We visited Montreal this summer for the first time. We chose it for a couple of reasons. The most important being that it’s one of the best food city’s in North America – second only to New York City in number of restaurants per capita. 😮
We discovered that, yes, the food scene is unreal, but the city also offers so much more than that. The diverse neighborhoods are filled with things to do from perusing vintage shops, to eating your way through beautiful public markets, an awesome craft beer scene, and outdoor activities like biking and hiking! The French heritage, apparent throughout the city with people speaking a mix of French and English, gives Montreal the European flair so many elude to. That combined with the young, progressive mindset make for a such a cool vibe.
When to Go
As tropical climate ladies, we recommend heading to check out the city in the summertime or early fall. Locals say that temps literally get down to 30 degrees below zero in the winter. Like, how do you even live? Anyways, summer temps are enjoyable reaching lows of mid-60’s to high 80’s. You will need a light sweater for the evenings.
There are not direct flights from New Orleans to Montreal, but getting there is relatively easy with connecting flights starting at $300 and totaling as little as four hours travel time. The city is in the Eastern time zone you won’t suffer jet lag like you may with other international travel.
You will have to go through customs, but it’s much easier than entering many other countries. When leaving the Montreal airport, you will actually go through U.S. customs there so you don’t have to worry about it when you get back. Make sure you get to the airport early when heading back to leave time for this.
Where to Stay
The city is easy to navigate via Uber or their super user-friendly metro system. We recommend staying in Old Montreal, the Plateau or Mile End neighborhoods. You will likely be spending most of your time in those areas, but again getting back and forth isn’t much of an issue. The Old Port area is nice to see, but touristy (think the equivalent of Nola’s Bourbon Street). Mile End is the the trendiest neighborhood where many of the city’s young professionals live. There is amazing street art throughout the city.
Where to Eat & Drink
There’s so much to eat and drink in Montreal. We tried to knock as many of the region’s staples off of our list, while still saving room for all of the diverse ethnic cuisine the city has to offer.
For breakfast, brunch and coffee, try Le Cartet in Old Montreal, or if you are looking for something on the go, grab a Montreal-style bagel!
Tiramisu at adorable breakfast and coffee spot, Le Cartet, in Old Montreal
Montreal bagels are different from New York bagels. They don’t contain salt, are boiled in water with honey, and baked in wood-fired ovens, making them thinner and sweeter. We highly recommend St-Viateur Bagel, the city’s most well-known bakery. The bagels are made by hand right in front of you, which is fun to watch, and then served warm!
For lunch, try Larry’s, a trendy bustling cafe in the Mile End that serves creative, fresh small plates perfect for any time of day. They have an extensive wine and beer list as well.
Organic food is a way of life in Montreal so expect everything you eat to be amazingly fresh, and to find vegan and vegetarian options on every corner. One of our faves was swanky restaurant bar LOV – made for the ‘gram. 📸
For dinner, the options are endless. From Japanese to Peruvian to Italian to Portugese, every type of cuisine imaginable is available in Montreal. Restaurant HÀ was one of our favorites. The Asian-Fusion spot in the Mont-Royal neighborhood is the second location to open in the city and is consistently ranked on the best of Montreal lists.
If you are going to splurge, Garde Manger is the place to do it. By local celebrity chef, Chuck Hughes, you will feel like a VIP as soon as you, actually make it into, this exclusive restaurant – which won’t be easy. There’s no signage so look for the numbers and then stumble uncertainly behind a curtain hanging in an empty foyer until you find yourself inside. It’s worth it for the menu featuring succulent seafood and other inventive dishes that change daily on their chalkboard. We hear the party goes until 3 a.m. here so try not to eat your way into a food coma like we did.
Tiradito is a unique Japanese and Peruvian blend that is the life of the party so go here on a night you are feeling energetic. You may be waiting a while to get a seat at the wrap around bar which is the only seating offered in the house, but it’s worth the wait. There’s a bar underneath the restaurant where you can get a buzz while you wait to join the party. The spicy cauliflower served in a coconut stew and pisco sours are not to be missed.
For light drinks and snacks while you are waiting for your next dining experience, try Tommy, a cute and super grammable two-story cafe perfect to stop in and rest for a few.
St. Paul Hotel in Old Montreal is one of the most beautiful in the city. While it may be a bit our of our price range, stopping in for a cocktail before dinner is the perfect way to take a peek.
Other staples that are a must try in the city are smoked meats where delis like Schwartz serve it on huge sandwiches, and pubs with bar inspired fare including Poutine! So much to eat, so little time.
We went on a Mile End food tour one day with Local Montreal Food Tours to check a bunch of the must-eats off of our list. It was a really cool walking tour that also gave a nice look into the area of the city.
What to See & Do
Biking is the primary mode of transportation in the city. There are bikes everywhere! So naturally, biking it is one of the best ways to see Montreal. We did a bike tour with a super cool local company Fitz and Folwell with about 12 other people visiting through South Montreal.
We rode through downtown, many of the city’s beautiful parks and historic landmarks in Old Montreal like the beautiful Notre-Dame Basilica.
This is definitely worth a try! Just think, you will burn off the bagels while you’re at it.
The city has no shortage of great shopping. For your favorite chains that you can’t get at home like Zara, hit Saint Catherine Street. You will also find Canadian-based department store here, Artizia, which we originally discovered in Soho in NYC. LOVE.
The most fun shopping is on Saint-Laurent Street, which runs through the Plateau and Mile End neighborhoods. Strolling down this street will lead you into endless beautiful boutiques and awesome vintage stores.
If you aren’t afraid of a little activity, and the weather permits, don’t miss heading to to Mont-Royal park to hike to the top of the mountain for the best view of the city you will get. The hike is not too intense, it probably takes about an hour both ways. Worth it for the insta!
Visit colorful Market Jean Talon, a huge public market to stock up on souvenirs like maple syrup and strawberry jam to bring back. The summertime is obviously the best time to visit being the prime growing season. But, go hungry any time of the year. You will find delicious coffee, yummy pastries, crepes, smoked meats and other treats to munch on.
We will definitely be back, Montreal!