Summer travel guide to Montreal
Complete with centuries-old stone facades, grand boulevards, and traditional bistros, Montreal may resemble the Old World, but this Canadian metropolis is anything but a fossilized relic. Beyond the cobbled lanes lies a vibrant city full of innovative eats, distinctive drinks, and cutting-edge beats. Home to boundary-pushing bands like The Dear and Arcade Fire, as well as a dizzying blend of globetrotting cultures, Montreal has become a summertime destination for in-the-know international travelers. If you’re planning on visiting Montreal this summer, here’s a guide to experiencing the best that Montreal has to offer.
Must Do in Montreal:
• Visit it the annual Jazz Fest and watch everyone from West African musical superstars to jazz legends perform outdoors in the beauty that is Montreal in the summertime.
• Sit at a pub and enjoy a pint or two of locally brewed St. Ambroise while watching a Montreal Canadiens hockey game. It’s essentially the same pub experience as watching a Manchester United game in a London Pub, except the accents of the lively patrons are decidedly French.
Where to Stay
Auberge Le Jardin d’Antoine – a cute little auberge on St. Dennis Street in Latin Quarter where I stayed. Walking distance to the Old Town, port, restaurants, shops and many other parts of Montreal. I agree with the hotel owners’ opinion that feeling good starts with an excellent breakfast where quality is essential. Because Le Jardin d’Antoine does serve delicious breakfast!
Auberge Bonaparte – Dating back to 1886, the 30-room Auberge Bonaparte transports guests back in time. Complete with wrought iron, Louis-Philippe furniture, a lounge with a fireplace, and a rooftop terrace with views of Old Montreal, the Auberge Bonaparte is far from a bland stay at the Hilton. For a decadent meal, the savory dishes of the Bonaparte Restaurant do not disappoint.
Casa Bianca – Until the Casa Bianca opened in 2006, travelers interested in experiencing the unique shops, lounges, and restaurants of the colorful central neighborhoods of Montreal were forced to take a taxi from hotel-laden Old Montreal. Thankfully, this charming five-room inn changed all that. The Renaissance revival building features wrought iron stairs and a seriously white theme, hence the name, but bright decorative touches warm the inn up considerably.
Hôtel Gault – The minimalist-designed Hotel Gault is an affordable lodging option with an edge. The juxtaposition of exposed brickwork and contemporary Italian leather furnishings gives the hotel a modern feel. If staying in the summer, try to book The Essential Top 5 room for the spacious terrace with views spanning the port.
Where to Eat
Maison Publique – After the DNA restaurant been closed, its chef opened Maison Publique with his friend Jamie Oliver. Chef Derek Dammann likes to use every part of the animal and the in-season offerings of the market to draw his ingredients from. Items like steamer clams, lumpfish roe, juniper, and duck eggs are quite typical, but the eclectic menu has also been known to provide rare offerings like horse heart tartar and seal salami.
Garde Manger – Half restaurant, half late-night bar, the Garde Manger offers unique seafood dishes and a seat at one of the hottest parties in all of Montreal. The stone walls of the rustic restaurant feature chalkboard menus offering dishes like jerk shrimp and General Tao lobster. After midnight, the music is turned up to 10 and the place fills with Montreal’s hip young crowd.
Marché de la Villette – The atmosphere at this French-style deli and bistro is almost as charming as the food is good. Filled with chalkboards, antique canned goods, Paris street signs, and meat hanging from the ceiling, this place is a must see if you’re anywhere near Old Montreal. If you’re craving huge portions of delicious comfort food, the pots of fondue, platters of cured meats and cheeses, ham and cheese crepes, and house cassoulet will more than suffice.
Where to Drink
Dieu du Ciel Bar – The brewing tradition is alive and thriving in Montreal, but nowhere more so than at this down-to-the-basics microbrewery. With over a dozen beers happily offered to a thirsty crowd every day of the week, including the 10.5 percent Rigor Mortis ale, the Dieu du Ciel is the perfect place for a refreshing ale on a beautiful summer day.
Whiskey Café – This swanky whiskey lounge feels like it belongs in 1950s Havana, not Montreal. With the smell of smoke emanating from authentic Cuban cigars lingering in the air and more than 50 varieties of whiskey to choose from, the Whiskey Café is worth visiting for the experience alone. If whiskey isn’t your drink of choice, fear not, because there are plenty of other drinks on hand.
Pullman – The stone floors, polished wood tables, and grey and cream palette of the Pullman is the perfect backdrop for this mid-century modernistic escape. The tri-level bar and restaurant is a favorite spot for a variety of locals and visitors alike.
Concerts, Festivals, and Events
Montreal Jazz Festival – Home to the largest jazz festival in the world, each summer in late June and early July nearly two million music lovers flock to Montreal for two weeks of amazing music and festivities. Hundreds of indoor and outdoor shows are put on by some of the biggest names in the music industry. Artists like Prince, The Roots, Robert Plant, and many more have graced the stages of this iconic festival over the years. This year’s musical lineup includes Boz Scaggs, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy and hundreds more amazing artists.
Osheaga – California may have Coachella, but Montreal has Osheaga. Osheaga is a scaled-down version of the other mega fests around the world. This popular outdoor music festival often features dozen of the biggest musical acts in the industry. This year, Montreal’s Parc Jean-Drapeau will host musical superstars like Beck, Mumford and Sons, The Cure, and countless others for three days of musical ecstacy.
Les Tam Tams – Every Sunday from May through September, drummers, vendors, and dancers converge on Mont-Royal Park for drumming and celebrations that last from noon until sundown. Originating as an African drumming workshop in the 1970’s, Les Tams Tams now attracts thousands of eager participants each and every week.
Every summer, Montreal shakes the snow off of its wintery branches and comes alive with the spirits of its millions of visitors and the musical melodies that fill the air. Hotels, restaurants, and bars open their welcoming doors, inviting travelers and beckoning them to experience the time of their life. If you’re planning a trip to Montreal in 2013, if past years are any indication, you will not be disappointed.