I recently got back from an amazing trip to New England and Montréal, and before I even left Montréal, I was thinking about how/when I could get up there again. Lexi and I have always had a weird fascination with Canada, even though we’d only spent a day in Victoria, B.C. before. But after spending four days in Montréal, Quebec, my fascination was validated. (Like, I loved it so much I spent a solid two days after returning to the States looking for jobs in Montréal.)
Montréal, in my opinion, is the best of both worlds. I knew it was French-Canadian, but I didn’t realize how French until I visited. It was almost like being back in France. When we were at The Hundred Event recently, another blogger mentioned she had been to Montréal and described it as a “mini Paris,” and I completely agree. The signs were in French, you were greeted with “Bonjour” when walking into a restaurant or shop, and THE CROISSANTS. Oh, the croissants.
However, everything was also in English, which was nice, considering my French consists of a few phrases. All of the locals spoke English, as well – once again, making me feel like a dumb American, only knowing English, and on a good day, 3/4ths of the Spanish language, and a couple of phrases in German (“I want a beer”/”Where is the local brauhaus?”).
Speaking of the locals, they were incredibly nice, welcoming and helpful. I was with two of my girlfriends, and there wasn’t a point in time we felt unsafe, or like we couldn’t ask someone for directions or recommendations. Going into the trip, we didn’t have much of a plan, so we just constantly asked people for suggestions, mainly our waiters/bartenders/any random people we met. Personally, I think this is the best way to travel – you can read all of the Rick Steves you want, but I guarantee the locals can tell you the best places to eat, grab a beer (or a few), and which parts of the city are really worth seeing.
|classic poutine w/ foie gras gravy @ Nyk’s|
Going off of recommendations, we spent our nights on the Saint Laurent Boulevard, which is the main street with the bars. There really aren’t too many bars in Montréal like we go to in Dallas. They had much more of a Europe-discoteca-vibe to them – DJ’s every night and large dance floors. The first part of the street, you’ll be swarmed by promoters trying to pull you into their different bars. If you don’t have a set place to go, it’s not a bad idea to just go with them. You may end up not liking the bar, but if anything, you’ll get a free entry and, more than likely, a free drink. Once you venture a little more down Saint Laurent, you’ll be in a relatively promoter-free zone where the locals spend their nights. We went to a few bars with the promoters, but decided to stick with the suggestions we were given by one of our waiters. Our favorites were Tokyo and Apartment 200. Apartment 200 isn’t easy to find – it’s nondescript on the outside, but you’ll see a small line of people waiting to get inside, and it’s totally worth the tiny bit of extra time to find it.
|enjoying the nightlife @ Thursday’s on Rue Crescent|
In terms of sightseeing, we kind of got a late start the majority of days (we weren’t used to the extra hour the bars are open), but we wandered around Old Montréal, which was my favorite. The Notre-Dame basilica is so beautiful – we didn’t go inside, but the outside is worth seeing! We also spent part of the day on Saint Laurent popping in and out of little boutique shops and eating smoked meat sandwiches at Schwartz’s Deli, which is a Canadian/Montréal staple.
One thing that really stuck out to me, as well as the girls I traveled with, was the cleanliness of the city. It was exceptionally clean. I was quite surprised, actually, considering the number of tourists the city sees. It made wandering around the streets even more enjoyable.
Another plus about Montréal: we found it to be fairly inexpensive. It may be similar to Paris, but it’s probably half the price. We all agreed the prices for dinner, drinks, etc. were pretty comparable to Dallas. We also spent time in Boston, and we paid more for dinners there than in Montréal. However, the taxes in Montréal, and Canada in general, are ridiculously high. So, if you buy quite a bit, it’s worth it to fill out the forms at customs on your way out of the country to get the tax money back.
Here’s a short list of places to grub, where to stay, things to see, and where to spend your nights:
- Notre-Dame Basilica
- Old Montréal: you can wander by foot, rent bikes, or take a bus tour
- Olympic Park
- Parc du Mont Royal
- Place d’Armes
- Saint Catherine: This is the main “drag,” which has a lot of shops (more big names than boutiques), as well as restaurants
- Saint Laurent: more boutique stores and restaurants
- Mile End: described by a local as where the “hipsters” go
- RENT AN APARTMENT. I try to do this a lot of the places I go, because normally, you get good deals, and you have a kitchen, etc. We rented one near McGill (the “Harvard” of Montreal), and it was an awesome location. Since Montreal has universities, visiting in the summer can be a good time to rent an apartment, since students might be trying to rent theirs out while they’re away for the summer. Great resources: Airbnb and HomeAway
- The Omni – we knew people who stayed here, and loved it, as well. Our apartment was close to the hotel, which were all in good locations.
- Nyk’s: We stumbled upon this place the first night and are so happy we did. The food was great, and the waiter gave us great suggestions.
- Le Cartet: Another local (who is also a DJ at Tokyo + Apt. 200) suggested this place for brunch – again, phenomenal food, and Old Montreal is within walking distance.
- Schwart’z Deli: On Saint Laurent, famous for their smoked meat sandwiches. There are two parts – one where you can get the food to-go (what we did), and an actual restaurant (usually has a line out the door). So. Delicious. Smoked meat is kind of a cross between corned beef and brisket.
- Universel Déjeuners et Grillades
- Apartment 200: You’ll probably need the actual address – 3643 St. Laurent, Apt. 200. I want my real apartment to look like this place. It’s beautifully decorated, and it makes you feel like you’re actually at a loft party than in a bar.
- Saint Laurent: both of the above are located here, but there are several other bars and clubs, as well
- Rue Crescent: similar to Saint Laurent in that there are various bars and clubs (we preferred Saint Laurent, though)