I haven’t fallen in love with a city so instantly like I did Montreal in a long, long time. It was truly love at first sight and during my visit in late October, I knew one thing for sure: I can’t wait to go back!
Nestled in the province of Quebec, Montreal still feels very French – particularly Old Montreal – and has so much to offer in regards to art, food, culture and outdoor spaces. We were amazed to learn the city hosts more than 200 festivals every year and we delighted in the friendliness of the people and the walkability of the various neighborhoods.
Throughout our short stay my friend and I found ourselves plotting a return in the summer when we can enjoy the various outdoor parks and plazas and sidewalk dining options we just missed during our Fall arrival.
Read on for the best spots to explore, where to indulge in delicious dining and where to stay!
What to Do:
Jean-Talon Market: I always love visiting food markets when I visit a new city and this one is truly amazing! It is one of the oldest public markets in Montreal (and one of the largest public markets in all of North America!) and is a bustling place with so much more than fruits and vegetables. Shopkeepers boast fish, flowers, spices, honey, cheese, meat and baked goods so bring your appetite and a basket as you’ll want to stay a while.
Au Sommet Place Ville Marie: This observation deck offering 360 views was a true highlight of our trip! I suggest going immediately upon arrival to Montreal as not only can you see the sprawling city from above but for the unique and interactive exhibit that it also offers. Even though due to weather we couldn’t see much we loved learning more about Montreal through the exhibit that told us about the city’s food scene, sports culture, history and so much more. Definitely make this a part of your trip!
Mural Mania: Montreal has no shortage of public art and throughout various neighborhoods you can spot incredible murals. Many of these were created part of the city’s Mural Festival and it’s like experiencing an open-air museum when you walk the streets. Take yourself on a self-guided tour and be delighted by these murals that have so much personality!
Notre-Dame Basilica: My mom told me I had to stop into this church and as soon as I walked inside, I knew why. Dating from the 1800s, this cathedral is the crown jewel of the city and is worth the few dollars charged for entry.
Where to Eat:
Oh my god the food in this city!! I think I gained 10lbs in my short stay because there was no shortage of delicious offerings. The meals we had were so good and one in particular was one of the best I’ve ever had. Prepare to drool.
Maison Christian Faure: This place had me imagining I was truly back in Paris! We popped in early on our last morning for a pre-brunch snack (ha!) because we didn’t want to miss experiencing it. The chocolate almond croissant? Life changing. It was so good I bought another croissant to eat the next morning in my New York apartment when I knew I’d already be missing this city! We sat next to a table that ordered brunch and I’d highly recommend doing that as it looked divine.
La Recolte Espace Locale: Don’t let this place fool you with its simple menu hand written on a chalkboard adorning one of the walls in the small eatery. The food is hearty and truly memorable. The homemade pierogis came adorned with bacon, egg and greens and every bite was better than the last. Their food is local and organic and prepared with a farm-to-table philosophy and even their decor uses many recycled materials!
La Banquise: When in Canada…poutine! Several people recommended this famed 24 hour eatery that offers dozens of types of poutine. This was only my second time eating Poutine and it surely doesn’t disappoint. Ours came topped with guacamole, tomato and sour cream but I think I’ll stick to the original next time. This place was hopping late night and we loved how much character it had.
Modavie: We liked this place so much we went twice during our short trip! A short stroll from our hotel, this place is airy and bright yet cozy at the same time. The food was so comforting and the croque monsiur incredible. They have an extensive wine menu and super friendly service.
Provisions: This was hands down one of the best meals I have ever had. Not only was the food outstanding, the service was impeccable and the setting elegant yet charming. With no set menu, you sit down wondering what will await you and for 5 courses we could not get enough of how good everything was. There was homemade brioche, ricotta gnocchi with pork shank and mushrooms and butternut squash. There was tuna crudo with pickled vegetables and chicken liver on the softest, fluffiest slices of toast. Everything was so artfully thought out and beautifully presented that I am willing another opportunity to return here. Be sure to make a reservation!
SeaSalt & Ceviche: This new spot feels more Montauk than Montreal, but we loved the vibe and enjoyed a pre-dinner drink at the bar here where got to enjoy watching the day’s ceviche being hand-prepared with fresh ingredients.
Where to Stay:
Epik Hotel: This boutique hotel is right in the heart of Old Montreal on one of the most charming streets running through the neighborhood. With original stonework, the rooms perfectly marry cozy (wooden beams and fireplaces!) and modern amenities and the staff could not have been more lovely. They were always ready to offer a freshly made latte or call a cab. I loved this hotel so much and would stay there again on my next visit! Highly, highly recommend.
p.s. 36 hours in Dublin and 72 hours in Bordeaux.
[All photography by Meghan Donovan]