Montreal is an amazing city which manages to mix Canadian and European influences to create a bohemian city which cherishes its past while constantly innovating. While it is a big city, it has a laid back vibe to it which helps you to forget it is the fifth-largest French-speaking city in the world.
If you are a foodie, Montreal is a great holiday destination for you. As a French colony, they have a passion for good quality food. You will find some French and Canadian staple dishes, as well as an eclectic mix of international cuisines. Be sure to stop by food markets like Atwater Market for fresh produce and little food stalls. Another great way to taste what the city has to offer is to book a food tour of the city. Find a local gastronomic guide to ensure you don’t miss out on some of the most iconic foods, or little local gems.
When eating out, be sure to try some of the international restaurants, Montreal celebrates new flavours and combinations. If you’re after new flavours but a fine dining atmosphere, then head to Damas, a Syrian restaurant that serves flavoured hummus, their take on steak tartare, lamb, and rosewater ice cream. If you are looking for a fancy date night or celebrating a special occasion then you must go to Nora Gray for upscale French bistro-style food paired with French and Italian wines. There are dishes like poached lobster, deer tartare, and goats cheese tortellini on this delicious menu. It can be difficult to get a reservation here, so be sure to book as far in advance as possible.
Burn off all the gastronomic delights by wandering around the Old Town. Much of the original architecture is still in place from the 17th Century. A lot of the shops are geared to tourists, but there are still some little cafes and restaurants tucked away off the main streets, waiting for only the most thorough of explorers to discover them. Rue des Récollets and Rue Sainte-Hélène are the places to go to see houses that date back to when Montreal was founded. The Old Town is home to the Basilica of Notre Dame and a few museums that are great for educational rainy days. If you’re a little short on time, then cycle the cobblestone streets, Montreal is a really safe city to cycle around, and it means you can tick off the Old Town and Parc Jean Drapeau.
Docked on the St. Lawrence River is another testament to Montreal’s luxe take on innovation and quirkiness. Bota Bota is a historic ferry which has been turned into a floating spa complete with hydrotherapy circuits, saunas, and massage and beauty treatment packages. They even offer yoga classes on the deck. The movement of the waves under the boat add to the relaxing atmosphere, and while it embraces its unique location, Bota Bota feels like any other spa. If you are in Montreal in the winter, the opportunity to see the icy lake from one of the portholes in a treatment room is not to be missed.
Montreal’s seasons are very distinct, with cold, snowy winters and hot, humid summers. It is a great destination, no matter the time of year, depending on the purpose of your trip. Spring and autumn can still be very cold, so be sure to pack layers.
Montreal is in French Canada, so French and English are the main languages spoken here. While most locals in Montreal are bilingual, there are some people who only speak French, so learning a few basic phrases wouldn’t hurt.
VOYA’S FAVOURITE PLACES TO VISIT INCLUDE
Cabaret Mado is the best place to go for a fun night out. It is a colourful, bawdy, extravaganza of drag comedy cabaret. Expect singing, dancing, comedy, stunning costumes, and the occasional guest appearance of a Ru Paul’s Drag Race star. The festivities are largely in French with a little bit of English. If you ask nicely enough, the Madame will translate for you.
If you’re feeling a little active, then head to Mount Royal Park. There are plenty of walking and cycling paths, and there are great views over the city. It is a popular place where locals go to escape the city and picnic by the shore of the lake.
VOYA'S FAVOURITE PLACES TO STAY INCLUDE
Le Petit Hotel is located in the middle of Old Montreal. As the name suggests, it is a boutique 28 room hotel with a minimalistic but artsy feel to it. Think exposed brick, wooden and leather furniture with a pop of colour. Guests can use the gym across the road at sister property Hotel Nelligan or rent one of the free bikes to explore the city.
Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth is an iconic landmark of Montreal. It is the hotel where John Lennon wrote Give Peace a Chance and where he and Yoko Ono did their famous Bed-In. It delivers all of the sleeknesses of a Fairmont with a 1960s twist to stay true to its era. Don’t miss the spa-like indoor pool.
VOYA'S FAVOURITE DISHES TO TRY
One of Montreal’s most iconic foods is a smoked meat sandwich. It is basically smoked brisket layered on rye bread with some mustard. While it is not exactly a life-changing dish, it is extremely tasty, and everyone you meet will ask you if you have tried one. Schwartz Deli or Main Deli are the best places to try a smoked meat sandwich.
If you fancy a burger then make sure you stop off at Dic Ann’s Burger, they do a pressed burger which even though it is just a burger which has been flattened, is somehow better than regular burgers. They have a signature sauce which they drown the burgers in, and they even have poutine on the menu so you can try another famous Canadian food at the same time.