Montréal is one of Canada’s largest cities in the Quebec region and is set on an island in the Saint Lawrence River. It was originally called “City of Mary”, now renamed after Mont Royal – the multi-peak hill in the city. It is also a city of culture, with a huge focus on festivals, arts and delicious food, with four true to seasons. You can expect minus temperatures in the winter and high balmy temperatures in the summer, which makes it an ideal travel destination all year round. It might surprise you that French is the first language spoken in Montréal, followed by English but the majority of the population are bi-lingual.
If that is not enough to make you think that Montréal’s mountainous location is a very unique place to visit, here is a little more around what to see and do that will make you want to book a trip to Montréal next!
Things To See:
Montréal is full of many fun and cultured things to do across the city. From strolling through the woodlands of Mount-Royal, through to admire the beautiful architecture of the Notre-Dame. It is a city that doesn’t stop, at any time of the year, no matter what the weather. Are you ready to discover the winter highlights from spending 48 hours in Montréal?
1. Visit Montréal’s Old Clock Tower
Down in the old port, you can discover the stunning old clock tower, laid by Prince of Wales back in 1919. The majestic 45-metre tall tower is an honourable piece, as it has the same mechanism as the Big Ben in London, after being built in England before being transported over to Montréal. There were plans for it to chime exactly as the Big Ben does, but the attachment of the bells was never completed. It also acts as a symbol and memorial to all the sailors that were lost during the wartime, as all the sailors at the port would align their own watches to the clock tower timing, because of its legendary precision.
2. Explore Le Plateau Mont-Royal
The borough of Plateau Mont-Royal brings an eclectic mix of activities and some of the best places to eat. The area itself is extremely colourful, with many bright murals and graffiti art scattered around the borough. You may even run into some stunning bright coloured houses too.
There are so many smashing independent restaurants and cafes around Plateau Mont-Royal that there is a series of food tours that take place, so you better get your stretchy eating pants on as you will be in for a real foodie experience.
If you prefer intimate gigs and shows, rather than the mainstream, popular shows downtown, you will find them in Plateau Mont-Royal. Some of the best live shows can be seen at Rialto Theatre, Sala Rossa, and Casa del Popolo.
The same theme runs through to the stores in the area too. You won’t find any high-street brands in this area, but instead many boutique stores and clothing made by local independent designers. The perfect souvenier to take home from Montréal.
3. See Montréal from height
The Mount Royal lookout is the perfect place to see a panoramic view of Montréal’s skyline. Where skyscrapers of the financial district meet small niche neighbourhoods of Montréal. Especially in the winter with all the snow, it is magical. If you’re able to, come back and catch the sunset here too – nothing beats a ruby red and apricot coloured sunset descending over the city.
4. Visit the Notre-Dame Basilica
You can find the famous Notre-Dame Basilica in the historic district of Old Montréal. If I could give anyone one piece of advice when it comes to the Basilica, it would be to go inside. Take some time to visit this beautiful monument, because you’ll thank me once you step inside. The interiors are like no other with a gothic facade that is far from ordinary, especially as is also filled with vibrantly stained glass windows, and a sea of colours that run throughout the basilica.
Best of all, there is only one person buried in the crypt of this gorgeous building, and that is the creator himself.
5. Tour the underground networks of Montréal
When you’re walking through Montréal, admiring the architecture and sights above ground, there is a whole other world below ground that you didn’t even know about. Yes, a whole network of underground passages that connect offices, restaurants, shopping centres, universities, and even residential buildings. On rainy or snowy days, you may ask yourself why there are not many people on the streets on Montréal, and that’s because they are all scurrying beneath your feet.
Places To Eat & Drink:
Montréal is foodie orientated city, with some of the best spots for a grab and go lunch, a spot of fine dining or for delectable burgers with speakeasy bars. You can even get poutine anywhere and everywhere too, after all, it originates from Quebec. What’s not to love?!
1. St-Viateur Bagel
Have you ever been to a bagel store that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? I hadn’t either until I visited the iconic St-Viateur Bagel. This hotspot serves up the finest bagels, supplying to local cafes and restaurants, and selling to the public themselves. Want to know what the best part is? It is family run, by Joe Morena and his three sons Vincenzo, Nicolò, and Roberto and they have been hand rolling bagels for over 25 years. But, the shop has been passed down through generations and has been going for over 60 years, making it the longest standing bagel shop in Montréal. How incredible!
We decided to go to the bakery itself, where we met the honourable Joe Monrena, and kindly gave us a few extra bagels “on the house”. That kind of hospitality goes a long way. But, if you wanted to have a sit down experience enjoy their fantastic bagels, they have three cafes across Montréal.
2. Tommy’s Cafe
We found Tommy’s after we had visited the Notre Dame Basilica, ready for a spot of lunch. The sign had dictated there were great bagels available, and I was sold on the idea. We stepped into a quaint, modern, chic cafe with beautiful emerald interiors, which I fell in love with. Tommy’s Cafe is the kind of place you would want to wrap up and take it home with you. It’s the perfect spot for a coffee, cake, bagel or one of their delicious lunch dishes.
I could not help ordering a creamy chai latte and a peanut butter and jam bagel. I made the most of the bagel experience, as I wasn’t going to get the chance when I returned home.
3. Foiegwa, Montréal
Foiegwa is a chic, stylish and contemporary restaurant, with a humorous twist. The restaurant’s name is a slight mockery to the way the fellow Canadians and Americans pronounce foie gras, the famous French delicacy. The interiors are tasteful, giving it a modernised French-American diner style feel, but lashings of sass and quirk with white tiled walls and coffee coloured frames with sketches of famous Canadians.
The cocktails options are extensive, and quite rightly so, with their speakeasy-style Atwater Cocktail Club next door, which can be accessed through a door directly opposite the kitchen, almost making you feel like you’re stepping on staff-only territory.
You can find an array of French classics, like French onion soup or burgers made with foie gras, or risotto with scallops which slowly transitions into more of an upscale European dishes, such as home-made spaghetti with butter and black truffle with 64-degree egg yolk and Parmigiano cheese. A definite must try, perfect for a date night or a get together with friends.
4. Leméac, Montréal
We couldn’t come to Montréal and not try one of the best French restaurants, could we? Leméac has been highly spoken about amongst locals and those visiting. I would say it is a chic, upscale French bistro with authentic dishes and extensive wine list for all different palettes.
I indulged in some of the freshest Icelandic wild cod, served with fennel, potato puree and sauce Veigre, made using olive oil, lemon juice, chopped tomato and chopped basil. And, Zoe enjoyed the pan-fried scallops with mashed fingerling potatoes and Mujjol caviar.
Make sure you leave space for some of their delectable desserts or their extensive selection of cheeses. I would definitely recommend the crème brûlée and the chocolate profiteroles. Absolutely divine!
What are your favourite things to do and places to eat in Montréal?
Until next time…