Canada’s second city offers a taste of France closer to home.
Arriving on a Friday evening affords the opportunity to quickly and gently acclimate yourself to the particular culture of Montreal. Around twilight, head to Old Montreal for a stroll through its historic streets and narrow passages and enjoy the beautiful lighting of the old buildings. You’ll feel like you were much farther from home than just a few hours out of Boston. Grab a copy of the Montreal Gazette or one of the English language weeklies to find a restaurant or wine bar that appeals to you in Old Montreal, then take a relaxing stroll or cab ride back to your hotel.
Depending on your personal hankering and where you wake up, opt for breakfast at Fairmount Bagels (www.fairmountbagel.com) for a taste of real tradition; or enjoy the famous Eggs Benedict at L’Avenue or crepes at a convenient Chez Cora (www.chezcora.com) location. Walk that breakfast off or bike or taxi up to Mont Royal Summit to orient yourself to the lay of the land from atop the city’s beautiful, impeccably designed hilltop park. Then head back to Old Montreal and enjoy the things that had been closed the previous night like the Point Calliere Museum (www.pacmusee.qc.ca) and Notre Dame Basilica (www.basiliquenddm.org), and a host of unique shops and cafes.
Enjoy lunch in Old Montreal on a café patio, take in the sights and you’ll look and feel like a local. After lunch, it’s time for the tour to continue at Montreal Olympic Stadium (www.rio.gouv.qc.ca), the Montreal Biodome (www.biodome.qc.ca) and the Montreal Botanical Garden (www2.ville.montreal.qc.ca/jardin). Even a casual art fan must also see the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (www.mbam.qc.ca). Around nightfall, head off to dinner and enjoy French cuisine at Les Deux Singes de Montarvie or sample unapologetically Canadian food at the famed Au Pied de Cochon (www.restaurantaupieddecochon.ca). After dark enjoy plentiful nightlife along Rue Crescent or Boulevard Saint-Laurent.
In inclement weather, take in the cultural sites you might have missed previously or visit Casino de Montreal (www.casinosduquebec.com/montreal) after breakfast on Sunday. Otherwise, enjoy splendid outdoor Montreal on Sunday with a self-guided tour on your own or a rented bicycle. Besides Mont Royal, scenic locations include Parc Lafontaine or Parc Jean-Drapeau for the closest beach park. Alternately, enjoy shopping along boulevard St-Laurent or Rue Sherbrooke before seeking inspiration for your final meal in Montreal from the very convenient RestoMontreal (www.restomontreal.ca).
Stay in Style
With its distinctive European environment, Montreal features all levels of accommodations, ranging from hostels to exquisite, world-class resort hotels, including these options.
Hotel Le Germain is situated in Montreal’s bustling downtown, and its 101 rooms and suites and the common areas are characterized by elements of loft living, with both Eastern and Western design flourishes. Comprehensive amenities for travelers of all stripes and designer accessories accentuate the hotel’s stylish nature. www.germainmontreal.com
Hotel Le St-James is part of Old Montreal history with the actual building dating back to 1870. High-end professional service, timeless elegance and décor all contribute to the historic hotel’s renown. The hotel’s Le Spa pampers guests already delighting in its distinctive nature. www.hotellestjames.com
W Montreal brought an instant sense of hip when it opened and was winner of Conde Nast Traveller UK’s coveted Best New Hotel award and a 2010 Fodor’s Choice distinction. W Montreal is hip and stylish and features room options ranging from “Cozy Room” to “extreme Wow Suite.” Amenities pamper business travelers and tourists, as does the AWAY Spa and W Montreal’s Ristorante Otto. www.starwoodhotels.com