experience - Montreal, Canada
Written by Sarah Staples
In May, the weathers great, and the engines of the F1 Grand Prix wont rev up for another month. Perfect for a leisurely stroll of Montreals famous racetrack.
Montreal in May is all about quiet exploration. Mid-June, racing fans converge for the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix, transforming downtown into a pedestrian-only street party. Not long afterwards come the Just For Laughs comedy festival and Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, the two marquee events of the summer season in late June. But for now, the sun’s shining and its warm but not too warm – perfect weather and timing to enjoy the city’s wealth of free arts and activities without the tourist throngs.
Art and culture lovers will find plenty of galleries to wander, free of charge, including DHC Art, SBC at La Vitrine, and Fresh Paint, housing space for over 20 artists. May 26 is Montreal Museums Day, when 30 museums open their doors for free. Speaking of which, Portes Ouvertes, May 4–5, offers a peek into over 100 award-winning designer homes, industrial, and architectural ateliers.
Outdoors enthusiasts, meanwhile, have the option of a gentle, 30-minute hike up Mont Royal, Montreal’s urban mountain, to Belvedere Kondiaronk lookout. Alternatively, browse trade show stalls at the Outdoor and Travel Festival, May 24–26.
The most serene afternoon you’ll spend in Montreal is at the racetrack itself. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the oldest in Formula One, sits on parkland on an artificial island in the St Lawrence River. Since this is public land, the track is open to everyone: it’s billed as the only permanent professional city circuit in the world that lets pedestrians onto the asphalt between races. So enjoy these famously twisting hairpins, along with the pushchair-mums, bus tourists, and cyclists.
And be sure to pause for a souvenir photo at the start-finish line, where the words ‘Salut Gilles’ bid fond farewell to track namesake, the legendary Ferrari driver Gilles Villeneuve, who was killed at the Belgian Grand Prix on May 8, 1982.
For a history lesson on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve take a bike, bus, or walking tour of the racetrack. Fitz & Follwell Co.s tour starts atop Mont Royal, cycles past scenic must-dos, such as the Atwater Market, and ends with a half-lap ride of the track in the heart of Parc Jean-Drapeau. The tour company has a downtown store specialising in vintage-styled city bikes, and can hook you up with a Gazelle, Pashley, or Brooklyn Cruiser, so youll look extra good while learning.