Things that feel like therapy in Montreal

Some obvious, some not-so-obvious—but hard to argue with any one of them.

J.P. Karwacki

J.P. Karwacki

November 8, 2023- Read time: 6 min
Things that feel like therapy in MontrealThat fine balance of comfort, escape, and satisfaction. | Photograph: Angel Ceballos on Unsplash

A little bit niche, we know, but we had a shitty couple of days recently—culprits include the weather, long line-ups at our favourite lunch spot, doomscrolling, staring into the void, the usual—recently and decided to take stock of the things that make us feel good.

Sure, some of these are restricted to the absolute highest highs of the year *cough SUMMER cough* but there remains here many things we can return to time and time again to lift us up. We're not talking about the things that give us medication, but the experiences which truly feel therapeutic, the supportive moments and places that are there for us.

Barring actual therapy, when you need extra support, an outside perspective, or are seeking some guidance in your life, you can look to any of these.

Going over the mountain, over and over and over again

Many will say this is some kind of shortcut that'll take you from the Plateau into Côte-des-Neiges, that it's purely for outdated folks who just love to huff the gas they burn, but damn it, taking paths like driving up and down and back again over Camillien-Houde Way has kept us from saying things we regret, gave us a new perspective on the city, and provided some exceptional views while it's at it.

There may have been announced plans to change the roadway by 2027 and the whole thing'll likely be mired in construction between the time we're writing this and then, but this is the way, literally, to a good therapeutic experience.

Photograph: Jean-François Savaria, Tourisme Montréal

Coffee on Saint-Viateur

The Mile End's an exceptional place for people watching, an activity which can help us forget about what we're experiencing and objectively observe those of others. Young people, families, the Hasidic community moving through, shopkeepers, friends shaking hands saying how do you do—we've failed to find that much of a concreated neighbourly vibe that rivals this one elsewhere in the city.

Here, you take your time with intention.

Photograph: Tourisme Montréal / Madore - Daphné Caron

Jumping between Drawn & Quarterly, Dragon Flowers, and Sonorama

Few city blocks in Montreal can claim that they can adequately provide the heartrate-lowering, tension-easing nature of literature and browsing for said literature, easing into the soundscape of a well-curated record, and buying up some flowers to bring positive energy into our homes—all of these are found, together, on Bernard and all of it makes us feel secure and relaxed.

It just hits different in this part of town.

The Kondiaronk Belvedere

Mont Royal's got hikes, but all hikes lead to Kondiaronk Belvedere eventually: Up here, we've got friends catching up, awkward first dates, tourists excitedly looking down on the city with fresh eyes we can vicariously live through.

It's a vantage point that provides stunning downtown vistas, and you while away hours spotting landmarks, and you simply can't find better views than this spot.

Pedestrianized streets in the summer

What's more liberating than when you can confidently walk the traffic lines of some of the city's greatest arteries and proclaim these "the streets are ours!"?

Pedestrian streets have become a signature of Montreal's summer and a symbol of connectivity to the greater urban whole. Yes, the sheer amount of people could stress some of you out, but for others, there is no better way to experience an absolute sense of connectivity with your fellow Montrealers.

Attracting thousands upon thousands each time they happen—and there were as many as 10 major streets in 2023 alone—they form fountains of creativity, beauty and sheer vitality of our city. Street food is suddenly OK to eat, there's art, everyone's in a good mood, and you can be as much as a wallflower or bombastically social butterfly as you want when it happens.

Leaving Montreal

We're joking, but also not: Some say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and who among us hasn't felt a greater affinity for the city when they've stepped away from it for a spell?

Suddenly the cracks in the pavement, the squeegee punks on your street corner, the politics—all of it don't seem so bad when you've had the liberty to not think about and experience it at all.

Photograph: Jean-François Savaria, Tourisme Montréal

La Fontaine. Just La Fontaine.

You want to get beers and snacks with someone? La Fontaine. Need a place to celebrate a birthday in centrally located spot? La Fontaine. Watch sports or visit a food festival? La Fontaine. Trip out on something? La Fontaine.

Endlessly versatile and welcoming, this park is where the whole city gathers for spontaneous gatherings, soaking up the summer or walking through in colder months, and with some of the best scenic views and space in Montreal.

Photograph: Laurène Tinel, Tourisme Montréal

Kickin' it in nature parks

Cap-Saint-Jacques, Boucherville Islands, Île de la Visitation—for those that don't quite want to leave the city limits but want a sense of escape, exploring nature parks around Montreal hits you right in the feels. It's a reset button for your soul.

You can trade city hustle for calming lakes, lush greenery, and fresh air. Bird-watching, hiking, lakeside hangs? Beaches in the summer, and showshoeing in the winter? Whiling away the last bit of daylight and letting nature slowly take up residency in every single one of your senses?

Please. If you haven't been, you have to be there.

A terrasse, plain and simple

They're the heart and soul of living here, an essential part of our city's al fresco charm. They've come to mean more than just outdoor dining spots.

They're a state of mind that, once entered, can relieve you of whatever's got you down. After long winters, the first bits of sun pull us outside and away from the metro's cocoon of tunnels and stations and into their embrace.

Waiters weave between tables, kids move around parents sipping espressos—these are havens that define Montreal's social scene with a fostered sense of community, making them prime real estate in both our hearts and minds.

Biking 900 km of bike lanes

Biking in Montreal has practically become city-wide wellness initiative.

The expansion of cycling networks has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on our quality of life. It's fun so long as you're not rage-biking through the streets, you stay active, it decreases traffic congestion, and it cuts down emissions.

It's touch and go when you consider how combative you can feel towards motorists, so just stick to the 900km of lanes that are set up for you, and you should do just fine. It'll be great—just hop on.

Photograph: © Fitz and Follwell Co.

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