Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Montreal City Guide

 

Montreal City Guide 2021

I'm sure that I'm not alone in saying that one thing that I've missed greatly since March 2020 has been travel. I love to travel so much, and after a pause from a worldwide shutdown I was ready to get back into it! While the boarders have opened up, Brian and I were craving a couples getaway and weren't quite ready to leave the country without Benny yet (we had actually planned a trip to NYC and canceled, a story for another day.) So where does one go when they want to stay within Canada and still feel like they're experiencing a different culture and atmosphere? Montreal, of course!

Montreal is touted as Canada's Island getaway, and honestly with the difference in architecture, language and energy from Toronto, it truly felt like we were getting away. Montreal is a big Canadian city that's abundant with European charm, rich in history and absolutely overflowing with culture. For us, it was an obvious choice as an easy getaway from Toronto and I wholeheartedly recommend visiting Montreal, whether it's a domestic getaway or international destination. Here are some details on our trip, where we stayed, where we ate and what we did while visiting Montreal.


A Note Before You Book

At present time Montreal, as part of the province of Quebec, requires proof of vaccination for a majority of leisure activities; including but not limited to any indoor dining, gyms, music festivals and theme parks. While the province is operating on their own app and QR code, it is not yet available to residents outside of Quebec. 

If you are visiting, are over the age of 13 and you have had your second dose of vaccine over 2 weeks ago, then simply provide government issued proof of your second dose and a piece of photo ID.



Where We Stayed

Knowing that we would be on-the-go the entire trip to Montreal, I wanted a location that was both luxurious and centrally located within the city. I was so happy to find out that we had been booked into the W Montreal, an iconic brand that offers chic and modern designs and is known for their guest experience. 

The location was perfection, within walking distance to both Old Montreal and the shopping on Sainte-Catherine Street. We parked our car with the hotel and while we rarely had to use it, it was always quickly retrieved from the Valet when we needed it. The W Montreal was also the best of all worlds in terms of ambience and comfort; there was a nightly DJ in their gorgeous lobby with bartenders expertly crafting cocktails, but then you couldn't hear a peep once it was time to retire to your room. Perfection, especially since I'm very conscious of noise when I'm traveling! I also appreciated the fact that the in-hotel restaurant Tbsp. offered a delicious breakfast, as well as strong espresso-based coffee. 




Local Cafés

Montreal's independent café culture is vast, and expanding by the day! Every neighbourhood has a collection of independent coffee shops that are unique one to the next, and offer something a bit different. We were lucky enough to have a guided café and pastry tour of some notable cafés in and around Old Montreal. The tour was excellent, and a perfect way to start our trip as we learned a lot about the history of Old Montreal. For example, did you know that Montreal was once a fortified city? I thoroughly enjoyed our tour and had the best time sampling local coffee and pastries. Here are a few cafés that really stood out.

Crew Collective

Voted as one of the most beautiful cafés in the world, Crew Collective & Café inhabits the historic old premises of the Royal Bank of Canada. Built in the ‘30s, the breathtaking space with intricate vaulted ceilings and gold tones has been preserved and makes for a spectacular place to have a cup of coffee and get your Instagram shots. The details are unparalleled and I love how they repurposed old artifacts from when it was a working bank.

Olive & Gourmando

Open 7 days a week, Olive & Gourmando is a cozy bakery/grocery store/bistro that serves up tasty and delicious food for breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch. If you visit, you absolutely NEED to try their butter croissant. I was told that it was the best in Montreal, and I definitely agree. So good.        

Ssense

Located on the top floor of the SSENSE fashion building in Old Montréal, the SSENSE MONTRÉAL café is a cement-clad, minimalist space with a beautiful shadow show created by the long skylights in its ceiling. The modern design of this chic café is in beautiful juxtaposition to the historical architecture of Old Montreal

Tommy Café Old Montréal

Tommy Café + Apéro is a neighborhood coffee shop and bar. Established in Old Montreal, Tommy offers a wide selection of coffees, pastries, snacks and drinks — seven days a week. A balanced blend of modern design, mid-century furniture and Victorian architecture. I especially love the use of greenery in the space, and it's always bustling with people grabbing coffee to-go, or hanging out on the stairs outdoors.

