Brush up on your French (though most natives do speak English) and lace up your sneakers if you are heading to Montreal, because you will be doing lots of walking and talking with locals.
The best way to enjoy Montreal is on foot. Chance upon one of many coffee houses, street fairs or trendy retail shops — all things that you may miss from the inside of an Uber. Unless you decide to climb Mount Royal, which the city was built around, walking is definitely manageable.
Montreal has the most restaurants per capita in Canada and is second only to New York in North America. You are guaranteed to find cuisine from all over the world — with a French twist.
Booking an AirBnb is the perfect option to immerse yourself into the culture. The apartments are not only trendy and chic, but a lot more affordable than a hotel, leaving more money in your pocket to enjoy great food and shopping. If you aren’t planning on spending much time in the room, why spend a fortune on it?
When booking a place to stay, choose a location in the surrounding neighborhoods outside downtown for an authentic experience. Little Italy is a neighborhood in transition and is a similar distance from downtown Montreal as Plaza Midwood or NoDa would be to uptown Charlotte.
1440 Drummond St.
For a romantic stay, experience luxury in this Five Star boutique hotel. Floor to ceiling windows and a private terrace will make all of your IG followers jealous. With rainforest showerheads and heated floors, you receive a spalike treatment in your own room. Start your morning with Nespresso coffee while taking in the beautiful views of the city and end your evening gazing into your fireplace. Room sizes range from 350 square ft. for the Queen Deluxe to 5,000 square ft. (the largest hotel room in the city) for the three-bedroom Royal Suite.
414 Saint Sulpice St.
Overlooking Notre-Dame, this chic four-star hotel is conveniently located near most tourist attractions in historic Old Montreal. Since the dollar stretches a little further in Canada, you can splurge on the 1,000 square ft. Signature Suite to enjoy a room with a fireplace and your own private rooftop terrace.
191 Marché-du-Nord Place
Near the Jean-Talon Market, Gusta offers artisanal vegan fare — including deli “meats” —in addition to an eat-in menu. The restaurant resembles a traditional deli, with a glass case full of meats and cheeses, except everything is plant-based.
The Deluxe Hot Dog is a delicious afternoon treat. Prepared on-site with toppings such as fried onions, chipotle kimchi and maple BBQ mayo, it is worth trying a few of the menus items. Though they don’t ship to the United States, you can buy packaged items for the trip home.
You aren’t truly on vacation until you can enjoy an omelet outside on the patio. This 100% plant-based restaurant, with a location on de la Montagne Street inside the beautiful Golden Square Mile, has a variety of tasty dishes that will satisfy vegans and meat eaters alike.
Select a few items on the menu and share with a friend. Some of the fan favorites (LOV Poutine, Nachos LOV) are missing from the brunch menu, though brunch is the only time you can order the classic omelet. You didn’t come all this way to count calories, so go ahead and visit again for breakfast and dinner.
6553 Saint Hubert St.
In the La Petite-Patrie neighborhood, between endless shops full of sun-faded cocktail gowns and wedding dresses that look like they’ve occupied this shopping strip for ages, you will find newer bars and restaurants such as Ramen Plaza. Offering traditional and vegetarian options, there is something for all taste buds.
The noodles are cooked perfectly, and the broth is delicious. But the real stand out may be its specialty cocktails and mocktails. Light on alcohol but full of flavor, these drinks are the perfect complement to the spices of the ramen.
3828 Saint Denis St.
Open until midnight on weekends and a short stroll from St. Laurent Boulevard, take a break from the busy night scene and duck into this local favorite.
The three-taco combo is the perfect amount of food (although, unfortunately, you can’t choose three different flavors). When paired with one of their delicious margaritas or mule Mexicanas, you are in for a treat. The mushroom/pineapple tacos are divine.
