What are the five best things to see and do in Montreal?

Exploring what is perhaps Canada’s most romanticized city is like discovering a lost European civilization with all the perks of a luxuriously modern metropolis. Home to one of the world’s top universities, fabulous architecture and breathtakingly beautiful parks, the francophone city of Montreal is filled to the brim with impressive activities and sights. Without further ado, here’s our list of the five best things to see and do in Montreal:

1. Discover Old (Vieux) Montreal. The city evolved from the tiny settlement of Ville-Marie, founded by de Maisonneuve in 1642. After a bit of expansion over the centuries, what is now known as the only fortified neighborhood in North America is glowing with European personality. Explore the 100-acre quadrangle of Vieux Montreal (as the locals know it), which corresponds approximately to the area enclosed within the original fortifications, and admire the largest concentration of 19th-century buildings in North America.

2. Dig up some history at Pointe-à-Callière. Uncover what this francophone city has to offer at Pointe-à-Callière, the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History, which was essentially built over the city’s original foundations. In fact, from one of the balconies in the main museum building, the Eperon, you can even see the real ruins housed in the building’s basement. Check out the architectural models that lay beneath a transparent floor — they illustrate five different periods in the history of Place Royale.

3. Climb to the Oratory. Trek up the seemingly endless staircase up the west slope of Mount Royal to one of the most beautiful churches in town. With the chapel built in 1904 and the larger crypt church completed in 1917, St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mont Royale is a famous shrine that attracts more than 2 million pilgrims each year. Still needing more room, a basilica with a seating capacity of 2,200 was erected in 1924. The copper dome that towers over the city and 56-bell French carillon are undoubtedly amazing.

4. Relive your college days. Stroll through the campus of the top Canadian university seated at the foot of Mount Royal. McGill University — where the classes are officially taught in English but students can submit work in French or English — is tucked away on a park-like campus in the heart of downtown Montreal. Ogle at the beautiful buildings, all built with the local gray limestone, as you make your way through this striking campus sprinkled with gothic and Richardsonian Romanesque architecture.

5. Admire the Basilica. One of the most dramatic examples of gothic revival architecture sits across from Place D’Armes Square in Old Montreal. Notre-Dame Basilica is beautiful inside and out. As you make your way into what was once the largest church in North America, look closely at the stained glass windows. Unlike those in most churches, these do not depict biblical scenes but rather scenes from religious history in Montreal.

  • On April 6, 2013
    Patricia Gajo answered the question: Patricia Gajo

    What are the best places to get a hair blowout in Montreal?

    Photo still from Tourisme Montréal: www.tourisme-montreal.org/blog/what-to-do/going-out-and-about-get-dolled-up-at-bleu-blow-dry-and-rouge-nail-bar/


    I am Queen of Hair Blowouts. I go just about every week to get my hair professionally washed, blow-dried and styled (if you had as much hair as I do you would too) and I’ve found two places that do great hair and charge reasonable prices, much less than you might pay at your average salon.

    First is Bleu Blow Dry Bar. They’re a little uptown in Mile End (about a $10 cab ride from downtown), but if you’re heading out in that hipster direction for dinner or drinks, it would definitely be a great option. They have a cute little photo catalog of styles to choose from. Personally, I like the “Carrie.” Cost is $30.(Adjacent to Bleu is Rouge Nail Bar, so why not get a manicure while you’re at it.) Click here to see the video of my Bleu experience. 

    If you happen to be in the Westmount area, there’s Barista. I think they’re closed on Mondays (since I’ve never been able to get through to them via phone on this day) and I don’t think they check the email address on their website, but if you get there, the staff know what they’re doing and you will emerge like a Victoria’s Secret model – at least your tresses will. Cost is $35. If you don’t get a wash and all you need is a bit of primping, cost is $20.

    I’m still on the lookout for a go-to spot downtown, but when I find it I’ll be sure to let you know. I do know a lady, Shaina Schwartz from Styles by Shaina, who does house calls. She's very busy, but if you can get an appointment, she'll come to you. Cost is $35 to $40. You can find her at (514) 775-8008.
  • On April 6, 2013
    Patricia Gajo answered the question: Patricia Gajo

    What are the best places to get a hair blowout in Montreal?

    Photo still from Tourisme Montréal: www.tourisme-montreal.org/blog/what-to-do/going-out-and-about-get-dolled-up-at-bleu-blow-dry-and-rouge-nail-bar/


    I am Queen of Hair Blowouts. I go just about every week to get my hair professionally washed, blow-dried and styled (if you had as much hair as I do you would too) and I’ve found two places that do great hair and charge reasonable prices, much less than you might pay at your average salon.

