Written for Vancity Buzz by Adrian Brijbassi, Founder of Vacay.ca and TopRestaurantsInCanada.com
Just because summer is over doesn’t mean you need to give a cold shoulder to good times. Montreal can teach anyone from the northern hemisphere how to enjoy life when temperatures are far below zero.
Here’s a guide to visiting Montreal in fall or winter. But before you go, be sure to check online for what festivals might be taking place, the city is full of street fairs year-round.
3 p.m. – Check-in at Le Place d’Armes Hotel
Montreal is full of outstanding boutique hotels with cozy rooms and sophisticated decor. My favourite of these is Le Place d’Armes, located across from Notre Dame Basilica. It offers refined touches at bargain prices. The average room size is a comfortable 550 square feet. Rooms feature flat-screen TVs, complimentary WiFi and stunning bathrooms with slate-grey floors and large showers.
4:30 p.m. – Treats at Patrice Patissier
Normally, you’d wait for dessert until after dinner, but Patrice Patissier closes at 6:30 p.m. or earlier, so you’ll want to drop in before heading across the street for your meal at Joe Beef. Celebrated Quebec pastry chef Patrice Demers operates this tasty dessert spot in Montreal’s Little Burgundy neighbourhood. Be sure to opt for the Kouign Amann or Cannele ($2.75 each) — or both.
6 p.m. – Dinner at Joe Beef
Named the best restaurant in Canada in 2013 by Vacay.ca, this inventive eatery has become one of North America’s most talked about restaurants. The cuisine is Quebecois with an ever-changing menu in as laid-back an atmosphere as you can imagine for food this good. Reservations are highly recommended, and if you can’t get in here, you can try one of the Joe Beef-owned eateries adjacent to it on Notre Dame West. Both Liverpool House and Le Vin Papillon are run by the same culinary team and there is no drop off in quality or energy.
9 a.m. – Tour the Old City
Montreal’s romantic image is born amid the cobblestone streets of its historic quarter. Whether it be a charming cafe, inviting boutique or delightful gallery, you will find yourself getting lost in the atmosphere of Old Montreal. Be sure to stop by Bonsecours Market for artisan wares and tastes of local cuisine.
1 p.m. – Take the Bagel Challenge
Fairmount or St.-Viateur? Montrealers have been debating for decades which bagel shop produces the best doughy bread. Try them both yourself as you explore the neighbourhoods near Saint-Laurent Boulevard, AKA Montreal’s main street.
6 p.m. – Dinner at Hotel Herman
Young culinary talents lead this restaurant on Saint-Laurent Boulevard that seats just 40 people and offers menu items in small share plates. The cuisine by chef Marc-Alexandre Mercier is exquisite and creative. Highlights when I dined included white asparagus with hazelnut butter ($8) and sauteed razor clams with diced cucumbers and coriander ($18).
9 p.m. – Rock on at The Plateau and The Mile End
The Arcade Fire are among the bands who got their start in this part of town. The epicentre of Montreal’s famed music scene belongs in the neighbourhoods of The Plateau and The Mile End. Clubs such as Casa del Popolo and Green Room run along the city’s main street, spotlighting incredible independent music every night.
11 a.m. – Visit Notre Dame Basilica
This structure dates to 1830 and has been home to many major events — including famous weddings and funerals — in Canadian history. Although it is smaller than the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, it’s still a beautiful and important place to stop in for a visit.
2 p.m. – Museum of Fine Arts
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is my pick for the best museum in Canada. Come prepared to spend a day getting some culture at this wonderful property that takes up three buildings. Even before its newest wing opened in 2011, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts offered visitors an excellent review of Canadian and international painting. The Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion of Quebec and Canadian Art brought that dynamic to a new level with a 600-piece collection featuring Canada’s influence on Surrealists, Impressionists, Dadaists, Realists and every other foreign -ist you can think of.
6 p.m. – Dinner at Toque
Wrap up your exceptional culinary weekend with Toque!, owned and operated by Normand Laprise, considered by many to be Canada’s most influential chef. It ranked third on the 2015 Top Restaurants in Canada Rankings.
11 a.m. – Bug out at the Insectarium
Before leaving town, be sure to make your way to the Olympic Park area where you can check out this attraction filled with an abundance of creepy-crawlies. The Insectarium de Montréal sufficiently grosses out parents and keeps kids enthralled with its collection of live and mounted insects. The museum is filled with fun interactive stations, including one where you can see how much your weight is in ants. When you’re done with the Insectarium, you can make your way over to the nearby Biodome, which offers a glimpse of Canada’s vast and diverse landscape.