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The Ultimate Getaway in Montreal

The Ultimate Getaway in Montreal

There’s an undeniable energy to Montreal, a French-speaking city (don’t worry; you’ll be fine using English) that seduces all the senses. Heaps of heritage underpin this idyllic island metropolis at the nexus of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers. While Montreal’s old-world architecture, modern gastronomy, urban street art, and mix of cultures ignite flickers of Paris and New York, Quebec’s largest city is in a class of its own. The months of May and June  are ideal to discover Montreal’s centuries-old history and dynamic atmosphere. This guide is all you need to be captivated by this sensational city.


Icons to discover

The cobblestone streets of Old Montreal. © Tourisme Montréal - Madore, Daphné Caron

Old Montreal: For an immersive experience in this cutting-edge city, first delve into its past in Old Montreal. Wander the cobblestone streets, where you'll instantly be drawn to sites like Pointe-?-Calli?re MuseumExternal Link Title and awestruck by AURA, an immersive multimedia experienceExternal Link Title at  landmark Notre-Dame BasilicaExternal Link Title, a Gothic-Revival stunner. Be sure to stop in for a snack at one of the area's atmospheric spots like Le Petit DepExternal Link Title, a quaint cafe and deli full of treats from local producers.

Place des Festivals
Place des Festivals features the largest array of animated interactive fountains in Canada. © Stéphan Poulin / Tourisme Montréal

Place des Festivals: Live entertainment and festivals galore are part of Montreal's DNA, and this award-winning community gathering place is its beating heart. Place des FestivalsExternal Link Title, recipient eight architecture and design awards since 2009, is in the Quartier des SpectaclesExternal Link Title, an area dedicated to urban entertainment. Every June, in the square, mingle with locals at the free outdoor concerts of Francos de Montr?alExternal Link Title and tease your ear with some of the best French-world music or attend the city's international jazz festivalExternal Link Title which kicks off at the end of the month. For a fun and unique activity, try 21 Balan?oires (21 Swings)External Link Title, a collaborative musical installation that invites people to make a melody as they swing.

Food markets: It's no secret that Montrealers are serious gastronomes -- Town & Country magazine previously named the city "the new food capital of North America." For a primer on the local food scene, eat and explore your way through the city's five public marketsExternal Link Title, like Atwater MarketExternal Link Title in up-and-coming Southwest boroughExternal Link Title, one of the largest flower market in Montr?al and a fantastic place to fill up on fresh, local discoveries. Venture beyond the market by foot to explore Saint-HenriExternal Link Title and GriffintownExternal Link Title, two neighborhoods known for their cool shops and caf?s where you'll find some of Canada's top restaurants like wine bar Le Vin PapillonExternal Link Title and its older sibling Joe BeefExternal Link Title, the inventive Italian cuisine of Nora GrayExternal Link Title, Foxy External Link Title(where everything is cooked in a wood oven) and the dynamic Arthur's Nosh BarExternal Link Title known for its delectable brunch. Still hungry? Take a food tourExternal Link Title to discover more of Montreal's culinary heritage.

Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel and Marguerite-Bourgeoys Museum: It's a rare occasion when you can climb up to the tower of a religious edifice. Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel's balconyExternal Link Title, open to the public, offers sweeping city viewsExternal Link Title. Who's that statue of a woman overlooking the chapel? It's the "lady" referenced in Leonard Cohen's song Suzanne. To get the lowdown about these fascinating monuments, join a tourExternal Link Title of the Marguerite-Bourgeoys museumExternal Link Title (reopening on May 8, 2020) , the 300-year-old chapel, and the archeological siteExternal Link Title below. Launching in 2020 is the new permanent exhibition Oser Marguerite celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Montreal pioneer who established New France's very first school and after whom the museum takes its name.


Drinking local

Cirka: Montreal's first craft distillery open to the public bottles the essence of Quebec's northern boreal forest in its handcrafted spirits. All CirkaExternal Link Title's products are made with non-GMO Quebec-grown corn, including Gin Sauvage (literally "wild gin"), which is infused with more than 30 botanicals, giving it heady pine, floral, and fruity notes. Tours are offered at this distilleryExternal Link Title near the Lachine Canal National Historic SiteExternal Link Title, plus you can learn how to create an original cocktail in its mixology classes.

