City Guide: Montreal
Montreal is a great getaway town—a couple of days are enough time to see the Old City and some of the cool neighborhoods, hike through the Mt. Royal park, and hit a lot of great restaurants and bars. We find it best to arrive late afternoon, giving ourselves an introduction to the city in the early evening rather than the bright light of day. Then, after quickly dumping our bags at the hotel, the eating and drinking can commence (what else is new?).
Montreal Rules to Stay
- The best hotel options are in Old Montreal. They’re not the easiest to get to (because there always seems to be an event in the city), but Old City is actually a great central location to walk to the cool neighborhoods and up to the park. Old Montreal has a touristy vibe, so it doesn’t take more than a few hours to walk and look around.
Our favorite hotels (somewhat in order) include:
- Hôtel Place d’Armes: A bigger property, but has a great rooftop to see the city, and its location is right by the Notre-Dame Basilica, which is magical at night.
- Hotel St. Paul: Located right on Rue McGill, which is the border of Old Montreal, this hotel has a bit easier access and is a good all-around choice for a boutique hotel.
- Hôtel Nelligan: The sister property to Le Place d’Armes, in the heart of Old Montreal. A little more comfortably worn, and also has a great rooftop overlooking the Old City.
- Hôtel Le St. James: If your style is more traditional and you want high-touch, old-school service, this is the place for you.
- Hotel Gault: Trying to be a bit more cool and hip, but some of the rooms are spacious and use the old bones of the building well.
- Le Petit Hôtel: In the same category as Hotel Gault.
- If you want to stay downtown (although we’re not sure why you would), Le Germain Hotel Montreal is the choice over the multitude of chain options.
Montreal Rules for Day
- Get up Early: If you didn’t walk Old Montreal the night before, it’s a good place to start. Wander through the city early to see what it looks like before it wakes up, and head to Olive & Gourmando for a breakfast sandwich to die for when it opens at 9:00 a.m.
- Go to the Top: Head to the Royal Park, which has the highest point in the city. Lots of climbing options, some more challenging than others.
- Reward Yourself: Montreal, especially the Mile End neighborhood, is known for its delis (try Arthurs for new spins on Jewish fare) and bagel places. Most people will pit Viateur against Fairmount for bagels. Our verdict is St. Viateur by a mile (pun intended). Café Bazin is an acclaimed must-stop for French pastries, too, because when in Montreal…
- Don’t Neglect Lunch:
- Larry’s (the Mile End sister property to the more-known Lawrence restaurant) has a great open storefront and creative menu.
- Moleskine is closer to downtown and has a great downstairs pizza menu, or the option of a creative upstairs menu. It also has a fantastic open storefront—perfect when the weather is nice.
- L’Express is a bit more known in Mile End on Rue St. Denis, and you can’t go wrong if you like French-inspired food.
- Campo is a newer chicken place from the folks behind well-known Portuguese restaurant Ferreira.
- Spend the Afternoon Wandering: If you haven’t had a chance to discover the growing areas of Griffintown and Little Burgundy, there are some great places to explore. The streets of Blvd St. Laurent and Rue St. Denis are great to wander. Parc la Fontaine is not quite as grand as Mt. Royal’s surrounding parklands, but it’s bigger than a pocket park and a great place to stop for a cup of coffee. Or head back to your hotel for a short nap before the evening eating and drinking begins.
Montreal Rules for Night
- Check the Hours: Like France, the hours and days open vary. Check before you go.
- Start with Drinks: The Hôtel Place d’Armes or Hôtel Nelligan are always great options. Another good spot for a pre-dinner cocktail is Philémon Bar in Old Montreal, which has a direct connection to the street activity going by on Rue St. Paul.
- Make a Reservation, or Grab a Bar Stool: Try starting at Foxy, a newer restaurant from the team behind Olive & Gourmando (remember your breakfast sandwich?) in the Griffintown/Little Burgundy neighborhood. A perfect first-night stop, especially if you can’t get into Joe Beef, Mon Lapin or Liverpool House (all sister restaurants, all fantastic). Reservations are a great idea if you can; walk-ins on high-demand nights can be tough.
- Have a Backup Plan: Try of the handful of great restaurants within a short walk of Old Montreal, which looks great at night. One of the best first impressions of the city’s dining scene is Le Bremner, which is a great walk down Rue St. Paul.
- Know You Have Options: Below are the reasons to be in town for more than one night, or to plan a great progressive.
- Montréal Plaza
- Manitoba (especially the back patio)
- Le Fantome
- Lili Co. (closed more often than open)
- Mimi la Nuit (check hours here, too)
- Le Petit Mousso (new neighborhood-y wine spot with intense takes on bar food)
- Nora Gray
- Elena (new from the Nora Gray team and more casual)
- Le Filet (great front patio and bar seating)
Montreal Exit Strategy
Opt for a late afternoon flight: It gives you a change for a last brunch or lunch—we rec another sop at Olive & Gourmando, Lili Co., or Le Vin Papillon—also part of the Joe Beef family. It’s more wine-bar-focused, with creative and fun small plates from a chalkboard menu.
Au revoir, and bon appétit.