On March 31, 2013Jennifer Nachshen answered the question:A better question might be "when isn't the best time to visit Montreal?" We have four very distinct seasons, summer, fall, winter and slush. The only time I might recommend staying away is the at the end of March and beginning of April when the snow melts away revealing all the dirt and grime that has been accumulating over the winter. But that's also Cabane-a-Sucre season, when the sap is collected from the trees and the sugar shacks crank out sweet maple syrup and treat visitors to sugar-laden feasts. Be sure to book well ahead of time if you want to go to chef Martin Picard's famous Pied de Cochon Sugar Shack. They start taking reservations in the fall.
We are, of course, famous for our winters. Come to ski in the nearby Laurentian mountains or Eastern Townships, go cross-country skiing on Mont Royal, or lace up your skates at one of the city's many outdoor rinks. Enjoy some of the amazing winter festivals and events, including the Highlights Festival and the Snow Village. To prevent hibernation, Montreal's restaurant scene offers some terrific three-course meal deals. Just make sure to bring a warm coat and some mitts. It can get really cold here in the winter.
Montreal comes alive in the summer. After months of hibernation, Montrealers are ready to party. And we do, with festivals like Just for Laughs, the Jazz Festival, International Fireworks competition and Osheaga. Beyond that, you'll find Montrealers revelling in the sunshine with a picnic basket in the park, hiking the mountain, or biking along the Lachine canal. Some refer to summer as terasse season. We spend so much of our winters indoors that we don't want to waste even a second of our summer, so we'll dine and drink on the city's numerous al fresco options.
Though I adore summer in the city, my favourite season might just be fall. The air is crisp and scented with falling leaves. Make sure to head out apple picking and enjoy the comfort food appearing on most menus. And now is the perfect time to walk around the city with a light jacket and plenty of stops for warm beverages along the way.
On March 29, 2013Jennifer Nachshen answered the question:The Montreal metro system is downright simple compared to other major cities. Sure, it doesn't go everywhere you may want to go, but it will take you to most of the places worth going. It's pretty clean, pretty safe, pretty inexpensive and pretty pleasant. It's even pretty, with stations filled with public installations by major Montreal artists. Just keep it mind that the metro closes at least 2 hours earlier than most bars. So if you're staying out past midnight you'll need an alternate form of transportation.
There are four main metro lines: Orange, green, blue and yellow.
The orange line runs in a U-shape from Cote-Vertu to Montmorency. Vistors will most likely stick to the stops between Villa Maria and Jean-Talon. Use this line to get to the Jean-Talon Market, Old Montreal, St. Henri and Westmount. Switch to the yellow line at Berri-UQAM
The Yellow line takes you to Parc Jean-Drapeau where you'll find La Ronde, the Casino, the Grand Prix track and plenty of Montreal's summer festivals, including Osheaga.
The Green line runs from west to east along the bottom of the island, taking you from Angrgnon to Honoré Beaugrand.Visitors will find the stops between Atwater and Berri-Uqam most useful, running underneath the downtown strip and passing through both Concordia University and McGill, as well as the Université de Quebec a Montreal.
I've lived in Montreal for most of my life and I have to admit to never taking the Blue line, running from west to east, mid-island from Snowdon to Saint Michel. All I can tell you about it is that there's a great deli at the Snowdon stop (the Snowdon Deli) and this is the metro used by students at Université de Montreal. It stops at Parc, but a little higher than the main drag where you'll find shopping and dining.
Visitors can play metro roulette in the square bordered by Snowdon, Jean-Talon, Berri UQAM and Lionel Groulx. Just pick a stop at random and head up into the sunlight to see what's there. I promise you'll find something fun.
On March 28, 2013Jennifer Nachshen answered the question:Montreal has a vibrant and diverse bar scene and, though I must admit to having retired my shot glass a few years ago, I still adore a good 5 å 7 (that's Happy Hour in Montrealais) or even a night of energy-busting dancing. The best neighbourhoods for bars are Old Montreal, the Plateau and, more recently St. Henri. No matter what anyone tells you, don't go out on Crescent Street, unless you're only interested in meeting other tourists. Here are some of my Montreal faves.
In Old Montreal stop by Philémon, especially on Thursday for the lively after-work crowd. Furco is new to the downtown scene and wildly popular among chic Montrealers, as are Baldwin Barmacie in Mile End and Bily Kun in the Plateau.
If you just want to sit down and relax over a drink and some good food, head to the Plateau to Else's or mingle with students reading papers over pints at Laika. For house-brewed beers hit Dieu du Ciel in Mile End or les Soeurs Grises in Old Montreal.
