Date Night On a Budget? 5 Free Unique Dates in Montreal

As some say, the best gifts come from the heart, not the wallet. I believe the same can be applied to dates. Whether it’s the first date, or just a night out in a long-term relationship, prices in one of Canada’s biggest metropolitan cities can add up fast. Ubering to restaurants, getting fancy cocktails, and an even a more elaborate dinner may impress your date but can be a lot for a student's wallet. Here are 5 amazing date ideas that are sure to impress and leave you and your partner in awe at the naturally romantic activities around the city.  

1. Hiking to the Mount Royal Lookout 

Whether it's day or night, Mount Royal, one of the city's main tourist destinations offers some of the best views of the city. Although you might not want your date seeing you huffing and puffing up a mountain, a little struggle always makes for a great bonding moment and story. You can enter the mountain through many walking paths which start on Rue Peel and Rue Pins or through Jeanne-Mance park on the mountain's eastern side. The hike to the top will take about 20-30 minutes. Once at the top, signs will direct you to the lookout, located on the top southern part of the mountain. The lookout holds an observatory and Mt. Royal Chalet, where you can warm up and share a quick coffee or tea before heading out to the view. Once at the top, the walk up will surely be worth it. Snuggling up to your date and looking out at one of the city's most beautiful views, sparkling in the sun or with the night lights of the buildings, there is sure to be a romantic moment and a cute picture made.  

2. Picnic in La Fontaine Park 

La Fontaine Park, located just west of Gay Village and south of Rue St. Laurent in the heart of the Plateau, is one of the city's hidden gems, just far enough away from universities to not be crowded with students. The park's sprawling grass, trees and curving walkways around a large pond make for a scenic walk, and even better: a picnic. Pack up the best you can find in your fridge: some wine, cheese, crackers and fruit, and head over to La Fontaine for a romantic picnic under the trees overlooking the water. Whether your date is in the warm summer, crisp fall or cold winter, the park has much to offer date-wise. In the fall, the park's beautiful trees will be covered in colored and falling leaves and in the winter, the park's pond becomes an ice-skating rink, perfect to watch or try out yourself!  

3. Snowfall Magical City Night Walk  

There's nothing like a snowstorm in the city, especially at night when the city sleeps, peacefully quiet and left alone from the chaos of the morning bustle. This date might have to be a more spontaneous one unless you know how to control the weather, but all it takes is a look out the window and a phone call. No need for makeup or dressing fancy, all you need are snow pants, a jacket, boots, and gloves. Wherever you decide to go, you’ll feel like the first people to land on the moon, the only people in a new white world, making the first footprints of the night on crisp, sparkling snow, untouched by society. Build a snowman, climb a statue, walk in the middle of the empty streets, talk about things you’ve never thought of before, lay down together in the snow and watch the stars, share a kiss, breathe in the fresh night air and quiet of the moment. The possibilities are endless—at least until sunrise.  

4. Window Shopping on St. Laurent 

St. Laurent, best known as one of the city's main clubbing districts, comes alive at night with the shouts of drunk students, strobe lights flashing through upstairs windows and pushing lines next to tired bouncers. Although fun, the street at night is not exactly perfect date night material, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of the game. During the day St. Laurent transforms into a quaint local shopping street with everything from a cat café to a meat market to vintage thrift shops. You may also want to stray a bit from the main street to some of the outer streets that hold many hard-to-find shops and cafes which only locals are aware of. Walk north down Avenue Duluth to find some cool stores, colorful murals and cobblestone paths. St. Laurent is perfect for the awkwardness of a first date, with enough cool things to keep the conversation going and attention held. Grab a latte, peek into windows of fancy shops, grab a few samples at a bakery, try on some crazy outfits and snap a picture! Fill the afternoon strolling down the streets holding hands and see where your eyes take you.  

5. Old Port to Atwater Market Bike Path Ride  

Montreal, with its European influence, is a very bike-friendly city. The city holds many bike lanes along streets and bridges, but one of the best places for a ride is the bike path along the St. Laurent River. You can start in the more central location, Old Port, where you’ll feel as if you’re in the middle of Paris with quaint cobblestone streets, bakeries, and locals speaking in fast French along the sides of the streets. You can either bring your own bike or rent one with Montréal's convenient bike-sharing system, BIXI, where you can get 30-minute rides for as low as $2.95! Once you have your bikes, head south along the bike path, where you’ll bike along the river under bridges and past green fields with colorful lawn chairs, perfect if you need a break from the sun and exercise. If you continue along the path for about 4 km and exit to the right side of the path at Atwater Avenue, you’ll see Atwater Market straight ahead, with its hanging yellow lanterns and tall clocktower you won’t be able to miss. The market, far away from the Americanized parts of the city will surely bring out you and your date's French side. Get free samples of the fresh fruit, cheeses, and stop by the traditional French bakeries for an authentic baguette or pastry. This date will take you across the city, and maybe even to France—but at least you’ll be on the adventure together.  

 

Pictures taken by Simone Brenner.