Hidden gems of McGill: Favourite spots to eat, study, chill, and explore

Coming back to campus, it is clear that a lot has changed. But a lot has remained the same. The McGill Tribune reflects on some tucked-away spots—from familiar favourites to some more obscure—to visit, remember, and hopefully find our way back to. 

1. Paddle Mac

Located on McGill’s Macdonald Campus, Paddle Mac rents out kayaks and stand-up paddleboards at a discounted rate to McGill students. For $15 an hour, students can cruise down the river and enjoy a quiet escape from urban life. McGill also offers a free shuttle bus to Mac Campus from Monday to Friday, which makes this unique experience very affordable.

2. Frostbite

This ice-cream shop, run by McGill’s own engineering students, seeks to remedy student blues with varied ice-cream flavours that are affordable and—if you have received less than 30 per cent on a major midterm—free. With events like Warm Cookie Week, Waffle-bowl Week, and Rowdy Day running throughout the year, this spot in the McConnell Engineering building is a sweet relief from busy schedules. 

Be sure to look out for their charming penguin mascot, Chub Chub, too. 

3. Soupe Cafe

Although many are familiar with the grilled cheese sandwiches from this Burnside basement cafe, one of their secret specialities is their tasty sweet potato burrito. While the McGill location is currently closed, you can still visit Soupe cafe on Rue Notre Dame to satisfy your cravings.

4. Vihn’s Cafe

A perennial favourite at McGill, Vihn’s cafe serves filling yet affordable Vietnamese dishes that have become a staple for students on campus. Their $4-5 banh mi and their $7-9 pho are classic choices, while their steamed buns and array of desserts offer unique snack options. 

Its Sherbrooke location, tucked away in the Strathcona music building, offers a tight but cozy escape from McGill’s main campus where one can chat—or commiserate—with friends. A warm bowl of pho always tastes especially comforting during winter and exam seasons.  

5. Birks

With its wooden tables and tall bookshelves, the Birks reading room in the Religious Studies building is a quiet, tucked-away environment perfect for independent studying and wistful daydreaming. Inside the building, you will come across a beautiful two-story chapel that can seat 150 people.

6. Thompson House Restaurant

Run by the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) and located next to the Education building, Thompson House is not only a venue for many events, but also its own restaurant. On the menu, you will find a variety of dishes ranging from bean burritos to South Indian curry.

7. The hidden hallways of the McConnell Engineering Building

Exploring the large McConnell Engineering Building, you will typically find students testing drones in tall glass hallways. There’s even a maze-like hallway with a dead end. Aside from the wandering Arts students, the space is allegedly used to test robots.

8. The industrial stairwell in Macdonald Engineering

If you wander for long enough through McConnell, you might just find yourself in another building entirely. McConnell Engineering connects to the Macdonald building through a huge industrial stairwell reminiscent of Victorian times.

9. Moyse Hall 

This theatre in the Arts building is frequently used to hold productions from the English department. The mysterious tower at the top of the Arts building is also rumoured to be accessible through Moyse Hall, though a key card is now required to enter.

10. The obscure corners of the Arts building and the deep depths of Leacock

If you have never had a seminar on the top floor of the Arts building, you may not know that there are a number of high tables nestled in its dark and rustic corridors. Similarly, the Leacock basement, once home to Bar des Arts, is a fun place to explore—although it is not necessarily advisable to do so at night.

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