Whether you’ve come by 747 bus, car, train, or foot, you’ve made it to Montreal. Year-round festivals, the most restaurants per capita in Canada and second in North America (after New York), and that famous bilingual “BonjourHi”… there’s always a reason to visit.
If you’re coming to the city on the cheap, the best place to stay — even better than your friend’s ratty couch — is M Montreal Hostel and its sister site the HMC. With hotel facilities, 230 beds and rooms designed to accommodate groups, M Montreal Hostel has repeatedly won #1 Hostel in North America and #8 worldwide.
I spent some time talking to receptionist and local Brittany about the hostel.
“The overall vibe of the place has a party atmosphere because of the bar,” she says. “It’s a good way to meet people because there are activities to engage in every single night. It’s always busy, always full house. People team up and travel together afterwards.”
Most people who come solo prefer the HMC Hostel, but groups often favour the M Montreal because of its big dorms with 10 and 16 beds. “There’s more guitar and chilling out [at the HMC],” says Brittany, whereas the M Montreal “is more alcohol and party.”
People who come to the M come from all over the world, as evidenced by the different languages I hear spoken by the guests. Primarily, though, Brittany notices people come from the states, France, Australia, Germany, and England. It’s especially popular for people from France with work visas.
Brittany highlights some of the activities that are available at the hostel. There’s a weekly comedy night, beer pong, a pub crawl, a karaoke night, live bands. “The comedy night has big names,” she says. “Mike Ward was here last week. He performs here for free. It’s totally open to locals and people only know about it by word of mouth.”
“In the summer, we give a free Montreal walk, three times a week,” she says. In the summer, she points out that “there’s lots of festivals. This year we even have a Fringe show at the bar.”
In the winter, it’s quieter. “In the winter we try to engage our guests in outdoor activities that don’t happen in the summer like ice skating and hockey. Also, in winter, the first couple of weeks of January is Igloofest. Lots of people come for that.”
I asked what are the most popular things people check out. “Everyone mentions Basillica Notre Dame, and people already know about the Old Port and the Plateau. They want to know where is the best poutine, how to get to Mt. Royal. Also the tam tams. Every Sunday people love that.”
I ask her for best advice for visitors. “Walk places or take bikes,” she says. “You see a lot more of the city’s charm. It’s a small city. You can walk places. Also, ask the receptionist for cool restaurants. I suggest d’Emma which is an Italian prison or O Noir or the Ping Pong bar in Mile End. These are experiences in the city that exist and there are things like this all around the city. People don’t know about them. It enlivens the experience so much more. It’s not what they were expecting and it’s a local experience.”
I ask her what’s the longest someone stayed at M Montreal hostel. “Four months,” she says. “People get stuck here.” She also mentions that there is a work exchange in place. “You work for free and get free accommodation. You spend 15 hours a week at the bar, checking ID, glasses, or coat check in exchange for free accommodation and breakfast. Some people have spent 6 to 8 months doing that.”
She also notes that M Montreal Hostel is quite busy at certain times of the year, like during Grand Prix and Osheaga. If the hostel is full, they contact the other nearby hostels to help someone find a place to stay.
“M Montreal is the best,” she concludes and laughs. “We have the awards to prove it.”
The prices are great value, and fluctuate based on the type of room desired (private, 4-bed, 6-bed, 10-bed, 16-bed) and the time of year. The lowest I see is $18 a night in a 16 bedroom mixed dorm in May, and going up to $123 for a private double bed with ensuite bathroom during Osheaga weekend. There are additional discounts for groups ($16.99/night), for 10-night stays, and even a monthly rate.
I only got to peek in an unoccupied dorm room, but it was spotlessly clean with crisp white sheets tucked on every bed. The rooms are cleaned daily and the sheets and towels (included) are changed daily as well. The bathroom is hotel-esque, with new sinks and toilets, and even tiles on the floor of the shower. The room has a mini fridge and lockers where you could keep your stuff. Each bed is provided with a reading lamp and a socket with two outlets to charge your stuff. Rooms are air conditioned and have a ceiling fan.
The Fun Facilities
Okay, you heard about the bar. Beer is cheap and it’s beer you want to drink: unibroue and local beers among them. There are cool wooden tables with tree stump chairs for ambiance, an antler lamp, a foozball table. There’s also a stage in the bar and a smoking area out back. There are 11 LCD TVs and a projector as well. Weekly events change during the year, but include beer pong, happy hours, live music, comedy nights, and pub crawls.
The hostel has a kitchen where it is possible to cook meals. It has a zone to get free coffee or tea. There are vending machines too. Finally, they have a free breakfast in the morning from 7-10 a.m. that includes croissants, muffins, eggs, and orange juice.
Free high speed wifi is everywhere in the building. There’s also an area with a few Apple computers for guest-use. Every bed has two power sockets so you can charge your stuff. They also offer free local calling to any 514, 450, or 438 number. Phones are located in the rooms and in the common areas.
Just South of the Gay Village, the hostel is located on a residential street but mere blocks away from two metro stations (Berri-UQAM and Beaudry) and the shopping/nightlife/everything street of St. Catherine.
24-hour front desk service and a security system make the hostel feel super safe. The rooms use a RFID wireless, non-contact lock for the doors.