I was recently in Montreal with a well developed itinerary for my friends and I to get the most out of the city in our short time there. So if you are planning a trip anytime soon, try this-
Thursday- Day 1
Our trip involved a 9 hour drive, so we left at 8am and arrived in the city around 4:30- perfect time to check into our Airbnb and take in its beauty. Although there are many different accommodations in the city, we chose travel on the cheap and found an Airbnb in Plateau, a perfect neighbourhood that is accessible for transit, and close enough to grocery stores and attractions.
This evening we walked over to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant down the street from our apartment called Restaurant Les Belles Soeurs. It was small and cosy, with dim lighting, plants and art covering the walls.
After that, we walked over to La Distillerie No.2, which is also in the neighbourhood. It is one of three branches of this bar chain in the city. It has an industrial feel with exposed brick and hanging pipes. But we were there for the drinks- the bar is known for its litre sized cocktails. So find a table, and enjoy a very large mojito.
Friday- Day 2
This was my birthday, so today started with well wishes and gift giving. After this we found a retailer that sells transit cards, we purchased 3 day passes for 18$ that give you access to the metro and bus. Between construction and crazy city drivers I recommend looking into transit. We went for brunch at Restaurant L’avenue – a place on Avenue du Mont-Royal that is known for its brunch. They serve every meal with a plate of fruit. It was really busy so I recommend planning to wait a bit or going early. If you do visit L’avenue, make sure to stop in the bathroom- but don’t expect to touch up lipstick or hair- it probably won”t be very helpful.
We stopped across the street at Cacao 70 for a warm drink before heading up Mount Royal. Of course, we chose the easy way and took the bus up to the look out point, but you can also hike up. We still got a bit of a hike when we got off at the wrong bus stop and were forced to walk the road back to the lookout. But the views were great.
From here we rode the bus down the side of the hill to Rue St.Catherine for some shopping. Here you’ll find most retail stores like Forever 21, H&M, Sephora, and Zara. After purusing through the stores of interest we caught the bus to La Banquise for poutine- something Canada is known for, but is specifically native to Quebec. It is another small, but busy restaurant- so go early. The poutine here is SO GOOD- it is hard to find a good poutine gravy, and La Banquise has it. I had the Bacon Poutine, but you can explore with lots of options.
After dinner we walked home and had a rest before throwing a mini party at the apartment.
This evening we visited a few of the city’s bars, so I’ll give you a little review for each.
- Bily Kun, 354 Mont-Royal E, known for it’s live jazz happy hours and a great speak easy vibe. The walls are lined with ostrich heads and they serve various Czech beers.
- Newspeak, 1403 Rue Sainte Élisabeth, a bit scary to approach, as you’ll find yourself in a dead alley way. However, inside you will find a new bar which is prided for being packed with live DJs and bands.
- Stereo Bar, 856 Rue St Catherine E, literally in a basement. It is quite dark and mysterious, but inside you’ll find a really modern club with black lights and neon paint across the walls.
- Unity Bar, 1171 St Catherine St E, by far my favourite stop of the evening. It is a great place to dance and hear music you’ll know. Especially if you are a person who prefers pop/throwbacks to EDM.
From the club we ubered home- an easy way to get home when you just don’t feel like finding the bus at 2am.
Saturday- Day 3
Today was a day I was thoroughly excited for. We started off our day with bagels from Fairmount Bagel (which by the way, if you want butter on your bagel- bring it or prepare to buy a full tub).
We enjoyed our bagels in front of the building and then caught our bus to Old Montreal. Old Montreal is the best example of the European feel that Quebec has. It has old buildings, the Notre Dame Basilica and cobblestone streets. We started at Tommy, a magnificent cafe that has plants hanging from the ceilings and serves really aesthetically pleasing lattes.
We walked up and through the Notre-Dame Basilica– which is 6$ for entry (cash only) so come prepared! Inside is a beautiful church where Celine Dion was married. After paying my respects to my Quebecois Queen we ventured on.
We walked through the streets, stopping along the way for candy, chocolate and any other treat we could find.
right along the streets of old Montreal is the old port on the St.Lawerence River. From here you can walk along and view the ships, the Expo67 location and look back at the city skyline. It was getting really cold so we walked back through the city to find our next cafe, which is housed inside of the Old Royal Bank. Crew Collective Cafe is a really cool cafe with chandeliers and work rooms in old bank tellers booths. It was really busy inside (a common theme in the city) so seating was impossible.
We walked back to the basilica to catch our bus, from there we went for dinner at the famous Schwartz Deli, a restaurant that serves smoked meat sandwiches. Nestled in between bars on the busy street of St.Laurent Boulevard, this busy restaurant is often paired with a line out the door- but it is worth the wait. In under 20 minutes you will be faced with a large sandwich with coleslaw, fries and a pickle (at your request [I recommend you get them all]).
Sunday- Day 4
Today we were getting ready to go, so after spending the evening packing and cleaning our apartment. This morning we were up early to pack the car and find breakfast. At the end of our street called Croissant Croissant. It is a beautiful little cafe that serves various croissants (obviously) on pretty wooden boards with coffee.
After this we hopped in the car and drove across the city to go to a spa. But three words- so. much. construction. We found parking after being rerouted around the city about 5 times. Once again, if you thought you could drive through the city- you are wrong. We decided to end our weekend with a bang by enjoying a morning at Bota Bota. Which, technically has no land to park on- as it is literally a boat. So we found daily parking for 18$ nearby. and walked along the port to the spa. We did the water circuit, which gives you access to thermal baths, cold baths ( go all in!), steam bathes and saunas. the website recommends that you do a cycle of sauna/steam room, cold bath, thermal bath or relaxation and do this a few times. I have literally never been so relaxed, the spa is silent so for three hours you are left to relax, look out the port holes at the city and just decompress. I was so relaxed after my three hours here that the drive home (in the rain, with construction) seemed like nothing.
I recommend trying a combination of one or all of these things in your time in Montreal for the ultimate exploration/gastronomical/relaxation weekend.