When Alex suggested we go to Montreal for a little getaway, I honestly questioned him. Why? What’s there? Is it fun? Why not go somewhere a bit further and more cultured? LOL. Boy was I wrong. Boy was I ever UNcultured, to think that Montreal would have none. This is one of those rare times that I stand happily defeated, to have been wrong about Montreal. As it turns out, Montreal is a truly captivating and unpredictable Canadian city that after having gone only once, I can honestly say I would love to go again.
In researching when we would go, at first it seemed odd to go to a nordic city in the heart of the winter when neither of us ski, Alex doesn’t skate and although Canada is “so cold”, Montreal was going to be a whole new realm of cold we had actually never experienced. But as we buckled down and started planning, everything seemed to fall together perfectly. Part of our trip fell on a long weekend, giving us a holiday monday in Ontario. Our 7 year anniversary happened to be right in the timeframe in which we’d be travelling. And as luck would have it, the weather was actually never below 0 degrees celsius.
Montreal was such a fantastic city that in writing the experience of our trip, it became more of a city guide. I’m really excited to share it with you all and perhaps even inspire you to take a trip to Montreal yourself!
WHERE WE STAYED
When I travel, I typically like to stay in Airbnb’s. In fact, the only time I can recall not staying in an Airbnb was when Alex I went to Punta Cana and stayed at a resort (as people typically do there), and when we had a staycation at a fancy hotel in Toronto just for fun. Otherwise, I love Airbnb. From Arizona to NYC, and from Ireland to Greece, I have always had reasonably good experiences with the places I’ve stayed using Airbnb.
Not only is it astronomically cheaper to stay at an Airbnb, but to me, the experience of exploring a new city is so much more authentic than when staying at a hotel. Oftentimes you can find an Airbnb that offers you an entire apartment to yourself, in a hip area with lots to see and do right outside your door, for a fraction of the cost of a hotel. So that’s what we found.
We found an entire apartment for $70 a night in the area of Montreal called Le Plateau. This borough was a hard area to leave because it really could have been a whole trip in itself. It’s full of sweet little parks, graffiti covered alleyways and has a booming arts culture. The restaurants are endless and the cafes are cute. All of this means you’ll never go hungry and you’ll never be bored. At least, we weren’t lol.
Where we stayed as walking distance to so many main attractions. We’re avid walkers and would sooner walk somewhere than pay for a taxi, but we did buy a bus pass for when the walks looked to be upwards of 30 minutes. Otherwise, we walked.
Our apartment was a 20 minute walk to Old Montreal, including La Grande Roue de Montreal (big ferris wheel) and Saint Paul Street Est (lovely, old cobblestone street lined with shops and cafes).
In another direction it was only a 15 minute walk to the Contemporary Art Museum of Montreal and the bustling Saint Catherine street.
WHERE WE ATE
Featured on the show You Gotta Eat Here, we waited in line for 30 minutes on a cold, icy, Montreal street just to get inside and honestly, it was worth the wait. This place clearly gets a lot of hype, and as soon as I stepped inside I could see why. The walls were covered in stylized graffiti, unique light fixtures hung over top of every booth and the bathrooms offered the most questionable bathroom lighting choice I’ve ever seen, as it was in fact a black light (luckily patrons of this place seem to have really good aim as I did not see any curious stains). I’m a huge eggs benedict fan, and will often order this at almost any breakfast place. L’avenue was no different, the only difference was how the incredible selection! Offering roughly 15 different kinds of eggs benedict combinations, I settled on a french toast eggs benedict with ham and cheese. Yes it was as deluxe as it sounds and I was not disappointed.
Accessibility: 20 minute walk from our apartment along Rue Saint-Andre
We stumbled upon this place while walking through the streets of Old Montreal and I’m so glad we did. Venice MTL is a colourful, fun and bright lunch spot obviously inspired by none other than Venice Beach California! Known for their poke bowls, we instead opted for something we love almost anywhere we go and ordered the tacos. Bold in flavour and not at all too spicy (I can’t handle the heat), these were seriously some tacos we’ve ever eaten. Paired with cute decor and kind servers, this place was a huge win.
Accessibility: We took the #2 Subway. The station was only a 2 minute walk from our apartment, the subway ride itself was only about 8 minutes. Got off at Place d’Armes and then walked for about 5 minutes until we found the restaurant.
On Sunday night we were feeling a bit tired and just wanted to order in, but without feeling like we were missing out on the liveliness of Montreal. The compromise? Ordering gourmet pizza from a place right down the street and walking along the super hip Rue Saint-Denis to pick it up! Located in the heart of multiple pubs and cafes and some questionable night clubs, we chose Pizzeria Dei Compari simply because of convenience, but the pizza itself turned out to be phenomenal (and I’ve eaten pizza in Italy, so I think that’s saying a lot)! We ordered a four cheese pizza and a pizza with olives, bacon, peppers and cheese. Both on thin crust, both fantastic.
Accessibility: 5 minute walk from our apartment along Rue Saint-Denis
This burger pub offered so much more than just burgers, all of it sounding equally delicious, that I actually ordered a salad, lol. By this point we realized we had been in Montreal for several days and hadn’t even eaten poutine! So we ordered one large poutine for the table and devoured every bit of it. It’s no joke, the poutine in Montreal really is better.
Accessibility: not very accessible but we didn’t go here directly from our apartment. Should we have done that, it would have been one quick 20 minute bus ride on the #24 right from our apartment to the restaurant.
