My Montreal Guide / FAQ
- 1st April 2016, 10:07 at 10:07 am #316258
Note: I posted this on reddit and I thought I would repost here. There is a lot more info over there due to other posters’ responses so I would check it out over there as well. At any rate, here goes:
I have been going to the GPduC in Montreal since about 1998 so I thought that I would write a “FAQ” type A-Z document since this stuff never seems to be in one place (or anywhere). Please note that this just reflects my experience / preferences and I am sure there are a million other ways to enjoy this race. In no particular order:
At this point – late March – event tickets are the least of your worries – there will be tickets available on race day. However, flight and hotel booking should be a priority as both can sell out. I typically book both in late December – early January.
We come from Los Angeles on Thursday and leave on Monday – four nights. Historically, there has only been one nonstop flight a day to / from LAX but now it appears that there are two flights a day.
I believe that this four-night schedule is what 99% of F1 tourists book. Why? Because every hotel that I have stayed at has required us to book all four nights – paid in advance. Which brings us to:
We have always stayed in the Vieux (Old) Montreal area. We have stayed at:
• The Intercontinental
• Embassy Suites
• Chinatown Holiday Inn (once, never again)
• Le Westin
In general, the hotels jack their prices for the events and we usually pay about $600 – $700 USD a night – say $2,500 total. Not as bad if you share with a buddy but if you take your wife (I have twice) you are on the hook for the whole deal. Ouch!
• The Intercontinental: The IC is very nice and we have stayed here probably 10 times. At least the last time we stayed there, a nice buffet breakfast was included in the whole deal. It has a nice indoor pool and an outdoor balcony on the 10th floor. It underwent renovation maybe eight years ago so we went looking for other options.
• Embassy Suites: This is right next door to the IC. Kind of lower grade “party” vibe and we only stayed here once. The do have a happy hour that is very popular, however because they give you free drink tickets upon check in.
• Chinatown Holiday Inn: This was a not so great choice and was a misguided attempt for us to see if we could save some cash by going “low-end” (we were unsuccessful). If you can imagine the worst of Chinatown and Holiday Inn, here it is (not really that bad). Great location though – it is located on a walking-only street in Chinatown with a bunch of great eating.
• Westin (“Le Westin”): This is our current choice. No breakfast included but it does have a nice bar and we have done a lot of time there. It also has a nice indoor pool, with adjoining “ice” and “hot” therapeutic type pools. My wife is a big spa chick so she really likes these.
The IC, Embassy and Westin are all truly located within a block of each other on Rue St. Antoine. This brings me to:
Location and transportation
As I mentioned, we invariably stay in Vieux Montreal. This location affords excellent access to restaurants, the Metro, tourist stuff and – oh yeah – the track. All of the hotels I mentioned above are adjacent to the Place d’Armes Metro Station. To get to the track, take the Metro three stops (one transfer) to Jean Drapeau Station and you are there! Alternatively, take a quick cab ride over the Pont de la Concorde (bridge).
Getting back to Montreal after qualifying / race is another story. You can take the subway but, unfortunately, everybody else has the same idea and it can get VERY crowded. The city (I guess) have tweaked taxi access over the years and the last few years I have attended taxis have been limited to the city side of the bridge. It is about a half hour walk to this point. I am open to correction, but I believe this is really the only other alternative (other than walking – see next paragraph) to getting back into the city.
My buddies, my wife and myself are all very active and love to walk so we actually walk the entire distance back to our hotel after qualy / race. It is probably three miles from track to hotel and takes about an hour. Apologies if walking really isn’t your cup of tea but this is our transportation of choice for exiting the island.
We are amateur restaurant critics so food is a huge part of our vacation. I am not going to go into a big review of each restaurant here but rest assured we have vetted all of these. Kind of high-end to low end:
• Le 400 Coups – high-end, creative in Old Montreal. Go here to impress your date or wife.
• Restaurant Au Petit Extra – higher end bistro – menu all in French, great wine list.
• Holder – great, old French bistro within walking distance from our hotels. Dress up or down. Great people watching.
• Foodlab – incredibly groovy outdoor space on a huge patio. All the food is either grilled or cold (think steak or salad). Huge umbrellas protect you from the elements.
• Olive & Gourmando – Fantastic sandwiches, baked goods and beers. Great for lunch after qualifying. This is right down the street from our hotel.
• Jean-Talon Market – Semi-permanent farmers market with a bunch of food places adjacent. You can spend all day here.
Ok, this is what you have been waiting for – where do I sit?
Our seats are in Grandstand 1. We have had the same seats for 15 years and have steadily improved them as the years have gone on. In my mind, these are arguably the best tickets that can be purchased for this event.
