Montreal Weekend Getaway

Montreal: A Weekend in the City of Je Ne Sais Quoi

In City Travel, Luxury Travel, Travel by Jenny Cavcic40 Comments

Montreal.. With its fusion between old and new and French European influence, it’s really difficult to describe this city in words.

As we took a long stroll down the streets of old Montreal, I asked my husband what his impressions were. Being his first time there, I was curious to hear his thoughts. “It has that ‘je ne sais quoi’ that many European cities have… I don’t really feel like I’m in Canada” he said.

Having been to the city several times myself, I’ve experienced Montreal in many ways. The atmosphere is different from many other cities in Canada. This is why Montreal is one of my favourite cities to get away to.

It All Starts With a Boutique Hotel…

Walking into our hotel, I made note of its gorgeous modern design and touch of vintage sophistication which set a romantic tone for our time there. We stayed at Le Place D’Armes Hotel, a 19th century neo-classical building in the heart of the old city across from the Notre-Dame Basilica.

As we sipped our Nespresso coffees in bed, we relaxed in our comfortable house coats and watched the fire blazing in the fireplace across from us. Usually, I’d be the first one up not wanting to waste a great morning on sleep. But it was delightful to wake up late without an alarm in a dim hotel room of a historical building. Something about the hotel, the snow outside and the atmosphere of the old city gave me the green light to relax and go with the flow.

A Leisurely Stroll in Vieux-Montreal…

The city is very live and vibrant in warmer months. But Montreal in the winter is pretty quiet. There’s a mysterious lull in the air that says it’s okay to wake up late, skip breakfast and go for brunch instead at a chic bistro along the cobblestone walkways.

You can’t help but marvel at the old European architecture, outdoor fire escapes on low-rise buildings, vintage looking restaurants, bakeries, horse and carriage and the smell of fresh bread and smoked meat in the air.

One of the must-see places in the old city is Place Jacques-Cartier. This is a communal square surrounded by restaurants and bars. It lead us to the old port and St Lawrence river, 2 piers on either side of the square and a Clock Tower built as a replica of Big Ben in London. The river along the old port was frozen and covered over by ice and snow, making the scene a lot more beautiful.

Looking Down at Montreal…

Blessed with above freezing temperatures, we set out for the rest of the day to explore around and outside of the old city. Montreal is extremely walk-able and the best way to get around is by foot. Everything, for the most part, is within reach. The city’s traffic laws and parking are a headache, so think twice about renting a car.

Following only my memory of being here before, we walked all the way to and up Mont Royal. This is the highest point of Montreal island and it looks over the city toward the Saint Lawrence river.

Bustling with tourists and locals, some were cross-country skiing their way down, some hiking or sledding and other’s like us were exploring by foot. We stood over the edge of the terrace at Chateau Mont-Royal at the top of the mountain. The entire city is visible from up here. This has always been and still is my favourite place in Montreal and one of the most romantic.

Relaxation and Well-Being for Two…

Waking up on a lazy Sunday morning, I was really excited for a spa day with my husband. He’s not a spa guy himself, but I was able to convince him that it’s okay to go to the spa with his wife. I promised that it didn’t include him getting a manicure or pedicure, so he caved..

I booked us an appointment at Rain Spa, located inside Le Place D’Armes. The spa houses a hammam steam room and private hammam rooms for rituals and exfoliation treatments, modeled after traditional Turkish baths.

I got the black soap hammam exfoliation treatment and my husband got the thermal mineral body scrub. This was one of the most interesting, relaxing and worthwhile experiences we’ve had. After the hydration, detox and exfoliation, my skin and body felt incredibly soft, clean and relaxed.

Following our treatments, we spent a few hours in the hammam together, soaking in the atmosphere of well-being. My husband’s exact words were: “I feel like a new man”.

Exploring the Culture of Eating…

Walking into Bouillon Bilk that night, we both thought nothing of it. It’s a very plain restaurant in a random part of the city. But as the items on the tasting menu came out, we were left speechless with the creativity and amazing flavours. We weren’t just eating food, we were experiencing the food.

The French view eating as a culture, so they place a high priority on the enjoyment of eating. Eating at restaurants is the number one activity in Montreal and that’s mostly what the city is known for. It’s an ideal city for sophisticated and adventurous foodies.

