Roam Guide / Montreal, Canada
Wynne Reece is a born and raised resident of Minneapolis and is a lover of all things Canadian. When she's not practicing law, Canada is where she likes to spend her time, especially the city of Montreal where she’s logged countless visits. Wynne works with creative entrepreneurs as an attorney for the Creative’s Council. Over the years she has won a multitude of awards for her compassion and hard work in the industry; and most recently was nominated as one of the contenders to grace the cover of Fierce Founder magazine. However, her newest and biggest accomplishment is the birth of her son Teddy, whom she welcomed in November with her husband Ben and their two Doodles.
Best Time to travel to Montreal: there really isn’t a bad time to go, every season has a unique appeal. Albeit cold, the winter is enchanting and cozy. In the spring the snow begins to thaw and the city comes alive, as it leads the way to summer festivals and patio season in Old Montreal. However, fall is really my favorite when the crowds thin out and there is perfect chill in the air.
“While French is the native language in Montreal, you’ll find that most people speak English.”
How to travel to Montreal?
From most major cities you can fly direct flights to Montreal. We usually fly from Minneapolis to Montreal through Delta. If you are a Perks member, you can even find flights for as low as 25,000 miles.
Rtip: If you’re looking to explore more of the Canada consider staying a few more days and adding Quebec City to your itinerary. See our Roam Guide from local expert here.
How to get around?
Driving can be difficult, signs are in French and parking is at a premium, making it rather expensive. Montreal is a great city for walking or biking. You can see a lot on foot, so you’ll really only need transportation when you get tired out. In that case you can opt for public transportation, like the Metro or call an Uber.
“Explore on foot, or even by bike, there are so many incredible parts of this city.”
Where should we stay?
I recommend staying in Old Montreal. The historic buildings coupled with the winding cobblestone streets are magical, and in my opinion it is the perfect home base to explore the city. There are lot of great hotels and home rentals here. Primarily, I've used Airbnb or Vrbo in Montreal, both are great.
If you are looking to stay in a hotel the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth is Montreal’s most famous historic hotel, where John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged the “bed for peace”, and where the song “Give Peace a Chance” was composed and recorded. You can’t beat the location and the old world feel of the Hotel Place d’Armes in Old Montreal. Another great option to consider are all the boutique properties hidden around the city, like Hotel Gault.
What should we do?
I would start by hiking up Mount Royal for a panoramic view of the city. There are several walking paths and Olmsted Road, which includes a wide biking path, that leads to the summit. Beyond the view, this sprawling public park has historic sites, scenic areas and green space ready to explore; you could even pack yourself some snacks and enjoy a picnic.
After your hike (really a stroll), you can walk to Little Italy to see Marche Jean-Talon, the oldest and largest marketplace in the city. Grab a bite to eat from the ‘miles and miles’ of local food vendors. Here we bought meat, cheese and crackers to make a charcuterie board back at our hotel. Quebec is known for their cheese (especially cheese curds), enjoy some samples before you buy at La Fromagerie HAMEL. If you like oysters, consider finding, Oysters at La Boite Aux Huitres, they stock a large variety and their expert huskers will tell you all about them.
Head South to Mile End, where you will find two of Montreal's quintessential bagel places: St. Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel. You can you decide which is best, the locals pick sides. If your not hungry grab a coffee to-go from Cafe Olimpico and explore all the great little boutiques and galleries in the area, like the infamous Dragon Flower shop. If you have more time, stop at Dieu du ciel for a flight at one of Montreal’s top craft breweries. If you can, grab a seat on the patio.
“ My husband doesn’t like bagels in Minneapolis but loves them in Montreal. Not going to lie we walked like 15 miles to get here. Go for the bagel whole, it’s crisp on the outside. “
After Mile End, take a walk through Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood on Saint-Laurent Boulevard. Locals call it the main drag (or Main) as it separates the city into east and west quarters. This is a great place to walk back towards Old Montreal and see a concentration of murals along the way. This street it is the hub for the annual Mural Festival and described as an open air gallery.
