Montreal is a unique city, with signs in French and hockey on the radio; it is a must for any serious traveler. And with such a vibrant population, rich foodie scene and fabulous nightlife, you won’t even notice the 10-degree weather you will most likely experience if you visit this winter. Read on for our full city guide to Montreal.
For New Englanders, Montreal is a 5-hour drive through Vermont or a 1-hour flight from Logan, so if you are looking for a weekend getaway that is a little more unexpected, Montreal is the place for you. And with so many wonderful indoor activities, Montreal can be the perfect urban winter long weekend getaway.
Where to Stay
As a major city, you will find many of the top hotel chains in town, but for a truly luxe escape, you need to stay at the Ritz Carlton located right downtown. From the minute you pull up to the second you check out, your every need is taken care of in the precise manner that you would expect from a Ritz Carlton. The rooms are spacious and the newly updated bathrooms deserve a shout out.
The showers have the perfect rainfall shower head, seriously for all my shower connoisseurs out there this is for you—that magical balance of water volume and strength, not too much not too little. And with a gorgeous deep soaker tub, you will be excited to return to your room at the end of the day.
Where to Eat
Montreal means business when it comes to food. The food scene we experienced was seriously one of the best we have seen in a while. I dare to say that it stands right up there with Paris and New York. What delightfully surprised us so much about the excellence of our meals was the continued attention to detail at all the restaurants. Perhaps it is the French influence, but Montreal takes dining extremely seriously—definitely deserves the foodie stamp of approval.
Date night – For a romantic evening with your special someone you must make a reservation at Toque. Their 7 course-tasting menu with wine parings is absolutely heavenly. You start with a cocktail and some of the freshest oysters you’ll ever have, and your palate instantly wakes up ready to receive the rest of the amazing meal ahead.
As you move through the courses, you will be impressed by the delicate flavors developed. One of the best parts of any tasting menu is the fact that you know you are going to be there for a few hours, so you know can really relax and sit back and enjoy the gastronomic experience the chef takes you through. In between courses, you should appreciate the lovely ambiance of this downtown culinary gem.
Star quality – Whenever we visit a new major city, we always try to visit the outpost of one big name international chef. This time around we chose Maison Boulud, conveniently located inside the Ritz Carlton. Sometimes the restaurants of celebrity chefs cannot stand up to the hype, but this was not the case at Maison Boulud.
Similar to our experience at Toque, we immediately felt so welcomed and throughout the meal each course continued to impress us more than the last. The standouts were the John Dory and the Tuna Carpaccio. But you must also not miss the blissful desserts.
Healthy chic – The mark of a strong food scene is amazing restaurants across the culinary spectrum, a city with one or two old stalwarts is not a foodie mecca, one with top notch options in multiple cuisines and styles is. The icing on the cake for Montreal is the fact that it has a restaurant like Lov. Lov developed the most intensely satisfying vegan dishes that we have ever tried. And while sticking to healthy plant based ingredients, Lov delivered a joy to the taste buds like no other. As you all know, we are certified tartare, ceviche and carpaccio buffs, so when we saw a plant-based carpaccio on the menu we knew we had to give it a shot. And it did not disappoint! The smart combination of expert preparation, seasoning and flavors allowed this funghi to stand up to its seafood and beef equivalents without a sweat.
What to Do
Since we visited Montreal in the beginning of January, we intentionally chose to stick to mostly indoor activities, as Montreal is not exactly Aruba.
Museum of Fine Arts – Located just down the street from the Ritz, the Museum of Fine Arts is the perfect place to spend an afternoon. With several floors of local and international art, you will get a solid dose of culture.
Au Sommet Place Ville Marie – Looking for the best view in town? Head to Au Sommet Place Ville Marie, the Observatory is located on the 55th floor and truly gives you a 360-degree view of Montreal. And on the 53rd floor there is an interactive exhibit that will even give you recommendations for local hotspot based off your interests.
Spa – To truly round out any wintertime experience in a new city, you always have to treat yourself to a little spa time. To warm up after a day of site seeing, you should check out the Scandinave Spa in the Old Town.
Shopping – And it goes without saying that Montreal has plenty of options for all the fashionistas out there as well, however an afternoon of strolling through the main shopping streets requires a few more Starbucks breaks than normal due to the need to warm up those toes every now and then.
Montreal is certainly the perfect place for a winter getaway, a romantic weekend or an urban escape. For more information on visiting Montreal please visit http://www.tourisme-montreal.org/.