Grandstand 1 is on the starting grid and directly across from pit lane. So we get the excitement of the start as well as all of the action of the pit lane. In addition, I believe that Grandstand 1 is the only seating with “bucket” seats – everything else is bench seating with no backs. Finally, our seats are in the last (top) row. This is critical for us in that it maximizes your view and you can stand the whole race (security will make everybody ELSE sit down so as not to impact anyone else’s view).
Finally, check out a track map. If you decide to leave right when the checkered flag waves, from Grandstand 1 you will get a jump on the rest of the fans and your exit will be relatively smooth.
Other locations: I have sat at both inside and outside of the hairpin (fantastic) but I have not sat at Senna. Just know that there is no real location to see “more” of the track than another given location. But there are big screens all around the track showing the world feed (same broadcast that you see on television).
There is general admission so you can walk all the way down to the hairpin and stand on the fence and watch the action there. I don’t think you can do the same thing at Senna, however.
To be continued . . .1st April 2016, 14:16 at 2:16 pm #316320Hamster79Participant
That was a great read, thank you! I’m travelling from the UK to Montreal for the first time so I’m scouring the internet for tips, will head over to Reddit later on and read some more of your info there.
Abby1st April 2016, 18:27 at 6:27 pm #316366
Continued . . .
A bit more about tickets
If you purchase your tickets from the official site, shortly after the race (say July) they will email you to ask if you would like to purchase your same tickets for the following year. This is available only to existing ticketholders and is before tickets go on sale to the general public, which is like September.
If you call their number, you will get an actual human being who can help you as well. It is here that, to the extent that you need to improve your seats – say by going higher up in rows – the ticket person you are talking to can help.
Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a detailed “seat-by-seat” seating chart on the official site – at least I haven’t been able to find one. I believe the reason they don’t is that they are constantly fvcking around with the stands / seating arrangements. For example – new this year – there is only a “Grandstand 1” and not a “Grandstand 1 & 2”, as in the past. They removed Grandstand 2 and I don’t know what they did there but I suspect there is some type of press structure or concessions (or something designed to make money while yet again not thinking of the fans).
The trio ticket package: I have never done this but I have sat at two of the three sections that they are offering. Again, I think that only Grandstand 1 has individual bucket seats – everything else is benches. However, this should be no problem as the track is more relaxed for practice and qualifying. I believe you get Grandstand 1 for the race.
We fly in on Thursday afternoon and fly out Monday morning, so it doesn’t give us a lot of time for being tourists. However, we have NEVER gone to Friday practice so that we are able to bounce around Montreal for a bit. That said, here is SOME stuff that we’ve done to get you started:
Market Jean Talon: This is a huge food market located in a semi outdoor concrete structure. In addition to fresh food, it has coffee, baked goods, other food related stores and is surrounded by a bunch of restaurants. We have eaten at the seafood place on the corner and one of the sandwich shops. There is also a great spice store where I stock up on tins of exotic peppercorns (they have everything, though) that last me through the year.
Tip for alcoholics: The restaurants do not serve alcohol but if you like a beer with your food there is a craft beer store as well as a SAQ (state liquor store) on site. Bring a bottle opener, be discrete and enjoy your beverage with your food!
Shopping: We like outdoorsy gear and two Canadian-only manufacturers that we like are Arch’teryx and Chlorophylle. Check out their stores for pricy yet high-end and incredibly designed gear. I go every year to get something.
A great higher-end department store for clothes is Holt Renfrew on Rue Sherbrooke. Also, the strip clubs on St. Catherine eventually give way to some more nice shopping and department stores like Hudson Bay & Ailes.
Partying: We are 60 & 50 years old, so “partying” isn’t a huge priority at this point in our lives. That said, both Rue Crescent and Boul. St. Laurent close off like two blocks of the street for pedestrians only during race weekend. Both of these areas are lined with patio’d restaurants and people will often spend hours at one cocktailing and taking in the scene. In addition, they have concert stages set up and race related booths line the streets. These are both great places to people watch, or try to meet or just scope out the 2 or 3 (million!) beautiful chix that are in Montreal.
A fantastic, mature event at one of the more traditional tracks (getting more and more rare). Fantastic transportation, food, people and tourist attractions make this so much more than a race.
Ask me anything if you think I missed something and I will continue to add else comes to mind.19th April 2016, 12:38 at 12:38 pm #email@example.comParticipant
You travel 3000 miles, spend $1000s of dollars and you’ve never been to Friday practice? To me, Friday might be the best day because the cars are on the track the longest. You are getting the most exposure to the cars and the stands aren’t packed so there is more of a relaxed atmosphere. I’m not sure how any true F1 fan could miss Friday.19th April 2016, 23:21 at 11:21 pm #318252
Well, I’ve missed it probably 20 or so times.