“We found that public art and light installations can be found all over the city, some are even painted in alleys or projected onto buildings.”
In Old Montreal, wander down Saint Paul Street and marvel at the historic buildings. Don’t forget to stop by the town square, Place Jacques- Cartier to see artists, performers and a view of the Old Port. Cirque du Soleil originated in Montreal and their street performers are some of the most unique and talented around. From there, visit the Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel and climb to the top for an incredible view of the St. Lawrence River. Alternatively you can find panoramic views from the observation wheel, the La Grande roue De Montreal (pictured above).
After all that walking, you'll need to treat yourself to some recovery time. There's no better place to do that than the floating spa on the St. Lawrence River, called Bota Bota. Trust me when I say it's heaven. This boat is stationary and open year-around, with hot tubs overlooking the river, spa- services, serene spaces, pools of varying temperatures and an outdoor bar. The best thing, it’s affordable, you pay by the hour.
“There are no words, it’s so incredible, even in the winter when the giant refurbished boat is surrounded by frozen water.
What should we eat?
Montreal is known for great food, especially bagels, smoked meat sandwiches and poutine. Try them all, multiple times.
Near our hotel in Old Montreal, we frequently started our day by walking to one of my favorite pastry shops in the world, Maison Christian Faure. Everything there is outstanding, in my opinion. I am partial to the crispy Palmier and their Almond Croissant.
In Plateau Mont-Royal, we stumbled across Lili.Co and we keep going back to this family-owned restaurant that is named after their daughter. Their fiddle fern soup is like ‘drinking summer’ and if you find yourself their for breakfast, order the pancakes- they are decadent.
While browsing the murals on Saint Laurent, do yourself a favor and grab lunch from Schwartz Deli. This old School, Jewish deli has the BEST pastrami sandwich, and is a staple in Montreal. The line will likely be long, but it goes fast.
For a truly incomparable dining experience, try Joe Beef. It’s not pretentious or fancy. In fact, it’s Michelin level dining without the bougie decor. It's tough to get a reservation, but very much worth it. Think Foie Gras Burger and Lobster Mac & Cheese on a chalkboard menu.
Rtip : Gibbys in Old Montreal is fabulous, if you like steak and classic cocktails, this is the spot for you. The atmosphere is magic with low ceilings and exposed brick, and the outside patio and courtyard is filled with greenery, flowers, rod iron windows. As the sun sets you can really forget you're still in North America.
Where should we go for a drink?
We really like stopping in Alfie's in Old Montreal for a Manhattan. However, it’s a big city, wander the streets and the nightcaps will find you.
What is one can’t miss item on you itinerary?
Hands down the Bota Bota Spa. A peaceful, waterfront respite, even men will enjoy.
What can we bring back with us?
Montreal is an amazing city for art, it’s everywhere - I'd consider finding a piece to bring home.
Tell us something we don’t know?
The Montreal Canadians have won 24 Stanley Cups. If it’s in season, make your way to the Bell Center for a game.
What should we take with us?
Walking shoes most certainly, as we walk everywhere! I recently wore these Addidas to Montreal, they are my favorite. A great bag that can fit a ton of stuff in it, but allow your hands to be free for sipping a latte or snapping a picture of Bota Bota or the historic buildings. In the past I've used something similar to the Louise Vuitton Carry All, but this Mina Baie convertible bag is my current (baby friendly) go-to, that friends without babes have purchased too! A good pair of flats that are versatile for a night out, as the cobblestone roads can be a bit of an obstacle in a pump! A versatile piece that can double as warmth and a piece you feel confident in, no matter the ambiance of whatever business you stumble into. I love this piece from Cuyana, I get compliments on it for days and can't help but channel Olivia Pope when wearing it. Of course, a portable charging pack because we use our phones for so much more than pictures (reservations, maps, translation tools, etc.). Otherwise, Montreal is truly what you make it. It can be either high fashion or low key. Tailor your wardrobe choices to your preferences and of course to reflect the season.
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