What better way to break the monotony of life back at school than to plan a weekend escape to a city that rocks? And just where can one find such a city that is both within driving distance and affordable? Why, Montreal, Canada of course. For those of you that have never been north of the border, let me first remind you that no visa is required for US citizens. Let me also remind you that Montreal is a mere FIVE hours drive from Boston, totally do-able on a Friday afternoon.
Being a Canadian myself (originally from Toronto, but I spent three years in Montreal during my undergrad at McGill University), I do speak french… but have no fear: Montreal is a totally bilingual city with plenty of anglophones to mingle with. What’s more, with the Canadian exchange rate hovering at around .78 cents to the US dollar, a weekend in Monty can prove to be an amazing, yet surprisingly inexpensive retreat.
Below you will find a guide to enjoying a weekend in Montreal complete with recommendations for hotels, restaurants, cool bars and clubs, and great shopping finds. Keep in mind two things not to miss: whatever you do, make sure to visit Old Montreal. You will think you’ve gone to Paris for the afternoon! Also, if you are in town on a Sunday and the weather is nice, head over to Parc Mont-Royal for “Bongos in the Park”. This is a massive jam session with drummers and bongo players from all over the city… an awesome experience!
Where to Stay:
Step one to any fabulous weekend away is finding the right accommodations. Now of course we all have a different idea of what a fabulous find might be. I have tried to provide options in every price range, but all are writer-approved (and trust me, I am very picky!).
Hotel Le Germain
2050 Rue Mansfield
The W Montreal
901 Victoria Square
Loews Hotel Vogue
1425 Rue de la Montagne
Delta Centre Ville
777 University Street
Four Points by Sheraton
475 Sherbrooke Street West
Where to Dine:
Montreal is a city known for its restaurants. It was hard to narrow it down to my top picks, but let me say that all options listed here are FABULOUS. Again, different pricepoints apply, but try to stop by at least one of the higher-end suggestions as the splurge is definitely worth it.
Moishe’s Steak House
3961 Blvd. St Laurent
Gibby’s (Old Montreal)
298 Place d’Youville
Restaurant Globe (Eclectic)
3455 Blvd. St. Laurent
Queue de Cheval
1221 Rene Levesque West
16 Ave. des Pins
Koji’s Kaizen (Japanese)
4120 Ste-Catherine St. West
Anywhere on Crescent Street
3895 Blvd. St. Laurent
75 Ave. des Pins
Le Commensal (Vegetarian)
Ste-Catherine St. West
(Italian, bring your own wine)
201 Rue Milton
A personal favorite meal of mine is brunch. And there is no shortage of fantastic breakfast spots in Montreal. The top three are listed below:
Beauty’s: A Montreal classic, even the renowned Canadian author Mordechai Richler wrote about how great this spot is in one of his novels. Classic Jewish diner food served with “chutzpa” by owner and waiters with attitude (the good kind!). A little out of the way, but well worth it. Location: 93 Ave. du Mont-Royal, 514-849-8883
Eggspectations: Amazing breakfast… anything you could imagine doing with eggs, they do here. Great food, a little pricier. Multiple locations.
Chez Cora: This student-friendly, budget breakfast spot is a favorite for college students in the area. Good food, great prices. Multiple locations.
Where to dance/drink:
There are at least 300 great places to drink and dance in Montreal, and most of them are located on Blvd. St. Laurent. You can pretty much stroll up and down any night of the week and find a happening party. Listed below are a few places to try:
Le Swimming (Bar/Billiards)
Tokyo Bar Sugar
Not all after hours clubs are open every night. Ask around. Local scenesters tend to know the current hot spots.
Where to Shop:
Montreal offers some of the best shopping in North America. More similar to Paris and Italy in style, Montreal’ers are known for their amazing fashion sense. There is 14% sales tax on everything you buy, but if you are not from Canada you can get half the tax back at the border, so make sure to save your reciepts. Remember that only a certain amount can be brought back across the border duty-free, depending on how long you spent in the country.
Ogilvy: 1307 Ste-Catherine St. W
Holt Renfrew: 1300 Sherbrooke St. W
Maison Simon’s: 977 Ste-Catherine St. W
The hands down best place to shop in the city is Les Courts de Mont Royal at Peel and Ste-Catherine streets. This mall is packed with local boutiques and independent designers that carry just about everything you could want in all price ranges.
Blvd. St. Laurent
This is one of the best shopping streets in the city. Mostly local boutiques with unique clothing, jewelry and furniture selections. A must for shopaholics.
This is where you will find all your chain stores like Gap, BCBG, and the like. Still worth a stroll as Canadian prices tend to be a lot lower than US prices for similar items.
Also a cool shopping street, St. Denis is known for its alternative vibe and hip residents. Personally I think some of the best-kept Montreal secrets can be found in and around the Prince Arthur and St. Denis area.