Both my husband and I were extremely busy before our trip and we had neglected to make reservations at the restaurants that we were hoping to try (something we never do). Every restaurant on our list was almost booked solid, but luckily we got late dinner reservations at some of best.

Next time you find yourself in Montreal…

Don’t forget to make all of your restaurant reservations ahead of time! My list isn’t exclusive, but here are a few of my favourite restaurants to try:

1. Bouillon Bilk: This restaurant easily climbed its way to the top of my list. Their tasting menu is out of this world!
The Decor: Minimalist
The Vibe: Laid back and romantic
The Food: French influence, creative and extremely sophisticated

2. Suite 701: In the same building as Le Place D’Armes, the vibe and decor is incredible.
The Decor: Posh and modern
The Vibe: Vibrant
The Food: Good mix of meats and fish, fancy and creative

3. Quattro: A high end Italian restaurant in old Montreal.
The Decor: Traditional and modern
The Vibe: Warm
The Food: Italian, traditional and homemade

4. H4C Place St-Henri: This restaurant specializes in unique brunch experiences.
The Decor: Modern and inviting
The Vibe: Vibrant and relaxed
The Food: Creative, French influence, adventurous

5. Le Local: A French restaurant that makes you feel right at home.
The Decor: Modern and innovative
The Vibe: Cozy and mellow
The Food: French and authentic

From its streets to its culture, Montreal has something that no other city in Canada has. It has that something that I can’t put my finger on. It has that ‘je ne sais quoi’, a uniqueness that makes it one of Canada’s most worthwhile cities to explore.

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Comments

  1. Montreal sounds like an amazing city! And as a huge foodie I especially appreciate the restaurant recommendations 🙂

    1. Author

      Then you must go Charlotte 🙂 It’s known for amazing culinary. The city prides itself on its restaurants. I hope you enjoy it when you make it out there. Thanks for commenting!

  2. LOVED this post! I am a Canadian..Transplant in Seattle for many years now. I have never been to Montreal and am dying to go there… I am into fashion, so I want to check out all it has to offer for fashion, food and the sights.! Thank you for sharing

    Valerie

    1. Author

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it Valerie!! The city is right up your alley if your into fashion and food. ESPECIALLY food. Some of the most amazing restaurants I’ve been to in my life are in Montreal. My husband is originally from Seattle, he says the most amazing things about it. I’ve been once for a quick day and a half but I’m dying to go back. I loved what I saw and I bet there are some amazing restaurants there too 🙂

    1. Author

      Thank you Vibeke, I appreciate that. I hope you’ll get a chance to visit Montreal soon. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  3. Sounds like an amazing trip! I have yet to experience Montreal, but it’s definitely on my list!

  4. Love Montreal! There is obviously still so much more I need to explore there, looks like a fun trip!

  5. Amazing!!! I grew up about an hour outside Montreal in Vermont, and used to absolutely love going up there for the weekend or even the day. It’s one of the most incredible cities. Glad you enjoyed your trip!

    1. Author

      Ah the drive to Vermont via Montreal! I’ve done that one on my way to Killington for skiing 🙂 It’s absolutely stunning. Thanks for commenting Mallory!

  6. Your photos are beautiful and I love the way you wrote about this city. I’m actually looking at the possibility of traveling to Montreal this fall, so I’ll definitely return to this post later.

    1. Author

      Thank you so much Crystal! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I also hope you do make it out to the city, it’s truly amazing.

  7. this looks like a dream holiday for me. Heard about it alot but this is the first time I see in the picture in your post. A must go for me from now on.

    1. Author

      I hope you do one day! Canada has so many gems, Montreal being only one. I have been living here my whole life not knowing how much beauty this country has until a few years ago. If you get a chance to do a long road trip across Canada you should take it, I hear it’s absolutely wild! 🙂

  8. Looks like a lovely week-end! I’d like to visit Montreal one day 🙂

  9. I cannot wait to travel to this part of the world. It has always been on my bucketlist, but first to explore Oceania 🙂

    1. Author

      Visit us soon, Canada has so much to offer! As for Oceania, I’m jealous 🙂 I’d love to hear about your travels and perhaps I’ll make it out one day as well!

  10. I love Montreal. We were there a few years back and I remember thinking the same thing – it doesn’t feel like Canada! More like Europe eh? Can’t wait to go back.

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