There was no better way to cap the summer off than taking a weekend trip to Montreal. For those who don’t know me, I was actually born and raised in Montreal and moved to Toronto with my family when I was 15 years old. Yes, this means I was fluent in French and may or may not have had a Quebec accent for a few years. The last time I visited Montreal was for a friend’s bachelorette party so I’m guessing it had been about 10 years. The trip was fabulous, and went by way too quickly. Since so many of you were tuning into my Instagram stories and posts, I figured a recap of my adventures was necessary.
I always seem to forget that Montreal is literally in Toronto’s backyard. It’s so easy to get there depending on what mode of transportation you take which means multiple visits during the year are totally doable. I’ve listed travel options to get to Montreal in order of my preference and these take into account travelling from Toronto. Prices and time will vary if you are coming from another city.
Lengthwise you’re probably looking at the same time as being in a car but without the stress of traffic and driving. Via Rail has trips that depart from Union Station and arrive to Montreal Central Station ranging from $150-200. Once you factor in renting a car, gas and just the physical strain of driving for 5 hours, it’s totally worth taking the train. Plus, with the free wi-fi you can work, access Netflix and most importantly just nap whenever the mood strikes.
If you enjoy driving then this is a good option too. You’re looking at about 5-6 hours depending on traffic, how many stops you take and how far in the city you are going to. The more people you go with the better because you can switch up the driving responsibilities and naturally take part in a few sing a longs.
Definitely an option but not my favourite. You’re looking to pay between 200-300 for your roundtrip flight and even though the flight time is only about an hour, once you factor in the time to get to the airport, cabbing to you final destination etc you’re looking at about the same time as driving or taking the train. And frankly, with my latest experiences it seems like short haul flights are ALWAYS delayed. No one wants to be stuck at an airport for longer then your actual flight time is.
Where to Stay
One of my favourite areas in Montreal is Old Montreal. If you stop for a minute, you’ll actually feel like you are in Europe. Naturally, it’s my favourite area to stay in. It’s walkable, close to bars and restaurants and of course the old port. We stayed at Le Westin which was a really good location for us. A few blocks away from the streets of Old Montreal and a quick uber drive to downtown Montreal or other nearby areas. Other hotels that I would love to check out one day are:
Things To Do
Montreal is similar to Toronto in that there is ALWAYS something to do. Between the food festivals, concerts and special events, you can literally just stumble your way through the the city. The summer features events like Pride, Jazz Festival, the International Fireworks Competition, the Grand Prix, Osheaga and the Just for Laughs Festival.
One bucket list item I particularly had on my list was to spend an afternoon at Bota Bota Spa, Old Montreal’s spa on a boat. They have literally taken an old boat and converted each deck into a relaxing escape focusing mainly on water circuits and massages. There are so many indoor and outdoor areas to explore which makes spending an afternoon there extremely easy. I had a massage which was maybe the best one I’ve had in my life and then took a turn at the water circuits. Think saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs, followed by cold baths and showers. Each of the decks also have relaxation areas with hanging chairs, hammocks and day beds which makes napping perfectly acceptable. One of my favourite areas of the spa was the outdoor garden which features a waterfall, hot and cold pools, bar and sauna. The one critique I would have for the spa would be their change rooms. They are located on the lowest deck and sadly were not great. The ventilation was terrible which made it very hot and humid with all the showers and blowdryers running. Most spas I’ve been to usually have a small selection of products to use in the change room and Bota Bota didn’t have much. And, don’t expect to receive any slippers or bags for your wet bathing suit, make sure to bring everything you might need during and for after your spa day. Overall it was a great afternoon and I would definitely come back.
Food and Drink
My favourite part of any trip! I had a list that was way longer than it should be but when it comes to experiencing the food scene of a city, I’d rather be over prepared. Some of the highlights of our trip are listed here:
Located in Old Montreal on the Notre Dame strip, Bulma Bar is a cute little spot for Asian street food/snacks. Think dishes like Siu Mai, chirashi, baos and really unique twists on traditional dishes like burgers and ribs. One of the owners, Brandon, is also a Toronto native so make sure to say hi!
Just up the street from Bulma Bar is another bar/restaurant called Fishbone which the staff at Bulma Bar recommended we check out. It’s a newly opened Spanish Tapas bar which definitely has a supper club vibe after the dinner hour is done. The rock shrimp was delicious and so were their cocktails. I loved everything about the vibe, the music and the crowd. Highly recommended! It’s also on a strip which is comparable to King West here in Toronto so there is a lot to see and do.
Tommy’s Cafe has three different locations in Montreal, each with a different offering. One offers up coffee and snacks, another specializes in bagels and the one we went to is a full service restaurant. They are all extremely adorable spaces with open air fronts and adorned with all kinds of plants and greenery. The food was yummy but took WAY too long to arrive. There’s always a line up so arrive early!
Jatoba was recommended to me by family friends of mine and it was probably one of my favourite meals of the entire trip. It’s a beautiful restaurant in Financial District with one of the most gorgeous garden patios I’ve ever seen. The menu is mostly made of Asian style dishes like dumplings and plenty of seafood options. We shared a bunch of dishes but some of the standouts were the mushroom fried rice, black cod and Chinese Eggplant. I was so distracted by how delicious the food was I forgot to take pictures!
Marche De La Villette
Another one of my favourite meals was from a restaurant that we just stumbled upon. Marche De La Villette will instantly transport you to a French bistro in Paris. Its ridiculous adorable inside with simple table settings, plants and greenery all over, French music playing over the speakers and pariesin artwork and artifacts sprinkled all over the venu. They serve classic French dishes but the second I saw Montreal smoked meat on the menu I had to have it. Everything was super delicious and we could have easily stayed there for hours.
If you haven’t had a meal at Garde Manger you are truly missing out on a Montreal staple. It’s a classic French restaurant serving up delicious meat and seafood from renowned chef Chuck Hughes. The first time I dined at Garde Manger was actually on a work trip and I remember it being such an incredible experience. At the last minute I decided to get a reservation and I’m so happy I did. Between the fresh ingredients in the tomato salad, the tender and juicy scallops and decadent profiteroles, we rolled out of there very happy. The restaurant is ALWAYS packed so make sure to get a reservation!
And so an incredible trip to Montreal came to an end. We definitely did a lot in the three days that we were there but I could have easily spent another day or two just exploring and of course eating my way through the streets. I can’t wait for my next visit and hopefully after reading this post, you guys are ready for a trip too!
Till the next adventure!