I love Montreal … it will always be my favorite city in North America. Not just for all the university memories, but for the people, food and general energy of the city. I get a few e-mail questions from readers, but I’m putting this itinerary specifically for a friend who is traveling to Montreal at the end of the year.
Day 1 : Your day of history in Montreal with a Schwarma food tour
You get into your hotel. As an SPG Platinum guest, I will always recommend the W Montreal or Sheraton Center. They’re both very good business hotels and offer some amazing upgrades. I also quite like the Le Meridien Versailles in Montreal. This is more of a boutique hotel, but it’s great location for going to all the museums.
Once you’re all checked in … your next choice depends on your time of arrival. If you get there early enough i.e. before 1pm or so … then I would highly recommend that you spend the rest of your day in Old Montreal. Here is a 12 hour plan to roam through Old Montreal – choose the Old Montreal section only. If you’re going in winter … remember to bundle up – Montreal gets pretty cold in the winter, but you can spend a lot of your time having beer and eating some great food. Montreal is a phenomenal food town … here’s another post I wrote on what to eat in Montreal.
Highlights from your day, should include
– A photo stop at the beautiful Notre Dame Basillica
– Wandering through historic Old Montreal
– Walking along the St. Lawrence River, if it’s not too cold.
After you’re done eating and drinking in historic Old Montreal, you might have some energy to go out on the town and have a drink. I highly recommend going to Crescent Street for some late night hijinks. There are many great bars and restaurants (it’s close to your SPG hotel of choice) … personally, I would spend your first day’s caloric intake on Arabic/Lebanese food … here is your highlight list … my personal favorite is Boustan chicken schwarma with tons of garlic and hot sauce, with garlic potatoes … you can choose to skip the soda 😀
Day 2 : Recover while touring the downtown core
After a long night of touring and partying, you’ll need a good breakfast to shore you up for the next day. I definitely suggest breakfast at either Eggspectations on Maissoneuve. If you’re really feeling for an awesome pick me up, then I suggest Breakfast at Schwartz Deli (you’ll have to get there anyway – since it’s probably on every Montreal to-do list)
Once you’ve had breakfast, I would suggest taking the Metro and getting off at Place Des Arts metro stop and checking out the Opera house and the architecture in the square. There are two downtown university campuses here (UQAM and Universite de Montreal). You also wander around Complexe Desjardins – they have a great Christmas display in the atrium. Here is a post I wrote about Place des Arts, Complexe Desjardins and a great picture of Notre Dame Basilica
Once you’re done with your architecture junket, then can walk west along St Catherine Street and make a pit stop at Christ Church Anglican Cathedral, especially if you like churches as much as I do – see the previous bullet point for more images. You might think Montreal was once a very Catholic city— and it was … but now the only thing that the steeples dotting the skyline are good for, is playing a travel drinking game — take a shot every time you pass a steeple and weep for the altar boys 😛
Continuing west, you’re going to come up to the corner of University and St. Catherine. This is one of the busiest corners in Montreal and it also signals the start of strip club zone. There are 3 strip clubs within a 2 block radius – you would have also passed a couple more strip bars along your previous walking segment. You’ll also be passing a lot of higher stores and Eaton Center Montreal, so you can get your shopping fix.
At this point on your walk, you can continue west till you get to McGill College Avenue. I would suggest turning right and going up McGill College Avenue and walking around the McGill University campus – my alma mater. It’s a great campus and you can wander through all the buildings without anyone stopping you. Both McGill’s lower campus and McGill College Avenue are always lit up during the Christmas season.
You should be pretty hungry at this point. I would suggest a drink at Sarah B’s in the Intercontinental Hotel and maybe some very good Italian food at Rosalie Restaurant.
After a bite, you should head back to your hotel and freshen up, so you can do some bar hopping on St. Laurent. It’s an easy 10$ taxi ride from any SPG property to St. Laurent. I suggest checking one of the bars on the Montreal nightlife list.
If you’re looking for some super late night fun, you can do one of two things : find a rave after party – you can find them in Montreal – but you’ll need to ask around or you can head to the Casino … or wind down the night with yet another schwarma from Amir at the corner of Crescent St and De Maisonneuve.
