What To Do As a First-Timer in Montreal

Hi all! This New Years Eve my boyfriend and I took a trip to Montreal for a short little getaway to celebrate 2019. Beforehand I heard nothing but great things about the city and I have to say – it didn’t disappoint! Montreal is known for its summer month festivals and other warm weather activities, but even in the winter it was buzzing. Just a few hours across the US border and you feel transported into a small European city. With restaurants, bars, and boutiques around every corner, this is definitely a place I’ll find my way back to!

WHERE TO STAY:

We stayed at the Hotel St. Paul located in the Old City. The hotel is extremely modern and elegant with great reviews, but I have to say that my time here was neither amazing or dissatisfying! I would describe it whole-heartedly as an incredibly average experience. There are many other hotels surrounding the same area and don’t forget Airbnb as an option as well.

EATS

Breakfast:

With Montreal bagels being a must eat staple of the city, I scoured the internet for recommendations on where to get my hands on the best one. Two local shops seemed to be the main two contenders, St. Viatuer’s and Fairmount Bagel with both being located in the Mile End area of the city. We decided on St. Viateur Bagel Shop where we found a tiny hole in the wall bakery with a line out the door. Inside there’s one single line with what seems like thousands of bagels sitting on the back wall. Although there was discussion of trying out every flavor, we remained modest and tried out three: rosemary, cinnamon raisin, and everything. Yes, they were as good as they sound and yes I wish I could bring this shop to Portland! The bagels were small and sweet, fitting the characteristics of the traditional Montreal bagel and were the definition of fresh. We didn’t have time to try Fairmount Bagel, but being right around the corner it may be fun to have try out both if you have the time.

Lunch:

We asked a local chocolate shop owner (Chocosina) where the best place to get lunch was and she said her favorite restaurant, Venice, was right around the corner. We headed over and found a colorful little place serving up their take on Californian cuisine. Their menu is one of those menus where you literally want to order one of everything. I was torn between the matcha pancakes and tacos but made a last-minute decision and got the power bowl loaded with sweet potatoes, pico de gallo and sunny side up eggs. YUM. It also helped that the servers were incredibly nice and gave us our drinks for free when our food took a little longer than usual.

Dinner:

Did I already say there were a CRAZY amount of restaurants?! It was so hard for us to choose a dinner spot that we basically had to make a pros and cons list. We decided on an Italian restaurant with amazing reviews called BEVO. It was dimly lit with a winding staircase, but everyone was casual and having a relaxed time. Lucky us we got to sit at the bar, and by bar I mean the PIZZA bar, with a view of the chefs making the pizzas by hand. We went on a Sunday, but on other weekend nights there is a DJ that turns the place into a club for the nighttime crowd.

Drinks: 

For New Years Eve we had reservations at a little place called Le Speakeasy. Not as conspicuous as one would hope, but amazing all the same! We walked into a little ice cream shop where a host took our names and opened a secret door to a swanky restaurant and bar. Our seats were at the bar, which I wasn’t extremely happy about at first since I like to have a bit of extra room, but it turned out to be the best arrangement. We became friends with the bartenders, who made the most delicious cocktails and gave us the occasional complimentary shot every now and then. They had a small, unique menu and our meals came out quick and delicious. It was a cozy environment with incredibly friendly staff. A must stop for Montreal newbie.

What To Do: 

Honestly we played this trip pretty cool and just kind of wandered around! However, from my very basic knowledge of the city, there are two separate sections of Montreal, Old Montreal and The Mile End. Old Montreal had an awesome street called Rue St. Paul that housed many awesome restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops that were super fun to bop in and out of.

The shops and restaurants were nice, but one of the most fun things we did was climb Mont Royal! Mont Royal is a park at the end of The Mile End where a lot of activities take place in the summer. In the winter there wasn’t too much going on but there were a lot of people climbing to the top. We decided to make the trek, however I would NOT suggest doing this in the winter unless you have good hiking boots. We realized this as we were slipping up (and down) the sheet of ice in our sneakers while the more experienced zoomed past with their spiked shoes and walking sticks. The view was well worth it and we definitely made some good memories laughing our way to the top. 

This blog has a lot more options for things to do in the city if you’re looking for a little more detailed suggestions. 

That was our trip to Montreal! Overall opinion was a great city with great vibes and is well worth checking out. Let me know if you’ve been and any recommendations you think I should keep in mind for next time! 

Have a Delightful Day, 

Kaitlin

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