Escapism TO
Menu Search

The must-try places to eat and experience in Montreal

In lieu of a Euro vacation, we embark on the next best thing — a trip to Canada's foodie city. Here is everything you must see, do and fill your face with in Montreal. 

Ahhh, Montreal. Canada’s answer to a European-like city with its winding staircases spilling out of colourful row houses, uneven cobblestoned streets and a food scene that, dare I say, is perhaps the best in the country. Like Tucson, Arizona or the seaside towns scattered along England's Kent coast, Montreal is a foodie city at heart.

Montreal’s culinary joie de vivre includes indulgent foie gras poutine, what-you-see-is-what-you-get greasy bags of smoked meat sandwiches and hand-rolled, honey-poached bagels fire-roasted before your eyes. Beyond Montreal's iconic bagels, you’re going to need a clipboard, headset and a bottle of TUMS to coordinate a tasting at every top Montreal restaurant in one visit. We tried and failed — there are simply too many. A trip will never feel truly complete and that’s what keeps us coming back to this city of boroughs — and why we created this list of the best things to do and eat in Montreal. 

An island on the roaring St. Lawrence River, Montreal is made up of dozens of these boroughs (with somewhat affordable housing, ahem, Toronto) that were once independent cities: the bohemian Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, the charming Verdun, the legendary Ville-Marie. Each one with its own distinct characteristics, architecture and residents made up of both locals and large immigrant populations.

From the Gothic Revival Notre-Dame Basilica to the contemporary ‘vertical community’ inside the recently opened Humaniti Hotel, Montreal straddles old and new, the enduring with the audacious. After all, it was the first North American city to be named a UNESCO City of Design. Unlike a lot of heads-down-phone-out metropolitan cities, Montreal has a two-cheek-kiss, open energy about it where art, culture, food and green spaces all come together like a well-executed pâté en croûte.

Best places to eat and drink in Montreal 

Terrasse Place D’Armes

There’s something quite extraordinary about seeing a new city from a rooftop terrace, and Terrasse Place D’Armes does views better than Drake. Just walk two minutes from the Notre-Dame Basilica, and you’re sipping a raspberry mojito (a house-speciality) on top of the rather stately Place D’Armes Hotel with a birds-eye view of the downtown square. The terrace is partially covered, so you’re good if there’s a little drizzle (I swear that’s not another Drake joke), and can still take in the sunset. Hungry? Order their burger with smoked gouda and maple syrup mayonnaise.

terrasseplacedarmes.com

L’Express

View on Instagram

A meal at L’Express will leave you with hazy memories of an evening travelling back in time to 1950s Paris with its narrow dining room, checkerboard floors, walls dressed in dark mahogany and a shiny zinc bartop. More monument than restaurant, L’Express is a fixture in Montreal’s culinary landscape and legacy. The menu of French bistro classics like chicken liver pâté with pistachios, croque monsieur and confit duck leg has remained virtually unchanged since it opened in 1980.

restaurantlexpress.com

Arthurs Nosh Bar

View on Instagram

After you’ve picked up fresh, chewy bagels from St-Viateur and Fairmount, head to Arthurs Nosh Bar where they incorporate their love for the Montreal bagel into a menu of reimagined Jewish classics that have puffy-eyed locals lining up before 9 a.m. The classic bagel breakfast sandwich with house-smoked salmon, cream cheese, pickled onions and more could make even the most dedicated night owl spring out of bed.

arthursmtl.com

La Buvette Chez Simone

View on Instagram

In the Mile End neighbourhood (nicknamed the Williamsburg of Montreal), La Buvette Chez Simone’s vine-covered terrace greets you, while an industrial-cool indoor dining area pulls you in for “just one more glass” of natural vino. Light fixtures dangling from exposed wires cast a dim glow on the chalkboard wine list — each glass pairs exceptionally well with a build-your-own charcuterie board. Choose from a list of fine Quebec cheese served alongside nuts, house-cured meat and selections from the sea, or ask your server to surprise you. Save room for their famous cod fritters and rotisserie chicken.

facebook.com/BuvetteChezSimone

Pastel

View on Instagram

The light-pink linen tablecloths inside Pastel may be pressed stiff, but its tasting menus breathe new life into the fine dining world. Thankfully the chefs and owners didn't listen when it came to not playing with their food because Pastel is full of playful, artsy fun and exceptional dishes that are just as captivating — for the eyes and the tongue. This is definitely a special treat meal with their seasonal six- or ten-course tasting menus. 

restopastel.com

Things to do in Montreal 

Jean-Talon Market

A trip to Little Italy’s Jean-Talon Market is a must for any visiting foodie. The open-air public market (one of North America’s largest) was established in 1933 and notable chefs, hungry tourists and locals have been flocking to its vibrant stalls and diverse merchants ever since.

Open all year round, the produce and the offerings change with the seasons, but the atmosphere is always electric. From butchers cleaving meat to fishmongers weighing the daily catch, there’s a plethora of local vendors who are always at the ready with recommendations or recipes to help you on your way.

marchespublics-mtl.com

Bota Bota, spa-sur-l'eau

View on Instagram

Bota Bota is a floating spa, and we're not referring to some new-age-Gwyneth-Paltrow-endorsed floating treatment — the entire spa itself is floating because it’s on a freaking boat. An historic river ferry in Montreal’s Old Port was transformed into an upscale boat spa complete with riverside lounge decks, the regionally-inspired restaurant La Traversée and a top-level hot tub looking over the city. There’s also a bridge on the side of the boat leading to a series of hydrotherapy pools surrounded by gardens. 

botabota.ca

La Grande Roue de Montreal

View on Instagram

Sure you can exert yourself and climb the small mountain of Mount Royal, but there is another, way more fun way to see the city. At the Old Port of Montreal, La Grande Roue de Montréal is Canada's tallest ferris wheel, where you can catch epic views of the city from 20 stories in the air. The gondolas allow for 360-degree panorama viewing and each ones has a glass floor.

lagranderouedemontreal.com

Where to stay in Montreal 

Humaniti Hotel Montreal

Put on some fancy pants (the ones with the deep pockets) because the newly opened Humaniti Hotel Montreal is très spectacular. Just steps from Old Montreal, the modern, fascinating Humaniti is a treat for the senses. The bold, H-shaped building is an architectural and geometric feat where home, play and health all co-exist in a gorgeous, state-of-the-art vertical community. Get in some reps at the rooftop pool or two-level fitness facility, indulge at restaurant h3 and do absolutely nothing at all in their sprawling urban spa.

humanitimontreal.com

Loading