Montreal is kind of the Paris of North America. That's a thing people say, right? Besides the obvious French language connection, the city definitely has a fresh food scene and an old-world feel that many North American metropolises lack. It’s filled with generally friendly Québécois who speak both French and English actively, and though their winters can be a tad brutal, summers are lively and the underground city – la ville souterraine – has a climate that mimics springtime year-round, making those bitter months intriguing as well.
Originally inhabited by Iroquois people, the French settled in May 1642, deeming the area Ville-Marie, what is now Vieux Montreal (pretty, but very touristy). Modern-day Montreal is far more expansive, so bikes or public transit are your best bet for getting around (take advantage of the city’s bike-share program, BIXI). Shopping in Montreal is wonderful, with a varied selection of shops and department stores, but be wary of the lofty 15% retail tax.
- Le Smoking Vallée: BYOB traditional French fare in the Saint-Henri part of town, a scrappy/indie ‘hood with a solid food scene.
- Hocha Café: In HoMa. Go for Metropolis coffee, affordable lunch, and a super relaxed/local ambiance.
- Jean-Talon or Maisonneuve Market food markets for fromages, fresh produce, chocolates, meats, flowers, and so much more. If staying in an apartment, picking up fresh ingredients at the market and cooking in one night is best way to save a buck (and have a wonderful meal, provided you're not a crap cook)
Bop around the funky Saint-Henri, HoMa (Hochelaga-Maisonneuve), and Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhoods; you’ll find beautiful architecture and francophone locals. And be sure to check out the flea markets, go see some live music as well.
- Marché aux puces St. Michel: a flea market with a vast selection of antiques and vintage items.
- Bar Datcha: for a taste of Montreal nightlife.
- BBAM! Gallery: local bands, exhibitions, and a café next-door.
- Climb Mont Royal, and then head to the vintage shopping in the St Denis area and on Boulevard Saint-Laurent, between Bernard St and Mont-Royal.
Montreal has been known to produce some serious talent, from Leonard Cohen to Grimes, and the city’s current scene merits some attention.
For the festival-lovers: If traveling in August, Osheaga Music and Arts Festival tends to bring a solid line-up (this year's event boasted names like Flume, Jack White, Local Natives, Phantogram, Odesza, Arctic Monkeys, Jagwar Ma).
Local Talent: Check our Clues (a band with former connections to of Arcade Fire), The Unicorns (who recently released a new album), and Think About Life; Silly Kissers, heavy synth, 80s influence; Parlovr, late 90s sound, rock/pop; Ariane Moffatt (Frenchie lady).
Where to Stay
- Hotel Zero One, René-Lévesque Boulevard Est, Montreal, QC. From 139 CAD/night
- This sun-soaked Plateau flat with balcony, Boulevard Saint Joseph Est, Montreal, QC. 125 CAD/night
- This spacious Mile End Airbnb, Rue Hutchinson, Montreal, QC. 100 CAD/night
Have a reliable recommendation or sweet spot to share? Go crazy in the comments section.