From the GTA, Montreal is about five hours’ drive, but it’s well worth the trip. Steeped in history, Montreal is a foodie and history-lover’s dream getaway. We made a quick stop in Montreal on the first leg of our #IDontRoadTrip and have planned to return for a couples’ visit soon.
WHERE TO STAY
Expedia.ca helped us out and we stayed at Le Cantlie Suites, a beautiful hotel situated in Montreal’s gorgeous shopping district.
Though the hotel is old, it’s refreshed inside with modern, clean decor. The bed was a little worn — the mattress sagged in the centre so Ryan and I enjoyed some forced cuddling, but was otherwise comfortable.
The elevators are tiny (and take forever to arrive) so pack patience, but go light on everything else.
Our room was conveniently equipped with a coffee pot, microwave, sink, dishes, toaster, and bar fridge — perfect for taking advantage of the local foods and eating in-room.
Upscale service is standard, with bilingual desk staff and porters ready to help guests however they can. This place is perfect for the person who likes a little patina on their hotel. We didn’t eat at the hotel restaurant, but it looks beautiful. (We typically avoid hotel restaurants because they’re often pricey and there are more fun local establishments to try.)
The rooftop pool is a definite selling feature and boasts a beautiful view of the city.
GRAB A BITE
Montreal’s a walkable city, and parking is scarce. At Le Cantlie, valet parking is $24/night (with in and out privileges). For dinner at Ryan’s fave deli, we chose to drive because everyone was feeling sleepy. We naturally chose the famous Schwartz’s.
Schwartz’s is the oldest deli in Canada (at over 80 years old!), and serves the absolute best Montreal smoked meat sandwich you’ll ever eat. Do not let the long line deter you, it’s well worth the wait. (And take-out is a faster option if you don’t want to eat in.) Celebs eat there (Celine Dion is actually a part-owner), and you can even order their meat online.
Order the Montreal smoked meat sandwich, medium. And be sure to get a Cherry Cott, and a side of fantastic pickles.
If you’ve never eaten a Montreal bagel, you’ve never really had a bagel at all. (And let’s get real here… they’re even better than New York bagels.) Head to St. Viateur for a soft, fresh bagel from the people who’ve been making them best since 1957. Their flagship location is open 24/7, so you’ll never be without a fresh bagel. I forgot to snap a pic, but we ate them for breakfast in the hotel before heading out to explore.
When in Quebec, eating poutine is a must. It’s where this delicious dish was created, and perfected. Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal) is a must-see, so while there, drop in at Montreal Poutine for their Montreal Smoked Meat poutine. Their terrace is beautiful, and you’ll have a great time walking the old streets.
WHAT TO SEE
Montreal is full of great sights, and cool street art. There are countless shops, museums, and galleries to explore, and if you’re there without young kids, it’s the best place to party at night. Being with kids tames the visit a little, but gives you the chance to slow down and really enjoy it, too.
Don’t miss Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal). Once a walled city, it sits on the beautiful St. Lawrence river, and there are beautiful buildings, galleries, artists and shops to visit. Settled in 1642, Montreal has successfully maintained its historical architecture while growing around it. It’s one of the most beautiful cities to walk.
We were lucky enough to be in Montreal during L’International des Feux Loto-Québec, a fireworks display like nothing you’ve ever seen. (Well, unless you remember the Benson & Hedges fireworks shows at Ontario Place way back in the day…) Held at Montreal’s La Ronde (a very fun looking amusement park we didn’t have time to visit), the fireworks competition is viewable (it’s free!) from across the river.
We sat on the side of the road with hundreds of others, watching the remarkable display near Au Pied du Courant (which was also a fun little walk-through with foodtrucks and activities).
Note that parking is hard to come by, but street parking is allowed. We found a spot in a cute neighbourhood and walked for 15-20 minutes. Traffic leaving the area was crazy, so be patient!
The highlight of Montreal for our kids was a visit to Voiles en Voiles, and aerial ropes course along the St. Lawrence river. By far, the most beautiful course I’ve ever seen, it’s themed like 18th century pirate ships, and it’s great for all ages.
There are planks to walk, lines to zip across, rock walls to climb and bouncy castles to conquer — it’s a truly immersive experience for the entire family. It’s not easy to find something that everyone in our family enjoys the same way, but with varying heights and challenges, Voiles en Voiles offers excitement for all. Truth be told, I was way too chicken to do complete the mid-level course, but I sure had fun being scared silly. This is a must-see attraction!
Ryan and I had so much fun, we can’t wait to plan another visit soon, for just the two of us. If you’d like more information on planning your own fantastic trip to Montreal, pop over and give their site a visit!
See you again soon, Montreal!