5550 Saint Laurent Blvd.
Open until 3 a.m., as are most bars in Montreal, in the heart of Mile End, Bar Waverly offers a touch of home as the DJ spins American hip hop on Friday evenings. This atmosphere is familiar and inviting, and the people are friendly, making you feel like a regular instantly. The bar is inhabited with 20- to 30-somethings, but keep in mind that the legal drinking age in Montreal is 18, so you may see some younger faces amongst the crowd. Speaking of drinks, they are strong and inexpensive, making this the perfect place to start — or end — your evening.
758 E. Beaubien St.
Conveniently near public transit in the Little Italy neighborhood is Cafellini, a petite cafe in a prime location with bar seating near the windows, where you can perch and lose track of time people watching. The coffee is exceptional, and they have a variety of fresh pastries. But the must-try menu item is the Lavender Latte.
3990 Saint Urbain St.
The great thing about this neighborhood cafe is that it encourages socializing. It has an award-winning outdoor terrace, and cozy blankets are randomly placed on chairs to assure you there is no need to hurry your visit. Lattes and hot chocolate are served in oversized glass mugs, though they look normal sized next to the enormous sandwiches. If you are not a coffee drinker, an extensive tea list with tea for two at only $1 more than a single cup is available. If you prefer to drink your dessert, try the La Creme De l’Espresso Santropol, a small cup of vanilla ice cream and espresso, topped with a touch of whipped cream and cocoa.
It’s not possible to experience all of the wonderful sights and experiences of Montreal in one visit. Airfare from Charlotte to Montreal is relatively inexpensive, so don’t feel obligated to cram in too much. Enjoy what you can and come back another time.
What is a vacation without shopping? For several miles, you can walk and shop “The Main” with unique boutiques, art galleries, bars and restaurants. When your feet begin to fail you, take a break in one of the many parks along the way.
7070 Henri-Julien Ave.
One of the most visited sites in Montreal is the year-round open-air Jean-Talon Market. At the heart is fresh produce (with plenty to sample) and flowers surrounded by fresh meats, fish and pastries. If you aren’t prepared to lug around bags of veggies, there are plenty of vendors selling prepared foods that are worth visiting, as well.
du Mont-Royal Avenue East
If you are planning your trip for late May/early June, try to catch this annual free open-air street fair. About 1.5 miles of this very busy street is completely closed off to cars and taken over by hundreds of street vendors and shoppers. Featuring live music, food from around the world and plenty of shopping and activities for all ages, this will be a highlight of your trip.
463 Saint Catherine St. West
Enjoy dinner and a show with events every Friday and Saturday. Best of Soul Motown and Jazz will take you on a dynamic musical journey, beginning with 1930’s jazz, all the way through to the glory of the Motown years. Experience the music of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Billie Holiday, Etta James and many more. You will be dancing by the end of the night — guaranteed.
110 Notre Dame St.
After filling up your cell phone with photos outside of Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal, take the $15 tour. Be enchanted by the beauty of the architecture and stained-glass windows. If you think it won’t be interesting, you are wrong.
1 Ville Marie Place
Located downtown, the Observatoire is the best place to see Montreal from up high. With 360 degrees of stunning views, it is a breathtaking sight. The observation deck also offers an innovative exhibition that immerses visitors into a multimedia experience of Montrealers’ daily rituals. Furthermore, the venue houses the most elevated dining destination in the city with authentic Montreal cuisine.
418 Saint Sulpice St.
SSense’s new flagship store, which is directly adjacent to the city’s iconic Notre Dame Basilica, displays high-end fashion in a minimalistic way. It’s a deliberate contrast to the massive five-story concrete building in which it’s housed. Though the store is light on inventory, it offers appointment-based personal shopping, where customers have access to over 20,000 products available through the SSense Montreal App or on the company’s ecommerce site. Within 24 hours, items will be available to try on in-store.
Multiple entry points
Explore the 20 miles of shopping, movies, activities and dining in Montreal’s underground city. If you visit and it’s cold, rainy, or extremely hot, heading down to the underground city would make for a perfect (air conditioned) day. Tip: For a $1, you can store your bags and coats in a locker and shop hands-free.