Little Al (ma soeur) flew out to meet us in Montreal. We collected her at Atwater Market and the adventures unfolded from there.
For anyone planning to visit Montreal in the near future, we’ve put together a list of our recommendations.
When in Montreal:
Rent bixis. It’s a super easy, affordable, and efficient way to get around the city. $7 gets you as many 30 minutes rides in 24 hours as you can fit in.
Wander the charming cobblestone streets of Old Montreal. Admire the historic architecture, and stop in to enjoy a croissant, a crepe, or some other tantalizing French delicacy along the way.
Fireworks. Check out the impressive fireworks on Saturday nights during the summer. Best viewed under the big green bridge.
Hit up the markets. Jean Talon Market is the more extensive one, and would be recommended for the “true Quebec” experience, but if you’ve got time, a stroll through Atwater Market is lovely too, and a great place to pick up some local cheese and produce for a picnic.
Climb Mont-Royal for enchanting views of the city. It’s an easy & lovely 2.2km trek up along a paved path.
Visit both St. Viteur and Fairmount and make your vote for the best bagel in the city. The consensus among the group were that Fairmont was the winner.
For an extensive selection of bean to bar chocolate, look no further than Tablette. Ask nicely, and you may just have the chance to sample pretty much any bar in the room. There is a cafe in house as well, for those of you who like a bit of coffee with your chocolate.
If you’re looking for some inspiring boutique shops, we DON’T recommend you follow Design Sponge’s recommendations for Montreal- they are quite out-of-date and many of the recommended spots are nonexistent. (We found this out the hard way.) Instead, what we would recommend is strolling the charming streets of Plateau & Mile End to uncover your own gems (there are lots to be found.) A few of our fav finds were: Buk & Nola (our favourite), District 54, Raplapla, and Unicorn.
Eat Schwart’z smoked meat. Don’t think twice. Just do it. The long line out the door will be worth the wait once you sink your teeth into a bit of their tender smoked beef. If you’re in a hurry, the line up to the take-away shop next door is usually just a fraction of the line to sit and enjoy your Schwart’z in the restaurant.
*Side note: The pickle, which normally comes WITH the Schwartz’s smoked meat sandwich when ordered in the restaurant causes EXTRA when ordering take out. We still recommend getting the pickle.
For an after-dinner treat (or let’s be serious, whenever you feel like a bit of sweet indulgence) look no further than Juliette et Chocolat. I was super impressed with their selection of chocolate in all forms, many of which are gluten free. We highly recommend the fleur de sel brownie (which comes with a pitcher of salted caramel sauce on the side to drizzle at your leisure), as well as the fleur de sel chocolate pot.
Eat at Au Pied de Cochon. Or not. In case you haven’t heard of it, Au Pied is a very renowned restaurant. A chef friend of ours flew in for a weekend to eat everything on the entire menu. Many people had raved to us about it, so we considered it a must-stop. To be honest, we were actually quite disappointed with our experience at Au Pied. Not with the food, but with the service. We were quite neglected by our server, and the restaurant was very loud. Though the food was very tasty, the overall experience was dampened by the low quality service. I suppose it goes to highlight the importance of good customer service in a dining experience. (In case you’re wondering, Brendon ordered the “duck in a can,” expecting it to be the richest thing he had ever eaten. It was. The dish surpassed his expectations in richness, actually, making the overall dining experience quite unforgettable.)
Speak French as much as possible. Seize the opportunity to practice your French with the locals! Ne pas être timide (don’t be shy)! Even if you encounter a few locals who are rude and criticize your French skills, don’t let that stop you. There needs to be a bit more camaraderie between the French and the English in this country. Let’s just all be friends, ok?
Seek out some good coffee. We found the coffee scene in Montreal to not be overly impressive, but there is some decent coffee to be found. You just might have to do a bit of seeking it out. We’ve saved you some of the trouble and have a few cafes to recommend:
Pikkilo (there is also a cool stationary shop right next door that you should check out).
Flacon Espresso (in Plateau).
Pay a visit to Point G for an impressive selection of maracrons. We highly recommend the lime-basilique.
Take advantage of Air B&B. Montreal has an amazing selection of cool apartments for rent on Air B&B for very reasonable rates. We had a fantastic experience staying at Manuel and David’s beautiful 4 level apartment. Our favourite feature feature was the rooftop terrace.
Thank you, Montreal, for an invigorating and tasty time in your lovely city! We definitely got our exercise uncovering your many hidden gems, and we are happy that you are in our country.