Montreal suggestions?

Old Jun 12th, 2024, 01:53 PM
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Montreal suggestions?

Longtime Fodorite but First trip to Montreal. 3 full days plus 1/2 day before flight home. 4 nights. Finding myself and wife (70+) in Montreal for 4 nights following a family visit in upstate NY. Would welcome Suggestions for things to see, tours, day trips by rail, hidden gems to dine? open to ideas. Thanks
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Old Jun 13th, 2024, 02:02 PM
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Montreal's a great city. It's fun, dynamic, international, sexy, gritty, exciting, artsy, and delicious.

There are three main areas I always recommend for a first visit:

Old Montreal (and the Old Port along the river) - the historic and touristy part of the city with charming historic architecture and cobble stone roads. It's just one flavour of Montreal. A lot of American tourists typically focus on Old Montreal and seem to only be interested in that part of the city, but I urge you to explore beyond this part of Montreal. It's charming, but it's small and it's just one tiny part of the overall Montreal experience. It would be like going to New York City as a first time tourist and never exploring beyond Times Square.

Downtown Montreal which is where you have a mix of old and new architecture, old grand hotels and department stores and bank towers from 100 years ago intermixed with uglier concrete towers from the 1960s and 1970s and then lots of art galleries, museums, shopping malls, cafes, restaurant, and bars. It's a busy bustling downtown.

The Plateau is my favourite part of Montreal. Few if any hotels here, as it's mainly residential with Montreal's signature quadruplexes and triplexes with curly wrought-iron staircases and overgrown gardens and city parks. The main streets in the Plateau are jam-packed with cafes, lounges, independent restaurants (many of which are Portuguese, Greek, Italian, Lebanese, etc. with a liberal BYOB policy) and bars, old school European delis and corner stores/bodegas known as "depanneurs" or "deps" for short, Montreal's famous beloved Jewish smoked meat sandwich delis and 24-hour Montreal style bagel shops (which are distinctly different than New York bagels as they're more like chewy soft pretzels that you eat fresh out of the oven as snacks, not as an alternative to sandwich bread). You'll find lots of murals and art and families hanging out in the parks and just a whimsical quirky authentic spirit here.

My musts to Montreal always include just being in these areas, taking them in as a local as opposed to a tourist, eating well, drinking well, having a great breakfast at a cafe or a patisserie, enjoying a fresh out of the oven Montreal bagel sometime during the day, chowing down on a Montreal smoke meat sandwich as a lunch somewhere, enjoying a drink on a terrasse, visiting the little bookstores and boutiques, going up to Parc Mont Royal aka "the mountain" for the panoramic view over the city.

Everything else just comes down to your interests. Love history? Go to the McCord Museum. Love art? Go to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Love the arts? Take in some live music or a festival. Love eating at restaurants? Go wild - Montreal's one of the best culinary scenes in North America. There are too many restaurants to choose.

If you need to do some research, the Tourism Montreal website's an excellent source:

As of right now, do you have a general itinerary of what you might like to see and do while you're in Montreal? A list of restaurants you've researched that you might like to try? If you have a first draft, I think folks would be able to comment on it and help narrow down the scope of where to go and where to eat and what to do. But if you haven't done that yet, that Montreal website above is excellent for giving you a comprehensive overview.

Last edited by BC_Robyn; Jun 13th, 2024 at 02:07 PM.
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Old Jun 13th, 2024, 09:09 PM
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Montreal sesame bagels still warm from the shop, omg so delicious!

From our last visit pre-pandemic. We had a nice English breakfast at Lawrence. Great Polish dinner at Stash Cafe, wonderful on a cold night. Good coffee and pastries at Olive et Gourmando. Poutine at La Banquise, I was skeptical about poutine at first until I tried their classic version, totally converted now. Portuguese seafood, but I don’t remember the name offhand (uhoh).
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Old Jun 15th, 2024, 08:05 AM
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Hi gfeibleman

As much as I love do train excursions day trips from Montreal having lived in the city for many years, I think for a first time visitor, actually sticking with activities reasonably close to the central core is a good idea. There are thankfully areas within the city that feel as much of an escape from the madding crowds as places I’ve been by train an hour or two outside the city. Within the city, parts of Ile Notre Dame or Saint Hélène or Ile de La Visitation or even the mountain can be quite tranquil and green with pleasant river views if you step away from the popular attractions like say the pool or the casino.

Wishing you a great trip whatever you decide,

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Old Jun 16th, 2024, 06:57 PM
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I detest Old Montreal. If you go there, you certainly will not be alone. If you want to see old and beautiful, then Quebec City is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I'd go there instead.

I like Montreal a lot, but I prefer exploring the neighborhoods. My favorite activity might be a non-starter for you, climbing the Grand Staircase of Mont Royal. The good thing is you can take as much time as you want. If my wife can make it up, then I think almost anyone can. But get a taxi to drop you off at the bottom of the staircase.

Next favorite thing is the Botanical Gardens and Arboretum. Enormous size, and takes a lot of walking.

The bagels mentioned up thread (St Viateur Bagels) are in a Hasidic neighborhood (Mile End) that is fascinating. Also in Mile End is Cafe Depanneur where there is always a string of musicians signed up to perform, mostly guitar-playing singer-songwriters. A terrific experience. Boulangerie Cheskie make some hearty Jewish pastries, and just west of Park Ave you can see the spiral metal staircases that are an exterior feature of many Montreal neighborhoods. They are a bit weird in that they are very dangerous in the winter.

Montreal is a surprisingly shabby city. The streets and sidewalks are in terrible condition, as if they've never figure out how to build things taking into account the harsh weather they have for most of the year.

La Banquise for poutine is usually a very long line, so be warned. Schwartz's for Montreal smoked meat also has a fantastically long line but it's amazing how quickly they get people in and out of there.
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