Day 3 : Montreal Museum Mornings with an Olympic view afternoon and a heart attack
Montreal has a lot of museums … like a lot. So how about actually going to some and getting your culture on. Here is a great list from Canadaplus.com – I wouldn’t worry about the Montreal museum pass, unless you’re going to turn the Montreal Museum Morning into a 3 day museum extravaganza – and I personally find most of them quite boring, but you should still go to one … if nothing more than to say you went to one. Your pretentious friends will be impressed.
– Montreal Museum of Fine Arts : The most prestigious museum in the city always offers captivating exhibitions.
– Montreal Museum of Contemporary Arts : Its mandate is to “make known, promote and preserve contemporary Quebec art.”
– The Montreal Science Centre : This complex displays the scientific and technological wonders of our time.
– McCord Museum of Canadian History : It offers Montrealers and tourists alike a glimpse into our national history.
– Pointe-à-Callière, Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History : One of a kind in North America.
– Château Ramezay Museum : The humblest of all the châteaux built in Montreal, it’s the only one still standing.
– Canadian Centre for Architecture : A museum and study centre dedicated to promoting appreciation of architecture.
– Redpath Museum : Here you’ll find an impressive anthropological, archaeological and ethnological artifacts.
– Just For Laughs Museum : One visit to the this museum will leave you aching with laughter.
– Centre d’histoire de Montréal :This small, unpretentious museum explores various themes related to life in Montreal.
– Lachine Museum :Built in 1670, the former trading post is the oldest extant structure in the Montreal region.
Once you’ve gotten your cultural fix, then I suggest getting a view of Montreal from the Olympic Park … take the subway to Pie-IX and Viau metro stations. You’ll figure out how to get there and there’s even a hotel there … as if anyone would really stay there … but it’s an idea. Tickets to the top cost $9 CAN for adults and $5.50CAN for children and students. There is also a free shuttle bus from the Olympic Park to the Botanical Garden – which is quite nice for a coffee and flowers.
Since Montreal is also all about poutine … you could do a calorie clogging tour. Note : I am not recommending eating more than one poutine per month … I’m just suggesting poutine every day as an entertainment option … like going bungee jumping, except it’s only going to be your ass doing the jumping! Here are some suggestions from Midnight Poutine.
Best Poutine When You’re Sober: Ma’amm Bolduc
Best Poutine Date When You’re on a Date (Drunk): Patati Patata
Best Poutine When You’re on a Date (Sober. Don’t know why you would do this, but don’t argue with the categories): Chuck Hughes’ Garde-Mangez Lobster Poutine
Best Quality Poutine Overall for the Money: Au Pied de Cochon
Best Poutine When You’re A Little Less Sober: Lafleur in Verdun
Day 4 : New Years Eve in Montreal
So you’ve spent a lot of time eating and touring your entire way through Montreal and now you’re looking for the best party in Montreal for New Years eve to finish up an epic three days in Montreal. Thankfully, there are a lot of options – I’ve actually done quite a few of these (with lots of alcohol but no drugs … and no … I’m not embarrassed.
Douchey option : Go line up with the masses to head up to Altitude 737: I’ve been to the club floating 43 floors up above downtown Montreal and I found the whole thing pretty great in the summer on a Thursday night … going to a NYE party though might make me want to throw up – but it could be pretty awesome with the view in the cold. The biggest draw for this event is the ability to essentially see the fireworks at eye level come midnight!!!
Super Rave/Drugs option : Odyssey 2013 @ Circus Afterhours. While most New Year’s Eve events tend to peter out after midnight, Circus’ Odyssey 2013 promises to keep going well into 2011 — until 11 a.m., actually. With a 150,000-watt system, house, trance and hip-hop DJs and one of the city’s hardest-partying crowds, Circus’ NYE looks set to be one of the wildest scenes in the city. You have all of 2013 to recover, so why not ring in the year with a bang?
Super sexy show option : Cirque De Boudoir’s next BIG event on the calendar is the sexiest NEW YEAR’s EVE party in Montreal: CARNAVALESQUE 2013 @ Bain Mathieu!!! This sounds like a great option for singles …
Dinner and Romance option : Time Supper Club’s wonderland gala at the Esterel hotel. This could also be a great option … if you have a bit more taste and don’t want to hang out with 20 year olds.