If someone asked me to describe Montréal in a sentence, I would most likely say: “Canadian flair meets European charm.” Before our week-long tour of Québec began, we decided to spend a few days in Montréal by getting to know the city and comprehending the culture. Tor and I always had dreams and plans to visit Montréal during our Toronto years, as it is less than an hour flight away, but those dreams never came to fruition. After our weekend in Vieux-Montréal, we won’t let that happen again as we were completely won over with its exquisite dining scene, extraordinarily beautiful architecture, and warm hospitality.
While Montréal is large, sprawling metropolitan city, I knew I wanted to focus a lot of our time in Vieux-Montréal (“Old Montreal”) for the short 48 hours we had in town. Vieux-Montréal feels and looks as if you have been transplanted somewhere beyond North America, with its charm and style reminiscent of the kind of cities you’d find in France, Austria, or Switzerland. A perfect harmony of smooth, effortless French echoing in every corner, the bells of the cathedral ringing in the new hour, and the sounds of horses’ hooves tapping the cobblestone streets made me feel immediately at home and in love at the same time.
We couldn’t have chosen a more perfect place to stay than at Hotel Place D’Armes, located in the heart of Vieux-Montréal and across from Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal, one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the whole city. Our room was cozy and quaint, with modern art and decor that soothed Torrance’s soul a bit. The highlights included their Christmas decorations, which were already out in full force by the time we arrived from Los Angeles. Even if you do not get the chance to stay at Hotel Place D’Armes, you should definitely grab a drink at Brasserie 701.
For our weekend in Vieux-Montréal, Tor and I walked as many romantic, quaint streets we could find within the neighborhood. For our first morning, we stopped at Olive et Gourmando for some hot chocolate and fresh croissants as it came highly recommended by two different friends. I must say that I am extremely picky when it comes to the perfect cup of chocolat chaud, and this one blew me away as the warm melted chocolate seemed to become one with my winter-loving soul.
We took some time to window shop and admire all the Christmas decorations, as most of the city was decked out in the holiday spirit now that it was the end of November. We made our way to the Parc Linéaire de la Commune, which is just a stone’s throw from Vieux-Port de Montréal (“Old Port of Montréal”). The early snowstorm that had hit the city left soft, crunchy white snow on the ground, but the last remaining orange leaves still weren’t letting go of their time to shine. This made the setting even more stunning and romantic as the sun began to make its way below the horizon. Before the sun said its final farewell for the day, Tor and I wandered over to La Grande Roue de Montréal, the iconic ferris wheel that dominates Vieux-Port de Montréal. While we did not ride the ferris wheel, we did enjoy spending a moment looking up at its beauty, as we had seen plenty of images prior to our visit of this very Instagrammable spot.
When it came to evening dining, Tor put his trust in me in finding the best spots that highlighted French and Québec cuisine. On our first night in Montréal, just a couple of hours after flying in from California, we dined at the romantic spot Restaurant Barroco. The setting makes you feel like you’re in a quaint cellar, with stone exposed along one wall and decorative plates adorning the other. During the daytime, the outside of this restaurant is an extremely popular Instagram spot due to its quaint style. For our final night in Montréal, we dined at Bonaparte Restaurant, where we were seated beside the window and got a front row view to the snow falling outside.
On our final morning for our weekend in Vieux-Montréal, Tor and I chose to venture beyond the old city and head west to try one of Montréal’s food staples – their bagels. Born and raised in NY area, I am biased when it comes to good bagels, but you cannot come to Montréal and not at least try one of their famous bagels. Several spots came recommended to us from friends who have either lived in or visited Montréal, and we settled on Fairmount, which is essentially a landmark in the city. Since we were about to begin our 2 hour drive out to the Eastern Townships, we bought several to sample as many as we could. With sesame, poppyseed, blueberry, and whole grain in our brown bag, we grabbed a tub of cream cheese and devoured them quickly. Whether I prefer NY or Montréal bagels – I’ll never tell. *wink*
48 hours was too short of a time to visit Montréal, but our weekend in Vieux-Montréal could not have been more romantic or more picturesque. The next time we visit, we plan on spending several more days in the city to venture to certain neighborhoods we did not get to visit this time around.