Destinations

City Hitlist: Montreal

How to spend a weekend in Québec’s biggest city.

There's something happening in Montreal.
The city's culinary smarts and old-school charm have drawn discerning travellers for quite some time, but thanks to a new set of stays and sophisticated dining digs, the city is brimming with a bold new energy.
Below, what to see and do in Montreal now.

What to see

Notre-Dame Basilica
The 1820s-build serves as a lesson in Gothic Revival architecture and Quebecois heritage. Study the stained glass windows for a retrospective on Montreal's religious coming-of-age or sit quietly, taking in the cathedral's grandness, from its vaulted blue ceilings to the altar's intricate woodwork carvings.
110 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal
Sainte Catherine Street
Spanning 11 kilometres, Montreal's main commercial artery is home to the city's most iconic department stores, specialty boutiques, eateries, businesses and theatre venues. Hit the pavement in July for the street's two kilometre-stretching sidewalk sale.
Museum of Fine Arts
Spend time wandering the city's largest museum and unearth Montreal's rich creative roots. Home to an expansive collection of works, the museum's temporary exhibits are often the talk of town, and blend disciplines of design, music, film, fashion and fine arts. Take in a film at the cinema or spend an afternoon in the Sculpture garden, one of the city's largest collections of public art.
1380 Sherbrooke St W, Montreal, mbam.qc.ca

Mount Royal Park
Offset your intake of St-Viateur bagels with a hike up Mount Royal Park and get acquainted with the city's urban wildlife. Montreal's largest green space is a sporting mecca for locals, and has become a picture-perfect go-to for sunset picnics. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted of Central Park fame, you can easily spend a few hours strolling the forest paths without running into anyone.

Where to stay

Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth
Thanks to a playful facelift in 2017, this 1960s classic is once again the place to be. No longer the property that John Lennon and Yoko Ono chose for their "bed-in for peace" in 1969 (although, there is a 17th-floor suite that pays tribute to it), or that Queen Elizabeth first visited in 1959, Fairmont 2.0 pulls a cool, creative crowd and houses some of Montreal's best contemporary artworks. Quirky, cutting-edge (there's a 24-hour wellness centre) and right at home with the city's vibrant energy, the Fairmont has come full circle.
900 René-Lévesque Blvd W, Montreal, fairmont.com
Hôtel Willliam Gray
Occupying an 18th-century Greystone on a cobbled street in Old Montreal, this stylish new stay includes a state-of-the-art luxury spa and two of the city's best dining options; Maggie Oakes, a rooftop bar, and Café Olimpico. Despite its minimalist fit out, the building's original structure ensures the hotel preserves the neighbourhood's old-world charm.
421 Rue Saint Vincent, Montréal, hotelwilliamgray.com

Where to eat

Moccione Villeray
Italian dishes made with local produce. Since opening last December, this charming restaurant (headed by the ex-sous-chef at Toqué) has become a neighbourhood hit — make your booking at least three days in advance. The short, seasonal menu features masterfully executed classics (think gnocchi with truffle pecorino cheese or duck tortellini), and comes complimented by a concise, yet smart, natural-leaning wine list.
380 Rue Villeray, Montréal, moccione.com
Elena
St Henri's sleek and spirited new eatery does elevated pizza classics (dough is naturally leavened for a subtle tang), homemade pastas and unexpected modern sides such as smoked carrots with almond-based cheese, as well as big-flavoured mains of roasted bream and rabbit. Come for a slice and stay for the sharp wine list. The Nora Gray spin-off offers a well-rounded selection of private Italian imports and fruity oranges.
5090 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal, coffeepizzawine.com

Alma
This Catalan-style wine bar in Montreal's Outremont borough celebrates Mediterranean flavours and good company. The 35-seater doubles its capacity thanks to an out-front terrasse, and operates on a Montréal joie de vivre, brought to life by Juan Lopez Luna (chef-owner of Farine in Montreal's Mile End) and Lindsay Brennan (sommelier, natural wine aficionado and importer at Vin Dame Jeanne). Catalan classics, such as grilled octopus with patatas bravas, show restraint and creativity, and showcase the very best in Quebec's local and fresh produce.
1231 Avenue Lajoie, Outremont, almamontreal.com
Restaurant Le Mousso
Innovative and well-prepared. Chef Antonin Mousseau-Rivard serves a seasonally-changing 12-course tasting menu that plays brilliantly on flavours, textures and aromas. The chef has garnered a reputation as one of the most creative and boundary-pushing talents in town. Expect considered dishes with natural, seasonal ingredients that aim to surprise: charcoal grilled sweetbreads with roasted baker yeast foam and mushroom leather; BC sturgeon caviar with roasted bone marrow consommé; blackened sunchokes ganache with chicory coffee parfait and brown butter fried rye bread.
1023 Ontario St E, Montreal, lemousso.com

Where to drink

Cafe Humble Lion
Make this downtown institution your first port of call. Humble Lion's perfect pour overs attract a constant flow of regulars. A go-to for McGill students and local professionals, the coffee stop offers quality roasts from Intelligentsia and savoury snacks from Montreal favourite, Godley & Crème, baked fresh, in-house. What to order? The cafe's syrup-spiked rif on your morning cup of
904 Sherbrooke St W, Montreal, cafehumblelion.com
Larrys
The crew behind Restaurant Lawrence and Boucherie Lawrence have parlayed their gourmet smarts into a "small and bustling all day-all evening-cafe-restaurant-wine bar-breakfast-joint-next-door". Friendly staff will guide you through the bar's epic natural wine list and offer locals-only intel on new neighbourhood haunts. Come on an empty stomach. Chef Marc Cohen's ever-evolving, flavour-focused share plates
9 Fairmount Ave E, Montreal, lawrencemtl.com

Main image credit: @hotelwilliamgray