There are so many beautiful places to visit in Canada on Montreal is definitely one of them. This French speaking city that has a unique mix of European charm and North American attitude, all while being a short one hour flight away from Toronto. I had previously been to Montreal only once and it was in the dead of winter, and so I was excited to experience the city again in the summer when it comes to life with street festivals and outdoor patios.
Me and the hubby were lucky enough to visit Montreal with Expedia to try out their new Add-On Advantage program that allows you to get special discounts on hotels when you book your flight with them. And you can check out my experience with them here.
Keep reading for my the the details of my Montreal travel diary…
Montreal Travel Diary Highlights – Old Montreal
We spend a large portion of our trip in Old Montreal, which is the oldest part of the city with many buildings that date back to the era of Old France. Old Montreal had a charming European feel to it with its cobble stone streets, narrow sidewalks, and decorative architecture. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Paris. It was so lovely to wander the streets in the area, they even have their own Notre Dame Basilica, which it is the picture just above.
The area is filled with shops and boutiques of all kinds, along with a variety of restaurants, from cute cafes to fine dining, and if you love al fresco dining they have number of patios where you can enjoy a drink and people watch the afternoon away. During the day it was quite full with tourists, but during the early mornings and evenings it is a perfect time to do get a coffee and have a peaceful stroll around Old Montreal.
Montreal Travel Diary Highlights – Rue Ste. Catherine
Another area we spent a lot of time around was St. Catherine Street. The street spans from east to west of downtown Montreal, it’s the destination for shopping in Montreal with several department stores, high end shops, as well as mainstream stores, and a good variety of restaurants, sculptures and beautiful architecture.
During the summer they close down two portions of St. Catherine Street East to cars for a pedestrian only street festival-like atmosphere. Strolling along this area provides hours of people watching and enjoyment, with life-size chess boards and benches with red umbrellas to relax at under .
Montreal Travel Diary Highlights – Bota Bota Spa
Me and my hubby love our spa days. We’ve been to most of the spas in Toronto and our trip to Montreal wouldn’t be complete without an evening to relax and unwind after all that walking and sightseeing. The recommendation Bota Bota actually came from a fellow blogger, Natalie of My Little Secrets, and I couldn’t have been happier for the discovery.
Bota Bota is a Nordic style spa with hot and cold pools located in the Old Port of Montreal. It’s uniquely structured on a historic river ferry that’s been converted to an upscale “floating spa” and offers a variety of treatments, yoga, a restaurant, saunas, steam rooms, and of course their hot tubs and cold pools.
Hydrotherapy Water Circuit
The Nordic water circuit is one of my favourite treatments. It’s relaxation ritual involving alternating hot and cold cycles, followed by a deep period of rest. You start off with 10 to 15 minute session in the dry sauna, steam room, or hot bath to raise your body temperature, dilate pores and flush out toxins. This is followed by a (courageous) dip into one of the cold baths or under the cold shower to get your heart pumping and close your pores. And final step in the Nordic bath circuit involves stretching out in one of the relaxation areas. Doing this circuit is both invigorating and relaxing and assists in the elimination of toxins, improves circulation, and releases stress and tension.
What to eat in Montreal – Smoked Meat Sandwiches
So one of the things the city is famous for is their Montreal-style smoked meat. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a type of kosher-style deli meat made by salting and curing beef brisket with spices and is absolutely delicious! Montreal smoked meat is typically served sandwich style on rye bread with yellow mustard. And on our first day there we made it our quest to get one of these for lunch!
One of the most classic places in Montreal to get a smoke meat sandwich is Schwartz’s Deli near Mont Royal. It was about a 20 minute walk from our hotel, and you’ll know you’re there were you see the line on St. Laurent Street. They almost always have a queue, but it’s well worth the wait. Schwartz’s Deli is over 90 years old and one of the oldest deli’s in Canada and serves some of the best smoke meat in the city. We decided to get our sandwiches to go and walked over to the park area surrounding Mont Royal to have a little afternoon picnic.
What to eat in Montreal Eats – Bagels & Poutine
Two other foods Montreal is famous for are their bagels and poutine! Montreal bagels are a distinctive variety of handmade bagel. In contrast to the New York bagel, the Montreal bagel is smaller, thinner, sweeter and denser, with a larger hole, and is always baked in a wood-fired oven. So I got one myself with lox and cream cheese during one of our morning walks in Old Montreal and it was amazing to say the least.
We also had Poutine on two occasions, once from a food truck on the Port of Old Montreal (where you see me at the ferris wheel in the first pic) and another occasion from the Montreal Pool Room, a revered old-school joint famous that’s over 100 years old. If you’re not a fellow Canadian, poutine is french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy, and always a gluttonous treat. I only wish I had gotten one with smoke meat on it as well!
Montreal is also a great place to have seafood. Being right along the St. Lawrence River, they have an abundance of fresh seafood arriving from the Atlantic. We decided to go for oysters and appies one night at Monsieur, then hopped over Belon for a second round. And the other night we found a great little Japanese izakaya Birru that was just off the St. Catherine strip, with an amazing patio for some lovely al fresco summer dining.
Where we stayed in Montreal
When travelling, I firmly believe the location of where you’re staying can make a huge difference to the enjoyment of the trip. Finding a hotel that’s central to attractions, easily accessible and near places to eat makes everything thing all the more convenient and saves time and money on transportation. We decided to stay at Hotel Zero One, which was centrally located downtown, just a few blocks down from the St. Catherine’s Street shopping district and a short walk away from Old Montreal.
Our hotel room had modern decor and we had a lovely unit on the corner which allowed us to have lots of natural light from the 3 large windows. There was ample lounging space with living room area, as well as small table for 2, along with a lot of closet space.
Montreal was the perfect summer getaway for us. Being just an hour from Toronto, we felt like we were transported a whole world away without having to leave the country. We loved the exploring a city full of so much culture and history and had such a great time eating our way through our vacation. Hope your enjoyed our Montreal travel diary!
Have you been to Montreal before?
Let me know in the comments section below!