    First is Bleu Blow Dry Bar. They’re a little uptown in Mile End (about a $10 cab ride from downtown), but if you’re heading out in that hipster direction for dinner or drinks, it would definitely be a great option. They have a cute little photo catalog of styles to choose from. Personally, I like the “Carrie.” Cost is $30.(Adjacent to Bleu is Rouge Nail Bar, so why not get a manicure while you’re at it.) Click here to see the video of my Bleu experience. 

    If you happen to be in the Westmount area, there’s Barista. I think they’re closed on Mondays (since I’ve never been able to get through to them via phone on this day) and I don’t think they check the email address on their website, but if you get there, the staff know what they’re doing and you will emerge like a Victoria’s Secret model – at least your tresses will. Cost is $35. If you don’t get a wash and all you need is a bit of primping, cost is $20.

    I’m still on the lookout for a go-to spot downtown, but when I find it I’ll be sure to let you know. I do know a lady, Shaina Schwartz from Styles by Shaina, who does house calls. She's very busy, but if you can get an appointment, she'll come to you. Cost is $35 to $40. You can find her at (514) 775-8008.
  • On April 6, 2013
    Patricia Gajo answered the question: Patricia Gajo

    What are the best places to get a hair blowout in Montreal?

    Photo still from Tourisme Montréal: www.tourisme-montreal.org/blog/what-to-do/going-out-and-about-get-dolled-up-at-bleu-blow-dry-and-rouge-nail-bar/

    I am Queen of Hair Blowouts. I go just about every week to get my hair professionally washed, blow-dried and styled (if you had as much hair as I do you would too) and I’ve found two places that do great hair and charge reasonable prices, much less than you might pay at your average salon.

    First is Bleu Blow Dry Bar. They’re a little uptown in Mile End (about a $10 cab ride from downtown), but if you’re heading out in that hipster direction for dinner or drinks, it would definitely be a great option. They have a cute little photo catalog of styles to choose from. Personally, I like the “Carrie.” Cost is $30.(Adjacent to Bleu is Rouge Nail Bar, so why not get a manicure while you’re at it.) Click here to see the video of my Bleu experience. 

    If you happen to be in the Westmount area, there’s Barista. I think they’re closed on Mondays (since I’ve never been able to get through to them via phone on this day) and I don’t think they check the email address on their website, but if you get there, the staff know what they’re doing and you will emerge like a Victoria’s Secret model – at least your tresses will. Cost is $35. If you don’t get a wash and all you need is a bit of primping, cost is $20.

    I’m still on the lookout for a go-to spot downtown, but when I find it I’ll be sure to let you know. I do know a lady, Shaina Schwartz from Styles by Shaina, who does house calls. She's very busy, but if you can get an appointment, she'll come to you. Cost is $35 to $40. You can find her at (514) 775-8008.
  • On April 6, 2013
    Patricia Gajo answered the question: Patricia Gajo

    What are the best places to get a hair blowout in Montreal?

    Photo still from Tourisme Montréal: www.tourisme-montreal.org/blog/what-to-do/going-out-and-about-get-dolled-up-at-bleu-blow-dry-and-rouge-nail-bar/
    I am Queen of Hair Blowouts. I go just about every week to get my hair professionally washed, blow-dried and styled (if you had as much hair as I do you would too) and I’ve found two places that do great hair and charge reasonable prices, much less than you might pay at your average salon.

    First is Bleu Blow Dry Bar. They’re a little uptown in Mile End (about a $10 cab ride from downtown), but if you’re heading out in that hipster direction for dinner or drinks, it would definitely be a great option. They have a cute little photo catalog of styles to choose from. Personally, I like the “Carrie.” Cost is $30.(Adjacent to Bleu is Rouge Nail Bar, so why not get a manicure while you’re at it.) Click here to see the video of my Bleu experience. 

    If you happen to be in the Westmount area, there’s Barista. I think they’re closed on Mondays (since I’ve never been able to get through to them via phone on this day) and I don’t think they check the email address on their website, but if you get there, the staff know what they’re doing and you will emerge like a Victoria’s Secret model – at least your tresses will. Cost is $35. If you don’t get a wash and all you need is a bit of primping, cost is $20.

    I’m still on the lookout for a go-to spot downtown, but when I find it I’ll be sure to let you know. I do know a lady, Shaina Schwartz from Styles by Shaina, who does house calls. She's very busy, but if you can get an appointment, she'll come to you. Cost is $35 to $40. You can find her at (514) 775-8008.
  • On April 6, 2013
    Patricia Gajo answered the question: Patricia Gajo

    What are the best restaurants in Montreal?

    Oysters at Le Filet. Photo by Patricia Gajo
    I have a personal rotating restaurant list that I frequent over and over again, that is, when I’m not busy testing out other restaurants for work. There are a solid five that I always go back to – each one depending on my mood.