WHERE WE SIPPED COFFEE
Spacious and bright, La Finca isn’t just a cafe, but also a work space where people can meet for projects and collaborations. That being said, it still gives off a very friendly and open vibe and is a great place to sit around, talk and enjoy the atmosphere of downtown Montreal. Which is exactly what we did, and I noticed a few others doing the same. Huge windows offering lots of natural light, gorgeous light fixtures, a quaint set of wooden steps lined with cushions and throws and a very neutral colour palette make La Finca a super Instagramable coffee spot with an aesthetic that will completely soothe yet inspire you.
Accessibility: Two busses. Hopped on the #24 right outside of our apartment, after 2 minutes transferred to the #129, got off a few minutes later and then walked about 5 minutes to La Finca.
Speaking of Instagramable cafes, this place is the absolute jackpot. I did not come across Tommy organically like I did most other places we ate and sipped at, but through careful and meticulous research of the Montreal cafe scene. Tommy is very popular for Montreal tourists and Instagrammers alike, making very busy, crowded and hard to get a table if you go after 10am. Visually, Tommy is a dream. Tons of windows all with beautiful antique looking window frames. Little marble tables giving the perfect backdrop to photograph delicious sweets and pretty lattes. Mirrors lining the walls making it seem even bigger and brighter. And an open concept three floor design giving you the choice of sitting on the first, second or third floor without feeling excluded from the remaining levels. (jk there was no choice lol. It was so damn busy we just grabbed the first table we could find which happened to be on the second floor with a great view). Tommy is worth a visit for both the aesthetic and the DELICIOUS cronuts, but just be ready to hunt and wait for a table to sit at.
Accessibility: Right up the street from Venice MTL. One subway ride from our apartment using the #2 subway line and got off at Place d’Armes.
Alex and I walked past this place purely by chance one evening and I was immediately intrigued by it’s gorgeous white stone building and arched door frame right on the corner, that I knew we’d be walking back the very next morning. Inside, Cafe Origin welcomed us with beautiful white honeycomb floor tiles, monochromatic artwork and lots of plants and greenery. The barista was just as welcoming and made some bomb-ass lattes for me and my guy. Ah I seriously just loved this place! No hype, no prior insights, no research, just a pure and chill cafe that we totally grooved into. Highly recommend.
Accessibility: A short 5 minute walk from our apartment, right on Sherbrooke Street East.
The day we had to leave Montreal, it was pouring rain. We were hungry, tired and also lacking rainboots so our options of seeking out food and coffee were kind of limited. So, the Bagel Cafe it was. The little coffee and bagel shop located right across the street from our apartment. Like, literally right across the street. I’m not exaggerating. It was so close that we could see it from our bedroom window and said “I wonder how that place is…” everytime we looked outside. We left it until the last morning to find out, but it was really kind of perfect that way. The Bagel Cafe served huge lattes in large mason jars and delicious pastries made in house. Oh, and of course bagels!
Accessibility: right. across. the street. 😛
WHERE WE HAD SOME FUN
Old Montreal, a little taste of Europe in our very own Canada! Founded in 1642, Montreal is the third oldest city in Canada and has really seemed maintained some of that 17th century charm, and maintained in the form of beautiful Old Montreal. The cobblestone streets lined with architecturally impressive buildings are now home to so many cute shops, restaurants and cafes, but the integrity of each building has been maintained to honour its original structure and details. Old Montreal was a short walk from where we stayed and we spent quite a bit of time there simply strolling the streets hand in hand, as any good tourist would do lol.
A giant ferris wheel right on the Saint Lawrence River, this tourist attraction actually wasn’t one we planned on going to. However on our last night in the city, as we took a rainy night time walk through Old Montreal, we somehow found ourselves right at the base of this giant wheel. Looking for ways to escape the rain and noticing that there was no line for this thing, we bought our tickets and headed into the gondola. 60 metres above ground on the biggest ferris wheel in Canada, the panoramic views of the city all lit up at night were actually quite beautiful. At one point we were convinced that we could even see all the way to Ontario, but in retrospect we were probably just suffering from altitude impairment.
I’m always so intrigued by contemporary art museums and interested in the unique exhibits and pieces they can display. But once I enter them I remember I’m not nearly as clever or knowledgeable about any form of art, let alone the complexities of modern art. None the less, I very much enjoyed this museum and was happy to have been able to see the Leonard Cohen exhibit as well. The pieces outside of this exhibit were simultaneously incredibly engaging and yet so peculiar. I actually found myself staring at a very statuesque security guard for far too long, thinking he was one of those peculiar pieces of contemporary art. Hey, modern can be tricky (well for me anyways).
We got so lucky to be able to hike the 6km up to the top of Mont Royal in gorgeous 7 degree weather with sunshine. I expected to be trudging through snow and slipping on ice in order to make it to the lookout point, when in reality I was wiping sweat from my forehead and carrying my winter coat. The Mont Royal lookout offers perfect views of downtown and Old Montreal. From skyscrapers to low brick buildings, being able to take in the whole city in one viewing really put in perspective how diverse it truly is.
This theatre, showcasing mainly independant and alternative films, is located in the underground city. We actually wanted to attend an ironic viewing of “The Room” on the night we flew into Montreal, but our flight was cancelled, rebooked and then delayed, so I’m sure it goes without saying that we missed the movie lol. Otherwise this little gem of a theatre was cool to peak into and learn about, and we’ll definitely try harder to make it to a showing of any film the next time we’re in Montreal.
Hope you enjoyed my Montreal City guide from my perspective and interests. And if you yourself happen to go to Montreal and try any of these things, I would love to know what you think of them too!