My husband and I recently took an extended weekend trip up north to Montreal, the second-most French-speaking city in the world, after Paris. We booked our stay at Hotel Zero 1, a contemporary hotel located in the heart of the Arts and Culture district and within walking distance to most of Montreal's top attractions. With a very limited agenda, we made a concerted effort to slow down, relax, and explore this amazing city.
WHAT TO DO + SEE
Vieux-Montréal (Old Montreal) is a little slice of European heaven and a photographer's dream. It's the oldest district in the city, with a few remains dating all the way back to New France. From wandering through the cobblestone streets and admiring the historic architecture, to checking out the boutiques and art galleries along Rue Saint-Paul, to strolling along the Saint Lawrence riverfront and people watching, Vieux-Montréal quickly became our favorite — and most frequented — district.
Located on the historic Golden Square Mile, the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) is the largest museum in Montreal and among the most prominent in Canada. Whether you're into the classics or contemporary art — like my husband and I — it's a must-see for art lovers.
Located in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles, the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal (Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art) houses more than 7,000 works of art by Quebec, Canadian, and international artists whose practice focuses on major trends in the contemporary art scene.
Located in Vieux-Montréal, the Notre-Dame Basilica is one of Montreal's most popular attractions and is a must-see for first time visitors. The church's Gothic Revival architecture is exquisite and is said to be among the most dramatic in the world.
Fun Fact: Unlike most churches, whose stained glass windows depict biblical scenes, those of the Notre-Dame Basilica feature scenes from the religious history of Montreal.
At 761 feet high, Mont (Mount) Royal is the highest point in Montreal, offering some of the most incredible views of the city skyline. To reach the top, you can either hike or take a bus. If you choose to hike, be prepared to walk up A LOT of stairs. My calves were killing me the following week, but it was totally worth it.
Fun Fact: Mont Royal was designed by architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also co-designed Central Park in New York City.
WHERE TO EAT + DRINK
Located on Rue Saint-Paul, Modavie Bistro serves an incredible selection of eclectic French cuisine. Since the trip was an early birthday/anniversary celebration, we decided to splurge a little and ordered a couple glasses of Canadian wine, lamb chops, and my personal favorite, creme brûlée.
Located in downtown Montreal, L'atelier d'Argentine transports you to the heart of Buenos Aires, serving contemporary Argentinian dishes. I ordered the Bunuealo de Espinaca (tender spinach and fontina cheese fritters with roasted garlic mustard) and the Noquis de la casa (homemade ricotta gnocchi topped with rosemary lemon butter and arugula).
Located in Chinatown, The Captain's Boil is a hip little joint that blends the traditional Louisiana Creole crawfish boil with Asian-inspired spices to create an exotic, flavorful dish. On our last night, we were craving something simple, spicy, and savory for dinner and this totally hit the spot.
Located in the Quartier Latin, Randolph Pub Ludique is a fun microbrewery where you can play board games while you sip on amazing craft beers. The catch? Instead of choosing a board game you're familiar with, they choose the game for you based on your interests. We ended up playing two games we had never heard of — Marrakech and The Game — and had an absolute blast.
With a few locations throughout Montreal, Les 3 Brasseurs is known for its classic selection of craft beer, all brewed in-house. We stopped there for lunch on our second day and ordered a couple pints of beer, poutine flatbread, and a blue cheese burger.
Located in downtown Montreal, Pikolo Espresso Bar is one of the most Instagram-worthy shops in the city. Not to mention the coffee is amazing. We stopped by on our way to Mont Royal and enjoyed a couple of iced dirty chai lattes.
Thé Mon Café
Located on Rue Notre-Dame, Thé Mon Café is a charming little cafe that serves homemade sandwiches made daily and in-house. We ordered a BLT bagel, egg and bacon croissant, fruit, and dirty chai lattes (our go-to).
Located on Rue Saint-Paul, Crêperie Chez Suzette serves two French staples — crepes and fondue. Before leaving town, we stopped by for brunch and coffee. I ordered a crepe filled with eggs, Swiss cheese, mushrooms, and green peppers, along with a cappuccino.
CRÊPE 2 GO
Located in downtown Montreal, Crêpe 2 Go is great if you're looking for a quick and savory (or sweet) crepe fix. It's a small, hole-in-the-wall restaurant with only a few seats, but the crepes are delicious and the service is fast.
Located on Rue Saint-Paul, Délices Érable et Cie serves gourmet gelato and other delectable treats. Stocked with maple syrup-flavored goodies, Délices Érable et Cie is the place to go to satisfy your sweet tooth.