Montreal

Introduction

French is the official spoken language in Montreal, and while the province is part of Canada, the lifestyle has a decidedly Continental bent. Great food is a birthright—there are 26.81 restaurants per 10,000 people in Montreal, a number that bests New York City’s 19.57 per 10,000—and the city is home to a varied gastronomic landscape that reflects its French heritage as well as rich immigrant culture, with representation from Portugal, Italy, North Africa, and beyond. Public markets, such as the stupendous Marché Jean-Talon, are a locavore’s wonderland, and chic wine bars abound. Montreal is also home to a vibrant music scene, including the largest jazz festival in the world, as well as cool, walkable neighborhoods and acres of beautiful parks. As Montreal celebrates its 375th birthday and Canada observes its 150th, we tell you where to go to understand first-hand why Montreal is one of North America’s great world-class cities.

Best Time to Go

Though Montreal is one of the rare cities that does not shut down in the dead of a very cold winter, summer is the time to visit. The warm season, which lasts from June until early September, is when the city truly comes alive.

Airport Info

The recently expanded Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport is about a 20-minute ride from downtown Montreal. The best way to get there is by taxi (Diamond is a reliable local company) or by calling an Uber.

Getting Around

Montreal is a pedestrian-friendly city, with numerous walkways closed off to vehicular traffic, though with the greater metropolitan area covering nearly 1,700 square miles, you’ll want to catch a ride if you’re traveling across town. Uber is pleasant and affordable, as well as being the most convenient way to get around, though you can always hail a cab. The public transportation system isn’t vast, but the Metro is clean and convenient, as are the public buses. When the weather’s nice, Bixi bike shares are a top-notch option—Montreal is low on traffic, big on bike paths, and the cyclist etiquette is A+.

Can’t Leave Without

1. Visiting Marché Jean-Talon. If you don’t hear locals gushing about this superlative market, blame the no-big-deal attitude Montreal has toward its first-class food culture. Located in the heart of Montreal’s Little Italy, bustling Jean-Talon is open year-round with some merchants selling foods their families have been perfecting for generations. In high summer, vendors from all over the countryside display fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers that excel in beauty, variety, and quality.

2. Sitting in the grass. Whether it’s Parc Laurier, Parc du Mont-Royal, Parc Outremont, Parc La Fontaine, or one you discover all on your own, Montreal is full of beautiful, serene green spaces that make you realize a city can be a restorative place. 

3. Having a glass of wine. Montreal is home to a progressive wine scene, with many early adopters offering organic and biodynamic wine lists, and wines from quirky independent producers. At sophisticated bars, such as Pullman and Buvette Chez Simone, and wine-savvy restaurants, like Joe Beef and Le Vin Papillon, you’ll want to order an extra glass or two.

Deserves the Hype

Pop icon Celine Dion purchased Schwartz’s in 2012, but Montreal’s quintessential Jewish deli—one of the oldest in Canada—still has soul. Order the smoked meat sandwich, and don’t forget to specify if you want it fatty, medium, or lean (we suggest medium for just enough richness).

Local Dish to Try

Poutine, french fries topped with cheese curds and drenched in gravy, may be Quebec’s most famous culinary export. Go to a proper casse-croute (snack bar), such as La Banquise (994 rue Rachel Est; 514-525-2415), to experience it in its purest form, i.e., loaded with gooey cheese melting in hot gravy. 

Local Drink to Sip

If you’re into kitsch, check out Gibeau Orange Julep (7700 Decarie Blvd; 514-738-7486; orangejulep.ca). The fast food stand is located in a giant orange that looms over DeCarie Blvd on the outskirts of the city. The establishment, started in 1932, dispenses cool, milky Orange Juleps, Quebec’s answer to Orange Julius. No one knows the exact recipe, but think of a potable creamsicle and you get the idea.

Local Tip

Most restaurants are closed on Sunday and Monday nights. There are a few notables that remain open on one or both of those days—Au Pied de Cochon, Moishe’s, and Leméac, among others—but you’d be smart to make reservations in advance to secure your spot.

Seasonal Highlights

WINTER: If you’re coming in the winter, bring your thermal underwear and all of your layers. You’ll need them to maintain a reasonable body temperature in the frigid cold. That said, Montrealers know how to do winter, whether it’s the Fête des Neiges, a weeks-long festival of tube-sliding, dog-sledding, and other snow-centric activities, ice skating in Village Mammouth at the old Olympic Park, or sledding in Parc du Mont-Royal.

SPRING: The thaw can be slow in this wintry city, but once the mercury starts climbing in the spring, it’s cause for celebration—and maple syrup. Consider taking a day trip out of town for a maple-tapping excursion, which must include a gluttonous, syrup-drenched meal. The hot ticket is the sweet celebration at chef Martin Picard’s Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon (11382 Rang de la Fresnière, Mirabel, QC; 514-845-2322; cabane.aupieddecochon.ca), about a 45-minute drive from the city (reservations are a must). There’s a sugar shack within Montreal, too—Cabane Urbaine (cabaneurbaine.com), a seasonal pop-up in the St. Henri neighborhood.

