A Wayward Weekend in Montréal

By Claudia Laroye

As the major French-speaking city in North America, Montréal stands out as a unique and historic city that transports visitors to another time and place. The city is busily preparing for its 375th Anniversary celebrations in 2017, so now is the perfect time to plan for a very memorable wayward weekend in magnificent Montréal.

Friday

Check in to your chic suite at Le Place d’Arts Hotel and Suites. This classic hotel is perfectly located in easy walking distance of the many amenities of Old Montréal, including Notre Dame Basilica and the Old Port, as well the efficient Metro system.

Work up your appetite with a short walk to dinner at Helena, featuring the refined side of Portuguese cuisine as shaped by the capable hands of influential chef Helena Louriero. The popular dining spot is committed to showcasing delicious dishes crafted from local Quebec artisanal food producers and suppliers. 

You can’t go wrong with a velvet-smooth caldo verde soup, followed by arroz con mariscos (rice with seafood), or beef brisket with Portuguese spices.  Or choose from a variety of savory petiscos (tapas) that highlight the best of local food. Either way, do finish the meal with the irresistible pasteis de nata (egg tarts).

Explore lively Old Montréal at twilight, with a walking tour with a twist. Pull out your smartphone and ear buds and bring up the Cité Mémoire App. (Note: Download the App ahead of your arrival.) This incredible multimedia application immerses travelers in the city’s 375-year history. The app guides visitors on 60 or 90-minute walking tours of Old Montréal, including 20 projected tableaux of historical figures, facts, and battles, bringing the rich history and complexity of Montréal to life in poetic fashion.

Note: Montréal is known as festival city, particularly in summer. If you plan to take in any of the amazing events during your visit, check out Tourisme Montréal’s Festival page for information about what’s happening when, and for tickets and showtimes.

Saturday

Enjoy a continental breakfast and café au lait in the charming brasserie Suite 701 at the hotel.

Meet your guide for a tour of the historic Notre-Dame Basilica. This 19th century cathedral was built in English Gothic Revival style, on the site of the former chapel founded in the 17th century. The interior and statuary are made from wood imported from France, and the cathedral’s stained glass panes feature the history of the founding of Montréal, rather than the usual biblical scenes. The mix of English and French in the Basilica is symbolic of the ethnic mix of the city since its founding as the capital of New France in 1641, and takeover by the English in 1760.

Walk down the cobblestone streets of Old Montréal and take in the public art and quaint shops. Pop into one of the fifteen boutiques located under the silver dome of Marché Bonsecours. These shops feature local, one-of-a-kind “Made in Quebec” creations of jewelry, crafts, fashion and design items by members of the Québec Crafts Council.

Put down your parcels and lunch in the charming, flower-filled garden of the Jardin Nelson restaurant. The extensive bistro menu features sweet and savoury crepes (including gluten-free offerings), pizza, sandwiches, and a house-special duck leg confit salad.

Enjoy a stroll along the Lachine Canal to the Pointe-à-Calllière. This is home to the city’s birthplace and the Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History. Wander through historical displays and archaeological dig sites. Don’t miss the 30-minute multi-media show illustrating the 375-year history of the city through video, music, and animation, in view of the city’s foundation walls below.

Return to Le Place d’Armes for cocktails or a local craft beer under the red umbrellas of the hotel’s roof-top Terrasse.  The Terrasse offers fabulous views of Old Montréal and downtown, and is the perfect spot for people-watching until the wee hours of 3 AM on weekends (summer only).

For dinner, make a reservation for Barroco Restaurant in the Old Port. In addition to an excellent cocktail menu, Barroco features a fish and shellfish menu that is sourced and approved by the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise Program. Ocean Wise partners with restaurants across Canada to educate and empower consumers through the promotion of ocean-friendly and sustainable seafood choices.

If you’re not quite ready for bed, check out La Champagnerie, featuring a long list of private imports for all tastes and budgets.

Sunday

After checking out of your hotel and storing your bags until departure, begin your day with a classic Montréal-style bagel at Fairmount Bagel Bakery. For nearly 100 years, Fairmount has provided locally-sourced, hand-rolled bagels for hungry residents and visitors in the know. Their bagels have even made it into space and been consumed by the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
 
Montreal has one of the largest green transportation networks in North America. Work off those carbs by renting one of the 5,000 Bixi bikes and for a sedate ride along the Lachine Canal. Or bike up the road to McGill University and Mont Royal, the mini-mountain with sweeping views of the city, lovely green spaces, Saint-Joseph Oratory and Beaver Lake.

City view from Mont Royal, the highest point in Montreal. Credit C Laroye - A Wayward Weekend in Montréal

You’re in Montréal, home of two renowned culinary sensations. Try one of them for a caloric and classic lunch. Sample one of 30+ kinds of poutine at family-run La Banquise, or eat a legendary smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz’s, the oldest deli in Canada.

Complete your urban escape with a relaxing afternoon at Bota-Bota, spa-sur-l’eau. Docked on the waterfront at the Old Port, this luxurious spa has been fashioned in an old ferryboat, chicly designed with modern and minimalist décor. The body is rejuvenated and detoxified by the hydrotherapy water circuit of outdoor hot and cold plunge pools, Scandinavian saunas, steam rooms and silent rest areas. For maximum health benefits, it’s recommended to repeat the hot, cold and relaxation sequences 3-4 times. 

Make your way to Trudeau International Airport, rested, relaxed and full of the joie de vivre of Montréal.

Getting There

Fly into Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport (YUL) and catch a cab or the 24/7 express bus into Old Montréal. You won’t need a car during your stay, as most of the destinations are within easy walking distance of the hotel, or easily accessible via Metro.

Published: 8/5/2016

Claudia Laroye is an adventurous traveller and writer based in Vancouver, Canada. Claudia has written for a variety of online and print publications, with a focus on family and wellness travel. In addition to travelling with her family, she enjoys pineapple margaritas, guacamole and chocolate. Her future travel goals include Botswana, Japan and Peru. Read more of Claudia’s work here.