I remember years ago, Steve and I would think of all these grand holidays we’d like to take and look up each place on the list on google maps. Going back about five years, we were putting together a rough itinerary of a US road trip that we were going to do in the next year or two. Obviously, that never happened. On that list, was Montreal. I must say, I had little to no desire to make it to Montreal and so when Steve suggested it again at the beginning of the year, I was hesitant.
Luckily he managed to persuade me to go because I absolutely fell in love with Montreal. We left on May 4th (my Birthday) and spent five days exploring this wonderfully quaint city. We flew with Porter airlines who are a budget Canadian airline and had one stopover in Toronto. When you hear budget airline, usually you think cramped, no food etc. This was not the case! Porter seem to have their own airports in many Canadian cities and inside you will find a lounge that has free snacks and coffee. The airline does not charge exorbitant amounts for luggage and the check in staff (and on-board staff) were really friendly and helpful.
We chose to stay in an Air BNB in Mile End which I had heard was more of a ‘hipster’ neighbourhood with good cafes and restaurants. If I am going to stay anywhere, it is going to be where I can get a good coffee and some good food. Montreal has a few main areas to visit including: Mile End, Mont-Royal, Old Port and then the downtown areas. We managed to see all of these areas and then some.
I’m not sure if this happens to anyone else, but on the taxi drive in to most places, it seems that the area around is unsightly and I often catch myself thinking ‘why did we come here’. On our first day in Montreal, it was also a grey and overcast day and since they get quite brutal Winters, everything was bare and drab looking. Adding together the drive from the airport and first impressions, we were worried our five days would in fact be too many. Well, Montreal put up a fight and won us over pretty quickly! As soon as the sun came out really.
One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Cirque Du Soleil to see the show Luzia (Montreal is the birthplace of Cirque Du Soleil, we had to!). After my experience in Las Vegas of being called on stage, I was worried it would happen again since we purchased seats near the front, but I needn’t have worried. The show was incredible and I was sitting in awe the whole time. Literally, my mouth just hung open.
I would 100% recommend choosing a little Air BNB to stay in. We managed to find one on the top floor of an old three story terrace and it was gorgeous.
We had dinner on my Birthday at (insert here) and it was amazing. I can’t say enough good things about this place! It was a late find (literally 15 minutes before we left the apartment) because I couldn’t be bothered getting an uber to the other place we’d chosen and I’m glad we changed our minds. They serve only tasting courses in either meat or vegetarian and we chose one of each (as in, Steve had meat, I had Vegetarian). The tasting menu was only CAD$65 each which is a lot cheaper than a lot of restaurants I have had similar at in Sydney.
Arts Cafe in Mile end was also a favourite and we had breakfast and coffee here three mornings in a row.
We also went to a Polish restaurant called Stash cafe in Old Port that we loved. The food seemed very authentic to us.
If you can, Cirque Du Soleil should not be missed. Although you can see it in many cities around the world, there is something special about seeing it at its birthplace.
A hike up Mont Royal for both the exercise and view should also be added to the list. The walk isn’t a long one, but it is steep so I’d recommend wearing runners rather than every day wear. There is a huge chalet on top and incredible views of Montreal on top. There are also some graveyards and parks around one side, but we didn’t make it there.
A trip to Old Port is not as touristy as you would imagine. We enjoyed walking among the cobblestone streets, taking in the architecture and cute little stores. There are plenty of places to eat around this area too, if you’re hungry and most seem to be reasonably priced (i.e. no tourist tax).
We really loved seeing Montreal and I’d love to head back some time. Something that did surprise us somewhat was the lack of language barrier. In Montreal, French is the most people’s first language and as such, we were worried we’d have a bit of trouble getting around. We needn’t have worried though because of course everyone spoke English!
Have you been to Montreal? What did you enjoy most?