Living up to its nickname as la metropole du Quebec, Montreal is Canada’s cool older sister – artistic, outdoorsy, modern yet eccentric. Established in 1611 as a French trading post on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River, Montreal is situated on an island, surrounded by more islands, with a mountain smack dab in the middle of it all. The unique geography of Montreal makes it an urban hiker’s paradise – full of winding alleyways, gorgeous river walks and an endless selection of patisseries. Do what the locals do and grab a snack on the go (Montreal bagels have long rivaled the infamous New York bagel), stroll the old industrial Lachine Canal and get your groove on at a random street festival (Montreal has hundreds of festivals every year, so you’re bound to stumble upon one). Explore the old Victorian epicenter in Vieux-Port, find oddities in Little Burgundy, traverse the paths of Mont-Royal, settle into a warm café au lait in Plateau Mont-Royal, then grab a cold one and practice your French in the taverns of Mile End. Wherever you end up in Montreal, you’ll surely feel a joie de vivre.
WHAT TO DO IN MONTREAL
Every great city has a great park: London has Hyde Park, New York has Central Park, and Montreal has Mont-Royal (un-coincidently designed by the same man who did Central Park!). But unlike those other flat parks, Mont-Royal features eleven miles of pathways and staircases that twist up to a stunning observatory at the top. Pack your sneakers and walk your way from the heart of downtown to the summit or rent snowshoes, tobogons and ice skates at Lac Au Castor Pavillion along Beaver Lake. Regardless of weather, there is no shortage of activity or enthusiastic Montrealers in Mont-Royal Park, so plan to spend a few hours in the true heart of the city – it’s where you’re sure to experience Montreal the local way.
No trip to Montreal is complete without getting a plate of piping hot poutine – the potatoey, cheesy, gravy-drenched unofficial (but sort of official) dish of Canada. Whether you’re new to poutine or straight up addicted, La Banquise is the place to start. Get La Classique (fries/gravy/cheese curds) or branch out and try one of the more adventurous variations. Go for the La T-Rex – a smorgasbord of meats – or opt for La Elvis, the unquestionable King of Poutine. Dense. Smoky. Delicious. Yum.
If you like farmer’s markets, then Marche Jean-Talon is your Mecca. Although it’s one of the biggest public markets in North America, it’s approachable, local and still has a country market feel: Rows upon rows of vibrant produce beg to be photographed, friendly vendors offer samples and sightseeing tips, and the cheese displays are definitely something to write home about. Grab a smoked meat sandwich (4” thick – it’s a Montreal specialty), try a scoop of fresh hazelnut ice cream, hit the crepe stalls, shuck Atlantic oysters, or even try the taco stall in the center of the market (yes there are tacos, and yes they are delicious). And like any authentic farmers market, this one is cash only and one of the best deals in town.
Dieu Du Ciel
Dieu du Ciel represents everything that is awesome about Montreal: Quality (both the beer and the people), relaxed, down-to-earth and cheap! And just like it’s name implies, the beer is positively divine. One sip of their Peche Mortel and you’ll know why they named the joint “God of Heaven.” For the size of the microbrewery, they manage to produce a huge selection of international award winning beers: The hibiscus beer and, ironically, the American IPA are big crowd pleasers, though you really can’t go wrong with any of their seasonal ales. It’s not exactly a well-kept secret that DDC makes awesome beer, so space is limited and prepare to get cozy with your neighbors. But what Dieu Du Ciel doesn’t offer in floor space they make up for with a certain je ne sais quoi… or maybe it’s just good ol’ fashioned beer.
Parc-nature du-Bois-de-l’ile Bizard
It might be a mouthful to say, but Bois-de- I’ile Bizard Park is simply gorgeous. Located on an island just northwest of downtown Montreal, this large nature preserve is reminiscent of the great Canadian woods that grace old postcards and cookie tins. Snowshoe or cross country ski amongst the sugar maples, cedar groves and marshes. Stop on the footbridge over lac des Deux-Montagnes for some casual beaver and bird watching. Walk the miles of pathways and take in the tranquility– tres magnifique!
WHAT TO WEAR IN MONTREAL
Wisper Double Tank
Worn on its own or peeking out from under a sweater, the quiet elegance of the Wisper Double Tank lives up to its soft-spoken name. Two layers of silky, eco-friendly Tencel®, with a hint of forgiving spandex and bra-friendly straps, make this tank a travel must. With Wisper’s pretty draped neckline, you’ll be dressed-up enough for a dinner date even after hours traversing Mont-Royal.
Boarding Pass Pant
It’s a full plane and you’ve got the middle seat between two lumberjacks – but somehow you’re still smiling. You can thank your pants for the breezy attitude. Our Boarding Pass Pant is made of Travel Twill: a soft, light and stretchy blend of cotton/poly/spandex that maintains its shape and character over the long haul. There’s a stealth zip pocket to stash your travel essentials and the fabric is water, oil and stain resistant to avert evidence of dining disasters (Poutine isn’t exactly the daintiest of foods…).
With gas prices so low, why not take a spur-of-the-moment trip? Of course you’ll say yes when you’ve got the Allisa Dress. Tossing on this simple, functional dress is as easy as slipping into your favorite T-shirt, but gives you travel-worthy panache. Made from an uber-soft blend of organic cotton and poly, you’ll get plenty of coverage with the double-layer skirt and the stretchy waist can be worn high or low for maximum versatility (and minimalist packing). Toss on a pair of fun printed leggings, stash your passport in Allisa’s hidden pocket and get on your way.
This shirt is a mild-mannered button-front designed for wild-mannered adventures. Transition easily from one environment to the other – coffee, hike, bike, pub, grub, repeat. Made of Tencel® Sun, cotton and polyester, the lightweight fabric wicks moisture, traps sweat, dries fast and resists wrinkles nicely. A hidden zip sleeve on the chest pocket is perfect for stashing cash or passports, and just like Montreal locals, this shirt will maintain its composure and functionality all day long. Trés bon!