Maison Christian Faure

A chic pastry shop-café-boutique where you can satisfy your sweet tooth or learn to make delicious treats during a workshop. Maison Christian Faure is very light and bright and the perfect location with water views. I enjoyed a canelé and Brian loved his macarons!









Where To Eat


Much like the local café scene, Montreal's independent culinary scene is absolutely electric and is growing by the year! Big-name chefs that call Montreal home and smaller indie restaurants line the streets of all of Montreal's neighbourhoods and the selection is so vast that it can be overwhelming! We thoroughly enjoyed all of our meals, here are a few of our faves.

Moleskine


I love a good neighbourhood pizza joint, and Moleskine fit the bill! Both casual and family-friendly, and with a more intimate wine-bar upstairs, Moleskine has it all. The pizza is also top notch, and would even make a good option to grab dinner to-go to enjoy in your hotel.

Sho-Dan Restaurant 


We had heard of Sho-Dan long before we had the opportunity to try it out, and it does not disappoint! Outstanding freshness, incredible artistry and a long list of celebrity guests throughout the years - including Ms. Britney Spears!

Monarque Restaurant


I have to say, our dinner experience at Monarque really stole the show and I thoroughly enjoyed our entire meal. The menu is curated to be enjoyed in 3 courses, and is an unforgettable mix of upscale presentation and soul-warming flavours. If you're in Montreal for an anniversary, a special celebration or just want a treat-yourself dinner, you'll love Monarque.

Mandy's Gourmet Salad


Whenever we had to grab a bite on the run, there was usually a Mandy's close by and the chopped salads are healthy, delicious and super convenient to eat on the run! Plus their interior and aesthetic is very whimsical and beautiful, I can't wait for their Toronto location to open up.

St.-Viateur Bagels


An absolute Montreal Classic, St-Viateur Bagels have been defining the art of bagel making since 1957. This is your quintessential, classic Montreal-style bagel and I am not exaggerating when I say that Brian and I brought 4 dozen home with us to Toronto to freeze. They're that good!






What To Do


There is so much to see and do in Montreal, that we barely made a dent on our list in 4 days! The beautiful thing about Montreal as a destination is that there is lots of variety for any sort of travel: family-friendly, the solo traveler, a girls getaway or time spent alone as a couple. Our trip was the latter, so here is what we most enjoyed getting up to in Montreal. 

Take A Bike Tour


I can't say enough good things about our bike tour through Montreal's North neighbourhoods with Fitz Tours. Seeing and learning about a side of Montreal that is not as easily recognized by tourists was incredible, and we learned a lot about the history of Montreal's communities and their continued evolution. My only piece of advice would be to take a bike or walking tour closer to the beginning of your trip; that way, you can map out places that you would like to visit or further explore on another day

Visit A Museum


There are many world-class museums in Montreal, and my favourite has to be Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA or MBAM.) Drawing over 1 million visitors annually, the MMFA is one of the most visited museums in North America. Its highly original temporary exhibitions combine various artistic disciplines – fine arts, music, film, fashion and design – and are exported to the four corners of the world. Brian and I really enjoyed their selection and were really excited to see a Basquiat, one of my favourite artists!

Hop On A Boat


We were lucky enough to also have a quick boat tour to learn more about Montreal from the water!
Le Petit Navire is an ultra-quiet, zero-pollution electric propulsion boat (carbon neutral certified) designed for ultimate touring. I thought this was a great way to spend a sunny afternoon, and also loved that you could enjoy a cold beverage onboard!






After 4 magical days, our trip to Montreal had come to and end. I so enjoyed this trip, and I feel so grateful that such an incredible destination is available to us in Canada. With the world the way it is, everyone's situation and comfort levels will be different when it comes to travel. No matter what the situation, I would encourage you to give Montreal a try! I can't wait to go back.

Have you been to Montreal? What places do you recommend to check out? Let me know!

xo Joëlle

This trip was taken in partnership with Montreal Tourism. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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