City Guide : Montreal

Sometimes the best getaways are right in our own backyards. And with so many amazing Canadian destinations, you need not go far for a weekend away. There is no shortage of exciting travel experiences that are close to home. Recently my friends at Expedia.ca helped me plan the perfect long weekend trip to Montreal. 

When you are planning a weekend away, there's nothing like having an insider’s perspective of where to go and what to do. After all, part of the fun of travelling is finding the local gems – from restaurants to pop-up shops, to concerts and the latest exhibits at art galleries. I've rounded up my favourite experiences and finds in Montreal to help you plan an amazing trip. 

WHERE TO STAY

Montreal has a number of boutique hotels, from Hotel Le St-James, to Hôtel Oui Go! or the W Montreal. Expedia.ca makes it easy to check them all out here. We decided on the Renaissance Montreal Downtown. Recently renovated, its mix of eclectic artwork, modern furnishings and decor, and rooftop views stood out to us. And we ended up having a stellar stay there. The rooms are spacious, and both functional and fun, with awesome work spaces and details like in-room Nespresso machines and local artwork. The hotel too, has a vibrant atmosphere, from the playful lobby with DJs spinning tracks throughout the weekend to the rooftop with pool and panoramic view. The rain didn't hold us back on our first night there. We spent our time sipping sangria on the covered terrace taking in the scene and the sight-lines of the city below. But what we loved most was how helpful for their concierge-style staff, or "Navigators' are, offering their suggestions for the best local cafe, shop and tips on how to spend your time in town. 

WHERE TO SIP & SNACK

The local flavour in Montreal was definitely something I wanted to experience. With a long list of Insta-worthy food spots, it was impossible to get to them all. There are plenty of pizzerias in the city, but No. 900 was a favourite. Try the sausage and spicy pepper pizza, with fior de latte cheese, rapini, pesto and almonds. 

For brunch, head over to the neighbourhood of Saint-Henri to Arthurs. Raegan Steinberg and Alex Cohen, the owners of Back of House Catering opened this modern Jewish style nosh bar in the summer, paying homage to European classics like schnitzel, perogies, cabbage rolls, and smoked fish. The atmosphere is lively, and the wait well worth it. Foiegwa is a French diner in the same neighbourhood (with a back-alley speakeasy, Atwater Cocktail Club, behind it.) A new venture by Barroco Group (the owners of two Montreal hot spots, Barroco and Bocata) and a few others, its already stirring up quite the buzz. With it's cheeky name, dreamy interior (think white tiled walls, beautiful leather banquette seating) and perfect plating for each dish, I was sold. Try the homemade butter and black truffle spaghetti with egg and parmigiano-reggiano.

I was definitely drawn to neighbourhoods like Saint-Henri and Little Burgundy for food and drinks. It seems they are slowly experiencing the kind of revival we have seen in Hamilton with an artistic community and chefs opening up exciting culinary destinations here. 

Photo by Randall Brodeur

Photo by Randall Brodeur

WHERE TO shop

The shopping! From the local designers to independent boutiques, Montreal is a shopping dream. I love WANT Apothecary in Montreal's Westmount area. There is a neighbourly feel, with the shop tucked alongside independent grocers, florists and coffee shops. Well curated with clothing labels like Acne Studios, Tomorrowland, Filippa K, Maison Kitsuné and, of course, WANT Les Essentiels, you'll also find luxe beauty products including some of my favourites like perfume from Byredo and body-products by Grown Alchemist.

Ssense is always a must visit boutique when strolling around the Old Port. Housed in a beautiful historic building, the wares are on the higher end, with labels ranging from Saint Laurent to Vetements to Yeezy. In the Mile End, Boutique Unicorn stocks cool Canadian labels like Eve Gravel and Amanda Moss. L'intervalle is a Montreal based shoe label that I am obsessed with. Not only are they incredibly well made, but they are on trend and on point with prices. 

Where to Explore

From the cobblestone boulevards of historic Old Montreal, to the vibrancy of former industrial districts like Saint-Henri, Mile End and Little Burgundy, Montreal lives up to its nickname: La Belle Ville, the beautiful city. Whether you take in the current exhibits happening at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, or explore local galleries like Parisian Laundry or Arsenal –  a space known for both its architecture and the contemporary works it features – the city is immersed with creativity and culture.

And of course you'll want to experience the historical gems Montreal offers, like 17th-century Rue St-Paul and the beautiful 200-year-old Notre Dame basilica. Afterwards, stroll over to Tommy, a cozy neighbourhood coffee shop that serves up sandwiches and sweets in the setting of a stunning heritage building built in 1874. Or make afternoon plans for high tea at the Ritz Carlton Hotel

Thinking of visiting Montreal? You can find some amazing boutique hotels on Expedia.ca here, and their vacation packages here