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Exploring Montreal

Exploring Montreal

By
Trip Plan Tags: 
budget,
city,
romantic,
wine
Destinations: 
Canada,
Montréal,
North America,
Québec

Another option for a vacay with my boyfriend. It'll be like Europe but cheaper:)

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Article

In The Mood For Love

Routine is the death of desire. We're not sure who said that (fine, we'll take credit), but it was a truism in the Ozzie & Harriet generation, and it's doubly so today. As work blurs far beyond the 9-to-5 hours and into you and your mate's "alone" time, there might only be one answer: Get outta town. Contrary to popular belief, travel for the sake of spicing things up doesn't require fussy French food, whirlpool tubs, or overly precious B&Bs. Depending on your mood—and your marriage—a tango lesson in Buenos Aires (pictured), a ski trip to Quebec, or a night out in Prague might be what the doctor ordered. So, remember: Sometimes love hurts. Figure out what's ailing your relationship, and then take our cure—a Valentine's Day trip sure to put you back into the hot zone.

Nightlife

Live Concerts, Québec, Canada

Montréal, Québec, Canada

Montréal is a haven for live music. Most established indie acts play at Sala Rossa, a Spanish social center on St. Laurent Boulevard, where the grubbiness of the concert hall is offset by an old-fashioned chandelier (4848 St. Laurent Blvd.; 514-284-0122; www.casadelpopolo.com/contents/lasalarossa). Across the street is sister establishment Casa Del Popolo, a little sandwich joint where up-and-coming bands play to squished audiences—arrive early (4873 St. Laurent Blvd.; 514-284-3804; www.casadelpopolo.com/contents/casadelpopolo). Located in the Plateau, Le Divan Orange is more restrained, with an upright piano, cozy couches, and a menu of gourmet salads. The music is usually less trendy, with a focus on rock, jazz, and world beat (4234 St. Laurent Blvd.; 514-840-9090; www.ledivanorange.org).

Nightlife

Jazz, Québec, Canada

Montréal, Québec, Canada

Montréal is famous for its summer Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, held in late June through early July. The free shows are great, but check out the website well in advance to pick up tickets to the gala events; they sell out briskly. The programming includes a very broad definition of jazz: Bob Dylan, Angélique Kidjo, and Harry Connick, Jr. are all part of the 2007 lineup (www.montrealjazzfest.com). Of course, fans can get their fix year-round at the House of Jazz, an elegant Louisiana-inspired restaurant and entertainment venue downtown. Expect to hear the finest in live Canadian jazz from performers such as Oscar Peterson (2060 Aylmer St.; 514-842-8656; www.houseofjazz.ca). Nearby, Upstairs jazz bar hosts a revolving roster of young Montréal and Toronto jazz singers and musicians—check out the jam sessions here during the Jazz Fest (1254 Mackay St.; 514-931-6808; www.upstairsjazz.com).

Nightlife

Gay Village, Québec, Canada

Montréal, Québec, Canada

Montréal's gay clubbers are young, sexy, and plugged in. Leading the party cry is Le Parking, where dancers of all orientations pulse to a different genre each night—save Fridays and Saturdays, which are reserved for les garçons. DJ Frigid has a hot-blooded following, making his Sunday night Electruck party a fun and sweaty romp for both sexes. Le Parking is located just off St. Catherine Street, the main artery for gay life (1296 Amherst St.; www.parkingbar.com; Thurs.–Sun. 10 p.m.–3 a.m.). For those who don't like to dance, or who prefer to just relax in style, there's Le Drugstore, a gay-friendly entertainment complex with eight bars and a few pool tables. The city's lesbian population frequents this place on Friday nights (1366 St. Catherine St. E.; 514-524-1960; daily, 8 a.m.–3 a.m.). Cabaret Mado is a straight-up drag bar with live performances and dancing, and a happy hour between 4 and 9 (1115 St. Catherine St. E.; 514-525-7566; www.mado.qc.ca; daily, 11 a.m.–3 a.m.). After the clubs close, head to Stereo, an enormous after-hours affair for shirtless Tom of Finland types as well as straight dancers who want to keep on beyond the break of dawn. The lineup is studded with star DJs like Austin Leeds and Steve Porter (858 St. Catherine St. E.; 514-286-0325; www.stereo-nightclub.com; Fri.–Sat., 2 a.m.–11 a.m.).

