Essential Guide to Montreal, CAD
Ohhhhh Montreal. This place. My heart.
I first visited this charming, delicious, elegant city (located up in Quebec, Canada), back in 2016 on my honeymoon after marrying my best friend. It’s also where we spent our 1 year anniversary. It’s also where we want to own a vacation home one day so that all the more friends, family and baby Núñez’s can experience what we experience every time we visit.
This last go around, after having been up there once prior, I collected a list of some shops, food and general travel advice about this city, that I’ve been on the edge of my seat to send out into the world ever since.
So here it is. My Montreal travel guide. A first. Definitely not the last. I’m no Quebecer, but these are the moments that made my heart skip a beat during that first visit, and the one a year later.
- Summertime, baby! In my experience, visiting in the summertime made for the best first experience. It’s a time of the year that I would recommend for a first visit for the predictable warm weather, broad range of outdoor activities (music festivals and lavender fields, anyone?), and this general pulse of sweet energy that you’ll feel in the air, in the parks, as people warm up and take advantage of the season after a cold winter. In Florida (my home state), you don’t often see people with such gratitude in their hearts for a sunny summer afternoon, and from my perspective, that was a really beautiful thing to take in. To watch people love their city, and love the season that it’s in - for all that it has to offer them.
- Carry some cash. It’ll just make things that much easier when you stop into that adorable Portuguese breakfast cafe across the street from your Airbnb on the first morning of your trip, and you have to scramble for an ATM machine because they don’t take cards (face palm, lol). This won’t happen often, but it’s great to be prepared.
- On that note. Airbnb. Always Airbnb! People in Montreal have beautiful taste in design in decor from what I’ve seen - enjoy it, experience it in someone’s lovely home.
- Plateau has my heart. As far as sections of the city go, we are obsessed with Plateau. Especially nestled up closer to Mont Royal Park. We love this section so much for the lack of necessity to rent a car when we’re staying here. We’re close enough to bike downtown, right next to the mountain for some hiking, and located around the BEST cafe’s and restaurants. And let’s be honest, we care mostly about the food.
- Rent bikes. Go for Public transportation or Uber. All that good stuff. We’ve never felt unsafe in these situations and they’ve always led us down the prettiest unexpected sections of town.
- Pack comfortable. With all the walking and biking you’ll do, be sure to bring comfortable walking shoes! We love how much exercise we manage with walking and biking, because we can then justify all the ice cream we’ll be eating - but shoes will quickly become your enemy if you don’t plan ahead there.
- But keep style in mind! Jesús and I like to laugh at how taken aback we were the first time we visited by how stunning the people in this city are. Not only did everyone around us just look beautiful, they were all dressed so. dang. well. So if you’re from the States, and you’d like to feel more like a local here, take the chance to leave those leggings at home and embrace the French-influenced style of dress! Think simple, thoughtful pieces that make a statement, but aren't too wild. I'll link to some brands that I love for traveling to places like MTL below. Feel free to be yourself, and let packing become as fun of a style challenge as you'd like it be!
- Take a lil chill pill. Soft talking is your bff when it comes to visiting restaurants and cafes in MTL (or actually, anywhere). When we got to Montreal for the first time, there was something so different about the way the city sounded and felt to us. And that was the quieter, calm vibe in the air. When compared to American establishments, the places we went to sounded like museums - and we loved it. The conversations were softer, the music was more faint, and as we sat there sipping on coffee, we could actually begin to tell who was foreign (cough, cough - from the States) by how boisterous and loud they were being. This all doesn’t mean you’ll be ostracized for noise, but it was an observation that we recognized and like to pass onto our fellow countryman for the ways in which a chiller demeanor only helped us to relate and identify with our environment, and make friends at the end of the experience!
Now onto the places!! Keeping in mind that there are SO many things to do in Montreal beyond the food, beverage and photo wandering that Jesús and I like to do every time we step out of our place. Here are the spots we loved.
- Dispatch (the one on St. Laurent is our favorite)
- Pikolo Espresso Bar (recommended by my friend, Nada - and now I can’t wait to revisit!)
- Cafe Nocturne
- Tommy Cafe (near Old Port - the coffee isn’t the best cup, but we love this place for the aesthetics and you’ll see why)
- Crew Collective Cafe (it’s like sipping coffee inside of a museum)
- Noble Cafe
- Cafe Myriade
- Barcelona Espresso Bar
- Cafe Parvis (we went for dinner twice and loved the pizza - plus it’s like eating in an Anthropologie - so there’s that)
- Olive et Gourmando (in Old Port - always had a line, always had the BEST brunch)
- Arepera - (On St. Laurent)
- Patati Patata - (our favorite place for poutine - especially at 1 in the morning!)
- Chez Jose - (off Hotel de Ville for Portuguese breakfast)
- Fairmont Bagels - (your lox dreams will come true)
- Darling - for drinks!
- Kem Koba - there’s always a line around the block in the summer time, but trust me that it’s worth the wait. This place is home to some of the most artful and delicious ice cream I’ve ever had - and I love how the flavors get exchanged for new ones on a regular basis!
- Chocolat Favoris - the dipped soft serve Ice Cream heaven
- Bleu Lavande - last time we visited, we rented a car for 24 hours just to take this little trip outside of the city! The drive was stunning, we picked up picnic food along the way, and ended up having lunch at a table surrounded by a giant field of lavander. It was one of the most special experiences, and had we been big ballers at the time, I definitely would have opted for the spa treatments that they offer there!
- Bota Bota - have no fear, we did get that massage! And we got it at Bota Bota. This floating spa was such a fun, relaxing, architecturally fascinating experience. They have all kinds of treatments (including a water circuit that I’d like to try next time), and I would highly recommend spending an afternoon trying em all.
I have a handful of other restaurants that I can’t recall as well because I never even caught the name of the place! The incredible thing about eating in this city is that almost any restaurant at all that you walk into will be the best plate you’ve had. No joke. After we go through our favorites list, Jesús and love to just walk up and down Saint Laurent, Saint Denis, Chinatown, Old Port, etc. at dinner time and just pick a place that looks cool and has a bunch of people inside. We’ve done this over and over and it hasn’t failed us yet! Be sure to give it a go!
Our list will continue to grow this year as we plan another trip back in the fall, and hopefully many years into the future as we continue to find more magic to explore within this city. For now, I sincerely hope that what I’ve included here is helpful to your travels! We love this place, and I have nothing but sweet words to share about our time spent here!
Please leave any questions or comments (or recommendations - woo!) below and I’ll be so excited to chat with you there!
Favorite Clothing Brands with MTL on the mind:
- Ma Ma Osa - I actually helped my mother found this brand - and almost half my suitcase is filled with her linens these days. I love supporting my mom, and I love the classic and lasting silhouettes she designs/sews!
- Everlane - sustainable made and SO chic. These pieces will get you so far, you'll feel amazing in them, and amazing about the efforts your supporting with your money.
- Madewell - my go-to for size 11 shoes and quality totes. I also can't resist their classic and versatile clothing.
- Thrifting! - I thrift my outfits on a regular basis - at home and away! It's incredible what you can do with that solid basic piece that you we're able to pick up at a Goodwill - and wonderful how the life-cycle of that piece has now been extended once more.