But in Singapore, we stayed at the Marina Bay Sands, and we could (and did) watch practice from the rooftop pool. Does that count?21st April 2016, 8:53 at 8:53 am #firstname.lastname@example.orgParticipant
I hate to piggyback your thread but the price you pay for the a couple of nights hotel is more than I pay for the entire weekend. Here is the experience from an F1 Fanatic on a budget (you can call me a cheapskate, I won’t take offense), it doesn’t have to be that expensive.
I travel solo because my Wife isn’t into F1 and my son is still a bit too young. I went to the GP in 2011 (longest GP in history) and 2013. Both of those times I drove up from Boston but this year I’m actually flying from Boston to Plattsburg NY ($140RT) and renting a car ($160) and driving the 50 miles up to Montreal.
I enjoy the crowds and the energy of the track all three days but after being crammed in all day for 3 days I like to have quiet evenings so I tend to stay on the Longueuil (east) side of the river, away from the hustle and bustle. H/Motels range from $59 to dumpy no-name places up to $300 for nicer places. I typically split the difference and find a place in the $120-$150 range. This year I’m staying at a well reviewed Holiday Inn Express about 20 miles away from the Longueuil Station for about $110 a night. Please note that lots of the hotels won’t rent you a room (or else they will gouge you badly) for a night or two, they are looking for people who book 3+ nights for GP weekend. I have also stayed in Boucherville (Comfort Inn and Welcominns) which is closer to the Station and both of these places are decent.
I park on the street within a couple of blocks of the Longueuil Metro for free although I’m probably parking illegally since the signs are in French. Maybe I’m lucky to never have gotten a ticket but i don’t plan to pay to park this year either. I believe parking at the station is about $20 a day. They offer a full weekend metro pass for $18. Well worth it. From Longueuil it is one stop and then probably a 20 minute walk to the track. On Saturday after qualifying I usually go into Montreal to hit the street party. It is a wild scene and Blazer is spot on, amazing chix (his word, not mine). After a couple of hours of being jammed in like sardines and listening to pumping techno I’m glad to get back to my hotel. If you enjoy partying you could probably stay all night. In fact on Sunday you can usually pick out the faces of the folks who did party all night.
Tickets are another expense that really depends on what you require for an experience. Tickets are expensive, there is no way around it. The cheapest tickets are GA ($140) which doesn’t get you a seat, just access to the grounds. You get to take in the atmosphere, visit the vendors and catch glimpses of the cars usually in high speed stretches so glimpses is not an exaggeration. I would not recommend GA since the track is almost flat. It isn’t like European tracks where you can spread your blanket on a hill and see several corners. While Blazer swears by Grandstand 1 and I’m sure it’s awesome seeing the pit action is it $300 or more than (2x) better than Grandstand 31 where I sit? #31 is the last kink before the hairpin (turns 8-9) where the cars are standing on the brakes from 180mph to about 70mph trying not to run wide and setting themselves up the run to the hairpin. It is a great spot with a jumbotron right across to follow the action on the rest of the circuit. I have also sat in the hairpin and while the action on track there is very exciting the atmosphere seemed more like a drunken party (NASCARish). #31 seemed to have more true face fans plus it is a smaller seating section so you don’t feel as packed in. I’ve also walked down to #33 which is a decent sport (a quick right/left kink) but it is in more of an isolated spot on the circuit away from the on-track happenings. Blazer is correct that you can’t get down to the Senna S area unless your seats are there, they check tickets. In fact you really can’t go much past the casino.
Food at the track is expensive and not that great, just like any concert, sporting event or amusement park. They’ve got you and they know they’ve got you so they can pretty much charge you whatever they want for poor quality food. The difference here is you can bring in food and drink including booze. My suggestion is bring in lunch maybe even breakfast if you get to the track that early. Knowing what you’re getting and what it will cost always makes me feel better. I always bring in a backpack with lunch, drinks (soda/water/rum/whiskey), sunblock, raincoat etc. They give it a quick glance when entering the track and that’s it.
After the race on Sunday they open up the fences and allow everyone on the track. I like to stroll the track and take pictures. Walk by the pits, Senna S, Wall of Champions, hairpin etc. By the time you’ve walked around the 2.7 miles the crowd has thinned considerably. Staying in Longueuil means that 90% of the folks leaving the track will be going the opposite way (towards Montreal) so it is a breeze getting back.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not criticizing Blazer. It’s just clear that he and I are in very different places disposable income wise. Spending $1100 on a weekend trip is very expensive for me but it is F1 so you know it’s not going to be cheap. I can say that the experience of going to an F1 race can’t be beat. I’ve been to an Indycar event and it was fun but it isn’t F1. They’ve had the GP in Montreal so long that they have it down to a science. You will not find a better organized event. I challenge you to go and not have fun!21st April 2016, 21:26 at 9:26 pm #318288
No worries at all and thanks for the excellent post. As I stated in my opening, I’m sure there are a million different ways to enjoy this race and yours sounds just as fun. Info never seems to be in one place (if anywhere at all) so you are really contributing to what I am trying to achieve.