Shop

St. Denis Street, Québec, Canada

Montréal, Québec, Canada

St. Denis's blend of restaurants and furniture and clothing stores offers a peek at how native Québecers like to shop and live. Three-level Zone sets the tone for home design with modern classics like the Wassily armchair and more playful items like the Urban Dots bathmat with oversize polka dots in shades of brown and silver (4246 St. Denis St.; 514-845-3530; www.zonemaison.com). Côté Sud, with its teak furniture from Indonesia and white leather couches, follows suit (4338 St. Denis St.; 514-289-9443; www.cotesud.ca). Not to be missed is the teashop Camellia Sinensis, which imports from India and Japan (try the grass- and oat-scented hogi-cha). It's located on a hidden strip just off the main drag—look for the Quartier Latin cinema on St. Denis (351 Emery St.; 514-286-4002; www.camellia-sinensis.com).

Shop

St. Catherine Street, Québec, Canada

Montréal, Québec, Canada

The city's main shopping strip is lined with North America's biggest fashion chains and shoe shops. Simons is Montréal's version of H&M—check out the flirty selection of socks and hosiery and the house-brand mittens, scarves, and toques, which are as warm as they are cool (977 St. Catherine St. W.; 514-282-1840; www.simons.ca). This is also where you'll find the red-stoned facade of the historic Hudson Bay building, home of department store The Bay (585 St. Catherine St. W.; 514-281-4422; www.hbc.com), and its longtime rival Ogilvy (1307 St. Catherine St. W.; 514-842-7711; www.ogilvycanada.com). If department stores were siblings, The Bay would be a price-conscious suburban mom, and Ogilvy her snooty sister-in-law, draped in Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and Michael Kors accessories. Nearby The Bay is the headquarters of Birks, which stocks everything from diamond rings to gold watches to crystal decanters (1240 Phillips Square; 514-397-2511; www.birks.com).

See + Do

Parks, Québec, Canada

Montréal, Québec, Canada

Laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted (of Central Park fame), the gorgeous hilltop green acres of Mount Royal are perfect for strolls, picnics, and admiring the forever view, south over the city and on toward the United States, from the lookout terrace near the summit. Walk up from the top of Peel Street to begin your ascent (www.lemontroyal.qc.ca). At the corner of Sherbrooke and Papineau streets, the turn-of-the-century landscaping at Park La Fontaine is a mix of French manicured gardens and English-style "tamed wilderness." And it's said that Leonard Cohen once owned a home around the beautiful fountain in Saint Louis Square (bounded by Saint Denis Street and Laval Avenue).

See + Do

Plateau, Québec, Canada

Montréal, Québec, Canada

The Plateau, just north of downtown, is the pumping heart of Montréal bohemianism. A tableland adjacent to the city's namesake mountain, Mount Royal, it's a mélange of doe-eyed university students, elderly Francophones, and budding yuppies, all of whom cross paths on St. Laurent Boulevard and St. Denis Street. Unlike in other major metropolises, affordable rents allow for this socioeconomic melting pot, although newcomers are finding out fast that the city isn't as cheap as it used to be. A promenade along Duluth Avenue, with its knickknack-filled antique stores and Portuguese cafés, such as Chez José, is a perfect way to spend a mellow afternoon (173 Duluth Ave. E.; 514-845-0693). The Plateau is also where you'll find L'Express bistro and Martin Picard's Au Pied de Cochon.

