Dec 12, 2021
5 min read
A City Guide to Montreal
Montreal is the perfect blend of North American charm and European ‘je ne sais quoi’. From Little Italy to Mile Ex, each of the city’s neighborhood’s has its own distinct personality. The underground tunnels make navigating Montreal super easy, too – they’re air conditioned in summer and heated in winter. Coffee culture is huge in Montreal, with the cafés providing a place to get warm in the colder months, and the terraces a place to socialize and soak up the atmosphere when it’s sunny. We’ll leave it to you to be the judge of the best long black in town – there are many contenders.
Once caffeinated, you’ll also need to try the other Canadian speciality, poutine: french fries and cheese curds topped with meat gravy (it tastes much better than it sounds, trust us). Think the best food you could possibly have after a night out, available at any time of the day.
Beyond that, there are also some brilliant hotels, bars, galleries, shops, parks and more to explore in Montreal. Let’s get into it.
Where to stay in Montreal
The spa at Hotel William Gray is ideal. We like to rotate between the hot/cold thermal circuit with a Himalayan salt room, the Finnish sauna, steam room and herbal sauna. And breathe. The pool and terrace open during the summer; and when we’re not spa-ing, you’ll find us relaxing in a reading nook in the lobby.
In the heart of Old Montreal, Hotel Nelligan has cosy fireplaces
a rooftop terrace – it really is a hotel for all seasons. The restaurant serves a delicious market-fresh menu, so there’s no need to venture out as soon as you check-in.
Right on the Saint Lawrence River, Auberge du Vieux Port was a 19th Century warehouse and still retains some of that exposed-brickwork charm. Of the 45 rooms, choose one with views of the river. This is as central as you can get, so the nearby restaurants are pricey – scroll down for some more in-the-know spots.
Where to get coffee in Montreal
Cafe Olimpico has been going since 1970, and still stands the test of time. Located in Mile End, the atmosphere lives up to the hype, but you’ll have to wait for a space.
Near Downtown, Pikolo definitely has an Australian cafe vibe and the staff are super friendly. There’s no wifi and the food is limited, but we love the strong coffee. Definitely one for someone who’s fussy about their beans.
As for this Little Italy favorite, go for two reasons: the big coffee pours and the resident Saint Bernard dog. The interior is quite kitsch, with palm trees and monochrome tiles.
Where to eat in Montreal
The best smoked meat sandwiches in town – Leonard Cohen himself was a customer. Get the ‘medium’, with dill pickles, and you’ll soon understand why no Montreal trip is complete without this classic.
This open-air market has been running in Little Italy since 1933. Snack kiosks serve crepes, cheese, coffee and everything in between. Plus as many spins on Canadian maple as you can think of, from fudge to butter.
Opt for the tasting menu deal here, which is around C$70 per person for five dishes. The foie gras and black cod are exquisite. Non-alcoholic drinks are great too – try the coriander lemonade.
A boulangerie selling the best bread in the city. The chocolate brioche is to die for.
Where to drink
This super-cool wine bar is on the western strip of Notre-Dame Street in St-Henri. The knowledgeable staff can suggest wine pairings to go with the dishes featured on the small menu – we always follow their lead.
Blink and you’ll miss this cocktail bar, which is hidden in a former industrial cold room. We love the award-winning cocktails and the interiors, serving industrial-meets-grandma’s-basement.
Where to shop in Montreal
The best in the city for menswear. Expect to find cool skate apparel and streetwear gold.
By far the biggest retail player in Montreal. The shoe collection alone is spectacular.
Found in Mile End, this upscale boutique sells clothes, accessories and beauty products. We love the Grown Alchemist cosmetics and Linda Farrow eyewear.
A classic Montreal born-and-bred label that specialises in rich leather products and fabrics. 90% of items are crafted in the brand’s own workshops, so shopping here is a great way to support local.
You’ll find a few of these dotted around Montreal. The brand is a Canadian favorite for stylish outdoor essentials and has been featured by magazines like
. There’s also a barber shop and cafe.
Since 2006, this local favorite has been championing quality manufacturing in Old Montreal. A great place to hunt for emerging designers.
Thrift shopping at its finest; the two owners Lara and Becky have a real eye for vintage curation. Promoting sustainable fashion is at the heart of Citizen, encouraging customers to think twice before they buy brand new.
Where to workout
If you’re traveling to Montreal during winter, there’s no better way to warm up than a quick spin session at Cadence. The instructors’ enthusiasm is contagious and a tough workout is always guaranteed.Studio Yoga Club
This beautiful little yoga studio is in the suburban neighborhood of Rosemont. Classes are taught in French, but English is mixed in if requested. The hot yoga is perfect when it’s cold out.
What to do in Montreal
As the home of Cirque du Soleil, you can’t visit Montreal without checking out a show.Centre Bell
is a good place to start, check online for tickets.
From Leonard Cohen to photography and sculpture, if you only have time for one museum in Montreal, make sure it’s MAC. The permanent collection features 8,000 pieces from Quebec, Canadian and international artists, with temporary exhibitions rolling throughout the year, too.
If the weather allows, head up this extinct volcano for a solid 30-minute hike. At the top, you’ll find 470 acres of fresh air and skyline views. Fun fact: Mount Royal was designed by the same landscape architect behind New York City’s Central Park.
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