It takes the same amount of time to travel to Montreal as it does to fly to New York, and while the Canadian city doesn’t pretend to match the scale and excitement of the Big Apple (where can?), it’s multitude of unique charms makes it an excellent alternative for an accessible long weekend break.
Actually, the way an Old World charm and the energy of a modern metropolis go hand in hand reminds you more of Paris (not least because it is a predominantly French speaking city). Beautiful architecture waits behind every corner while an enviable calendar of cutting edge arts and culture keep things interesting all year round.
Here are just some of our picks for where to go if you’re lucky enough to visit.
Where to stay
Down a quiet street in Montreal’s old town, this restored boutique is spacious, peaceful and beautifully finished. A great launch pad to explore the calmer side of the city and bask in a little luxury.
449 Sainte-Hélène Street, 514 904-1616, hotelgault.com
Hôtel Le Crystal
Alternatively, to experience the vibrancy of downton Montreal, check out the 5 star Le Crystal where the rooms are more like apartments and enjoying a cocktail in the rooftop jacuzzi is a perfect way to watch the city come alive.
1100 de la Montagne Street, 514 861-5550, hotellecrystal.com/en
Where to lunch
Located along the bank of Fleuve Saint Laurent, this bright, breezy bar and restaurant has a first class wine list and boasts some of the best seafood in town. We recommend the eggs benedict with lobster for a breakfast you won't forget in a hurry.
135 de la Commune West, 514 937-6555, restaurantcommunion.com
Where to dine
Maison Boulud at the Ritz-Carlton Montréal Hotel
The world’s first Ritz was built in Montreal, and following a massive refurbishment the hotel is now once again one of the most elegant in the world – with a restaurant to match. Daniel Boulud, the world-renowned chef with successful fine dining establishments around the world, has created the hottest table in the city. Book early.
1228 Sherbrooke Street West, 514 842-4212, maisonboulud.com
Where to relax
Built out of a one-time ferryboat anchored on the river in Montreal’s Old Port, Bota-Bota is unlike most spas you’ve visited. Enjoy a treatment or just relax on the deck as the Fleuve Saint Laurent flows all around you.
358, de la Commune Street West, 514 284-0333, botabota.ca
Where to visit
Montréal Museum of Fine Arts and Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal
Get a fix of classic and contemporary Canadian art by visiting the city’s two main galleries, with collections to rival that of any city in the world. Work of every description, from drawing to film and music to fashion and design, fill these equally stunning exhibitions spaces, giving you a great crash course in the country’s creative heritage.
1380 Sherbrooke Street West, 514 285-2000, mmfa.qc.ca / 185 Sainte-Catherine Street West, 514 847-6226, macm.org
When to go
Montreal is best visited in the summer, and if you can manage it, time your visit to coincide with the annual Jazz Festival. Despite the name, the Festival (one of the city’s many) incorporates music of all kinds, and always includes some notable big acts (this year: Aretha Franklin). More than that, the Festival brings out the best of the whole city and turns the centre of town into a non-stop party.
26 June – 5 July, montrealjazzfest.com