Nightlife & the Arts in Montréal

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Montréal Nightlife

There's something uniquely Quebecois about the kind of entertainment referred to as a spectacle. It's more than just a performance, usually involving some kind of multimedia projection, light show, and, if outdoors, fireworks. It's no wonder, then, that the ultimate spectacle, Cirque du Soleil, was founded in Montréal in the ’80s. And it's also hardly surprising that North America's largest French-speaking metropolis should be the continent's capital of French theater.

If nightlife in Montréal could be distilled into a cocktail, it would be one part sophisticated New York club scene (with the accompanying pretension), one part Parisian joie-de-vivre (and, again, a dash of snobbery), and one part Barcelonan stamina (which keeps the clubs booming until dawn).

Montréal is the home of nearly a dozen professional companies and several important theater schools. But there's also a lively English-language theater scene and one of the few remaining Yiddish theaters in North America.

In 2012, the city completed the Quartier des Spectacles, a 70-acre theater district in Downtown with stages for outdoor performances and nearly 80 venues for dance, music, theater, and art.

For a city its size, Montréal offers a remarkable number of opportunities for fans of classical music to get their fill, from operas and symphonies to string quartets.

As for dance, there are several modern dance companies of note, including Montréal Danse, and Québec's premier ballet company, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens.

Hot spots are peppered throughout the city. There are compact clusters along rue Crescent, boulevard St-Laurent (known as "The Main"), avenue Mont-Royal, and rue St-Denis. Prominent rue Ste-Catherine plows through town, connecting most of these nighttime niches, and farther east, near Beaudry métro station, it becomes the main drag for the Village, also called Gay Village. For whatever reason, the streets named after saints contain most of the clubs: rue Ste-Catherine, boulevard St-Laurent, rue St-Paul, and rue St-Denis. The Old Port is currently Montréal's hottest neighborhood, with a steady stream of chic venues opening in this cobblestone district.

Montréal's nightlife swings with a robust passion; from the early-evening "5 à 7" after-work cocktail circuit, to the slightly later concerts and supper clubs (restaurant–dance club hybrids where people dance on the tables after eating off them), on into the even later dance club scene; all tastes, cultural backgrounds, and legal ages join the melee. Adult clubs abound in this sexually freewheeling city and are often frequented by mixed groups of people seeking a fun night out on the town. Clubbing is, to say the least, huge in Montréal. Some restaurants are even installing discotheques in their basements.

As for what to wear on a Montréal night out: If you have a daring outfit in your closet that you've hesitated to wear—bring it. Montrealers get absolutely decked to go out on the town to bars and clubs, even if the temperature is below freezing. And remember, most club regulars don't even know where they're going until midnight, so don't go out too early.

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