All of the French with none of the jet lag -- that’s Montreal’s appeal in a nutshell. Our francophone neighbor to the north is wonderfully within reach, yet it offers heaps of European charm. And that makes it perfect for a romantic weekend getaway a deux. Now that the frost of winter has finally (finally!) thawed, it’s the ideal time to brush up on your high school French, grab your sweetheart, and set off for a weekend of indulgence. Here’s our breakdown of the perfect weekend away in Montreal.
Friday Afternoon: Arrive in Montreal
Bienvenue to Montreal! If you’re flying into Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, you’ll be happy to note this airport is a manageable size and just about 30 minutes from Downtown. Metered taxis can take you into town. (Use this fare finder to check the going price.) You can also take the shuttle to Downtown, which is cheaper at $10 CAD, but isn’t a direct route and can take longer.
Friday Afternoon: Check in to Your Hotel in Montreal
If you’re here on a little getaway, go big on hotel atmosphere and make your trip really memorable. The Hotel William Gray is Montreal’s buzzy see-and-be-seen space, complete with a fine-dining restaurant, multiple rooftop and outdoor spaces, and an incredible spa. (Book those couples massages, tout suite!) Little in-room luxuries like Frette robes and multi-jet showers also amp up the romance. If you’re looking for something a bit less glossy and more intimate, the appropriately named Le Petit Hotel packs in plenty of charm into its 19th-century property. Their Le Labo toiletries and spa-like bathrooms make rooms mini sanctuaries.
Friday Evening: Dinner on the Town in Montreal
Kick off your trip on the right foot by heading straight to Joe Beef. (Reservations are a must.) This restaurant is on every single restaurant critic’s must-eat list, so you know it’s legit. As Eater put it in one article, “Joe Beef lives up to absurd expectations.” The seasonal menu, naturally, highlights steak, but you’ll also find other delicacies like lobster spaghetti, house-cured ham, a foie gras “double down,” and rabbit. While the food is five-star, the dining room, with chalkboard-mounted walls and bentwood chairs, is low-key and cozy -- perfect for a date night.
Saturday Morning: A Waterfront Stroll in Montreal
Now that you’re rested from your travels, you’re ready to begin touring the city. A great place to start is Montreal’s waterfront and its Old Port. The Montreal Observation Wheel here (similar to the London Eye) will give you that top-down view of the city and get you oriented. It’s also a perfect spot for a kiss. Science buffs can step into the Montreal Science Centre, but other couples might prefer Bota Bota, a floating spa that offers massages and body treatments with a waterside view.
Saturday Afternoon: Cafe Lunch and Old Montreal Tour
After tooling around the waterfront, rest and refuel at Olive et Gourmando, a sweet little European-style cafe with goodies like sandwiches, salads, and a pastry case stocked to the ceiling with scones, muffins, croissants, and other goodies. (Tip: This spot is popular, so opt for an early lunch to get the drop on the crowds.)Once you’re properly stuffed, it’s time to get back out there to explore what many consider to be the city’s main attraction: the adorable Old Montreal neighborhood. Taking several hours to just aimlessly wind around the area’s cobblestone streets is time well spent, but it’s also worth stopping by Notre-Dame Basilica, the city’s oldest church and arguably its most spectacular, with stained-glass galore. Place Jacques-Cartier is another worthy stop as an outdoor market with vendors makes the place come alive and lends it plenty of Old World allure.
Saturday Night: Pizza and a Jazz Club in Montreal
Montreal is known for poutine -- that brown, gloppy dish of fries, gravy, and cheese curds -- which is not the most romantic of meals. What it’s not known for is pizza, despite the fact that it has excellent and well-established pizzerias. Take the path less traveled and head to Moleskine for a pie you can split with your sweetie. The casual downstairs, with its communal tables and the atmospheric bar, makes for a fun singles scene. But you should make your way to the second floor, where candlelit tables and mid-century modern chairs set an amorous mood. A wine menu and “chocolat” sundaes for dessert don’t hurt either. After dinner, plug into the city’s signature jazz scene by heading to Diese Onze. This little nook with low-slung ceilings is the perfect place to get a nightcap and listen to musicians riffing.
Sunday Morning: Visit a Park or Museum in Montreal
Check the weather to figure out this morning’s plans. If it’s a lovely day, head straight to Parc du Mont-Royal and hike up Montreal’s namesake peak. (The city’s name, after all, is “Mount Royal.”) This is a great spot for a smooch-y selfie with your significant other. If you’re lucky, the tulips will be in bloom, providing a bright backdrop. Feel free to take a detour to St. Joseph’s Oratory, a beautiful Catholic church that bears a resemblance to Sacre-Coeur in Paris.
If the weather is less than stellar, hit up Montreal’s top art museums. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has a good collection of Romantic paintings. (Bring on the windswept landscapes and classical imagery!) If you’re more of a modernist, head over to MAC (Musee d’Art Contemporain de Montreal), where everything from video installations to arresting photography to interactive sculptures give you plenty to explore.
Sunday Afternoon: Tea Time and Mile End Shopping in Montreal
Skip the usual lunch and head to the Cardinal Tea Room, or salon de thé, if you will. A full afternoon tea here is more than a meal, covering the full spectrum of savory and sweet on a multi-tiered stand. Start out with those finger sandwiches, move on to scones and clotted cream, and finish with mini cakes and pastries, all paired with a giant pot of tea. The space itself is also very snug, with a hodgepodge of red velvet couches and captain’s chairs under a giant glittering chandelier, perfect for getting close and cozy with your date. (If you’re a real tea connoisseur, consider doing a full tour of the salon and other spots.) The Cardinal is perfectly positioned as a jumping-off point for exploring Mile End, arguably the city’s hippest neighborhood that’s jam-packed with independently owned boutiques and artisanal shops. Be sure to swing by Drawn & Quarterly, a bookstore that specializes in graphic novels that launched a wave of artsy businesses in the area.
Sunday Night: Departure
It’s time to say au revoir to this fine city, but thankfully Montreal is close enough for a return visit any time you’re missing those croissants.
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