SUMMER: Summer is a prime time to enjoy the beauty of the city. The lovely public pool opens at Parc Laurier, and festivals kick into high gear (think the Mural Festival, a weeklong demonstration of public art, as well as the world-renowned Jazz Festival, Osheaga, and many more). Cruising the back alleys of the Plateau, a picturesque district just north of downtown, is a must.

FALL: Hike up to St. Joseph’s Oratory (3800 Queen Mary Rd; 514-733-8211; saint-joseph.org) in Parc du Mont-Royal, one of the city’s greatest lookout points, to take in the colorful foliage that covers nearly 500 acres of park land, designed by the great Frederick Law Olmsted.

Quick Tips

Car Service to Know

Diamond Taxi
514-273-6331

Extended Stay

Hotel Gault
514-904-1616

Same-Day Dry Cleaning

Florida Dry Cleaners
514-849-9119

Tailor to Know

Nick le Taiulleur
514-488-4556

Hair Stylist to Book

Louis Hechter, Orbite
514-271-6333

Makeup Artist to Book

Divine et Sybele
514-842-2555

Personal Shopper

Dany Roussel at Holt Renfrew
514-842-5111

City’s Best Spa

Spa St. James at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal
514-842-4212

The Hotel With the Best Gym

Ritz-Carlton Montreal
514-842-4212

The Best Souvenir

A dozen bagels from Fairmount
514-272-0667

Place for Gifts

Magasin Général Lambert Gratton
514-282-4141

The Fixer to Know

Concierge at Hotel Le Germain
877-333-2050
Hotels

Loews Hotel Vogue

If shopping is a priority when visiting Montreal, consider a stay here; it’s conveniently situated on a boutique-lined downtown street, and equidistant to two of the best high-end department stores.
Centre Ville
FH&R

William Gray Hotel

This hotel, which opened in the summer of 2016, combines Old Montreal charm and new construction, with a glass tower that’s been built on top of two landmark stone buildings.
Old Montreal

Alt Hotel Griffintown

Feeling adventurous? Stay at this modern hotel in Griffintown, the up-and-coming neighborhood near the Lachine Canal.
Griffintown

Hotel Gault

This 19th-century building, once the headquarters for A.F. Gault’s textile business, is now home to 30 rooms: a mix of high-ceilinged lofts, sprawling suites, and apartments for long- or short-term stays.
Old Montreal

Ritz-Carlton, Montreal

After a $200 million renovation in 2012, the Ritz-Carlton has restored its place at the pinnacle of luxurious hospitality in Montreal.
Centre Ville
FH&R

Hotel Le St. James

Located in a former Merchants' Bank building in Old Montreal, this boutique hotel seems to be a favorite of visiting celebrities.
Old Montreal
FH&R

Casa Bianca

This stylish bed and breakfast is nestled on a picturesque residential street facing Mount Royal Park.
Plateau

Auberge du Vieux Port

Set in a converted nineteenth-century warehouse, this 45-room property retains some of its original charm with stone and exposed brick walls and deep arched windows that overlook the cobblestoned streets of Old Montreal.
Old Montreal

Hotel St. Paul

This 119-room property, housed in a Beaux Arts building in Old Montreal, exudes modern style.
Old Montreal

Hotel Le Germain

This 99-room boutique hotel, conveniently located downtown, features well-appointed rooms with comfortable touches, such as rainfall showers and a Nespresso coffee maker.
Centre Ville
Restaurants

L’Express

Open since 1980, this classic bistro is the most quintessentially French restaurant in this very French town.
Plateau-Mont Royal
French Bistro

Joe Beef

Irreverent, lusty, imaginative, and humorous, this beloved restaurant from Fred Morin and Dave McMillan, is one of the city’s toughest tables to score.
Little Burgundy
Modern Quebecois

Hoogan & Beaufort

This critically acclaimed restaurant mixes fire-kissed flavor with a fine-dining finesse.
Rosemont
Modern Quebecois

Leméac

This beloved bistro is the ultimate in bourgeois comfort food, serving some of the city’s best classic French cuisine.
Outremont
French Bistro

Moleskine

This bi-level space has something for everyone: a casual menu on the ground floor and an inventive seasonal menu from chef Frédéric St-Aubin on the first.
Downtown (Centre-Ville)
Seasonal

Moishes

This Jewish-Roumanian steakhouse is the oldest continually operating restaurant in Montreal.
Plateau-Mont Royal
Steakhouse

Nora Gray

This charming jewel box of a place serves up elevated home-style Italian cuisine and cocktails.
Griffintown
Rustic Italian

Impasto

This restaurant, run by Michele Forgione and Stefano Faita specializes in the kind of comforting Italian cuisine nonna makes at home.
Little Italy
Modern Italian
Bars + Lounges

Au Pied de Cochon

Maverick chef Martin Picard’s restaurant, largely credited with setting off Quebec’s dining revolution, makes the most of local ingredients like foie gras and maple syrup.
Plateau-Mont Royal
Modern Quebecois

Foxy

The industrial-chic restaurant from Dyan Solomon and Éric Gerard focuses on well-executed grilled and wood-fired dishes.
Griffintown
Seasonal