Funny story: As Mikey stated, you are allowed to bring in your own alcohol (in cans). Our race neighbors for the last ten years have been these four local Canadian dudes – can’t speak a word of English. At any rate, for every race, each guy brings his own cooler and puts it in front of their seats. They must crush 80 beers between the four of them during the race.
Nicest guys though. And one dude has a tattoo of the Mercedes star about 6″ in diameter on his back!
And seriously, the posters over on reddit (r/formula1) really contributed to my thread over there. Check it out for a lot more Montreal info.26th April 2016, 19:51 at 7:51 pm #318453Steven SmithParticipant
If I might just reply to Mikeyboy about missing Friday Practice. As someone who has travelled many thousands of miles following F1. I often find myself flying in on a Thursday and leaving on a Monday. Time limited.
Cities like Shanghai, KL, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul (no longer), Barcelona and many others just have to be seen sometimes when the opportunity arises. So I too often use Friday as an exploring day.
I wont be doing so this time around as I cross the Atlantic for my fourth Canadian GP. I’ve seen what a great city Montreal is.28th April 2016, 22:46 at 10:46 pm #318606John WardParticipant
Just wanted to add my little addition to the thread.
I have been going to the Canadian GP since the late 60’s, when it was run at Mosport and to Montreal since it began. Have done the Montreal GP since the beginning and it gets better each year. I live in Toronto, so I have done my trip in various ways, airplane, train & car and stayed in various hotels. I will choose the train again, don’t need a car in Montreal. Wwhen you arrive buy a 3 or 4 day pass for the metro, the subway takes you right to the circuit.
It might not be for everyone, but I take the train from Toronto and stay at McGill University at the residence for $75/nt, arrive Thursday and leave on the Monday, so $300 for my stay, the place is clean and accessible to everything, a short walk from the train station. Paying $600-700/nt just didn’t make any sense, especially when your out all day at the circuit, quick nap and then out at night till the early hours of the morning.
As for tickets, for me the best way is their office, speak to a person and get what you want, you want to sit up high above the fence line, you can even ask for an aisle seat. I have posted before with the best seating areas, I have sat in most of the GS, all depends on your budget, likes and dislikes.
I can’t begin naming all the restaurants, there are too many to list, from fine dining to the hole in the wall, my last trip, I found Joe Panini’s at Drummond & Ste. Catherines, open 24hrs..great sandwiches for dinner or late night snack for about $5. You may see a long lineup late at night, but it moves quick.
Well if you have any questions, shoot me a line……….this year, not making it…my son is getting married. Hope you all have a good time!!!
John6th July 2016, 20:53 at 8:53 pm #324247jsw11984Participant
I’m looking at heading over for the 2017 race from NZ.
I’ve been to the Australian Grand Prix twice and have decided that next year I should go for something a bit further afield and tie in bit of an extended holiday at the time an extra few days either side kind of thing.
One thing I was wondering is about the languages. I know Montreal is in Quebec and that Quebec has French as the official language.
I was wondering about how much French you would need to know to be there for the week? Do most people in the shops/restaurants/hotels speak English as well? Are signs bilingual etc??24th August 2016, 22:54 at 10:54 pm #326853
I will belatedly (yet still in time!) answer you as I just checked into my own thread. The bottom line is that EVERYBODY in Montreal speaks English. They may greet you French, but will switch over instantly to English once they hear “Hello” or “How are you?”. And the signs are bilingual but I think there is some kind of law that requires it. I think people speak more French the further you get out from the cities.
Just be aware that the rest of Canada (as in “Canada minus Quebec”) does not speak French. That said, the fan profile probably consists of: locals who may or may not speak French, other Canadians who probably don’t speak French and U.S. fans who, as we all know, only speak English. So don’t let the language thing deter you – Montreal is a fantastic city and the race is a fantastic event.29th October 2016, 21:06 at 9:06 pm #331580Stuart KentParticipant
Great info in this thread! Anyone know when 2017 tickets will be on sale? Seems like it’s usually September time, but I can’t find anything available yet. Cheers!5th December 2016, 15:48 at 3:48 pm #333852John WardParticipant
The tickets are on sale now, I asked about the trio packages and they are not available, so I am going to wait awhile. The trio silver lets you sit in a different GS each day, a great deal, giving you a variety.
Cheers5th December 2016, 16:09 at 4:09 pm #333853Stuart KentParticipant
I bought a ticket for 11 – sat in 34 in 2014 – and I’m looking forward to a slightly more reserved atmosphere. Specific seats won’t be allocated until after Dec 23rd as I think 2016 attendees can choose to re-purchase their same seat up until that date (or thereabouts).
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