Dance the Night Away
Putting your dancing shoes on and head to the Velvet Speakeasy at Auberge St. Gabriel in Old Montreal for a Gothic-themed evening. Catch a show at Griffintown's New City Gas or see and be seen over bottle service at Wood 35 on Blvd. St. Laurent.
For a predominantly French city, Montreal has its share of excellent Britsh style pubs. I love the Burgundy Lion for a get together with friends, and NDG's Ye Olde Orchard is always an easy evening pick. Head to Hurley's Irish Pub if you're downtown and wanting a pint over some live music, and definitely on St. Patrick's Day.
Wine and Cocktail Bars
Our french roots mean Montrealers are majore wine lovers. I love to relax over a glass at Pullman (the grilled cheese is a must) and, though I've never been, I've heard great things about Bu. Buvette Chez Simone has a fabulous patio for the summer months. But if it's cocktails you crave, try the creative mixologists at Lab or get old-fashioned at Dominion Square Taverne.
On March 23, 2013Jennifer Nachshen answered the question:Walk
Montreal is a fantastic pedestrian city, so your best bet is to put on some comfy shoes and get marching. Pick a neighbourhood like Old Montreal, downtown, St. Henri the Plateau or Outremont and map out a walking tour that will take you past shops, museums, parks and the occasional street performer. Be sure to refuel often (see below).
European influences abound from architecture to eateries. From Italian espresso and French cafés to British pubs and Viennese bakeries, you'll feel like you're dining across the ocean. You'll also find plenty of Middle Eastern spots to get your felafel fix and Asian food of all kinds from kalbi to noodles to sushi. And don't forget traditional Montreal faves like smoked meat, bagels and poutine. Good thing you're doing all that walking (see above).
It probably has something to do with Montreal's European heritage but locals absolutely love to visit the multiple Scandinavian spas in the area. Start in the sauna or hot jacuzzi followed by a quick dunk in freezing water, and then sit back and relax in a fluffy robe at beautiful spots including Spa Scandinave, Bota Bota and Strom Spa. Lakeside spa Balnea is just an hour or so out of town, near Bromont, but well worth the trip in the summer months.
The only skiing to be had in the city is cross-country, but if you're visiting in the winter be sure to save a coupe of days for a jaunt up north to the Laurentians or a quick trip to the Eastern Townships for mountains galore. Bromont offers fantastic night-skiing just an hour and a half away from the downtown core, and Mont Tremblant is a must for downhill enthusiasts.
Montreal has a very distinct sense of style. Though you'll find some well known brands including H&M, Zara, GAP and Forever XXI on the main Ste. Catherine street strip, pick up a Montreal original that no one at home will have. We recommend hunting down a piece by designer darlings, Denis Gagnon, Marie Saint Pierre, DUY, Helmer, Eve Gravel, Melissa Nepton, and more.
On March 23, 2013Jennifer Nachshen answered the question:Though ultra-upscale dining certainly has its place in the Montreal food scene (the multi-course tasting menus at Toqué and Europea must be done at least once in your life) my personal favourite restaurants tend to lean toward more rustic indulgence than fussy finery. The blend of high end cuisine and a laid-back atmosphere means you can choose whether you want dress to the nines or show up in jeans, and either way you'll still feel like you fit into the five-star experiences. My picks all have a few things in common: They're all chef-owned and serve local, seasonal fare that's inventive and delicious. Here are my personal favourite, must-dine spots in Montreal.
Joe Beef / Liverpool House
Owned by David MacMillan and Fred Morin, these two spots which sit side-by-side in St. Henri are the ultimate in decadent dining. Though dishes run a bit on the pricey side, the cost is fully justified by the quality of ingredients and the inventive plates produced by the talented pair. Espousing a locavore, nose-to-tail philosophy, you'll find the seasonal menu stocked with a wide variety of proteins and backyard-grown produce (dine with a garden view during summer months!). I always order the oysters and consider the lobster spaghetti the ultimate indulgence, but you can also make an amazing meal by piling on the appetizers. With chefs MacMillan and Morin receiving international attention through appearances on The Taste and Anthony Bourdain's The Layover, be sure to book well in advance.
With a menu featuring multiple small plates, Le Filet is the less stuffy Plateau-located sister to Old Montreal's upscale Club Chasse et Peche. At $10 - $20 per plate, Le Filet is perfect for people who love variety and are good at sharing. I adore the raw fish dishes (the crudeau with Japanese plum, wasabi and cucumber is to-die) and appreciate that they also have a not-so-secret vegetarian menu. All you have to do is ask!