See + Do

Old Montréal, Québec, Canada

Montréal, Québec, Canada
Website: www.vieux.montreal.qc.ca

Horse-drawn carriages still trot through the winding cobblestone streets where, in the 17th century, French settlers erected a city hall as well as a market and some stables. These days, the carriages cart visitors on 30- to 60-minute tours through the area between the Old Port and the modern city center. You might feel a bit cheesy clomping along while cars zip past, but rest assured you'll be getting a better view of the scenery and, thanks to the interesting guides, an understanding of the historical context for the well-preserved colonial buildings. This district isn't just for tourists: Some of the hippest and most affluent segments of society call Old Montréal home. A recent influx of excellent bistros, such as Club Chasse et Pêche; cafés like Olive + Gourmando (351 St. Paul St. W.; 514-350-1083; www.oliveetgourmando.com); and boutiques on St. Paul Street cater to this crowd. The city's best hotels, such as the St. James and the Nelligan, are also clustered in the area, lending it a sense of modern cosmopolitanism. Be sure to take the 20-minute tour of the neo-Gothic Basilica of Notre-Dame, whose pews are dappled in a mystical blue light streaming through the extensive stained glass. Call ahead, as visiting hours are subject to change (110 Notre Dame St. West; 514-842-2925; www.basiliquenddm.org).

See + Do

Mile End, Québec, Canada

Montréal, Québec, Canada

The Orthodox church on St. Viateur Street signals that this artsy, hipster enclave was once a Polish ghetto. Although it's now home to indie rock bands like the Arcade Fire, Islands, and Wolf Parade, Mile End still hangs on to its past. After Sunday services, aging Poles mix with local creative types to slurp borscht at Euro Deli Bathory (115 St. Viateur St. W.; 514-948-2161). And members of the large Hasidic population run errands along Park Avenue, oblivious to the twentysomethings and young parents sipping cappuccinos or waiting in line at St. Viateur Bagel (263 St. Viateur St. W.; 514-276-8044; www.stviateurbagel.com). If you feel like picking up a pair of Françoise Hardy–style vintage boots or a postcard from the 1970s, head to Local 23 (23 Bernard St. W.; 514-270-9333); for new Montreal designer threads (Fairyesque, Anatasia Lomonova), head to its sister store, General 54 (54 St. Viateur W.; 514-271-2129; www.general54.blogspot.com). There are also some concert halls in the area, such as the Mile End Cultural Centre (5390 St. Laurent Blvd.; 514-285-2611; www.mileend.ca), but to experience life like a true local, walk along one of the neighborhood's colorful alleyways, where you'll cross paths with little kids playing catch and university students strumming guitars on their fire escapes.

Eating

Markets, Québec, Canada

Montréal, Québec, Canada
Tel: 514 937 7754
Website: www.marchespublics-mtl.com

Montréal's two main open-air markets—filled with local products and seasonal produce, from crisp fiddleheads to heirloom tomatoes to cured hams—are Jean-Talon, located in Little Italy (7070 Henri-Julien St.) and Atwater, situated on the West side of town, in St. Henri (138 Atwater Ave.). Of course, spring and summer are the best times to visit, but both markets remain open indoors during the winter months (Atwater's interior is much more extensive). If the hanging meats, piles of gourds, and fragrant cheeses make you hungry, head to Atwater's inexpensive Pizz'ancora for a bite of pizza (514-935-0333) or Jean-Talon's Boucherie Jos & Basile for a calzone (514-274-6358).

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Hotel

Alexandre Logan (1870), Québec, Canada

1631 Alexandre DeSève
Montréal, Québec H2L 2V8, Canada
Tel: 514 598 0555, Tel: 866 895 0555
Email: info@alexandrelogan.com
Website: www.alexandrelogan.com

Passersby might never guess that this inconspicuous brown brick building on the edge of the Gay Village is actually a historic 1870 mansion that houses a bed and breakfast. Owner Alain Pigeon spent three years restoring the period arches, moldings, and hardwood floors—original details still found in local apartments. The spotless rooms are furnished simply (to be expected, given the reasonable rates), but they're quite cozy, thanks to finishing touches like a chaise longue, knotty pine floor, or claw-foot tub. Two of the five rooms share a hallway bathroom; book as early as possible to guarantee en suite facilities. The communal living room, with an electric fireplace, (unstocked) fridge, and an outdoor courtyard add to the homey, congenial vibe. There is also a computer for guests as well as free wireless Internet access in all the rooms. Complimentary breakfast is served between 9 and 10:30 a.m. according to the chef's whim (usually something heavy and traditional, like French toast or crêpes) but the staff is sensitive to dietary restrictions.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.