Montreal’s gayborhood, The Village, puts a French twist in North America
Originally named Ville-Marie or City of Mary for you Anglophones, Montreal is a chic, sophisticated gay destination. After Paris, it’s the second-largest primarily French-speaking city in the world, though most residents speak English and getting around without fluency is pretty manageable.
For a city with a metro population of more than 3 million residents, Montreal is maneuverable. The gayborhood — called simple Le Village — is the largest in area in North America. Luckily for out-of-towners, it’s also easy to find. If you journey down Sainte Catherine Street (the major downtown artery), you’ll start seeing rainbow flags and gay porn shops at about Rue Berri. The Village stretches to Rue De Lorimier, in between you’ll find a plethora of bars, clubs, coffee shops, boutiques and restaurants, all serving the local and foreign LGBT community.
No matter what you are looking for, you’ll be able to find the right place to stay. There are many inexpensive, quaint B&Bs and non-chain hotels, like the Hotel Dorion. A cozy property if you’re on a budget, it couldn’t be closer to all the action. Situated on Rue Dorion, you can get a standard room or upgrade your stay with a Jacuzzi or other amenities. The Hotel Maritime Plaza is more expensive and about two miles away from the Village but gay-friendly and the service is always on-point.
A truly cosmopolitan city, Montreal (and specifically the Village) offers an eclectic mix of great cuisine, including Le Bato Thai, Restaurant La Strega (Italian) and Le Club Sandwich. More than just a great place to grab a sub, Le Club Sandwich is an institution, diner-style complete with jukeboxes.
If you like cruising with your meal, Le Drugstore is a treat for all of the senses. Part restaurant, part bar, part boutique, it’s a huge complex that has a hot wait staff and hosts a large LGBT clientele. There’s a variety of menu options, but the best is a burger with a generous helping of the popular favorite poutine (a dish of French fries, cheese and gravy; some restaurants put ketchup or peas on top).
By night, Le Drugstore turns into a popular lesbian bar with three levels of drinking, dancing and debauchery. Parking is the best dance club for the boys only (women are only allowed to join the party on Wednesdays). Also located in the Village, it plays great music spun by local and international DJs. If you want to see nearly naked guys do the dancing, take a swing by Campus and get a lap dance from one of the hot (and usually straight) male dancers. Once again, women are not allowed most nights of the week.
The biggest and most popular gay club in Montreal is the triple-decker Club Unity on Sainte Catherine Street. On the bottom floor you’ll find a bar, on the second two bars with a huge dance floor and the third offers more bars and another dance floor, all playing a different kind of music. True to its name, the crowd at Unity consists of men and women of various ages, types and orientations.
After the club, if you’re looking for a late night "dip," there are a few bathhouses to choose from, all within stumbling distance of the gay clubs. Oasis and Sauna Centre Ville are among the most popular with locals and tourists.
There are beaucoup things to do outside of the Village. Montreal is a city bursting at the seams with museums, landmarks and classic architecture. Visitors who need a shopping fix can get lost at Eaton Centre. Located on Sainte Catherine, Eaton is the largest shopping mall in eastern Canada, serving more than 1 million visitors a week.
If you’re looking for a faster but thrilling way to burn through your money, venture over to the Casino De Montreal. Open 24 hours, it offers more than 3,000 slot machines and more than 100 gaming tables, plus a cabaret show for non-gamblers.
French, English and other influences fused harmoniously. If you’re looking for a uniquely Euro experience, but don’t want to leave North America, Montreal is an ideal destination. •
For more information, visit GayTravel.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 16, 2010.