Garde Manger and Le Bremner
It was a lobster poutine that put Chuck Hughes on the map, when he became one of the few Canadian competitors to beat out Iron Chef Bobby Flay. The Food Network star owns two restaurants in Old Montreal, Garde Manger, which turns into quite the party scene after the 9pm seating polishes off their last bites of dessert; and Le Bremner, which focuses more on seafood and pizzas. How to choose? I go to Garde Manger if you like to dance on your table after you've eaten on it and Le Bremner if you're looking for a smidge more peace and quiet.
The menu changes frequently at Chef Jon Bloom's restaurant, tucked away in an up-and-coming stretch of St. Henri. Featuring local, seasonal ingredients, the one-page menu is flavoured with French, British, occasional Asian and even Carribean influences, for a dining experience to fit every taste. A lot of Montrealers consider this spot their go-to resto for an easy, delicious meal with friends, so book ahead.
Chef Nick Hodge brings a welcome southern flavour to our very cold city with dishes that speak to the soul with great flavour and a dash of whimsy. It's a bit out of the way of the traditional restaurant scene, but the brussels sprouts with grits, bacon and egg are worth a trip in and of themselves. And that's just an appetizer.
On March 21, 2013Jennifer Nachshen answered the question:The best attraction in Montreal is the city itself. We recommend walking around the various neighbourhoods, stopping in to local cafés and just enjoying the scene. Take a leisurely stroll around Old Montreal and catch the street performers in Place Jacques-Cartier or hike up to the summit of Mont-Royal for a view of the whole city.
Why don't you pick up fresh local produce at the city's markets? I particularly love picking up local fare at the Atwater Market and eating al fresco on the Lachine Canal, and you can also grab Quebec-made artisinal cheese and bread at the Jean Talon Market for and enjoy a picnic in Park Lafontaine.
If it's fun you're after, take the métro to Parc jean Drapeau where you'll find the ample green space, a huge pool, a beach as well as Montreal's Casino, the Grand Prix track and La Ronde Six Flags, where you can ride Le Monstre, the highest double wooden roller coaster in the world.
For an art attack, hit Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in the downtown core and the Contemporary Art Museum near Place des Arts and satisfy your creative side.
Science fans can geek out at the Biodome in the city's east end (near the Olympic Stadium, if you want a taste of history) and Montreal Science Centre in the heart of the Old Port. One of my favourite stops is the Canadian Centre for Architecture.
History buffs can learn all about Montreal's past at the Pointe-a-Calliere Museum and the McCord Museum where you'll find exhibits highlighting the city's history, first nations people and architecture.
On March 20, 2013Jennifer Nachshen answered the question:Montreal is known as a fashion destination, with inventive local designers including Denis Gagnon, DUY and Marie Ste-Pierre, you can come home with a one-of-a-kind piece that will impress any serious sartorialist. When it comes to shopping in Montreal, there are a few major areas that will really damage your wallet (but it's worth it in the end!).
A lot is said about Montreal's so-called "underground city," which is really just a system of interconnected malls featuring fairly run-of-the-mill shops that you can find pretty much anywhere. It's not my usual go-to, but it sure is nice when the weather is -30 celsius. Stick to Ste-Catherine St from Crescent to University for the major fashion brands, including BCBG, Forever XXI and H&M. Find unique boutiques like David Lesage in Les Cours Mont-Royal on Peel and Montreal-based swimwear line SHAN on Crescent.
2. St-Laurent & the Plateau
Find hipster Fashion at it's finest, including local designer Helmer, and ultra-romantic Boutique 1861 at the south end and Canadian and Quebec brands star at Boutiques Unicorn and Quartier Mode toward the north. Quirky vintage reigns at Citizen Vintage.
3. Mile End
Begin with lovely lingerie at Lyla and stop in at Billie Boutique for some fun pieces to pur on top. Find elegantly tailored suits and work-appropriate dresses at Montreal designer Iris Setlakwe and pick up pretty knitwear at Ca va de Soi.
4. Old Montreal
Find local merchants at Marché Bonsecours, and high fashion at the sole storefront for popular online boutique, Ssense.com. For men's fashion, we recommend Michel Brisson.
Victoria Village is one of our favourite shopping destinations with Lola & Emily, Pretty Ballerinas, and JoshuaDavid within steps of each other. Put a whole outfit together in one city block!