Montreal has a certain je ne sais quoi – a sophistication that is unlike any other large metropolitan city. Part European, part North American, it has a definitive French flair, yet remains richly multi-cultural with an approachable, come-one-come-all attitude. Whether you're keen on checking out the bistro fare, jazz clubs or cutting-edge architecture, style is never in short supply in trendy Montreal. The easiest way to get around is by BIXI bike, which is just $5 CDN for the day. Ready to get started?
9:30 AM – MARKET WATCH
138 ATWATER AVE. MONTREAL, PQ H4C 2H6
Located near the Lachine Canal, this public market is like Disney World for foodies. To fully explore, start at the back with a good cup of coffee and a beautifully crafted croissant from Première Moisson. Cheese lovers will be spoilt for choice with multiple mongers selling international and Canadian varieties at prices you'd never find at fancy gourmet shops. You can also sample the local maple syrup or indulge in a heaping plate of paella from Roule la Poule.
11:30 AM – MAD FOR MAPLE
122 SHERBROOKE ST. W. MONTREAL, PQ H3G 1H6
Quebec produces 75% of the world’s maple syrup, so you shouldn’t be too surprised to learn that it also pops up in spa treatments around the province. Full of antioxidants, try the two-hour maple sugar massage at the newly opened Spa St. James at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal. It includes a thorough exfoliation and wrap using a combination of clay and organic maple sugar to make skin baby soft. Be warned though, the aroma may cause serious pancake cravings.
2 PM – MEAT AND GREET
3895 BLVD ST-LAURENT MONTREAL, PQ H2W 1X9
Schwartz’s Deli has been serving up the city’s famous smoked meat sandwiches since 1928. The lines are long and the servers may be a bit surly, but nothing can damper the enjoyment of what is likely to be the best thing you’ll eat all year. Order your 'wich with a giant garlicky pickle, a side of golden fries and a black cherry soda, which is how the locals do it. If you can’t handle the wait for a table, slip next door to the takeout counter.
4 PM – THE BIG O
4141 PIERRE-DE COUBERTIN AVE. MONTREAL, PQ H1V 3N7
Get your mind out of the gutter because "the Big O" is merely the nickname of Montreal's Olympic Stadium. Built in 1976 when they hosted the summer games, it's worth a stop for the views alone. The inclined tower is the tallest in the world sloped at a 45-degree angle, and accessible by a glass-enclosed funicular. You’ll be able to see 50 miles of the St. Lawrence River valley. If you happen to visit between May and October, don't miss First Fridays. The event brings together the city’s best food trucks, which hock everything from curried lamb tacos to poutine topped withfoie gras.
7 PM – GAME ON
479 ST. ALEXIS ST. MONTREAL, PQ H2Y 2N7
Hearty fare, fish and game meat are the stars at Restaurant L’Orignal (which translates to "The Moose"). Generously portions of beef tartar, mustard braised rabbit, venison chops, and roasted salmon are served in an atmosphere that can be best be described as hunting lodge chic. Picture rustic pillows, plenty of wood, and a liquor cabin fashioned out of a canoe. The sides of roasted brussels sprout and bacon and cheesy mash are divine, but be sure to save room for dessert. They are equally substantial, so just surrender and order the blueberry buckle with a scoop of ice cream.
10:30 AM – THE BRUNCH BUNCH
538 PLACE ST. HENRI MONTREAL, PQ H4C 2R9
Montrealers love to party into the wee hours of the night so it's no surprise that brunching is a popular pastime. One of the more stylish places to gather is H4C. Housed in a former post office circa 1893, the vibe is cool and retro. Fortunately, its approach to French gastronomy using Quebecois ingredients works equally as well. The pancakes with rhubarb, strawberries, yogurt, and white chocolate is the perfect hangover antidote, but the fiddlehead eggs Benedict with lamb bacon is nothing to sneeze at either.
1 PM – SURF’S UP
777 LASALLE BLVD. LASALLE, PQ H8P 1X6
Montreal is filled with surprises. One of them is its surf scene. While there may not be an ocean, surfers rely on the waves (up to six feet) from the mighty St. Lawrence River. Churned up thanks to the strong current, you can rent all the gear you need or sign up for lessons with Kayak Sans Frontières. Summer only, of course!
2:30 PM – HOT STUFF
263 St. VIATEUR ST. W. MONTREAL, PQ H2V 1Y1
Bagel connoisseurs know the intense war that exists between Montreal and New York as to which city's dough reigns supreme. The Canuck version is smaller, denser and thinner with a hint of sweetness from honey that's added as they are boiled before baking in a wood-fired oven. St-Viateur, one of the city’s busiest bakeries, churns out bagels around the clock so you can always get them fresh and hot. The sesame is a staple, but there’s also fancier flavors like rosemary and sea salt. Celebrity fans include everyone from Rachael Ray and Anthony Bourdain, to William Shatner and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
3 PM – WELL CULTURED
1380 SHERBROOKE ST. W. MONTREAL, PQ H3G 1J5
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts plays host to some mighty fine exhibits, centered around diverse subjects like Pompeii, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Marc Chagall. If there’s a big name attached to a show, you’re likely to find it here. With more than 41,000 works collected since its opening in 1860, there is no shortage of things to see, so pace yourself. The museum keeps growing with a fifth pavilion set to open in time to celebrate Montreal’s 375th anniversary in 2017.
6:30 PM – BREWS TO PERUSE
29 LAURIER AVE. W. MONTREAL, PQ H2T 2N2
Dieu du Ciel is a lively space where sippers gather to pay homage to their favorite beverage. There’s a strong focus on pours from Quebec and a few made in-house where the craft beer scene is well established and robust; but you’ll find plenty of exotic imports as well. Non-beer lovers can taste a variety of ciders and fruit beers to pair with a bacon flatbread. This place gets crazy packed, so arrive early to snag a seat.
8 PM – SWEET FINISH
2360 NOTRE DAME ST. W. MONTREAL, PQ H3J 1N4
If there’s one place that exemplifies Montreal’s passion for creativity and food, it’s Patrice Pâtissier. Sure, you’ll find the usual treats you’d expect from a world-class pastry chef like Patrice Demers – puffy brioche and flaky scones – but he ventures into unchartered territory with desserts like "Le Vert." To refreshing granita, he adds rich white chocolate yogurt, tangy apple, and crunchy pistachios, then finished with olive oil. Garnering so many fans, what began as a madcap experiment is now permanently on the menu.
10 PM – ALL THAT JAZZ
1254 MACKAY ST. MONTREAL, PQ H3G 2H4
Montreal is famed for it's live music scene, but where it really shines is jazz. The city hosts the hugely popular Festival International de Jazz de Montreal each summer, but a steady stream of performers comes to play year round. One to try is the retro Upstairs Jazz, which was named one of top 100 jazz clubs in the world. Housed in a semi-basement, it’s not super fancy, but it has a unique charm about it.
WHERE TO STAY: HOTEL 10
10 SHERBROOKE ST. W. MONTREAL, PQ H2X 4C9
This hotel that sits smack dab in the center of most action-packed neighborhood in Montreal. Close to the metro station, museums and bars and restaurants of St. Laurent Street, aka The Strip, you’ll be able to walk just about everywhere. Its contemporary aesthetic makes for a welcoming space within a 1915 Beaux Art townhouse. For night hawks, the hotel also has its own nightclub and wine bar. Just make sure to get up early enough to enjoy the well-stocked breakfast buffet.