4 Origines Microbrasserie: Settle into the taproom at 4 Origines MicrobrasserieExternal Link Title to sip its handcrafted beersExternal Link Title inspired by Montreal's heritage, such as C?t? Canal, a dry-hopped American session IPA (it's only 4.2% ABV), and Apriknot, a pale ale brewed with apricot tea. Peek at the production process through the taproomExternal Link Title windows, or go deeper and talk to the brewers when touring the operations. You won't find a restaurant at 4 Origines, but you're welcome to bring food for your own "brewery picnic" in the taproom or alongside the canal.

Cidrerie Michel Jodoin: Discover a different side of Quebec's imbibing culture at Cidrerie Michel JodoinExternal Link Title. This artisanal cider house is located in Rougemont, just 45 minutes from Montreal, where you can hike mountain trailsExternal Link Title overlooking apple orchards. Join a tour and tastingExternal Link Title of the cidrerie and distillery to discover a dozen traditionally-made ciders, from sparkling to still and ice to crackling, as well as apple-based spiritsExternal Link Title such as vermouth and eau de vie.


Dining out

Bar St-Denis: Settle in with the locals at this casual new bar and eatery; two of its owners are former chefs from Montreal's celebrated Au Pied de CochonExternal Link Title. Bar St-DenisExternal Link Title welcomes guests to unwind in the exposed-brick space with a cocktail or refreshing glass of Quebec cider. The kitchen is open until 1 a.m. so there's plenty of time to nibble through the small menu's superb bites like chicken croquettes (nuggets) and falafel, a nod to co-owner Emily Homsy's Egyptian roots.

Monarque: Father and son Richard and J?r?mie Bastien have had Montreal's gourmets salivating since they opened their new French restaurant. Four years in the making, the 1845 building has metamorphosed from old hotel into a showy space. MonarqueExternal Link Title's trio of rooms each has its own menu, where you can indulge on appetizers such as bone marrow or Burgundy snails in the brasserieExternal Link Title (bistro), tuck into grilled venison tartare and tarte tatin (tart with carmelized apples) in the salle ? mangerExternal Link Title (dining room), or opt for an intimate evening in the private dining roomExternal Link Title, which has its own kitchen.

New Gourmet Food Halls: To satisfy to the ever-growing appetite of the local culinary scene, three new gourmet food hallsExternal Link Title (think renowned chefs, three-service menus, and beautiful public gathering spaces) have recently opened downtown Montreal. At Le CentralExternal Link Title, culinary creativity and multiculturalism is the word. There, icons from the city's gastronomic scene rub shoulders with up and coming restaurateurs. For a festive social experience, head to Place Ville Marie's brand new indoor garden and glass pavilion, home to Le Cathcart Restaurants et BiergartenExternal Link Title. Described as a "a collaboration of restaurants" by acclaimed Chef Antonio Park, this social space is a local hot spot for drinks and delicious eats, from high-end to fast-casual dining. Time Out Market Montr?alExternal Link Title, parent with the popular Time Out Markets in Lisbon, Miami, New York, Boston and Chicago, brings together 16 eateries, three bars, a demo kitchen, and a cooking academy under one roof at the Eaton CentreExternal Link Title. This foodie destination has been carefully curated by the editors of Time Out MagazineExternal Link Title and promises to show you the best of the city from food to culture.

Marcus Restaurant + Terrace: One of the best spots to catch the sunset overlooking the city's iconic Mount Royal, is the expansive outdoor patio at Marcus Restaurant + TerraceExternal Link Title in the Four Seasons Montreal. This elegant restaurant by Marcus SamuelsonExternal Link Title, Swedish Ethiopian chef and restaurateur who calls New York home, specializes in luxury surf and turf. Here, expect stackable seafood towers, to hand-crafted cocktails and amazing wines, for a dining experience you won't forget.


Explore outdoors

Beaver Lake in Mount Royal Park. © Sid Che

Mount Royal Park: Public art, religious monuments, historic landmarks, and urban wilderness all make Mount Royal ParkExternal Link Title a magnet for locals and visitors alike. This 470-acre urban retreat has wooded paths for cycling and hikingExternal Link Title, and jaw-dropping panoramas of the cityscape and St. Lawrence River. Stroll through an area called the Glades to see 11 sculpturesExternal Link Title gracing the lush landscape facing Smith HouseExternal Link Title (peek inside to see its exhibits). Go back even further in time by discovering landmarks like the 98-foot Mount Royal CrossExternal Link Title. It was raised in 1924 in homage to the original wooden structure placed 1643 by Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve, a French missionary and co-founder of Montreal.

Cité mémoire features baseball legend Robinson, who in 1947 became the first African-American to play in the major leagues. He played the 1946 season with the Montreal Royals. © Eva Blue

Cit? M?moire: When dusk descends on Montreal's streets, buildings surrounding Champ-de-Mars (a public green space) become the screens for Cit? M?moire's Grand TableauExternal Link Title, one of the productions put on throughout the city by Montr?al en HistoiresExternal Link Title. On weekends, massive projectors display 375 years of Montreal milestones like the 1680-1750 Beaver Rebellion and colorful characters such as hockey legend Maurice "Rocket" Richard. Amplify the experience by downloading Montr?al en Histoires' interactive appExternal Link Title, choosing your walking route, connecting to the city's free wifi, and taking a visual stroll back in time.

Old Montr?al and the Old Port: Cobblestone streets, iconic architecture, and non-stop action in the heart of the city, welcome to Old Montr?alExternal Link Title, a district that blends centuries of history with modernity. For spectacular views of the city, take a ride on La Grande Roue de Montr?alExternal Link Title, Canada's tallest observation wheel or "fly" over Bonsecours Island with MTL ZiplineExternal Link Title.  If you prefer to keep both feet on the ground, wander through the 19th century buildings,boutiques, designer shops, galleries, and studiosExternal Link Title of Saint-Paul Street, which once was Montr?al's main street. A stop a March? Bonsecours one of Canada's finest heritage buildings and a bustling marketplace that showcases Qu?bec artistsExternal Link Title, is also a must for those looking to bring home something that can't be found anywhere else.


Shop local

Betina Lou: This eponymous Montreal-based brand founded in 2009 focuses on creating timeless essentials like sweaters made with fine wool. Betina LouExternal Link Title's collection is sold in its workshop-boutiqueExternal Link Title, which also offers the gamut of Canadian-designed goods from socksExternal Link Title and undies in punchy colors and versatile kimono jackets for women, plus pants and shortsExternal Link Title for menExternal Link Title, home goods, and more.

Maison Pepin: Siblings Lysanne and Patrick Pepin curate the best of fashion, home, and art, with a strong focus on Canadian talent, at Maison PepinExternal Link Title. Whether you're looking for the perfect handbag, locally-made houseware, beautiful furniture or rich wall artExternal Link Title, this little piece of urban paradise, complete with a caf? and green spaces will have you charmed.

Frank and Oak: Eco-conscious materials (think recycled wool and hemp) and production methods are at the forefront of Frank and OakExternal Link Title, created in 2012 by Montrealers Ethan Song and Hicham Ratnani. Its collections are as varied as they are coveted, with blazers and suits hanging in its stores alongside everyday gear like denim, sweatshirts, and comfy tees for men and women. Each boutiqueExternal Link Title is built with sustainable materials and designed in partnership with Canadian artisans. Plan your new wardrobe with an in-store stylist and book a barber to complete your look while you relax with an espresso or kombucha.


Discover culture

Graffity Granny from Mural Festival On Saint-Laurent Boulevard. © _Grafitti Granny_ ASHOP (photo by This Is Herd Production)

MURAL: Gaze in wonder at the in-your-face murals lining Saint-Laurent BoulevardExternal Link Title during the eleven-day MURALExternal Link Title festival every June. This international celebration showcasing top talent from around the globe features a behind-the-scenes tourExternal Link Title where you can learn about the democratization of urban art. While exploring, make sure to walk over to Crescent StreetExternal Link Title to see the multi-story Tower of Songs muralExternal Link Title created in honor of Montreal-born artist Leonard CohenExternal Link Title.

Fondation Phi: This private contemporary art museumExternal Link Title located in Old Montreal holds court in two heritage buildings. Fondation PhiExternal Link Title stages a handful of compelling events and major exhibitions annually that you are not likely to see anywhere else, including several virtual reality experiences.

Cin?ma du Mus?e: Housed inside the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA)External Link Title, the new Cin?ma du Mus?eExternal Link Title adds to the city's flourishing cultural scene. This 291-seat venue has been transformed into a hub for independent film, screened in the original language and subtitled in English or French. The cinema also collaborates to host special events, like the International Festival of Films on ArtExternal Link Title, the world's largest festival of its kind.