    When my fiancé and I need a little tête-à-tête, we head to Le Club Chasse & Pêche in Old Montreal. It has low ceilings, a handsome décor, contemporary French cuisine and a savvy sommelier. After dinner and dessert, if we feel like taking a stroll, picturesque, rue Saint-Paul is just a cobblestoned block away.

    When it’s time to catch up with friends, we all like gathering at Le Filet, which is run – no coincidence – by the same minds behind Chasse & Pêche. The seafood-focused menu is offered in tapas-size plates, perfect for sharing. Four words to remember: cavatelli with foie gras. In summer, the patio is the best spot in the city for late-night gossiping under the stars.

    When there’s an anniversary or life achievement to fete, after Milos, I now turn to Maison Boulud. There’s something regal about its address in the historic Hotel Ritz Carlton – and, oh yes, the fact that celebrity chef Daniel Boulud is at the helm – that give weight to any milestone occasion.

    When I don’t feel like cooking during the week, I like the laidback attitude, attentive service and dependably satisfying but reasonably priced menu at Le Comptoir.

    When I get a pasta craving, I head to Little Italy’s Hostaria. The owner’s sons, Massimo and Fabrizio, didn’t fall far from the tree. They run La Bottega just across the street, which serves quite likely the best pizza in the city.
  • On April 4, 2013
    Alain Ethier answered the question: Alain Ethier

    What are the best restaurants in Montreal?

    Courtesy Toqué, Hans Laurendeau, Studio Shoot Montreal is the second largest French speaking city in the world, after Paris, so it is not surprising that many of the best restaurants offer French cuisine! Montreal is definitely a gastronomic destination and most foodies around the world have it on their bucket list of places to visit.

    As a Clefs d’Or Concierge in Montreal, I have the opportunity to interact almost on a weekly basis with all of the best restaurants, with their chefs, Maître D’s and owners and I had the chance to eat in most of them. My favorite restaurants list is based as much on my personal experiences as on the feedback I receive from the thousands of guests for whom I made restaurant recommendations and reservations and from regular conversations with my fellow Clefs d’Or Concierges. I always take into consideration, first and foremost, the quality of the food. Then, I look at the quality of the service, the knowledge of the staff, their efficiency, the creativity of the chef, the originality of the presentation, the decor of the restaurant, the ambiance, the location and finally the overall dining experience that will be offered to my guests.

    So, I’m happy to share with you my personal list of the best restaurants in Montreal. I chose them because I believe they deserve to be recognized for their talent, passion, efforts and continuous pursuit of excellence and because they constantly make my guests very happy and satisfied !

    The top 5 restaurants in Montreal (Not necessarily in order):

    Restaurant Européa: Located in the heart of downtown, on beautiful rue de la Montagne, Européa has two «Grands Chefs Relais et Châteaux» in the kitchen, to make sure your meal will be unforgettable: Jérôme Ferrer, the most famous chef in Montreal and Ludovic Delonca, his partner and co-owner since the beginning. To complete them, an executive pastry chef, Roland Del Monte, that was named «Meilleur Ouvrier de France» (Best Worker of France).

    If you feel adventurous, take the 10 course tasting dinner with wine pairings and you’ll probably end up tasting 12 to 14 courses, depending on the chef’s inspiration of the moment, and certainly see as many different plates and other recipients for the most outstanding and creative presentations! The service is equally amazing as you will get a full description of each and every dish presented to you.

    Toqué!: Located in the International Quarter, in between the hustle of downtown and the charm of Old-Montreal, you will feel very comfortable in their contemporary decor and very spacious seating arrangements. The chef-owner Normand Laprise is considered by many to be the most creative chef in the country and the pioneer of modern, experimental, molecular French cuisine in Montreal. He has been an inspiration for the new generation of young, daring chefs who keep pushing the limits of gastronomy in the city. The dining room is under the masterful supervision of co-owner Christine Lamarche, whose attention to details and flawless service is remarkable. Normand Laprise is proud to have developed privileged relationships with local farmers and breeders, which allow him to guarantee the quality and freshness of all ingredients used in the kitchen as well as being able to offer local Quebec products all year round.

    Club Chasse et Pêche: (The hunting and fishing club) Located on charming, cobblestoned, St-Claude street, in the Old-Montreal neighborhood, steps away from the Old Port and Place Jacques-Cartier. Claude Pelletier is one of the best chefs in the Province of Quebec; he is a master at assembling creative yet simple dishes whose flavor and balance are just perfect for your palate. Whether you choose from the fish and seafood side of the menu or from the game meats side, every bite will be delicious and highly enjoyable. Co-owner Hubert Marsolais manages a team of professional service people who are knowledgeable, attentive and friendly and he makes sure that no detail is overlooked and everybody’s needs are anticipated.

