Although some may consider our neighbor to the north to be a bit frigid, Canada is actually one very hot travel destination these days. Filled with endless opportunities for active travel, Canada is an amazingly diverse travel destination that really has something for every type of traveler. Today’s guest contributor, Vanessa Chiasson, is taking us on a stroll through one of the country’s most vibrant cities in her Montreal City Guide.
With all the style of Paris and all the hipness of Berlin, Montreal is easily Canada’s coolest city. This multilingual mecca is the embodiment of everything chic and it makes for an impossibly romantic weekend escape. Happily, there’s one thing that Montreal doesn’t share with its European counterparts and that’s their price tag. For such a beautiful and in-demand destination, Montreal is remarkably affordable – especially if you know where to look!
Where to Stay in Montreal
All great romantic escapes start with a wonderful hotel and you’ll be spoiled for choice in Montreal. A classic option is the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth. With a prime location at Central Station, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. But what I love best are the extra special touches, like how the hotel grows its own herbs, edible flowers, and vegetables on the rooftop, as well as keeps its own bees for honey production. Keep an eye out for offerings of goat cheese – the hotel also fosters goats at local farms that supply milk just for this purpose!
Even if you don’t stay here, be sure to pop in for a drink at the main floor bar. They make a mighty fine chocolate martini and the long-time bartenders might be convinced to share some juicy stories about their many famous guests – like John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hosted the couples’ infamous “Bed-In For Peace” in 1969. Guests can book the Lennon-Ono suite for no premium charge. All suites of this size cost the same and it’s entirely possible that you might find yourself booked in just by chance alone.
Another amazing option is Hotel Le St Martin. If you love the unique feel of a boutique hotel, Le St Martin is a stylish, tastefully appointed property adjacent to the Peel metro station. It’s the perfect choice for a quick weekend getaway. Little touches really set the Hotel Le St Martin apart – like big, cozy bathrobes, Keurig coffee machines, and a 4pm “Snack Angel” who offers complimentary treats.
What to Do in Montreal
Pulling yourself away from the hotel room may be a challenge but it’s well worth it to discover the city. Montrealers embrace any opportunity to explore their city and visitors can emulate their example while still maintaining a budget. Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts is an ideal place to start. It’s an incredible, multi-building complex that itself is a work of art and features many stunning piece of outdoor sculpture.
On a warm and sunny day, head to the Botanical Gardens. This beautifully designed space features amazing plant sculptures and is also home to the Insectarium. While hanging out with creepy-crawlies may seem counter-intuitive to a romantic getaway, I promise you’ll love it and will find it utterly fascinating.
Winters in Montreal are not for the faint of heart but much of the city’s downtown is connected by underground tunnels. When the harbor freezes, there are opportunities for ice skating and ice fishing and even some spa indulgences. A visit to Bota Bota – a docked boat turned Scandinavian spa experience – is the perfect activity for someone who would rather watch the ice fishing than actually do it!
Where to Eat in Montreal
Whether you need to warm up, cool down, or just want to linger and people watch, Montreal has a huge selection of restaurants. For a lunch or a snack, my favorite spot is Patrice Patissier. This is a pastry house where pastries are just the tip of the iceberg! They have delicious and affordable lunch options, from classic grilled cheese to more sophisticated dishes. Whatever you choose, save room for dessert and pick up a humble looking canele. Traditional to Bordeaux, with a soft, custard-like centre and a thick caramelized crust, caneles are shaped like a fluted cylinder and have a special deliciousness all their own.
There’s only one place to have a romantic dinner in Montreal and that’s in the old city. The twisting cobblestone lanes are exactly the charming background you had in mind when you first planned your dream escape. A choice both your taste buds AND your wallet will be happy with is Communion. At this local’s haunt, it’s not unusual to see the patrons greet each other and the wait staff by name. The atmospheric low lighting, cozy design, and great wine list make it the perfect spot for a romantic meal. (And couples on a budget will appreciate the value priced Table d’Hote.)
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t make a heartfelt endorsement of prosaically unromantic Star Noodles (formerly Soup and Noodles). My husband and I had only been dating two weeks when he brought me to Montreal to sample their peanut butter dumplings. There must be something in their incredible peanut sauce because we’ve been married 10 years now and we never leave Montreal without taking a feast home with us!
When it comes to romantic destinations, Montreal obviously has a very special place in my heart and I have no doubt this charming, sophisticated destination will be winning over new visitors for years to come. Here’s hoping you find it as enchanting as I do!
Have you ever been to Montreal? What would you add to our Montreal City Guide? Join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or send us an email to ask a question or share your experience.
Disclosure: Vanessa’s travel experience was provided by Fairmont Queen Elizabeth and Hotel Le St Martin.