Welcome to MarieClaire.com's series on weekend travel—a smart girl's guide to making the most of those glorious two days off.
"Bonjour hi!" shopkeepers will say as you peruse in Montreal. The Canadian city in Quebec is a favorite of many, and it's easy to understand why. With a mix of new and old, the city feels both familiar and fresh—and with a European charm that's ideal for leisurely, wandering strolls (and your Instagram account).
But with only a couple of days, those strolls better lead to some gems, amiright? Here, how to make the most of a couple of days in the city, which is currently celebrating its 375th anniversary.
Where to Stay
I stayed at the InterContinental Montreal, which is legitimately the perfect location for all the Montreal has to offer, especially for first-timers. Located on the edge of Old Montreal (which, you guessed it, is the oldest part of the city) and new, you can conveniently get to anything your heart desires. And your heart, well, it's going to desire a lot.
Fun fact: The hotel connects to the World Trade Centre Montreal, which houses a remnant of the Berlin Wall, as well as staircases that lead to the underground passageways that connect much of the city, so be sure to check it out. (Pro tip: you will probably get lost. Don't be too hard on yourself.)
My friend, fellow journalist, and past Montreal-dweller points out that Montreal is also a spectacular city for Airbnb, because you can get some great deals that will immerse you in parts of Montreal ripe for exploring—particularly Plateau, Mile End, Outremont, and Little Italy, so be sure to check that out too! (Pssst...if it looks too good to be true, run...)
What to Do
Montreal is known for its food, so more on that later. But there's plenty to do outside drinking and eating (you know, if you want to). One of the coolest things I got to do in Montreal (and the best way to see the city, IMO) was to take a street art tour by local tourism duo Spade & Palacio. Dubbed "non-touristy tours," my guide, Spade, is a local, born-and-raised Montrealer and took a group of us (in freezing temps, god bless) around the city to showcase the significant Montreal street art and graffiti that is central to the culture. (FWIW, they also offer all different sorts of tours, including bike- and food-centric ones). It was, in a word, awesome.
Visiting Old-Montreal is a must, and the charming streets are the perfect setting to grab a cup of coffee and wander. Visit the Notre-Dame Basilica, then visit the water and take a ride on the La Grande Roue de Montréal, a ferris wheel that overlooks the city. Don't worry—you can take it at anytime, as it's enclosed. Wander into shops and eateries, and explore the city as much as you can on foot—you won't regret it.
Where to Eat and Drink
Here comes the best part. Montreal is a known foodie city, so the options are (not literally, but sort of) limitless. Many restaurants are BYOB, so make sure to take advantage! Here are some of my favorites:
1. A Montreal bagel is a must. Compared to a New York bagel, it's crispier and shallower on the outside, while somewhat fluffier on the inside. In other words, it's delightful. Try one of the OG's: St. Viateur Bagel—and note, they don't take credit cards.
2. For a night out, head to Le Serpent for dinner. Located in an old warehouse on a nondescript street, the industrial restaurant offers a mix of cuisines (including sushi and pasta) and a wine list that is A++.
3. Schwartz's deli is a Thing, and you will go there and you will order a smoked meat sandwich. That is all. While we're at it, head to Beautys as well—another cultural institution that's been serving since 1942. Yes, it's a diner. Yes, you will love it.
4. If you find yourself out in Old Montreal, head (early!) to the Coldroom, a speakeasy behind a nondescript door (with a doorbell though, don't worry). You'll head straight to the basement where you'll find delicious cocktails served up in an industrial space. Get there early, otherwise you may have to wait.
1. Montreal is very walkable, especially when exploring particular neighborhoods. There's also great public transportation! Be sure to pack extra layers, even in springtime and early summer, because after sundown the temps can *drop.* (And wear flats, because: walking.)
For layering, try: Abercrombie Wool Pea Coat, $200
2. For cheaper prices, head there in early spring or late fall. Winter is VERY cold, so for those not a fan of freezing temps, avoid. Hotels tend to book up quickly (especially in the summer) as Montreal hosts a lot of events (including its famous jazz fest), so make sure to book in advance!
3. There are a ton of markets in Montreal—Marché Atwater is one of the city's oldest public markets, while Marché Jean-Talon is the largest open air market in North America. Hit. Them. Up.