Montréal is a metropolis that sits at the crossroads of the English and French-speaking worlds, a little bit Paris and a little bit New York City, but mostly it’s a mix of edgy, delicious, and fun. It’s a city for indulging, whether gobbling up delectable traditional French foods or diving into the city’s innovative new spots. Here’s what to do when you go.
Located in Old Montréal along a cobblestone street, Hotel Gault is housed in a historic 19th-century building. The 30 rooms here all have a minimalistic design while retaining comfort. The best rooms for those seeking that Old World fantasy are the corner rooms which come with a balcony to enjoy the croissant picked up at Olive et Gourmando around the corner.
Known by most locals for its fantastic rooftop terrace with a view over the river and for its luxury spa, this contemporary hotel offers stylish and sleek modern rooms inside its 18th-century historic edifice. The spacious multi-level lobby is also perfect for those seeking a quiet corner to work remotely during the day.
You can’t go to Montréal without trying French food, which some would argue is better here than in France itself. A stalwart that has been serving up classic dishes since 1980, L’Express is one of the best options for a bistro experience. With traditional items like escargot and foie gras terrine on the menu and a zinc-topped bar, checkered floor, and white tablecloths, you could swear you’re in Paris. Except L’Express is also famous for its friendly waiters.
On long, caramel-colored, leather banquettes beneath globes hanging from chic Calder-esque chandeliers is where those seeking a chic brunch in the Old Port find themselves. But Dandy, a relative newcomer to Montréal’s oldest quarters, isn’t just about its warm fetching decor. The food is decadent without being heavy–fluffy ricotta pancakes with maple brown butter and lemon cream or sourdough toast smeared with miso butter and smothered in sauteed mushrooms, leeks, and fried eggs.
Nobody can tell you what Boxermans will be serving you on your next visit–the menu changes every week. But the whims of Boxermans’ chef Sean Murray Smith are not only delightful, the whole mantra of this restrained yet elegant Outremont eatery is exciting cuisine you’d usually find in a fine dining spot but done in a casual and accessible manner.
On those blustery Montréal winter nights, few things are better than a stiff drink in an elegant bar and it doesn’t get more elegant than the Ceylon satinwood paneled walls of Bar George. The bar is found in the former mansion of a Québécois banking tycoon turned gentlemen’s club turned hotel. While ensconced beneath its stained glass windows and chandeliers, order up classic drinks like an Old Fashioned or a martini (which is probably one of the best in Montréal).
Being a tourist in Montréal means leaning into all things Francophone, and nothing says French like wine. Buvette Chez Simone can be found in the shadow of the hill that gives Montréal its name and serves an impressive list of local and international wines. If you get hungry, their menu offers the option to build your charcuterie board, which is an ideal way to try meat and cheese from Quebec.
The iconic Montréal online fashion retailer’s only flagship store is located in Old Montréal. The space is a study in contrasts. On the outside, it’s a preserved five-story historic building in a lively neighborhood but inside is a cold brutalist interior where you could hear a pin drop. The store has an array of luxury goods such as you would find online, but personal shopper experiences are also offered via appointment.
Moshe Safdie has designed world-famous hotels, airports, museums, and opera houses but his legendary career all started here with this housing complex originally built for the 1967 World’s Fair. The complex is a staggering array of stacked concrete box apartments worthy of a visit for any architectural history buff.
While Musée des Beaux Art is a classic tourist stop, less well known by visitors but beloved by art fanatics in Montréal is the Foundation PHI. It’s housed in a beautiful stripped-down neoclassical building in the Old Port. The museum’s ethos is centered on making contemporary art accessible, whether that be with exhibitions on big names like Yayoi Kusama or group shows gathering lesser-known up-and-coming artists.
Montréal is one of the most walkable cities in the Americas and is also famed for its partying, so you might find yourself needing a bit of a break. One of the best places to relax in the city is this spa on the Saint Lawrence River. It offers a variety of treatments and a complete water circuit composed of a sauna, steam bath, and cold bath all while having an amazing view because it’s on a pier out on the river.
This old industrial neighborhood has seen its fair share of change over the last decades and has become Montréal’s number spot for new restaurants, cafés, and cool shops. The best way to start is to walk down Rue Notre-Dame Ouest and your first stop should be the September Cafe, which serves Montréal’s best breakfast sandwich on a brioche bun with the friendliest of service. Further along, the street is Arthur Nosh Bar, a traditional Jewish deli with a divine latke smorgasbord but some less traditional items like impossibly fluffy pancakes. After filling up, stop at an underground antique store called Marché Underground that sells vintage everything, from furniture to vinyl to clothes. For fresh produce and delicacies from local farmers, pop into the Art Deco Marché Atwater, which opened in 1933. Grab a couple of snacks for a picnic on the Lachine Canal right next door. After a day of strolling, finish with freshly made pasta at the atmospheric candle-lit Italian restaurant BarBara. Make sure to get their espresso martini, although be careful, they’re dangerously good.
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