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 still in the throes of its 375th Anniversary celebrations, so it’s not too late to enjoy these activities for the best weekend in Montréal ever.
How to Spend the Best Weekend in Montreal
Check in to your chic suite at Le Place d’Armes Hotel and Suites. This 19th-century neoclassical hotel is perfectly located in easy walking distance of the many amenities of Old Montréal, including Notre Dame Basilica and the Old Port. You’re also just blocks away from the efficient Metro system. Le Place d’Armes is also super family-friendly. Its Kids in the City package come with a concierge who can tailor child-friendly activities for your family.
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 showcases 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 multi-media application immerses the user 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.
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.
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. It sits on the site of the former chapel founded in the 17th century. The interior and statuary are made from wood imported from France. 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-Callière. 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. The multi-media show includes video, music, and animation, in view of the city’s foundation walls below.
Return to Le Place d’Armes for cocktails or local craft beer under the red umbrellas of the roof-top Terrasse. The Terrasse offers fabulous views of Old Montréal and downtown. It’s 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. It educates and empowers 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.
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 one hundred 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, Mount Joseph Oratory and Beaver Lake.
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.
Spend the Afternoon at the Spa
Complete your urban escape with a relaxing afternoon at Bota-Bota, spa-sur-l’eau. This luxurious spa is fashioned from an old ferryboat, and is docked in the Old Port. It’s chicly designed with modern and minimalist décor. The hydrotherapy water circuit rejuvenates and detoxifies the body. The circuit includes outdoor hot and cold plunge pools, Scandinavian saunas, steam rooms and silent rest areas. You should repeat the hot, cold and relaxation sequences 3-4 times, for maximum health benefits. Trust me, it’s pure bliss.
Make your way to Trudeau International Airport, rested, relaxed and full of the joie de vivre of Montréal.
Fly into Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport (YUL) and catch a cab of the 24/7 express bus into Old Montréal. Most of the destinations are within easy walking distance of the hotel, or easily accessible via Metro. You don’t need a car while visiting Montreal.
Photo Credits: C. Laroye, Tourism Montreal
Disclosure: The Travelling Mom thanks Tourisme Montreal for hosting our stay in Montreal. As always, our opinions about this great French-Canadian city are honest and our own.