Bar Big in Japan

There are no signs advertising this speakeasy, one of the city’s top cocktail venues, so look for the unassuming red door for entry.
Plateau-Mont Royal
Craft Cocktails

Buvette Chez Simone

This bustling, spacious wine bar near Parc Mont Royal is an ideal spot for an afternoon drink.
Plateau-Mont Royal
Wine Bar

Pullman

This three-story natural wine trailblazer, one of the first of its kind in the city, boasts 450 bottles to choose from.
Centre Ville
Wine Bar

Bar Kabinet

Belly up to the marble bar at this Russian-inspired parlor for espresso drinks by day, and craft cocktails by night.
Mile End
Craft Cocktails

Bar Henrietta

This Portuguese-inspired tavern serves up craft cocktails, old-world wines, and traditional dishes in a casually chic space.
Mile End
Cocktail + Wine Bar

Agrikol

Agrikol is a rollicking, art-filled venue with an excellent rum-based cocktail menu, a satisfying short list of Haitian dishes, and a party vibe.
Gay Village
Rum Bar

Brasserie Harricana

This microbrewery is one of the city’s most inventive beer destinations, thanks to the rotating selection of its own creative craft brews.
Little Italy
Craft Beer

Bar Cloakroom

The 25-seat bar hidden inside a stately 19th-century building offers a bespoke drinking experience inside a Mad Men meets film noir setting.
Centre Ville
Craft Cocktails

Rouge Gorge

Come to this inviting bar designed by local favorite Zébulon Perron for the wine, stay for the atmosphere.
Plateau Mont Royal
Wine Bar

Loïc

The wines are the main draw at this unfussy bar located in a landmark former bank building built in 1905.
St. Henri
Wine Bar
Shopping

Drawn & Quarterly

This quirky shop is a brick-and-mortar spin-off of the renowned cartoon publisher of the same name.
Outremont
Bookstore

Clark Street Mercantile

This outfitter-cum-general store in the Mile End neighborhood curates a tightly edited selection of brands excelling in contemporary, rugged-chic attire for the modern man.
Mile End
Men’s Outfitter

Quincaillerie Dante

A one-stop shop for hunting rifles and cooking equipment alike, the family-run business has been stocking Montreal’s kitchens since 1956.
Petite Italie
Kitchen Supply Store

Hudson's Bay

This department store, iconic in Montreal, started as one of Canada’s great heritage brands.
Centre Ville
Department Store

Holt Renfrew

Canada’s premiere luxury department store champions established brands (like Chanel, Prada and Louis Vuitton), as well as up-and-coming Canadian luxury designers.
Centre Ville
Department Store

Les Étoffes

Carrying luxe men’s and women’s staples, this minimalist store is a paean to chic simplicity.
Mile End
Women’s + Men’s Clothing Boutique

M0851

This Montreal-based company has been producing quality, chic outerwear and leather goods since 1987.
Plateau
Women’s + Men’s Clothing Boutique

Georges Laoun

The glasses at this family-run optician are wearable works of art.
Plateau & Downtown
Eyeglasses Store

Atwater Market

This public market, opened in 1933, is pricier than Jean Talon, with comparable produce vendors, butchers and shopkeepers selling local foods.
Saint-Henri
Food Market

Public Markets

Located in the city’s Little Italy neighborhood, Jean Talon Market is home to 300 vendors selling local produce, seafood, charcuterie, cheeses, meats, prepared food and more.
Petite Italie
Food Market
Things To Do

Fitz & Follwell

This tour company specializes in non-touristy jaunts by bike, by foot, and, in the winter, by snowshoe, that give visitors an insider’s view of the city.
Plateau
Bike + Walking Tours

Bota Bota

Refurbished by Jean Pelland of Sid Lee Architecture, this co-ed spa docked on the St. Lawrence River in Old Montreal is an extraordinary place to relax while taking in views of the old city.
Old Montreal
Spa

Mont Royal Park

Montreal’s crown jewel is Mount Royal Park, a 470-acre green space nestled in the center of the city on a mountain.
Plateau
Park

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

One of Canada’s most important museums, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts houses more than 41,000 pieces spanning centuries.
Centre Ville
Museum

Museum of Jewish Montreal Tours

Montreal is home to one of North America’s most vibrant Jewish communities. This tour, by food historian Kat Romanow, starting at the Museum of Jewish Montreal in the Plateau, takes you through the formerly Jewish neighborhoods and shares their hidden histories.
Plateau
Walking Tour

Festivals

Montreal is festival city, and most of it happens in the summer.
Various
Festivals

Lachine Canal Bike Path

Opened in 1977, this scenic nine-mile bike path is located in a lush park along the formerly industrial Lachine Canal.
Plateau
Park

Live Music

Even in gaps between the big festivals like Osheaga and Jazz Fest, Montreal is still an excellent city for seeing music.
Various
Live Music

Mont Tremblant

Located less than two hours from the city, in the Laurentian Mountains, this resort town offers some of the best skiing in North America.
Outside the City
Ski Resort