier des Spectacles is the area of Montreal that serves as the hub for all of the city's major festivals. During the summer months, this Downtown stretch of the city is always bustling with free shows, performers, and all sorts of exhibitions. Jazz Fest, FrancoFolies, Just For Laughs, Fantasia Film Fest, Nuit D'Afrique, and the Fashion & Design Festival are only a sampling of the high-profile events that take over the area in the summer months, making a stroll through an ideal date idea for those looking to enjoy Montreal's festival season without dropping a bunch of bills. Don't assume the area slows down during winter though, as Montreal en Lumiere and Nuit Blanche (among others) keep Quartier des Spectacles alive and exciting when it's cold out.
7. Get a little weird at Tam-Tams
You and your date can head to the park and people-watch for hours, then try slacklining, play Hacky Sack with some strangers, see the wares of local designers, enjoy the rhythms of the infamous Tams drum circle, and even witness a Medieval melee between the LARPers. Tams is basically a whole cultural experience jam-packed into one spot, without an admission fee. You may want to spend a few bucks on sharing a six-pack though, just so you guys fit in.
8. See some free theatre/performances in the park
Not one, but two different theatre groups offer all couples a magical evening performance in the park, making for a double-whammy date of cultural and nature appreciation. Théâtre de Verdure usually holds a few performances, from orchestras to ballet, within Parc La Fontaine or Parc du Mont-Royal. Shakespeare in the Park, put on by Repercussion Theatre (which will be showcasing Twelfth Night this year), already has its schedule posted, performing more than 20 times in parks all throughout Montreal.
9. Take a free improv workshop, or just watch the show
A far cry from your standard date, the weekly improv workshop held at Theatre Sainte-Catherine can be a great way to get to know a new love interest. You'll both be placed well out of your respective comfort zones and you can experience firsthand what they think is funny. Held every Sunday from 5-7pm, the workshop itself is free, but understandably isn't the best date idea for the shy among us. Don't sweat it though, because you and your plus one can arrive for 8pm and see the Sunday Night Improv show, which will cost you only $7 each.
10. Go on a self-guided walking tour
Walking is known to promote conversation between just about anyone, making a self-guided, on-foot tour throughout Montreal a great way to explore the city while getting to know your date. Even if your date was born and raised in the city, there's no doubt that the prepared walking tours that take you through Downtown/Golden Square Mile and Old Montreal will have plenty of historical factoids and sites (especially Old Montreal, where there are tons of churches to check out) she/he weren't aware of.
11. Bundle up and head to an outdoor skating rink
If you don't have your own set of skates, Beaver Lake atop Mount Royal offers skate rentals for $9, with free admission. Proper Montrealers who have their own pair can head to almost any outdoor ice rink, many of which are free of charge, including the Olympic Park's rink.
12. Share a couple of cups of tea at The Cardinal Tea Room
Decked out like a classic Victorian manor, Cardinal is an ode to the British tradition of tea time, as one can see in its baked goods menu. Everything is moderately priced, meaning you and your date can enjoy a few cups of tea and proper British scones for well under $20. Best of all, if your tea date goes really well, you can head over to Sparrow (owned and operated by the same management) for a few cocktails... just expect to pay a bit more there.
13. See a live show
Montreal's music scene is always bustling with new acts to check out, many of which you can see for free. Venues like Casa del Popolo, Brutopia, and Bar le "Ritz" PDB frequently have free (or at least pretty cheap) live band performances every weekend, making for the perfect date idea for music lovers. When POP Montreal takes over the city, the level of free shows by indie artists jumps even higher, just be sure to check out the festival's program to know where and when.
15. Go pedal boating in the Old Port
Only available on the weekends, the Old Port of Montreal offers pedal boat rentals for $20 per 30 minutes. Granted that does make for a pretty quick date, but once you're done, you still have the entirety of the Old Port to explore. Plan for a late-ish pedal boat session (rentals last until 8pm) then go along the boardwalk for an enjoyable walk along the St. Lawrence.
16. Hike up Mount Royal
A splendid mix of urban splendor and nature's beauty, the top of Mount Royal offers the best vantage point of Montreal that can only be reached by hiking up the natural landscape.
17. Get a little geeky at Randolph Pub
Housing over 1,500 different board games, there is no doubt you and your date will find a game you both know and love, or discover a new favourite. Despite the fact that there is a $5 cover to get into Randolph's, you don't necessarily have to drink much to feel welcome in the pub, thus keeping date costs to a minimum.
18. Hit a cat cafe
Montreal has two feline-laden coffee shops, Café Chat L’Heureux and Cat Café Montréal. Don't ask why Montreal has two cat cafes in the same neighborhood, just be happy if you happen to be dating a cat lover.
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