Considering I’ve lived in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and New York, it’s pretty sad that it’s taken me 26 years to cross the Canadian border. It’s not that I didn’t want to, the opportunity just never presented itself. This year it seemed that all of my friends were taking trips to Montreal, so who am I to resist peer pressure? I coerced Aja into coming with me because I didn’t want to gorge myself on poutine alone.
For those of you considering a trip to Montreal, I wholeheartedly advise you to go. It’s like visiting Europe, only significantly cheaper and closer. You’re in Quebec, so the signs are in French and don’t be surprised if your waitress doesn’t speak English. We definitely had our fair share of awkward conversations that involved more hand motions and pointing than actual words. To be fair, these instances occurred more often away from downtown, but if you’re like me and like to see and experience all a city has to offer, you’re going to head toward the outer parts of the city as well. Everyone was a good sport about it and while my French is limited, I managed to get by just fine.
We stayed in a lovely Airbnb in the Verdun/Le Sud-Ouest neighborhood (I’ll save that for another post), near the end of the green line. The city is very walkable, but also has an efficient and easy-to-navigate metro system. $13 will get you an unlimited weekend pass, which is a total steal. And while it was hard to leave the house in the morning because our hosts were just so incredible, we did manage to get out and see some of the things Montreal is known for.
Click below for some photos, as well as recommendations from our lovely hosts!
Near the end of the green line are the Olympic Park and Montreal Botanical Gardens. The old stadium has been repurposed into a bunch of different things (I saw a sports medicine building, as well as tennis courts, and numerous other indoor and outdoor sports-related activities), including the Biodome, which allows you to walk through four different ecosystems under one roof. For roughly $20USD you can go to the top of the tower and look out over all of Montreal.
The botanical gardens were far and away the best I’ve ever seen. Different countries were represented, but Japan was probably my favorite. There were pagodas, the incredible boats you can see in the photo above, koi, and winding trails that took you to yet another magical place. If you’re looking for a place to spend a relaxing day away from downtown, this is it.
I’ll talk about my Airbnb experience in another post, but I wanted to give a quick shout out to Luce, Regis, and Elouan for an incredible weekend. They were so warm and welcoming, and even made us breakfast each morning. Keep scrolling for some of their recommendations for things to see and do while in Montreal. We were SO glad we took their advice.
The food in Montreal is incredible. I had the best lemonade and sangria, as well as arguably the best brunch EVER. Again, keep scrolling for dining suggestions from our lovely hosts.
I love a good market, and Jean Talon is the largest in North America. I probably could’ve spent an entire day there just wandering around looking at everything, but alas we were on borrowed time. If I lived in Montreal, I would absolutely make the trek every week to get my produce here. While all I walked away with was a bar of incredible smelling soap, I definitely had my eyes on a bucket of strawberries.
While we hiked up to Mont Royal to see the exterior of St. Joseph’s, I’m saving the interior for my next trip. Even still, you have to admit the building is stunning. If you climb the stairs to the base of the oratory and look back, you’ll also get a nice view.
Possibly my favorite attraction was the Notre Dame basilica. As an art history major, I have a huge weakness for churches, and this one doesn’t disappoint. From the gothic revival architecture to the lighting, paintings, and candles, it was an absolutely stunning space. We definitely took our time here.
Now! As promised, here are some recommendations for things to see and do while in Montreal:
Beauty’s Luncheonette (Traditional diner)
Restaurant Su (Turkish)
La Banquise (Poutine)
Regine Cafe (Brunch)
Kem CoBa (Unique ice cream flavors)
Juliette & Chocolat (Chocolate bar)
Schwartz’s Deli (Smoked meat)
St-Viateur Bagel (Bagels)
Olympic Park Tower
Notre Dame Basilica
Jean Talon Market
St. Joseph’s Oratory
Contemporary Art Museum
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts