The world’s largest French-speaking city after Paris, Montreal is well-known for offering Canadians a taste of European je-ne-sais-quoi without the transatlantic flight. While francophone culture is a major part of the city’s identity, modern Montreal is a mix of French, Scottish, Italian, Chinese and other diverse global influences.
It’s an eclectic city where classic bistros and centuries-old buildings fit seamlessly alongside hip bars, cool contemporary design and a youthful university community. While Montreal’s cultural offerings are rich, its compact size makes it possible to experience the city’s highlights in a few days. We get you started with our recommendations on what to do and where to eat in the City of Saints.
What to Do
As one of Canada’s oldest cities, Montreal has a sense of historic charm that you won’t find elsewhere. The best way to take this in is by visiting Old Montreal, located by the Saint Lawrence River. Remnants of Montreal’s French roots are here, dating back to the early 17th century. The district is famous for its cobblestone paths and town squares that are emblematic of a place with centuries of history. Start your stroll at the Old Port.
Not only do Montreal’s cityscapes set it apart in North America, but its inhabitants also exude a distinctive brand of confidence and style. Name your preference, and there’s a district for it – from budget hipster shopping on St. Laurent to the bohemian shops in the Plateau. The city’s up-and-coming boutique designers congregate around Avenue Laurier, and for all things vintage head to Avenue du Mont-Royal. The main commercial strips of Rue Sherbrooke and Rue Sainte-Catherine are both home to major international retailers and will keep you occupied for hours.
What to Eat and Drink
Before craft beer’s current vogue, Montreal’s independently-owned Dieu du Ciel! was pouring pints of imperial stouts and American IPAs. The brewery turns 20 this year and their brewpub is a must-experience hot spot for beer lovers. No pushovers here, Dieu du Ciel! has built a reputation for complex, layered beers throughout the years. They’ve made over 200 types of beer, but many rarely find their way on to store shelves outside the province. Start your visit with a flight. The staff working the counter are some of the nicest people you will meet in Montreal and they’ll gladly take you on a tour of the craft-brewed highlights.
Montreal Plaza, the latest restaurant from veteran Montreal chef Charles-Antoine Crête, is a modern French bistro – seen through a world lens. Small plates predominate here. It’s loud, super delicious and tons of fun. The bustling Jean-Talon market makes for a great snack stop. Start with a plate of oysters and cider, then move on to smoked meat sandwiches.
Where to Stay
With plenty of boutique hotels in Montreal, we can be picky about location. Hôtel Alt Montréal is situated in Griffintown, a quick cab ride from the train station. It’s walking distance to the old city and Chinatown, but off the main strip so you can sleep soundly. Alt’s contemporary design spans from lobby to room while keeping room rates affordable. Ease into your day with a visit to the excellent breakfast pastry bar.