    Estiatorio Milos: The original Milos restaurant, property of the Spiliadis family, who also owns Milos Restaurants in New York City, Las Vegas, Miami and Athens. About 10 minutes drive from most downtown hotels, Milos is a destination by itself. You will find a great selection of the freshest and most delicately prepared fish, seafood and other Greek specialties. The service is friendly yet extremely professional and caring. The decor is spectacular and leaves no doubt that you are in a Greek restaurant, with its white plaster walls and fresh catch-of-the-day display, where you can personally choose the fish you’re going to eat. There are absolutely no compromise here about the quality of the food and the whole dining experience is more like a feast than a meal.

    Au Pied de Cochon: Located in the Plateau neighborhood, it is a modern bistro where the emphasis is definitely on the outstandingly daring, extravagant, borderline crazy, recipes of chef Martin Picard, one of the young apprentices of Normand Laprise, that I was referring to earlier! The menu revolves around two main ingredients: Pork and foie gras, and around two main concepts: Very creative and very rich. It is a foodies’ heaven where taste prevails over all other considerations; definitely not a place to go if you are serious about your weight-loss diet! Because you cannot come to Montreal without trying our most famous National dish, the poutine, you might as well try the highly heralded Poutine au Foie Gras. Chef-owner Martin Picard has a near-cult following, so tables here are regularly booked up a month in advance.

    Montreal is so rich in great restaurants that many other fine dining establishments could have easily been on this top 5 list. It was so difficult not to include them that I feel like you should at least know who they are, so if you are ever invited to dine at Maison Boulud, La Queue de Cheval, Les 400 Coups, L’Épicier, PortusCalle or at Garde Manger, you really should do everything in your power to go experience their fine cuisine.

    Bon appétit!
  • On March 31, 2013
    Patricia Gajo answered the question: Patricia Gajo

    What are the best places to get a hair blowout in Montreal?

    Photo still from Tourisme Montréal: www.tourisme-montreal.org/blog/what-to-do/going-out-and-about-get-dolled-up-at-bleu-blow-dry-and-rouge-nail-bar/
    I am Queen of Hair Blowouts. I go just about every week to get my hair professionally washed, blow-dried and styled (if you had as much hair as I do you would too) and I’ve found two places that do great hair and charge reasonable prices, much less than you might pay at your average salon.

    First is Bleu Blow Dry Bar. They’re a little uptown in Mile End (about a $10 cab ride from downtown), but if you’re heading out in that hipster direction for dinner or drinks, it would definitely be a great option. They have a cute little photo catalog of styles to choose from. Personally, I like the “Carrie.” Cost is $30.(Adjacent to Bleu is Rouge Nail Bar, so why not get a manicure while you’re at it.)

    If you happen to be in the Westmount area, there’s Barista. I think they’re closed on Mondays (since I’ve never been able to get through to them via phone on this day) and I don’t think they check the email address on their website, but if you get there, the staff know what they’re doing and you will emerge like a Victoria’s Secret model – at least your tresses will. Cost is $35. If you don’t get a wash and all you need is a bit of primping, cost is $20.

    I’m still on the lookout for a go-to spot downtown, but when I find it I’ll be sure to let you know.
  • On March 31, 2013
    Patricia Gajo answered the question: Patricia Gajo

    What are the best restaurants in Montreal?

    Oysters at Le Filet. Photo by Patricia Gajo
    I have a personal rotating restaurant list that I frequent over and over again, that is, when I’m not busy testing out other restaurants for work. There are a solid five that I always go back to – each one depending on my mood.

    When my fiancé and I need a little tête-à-tête, we head to Le Club Chasse & Pêche in Old Montreal. It has low ceilings, a handsome décor, contemporary French cuisine and a savvy sommelier. After dinner and dessert, if we feel like taking a stroll, picturesque, rue Saint-Paul is just a cobblestoned block away.

    When it’s time to catch up with friends, we all like gathering at Le Filet, which is run – no coincidence – by the same minds behind Chasse & Pêche. The seafood-focused menu is offered in tapas-size plates, perfect for sharing. Four words to remember: cavatelli with foie gras. In summer, the patio is the best spot in the city for late-night gossiping under the stars.

    When there’s an anniversary or life achievement to fete, I now turn to Maison Boulud. There’s something regal about its address in the historic Hotel Ritz Carlton – and, oh yes, the fact that celebrity chef Daniel Boulud is at the helm – that give weight to any milestone occasion.

    When I don’t feel like cooking during the week, I like the laidback attitude, attentive service and dependably satisfying but reasonably priced menu at Le Comptoir.

    When I get a pasta craving, I head to Little Italy’s Hostaria. The owner’s sons, Massimo and Fabrizio, didn’t fall far from the tree. They run La Bottega just across the street, which serves quite likely the best pizza in the city.
  • On March 31, 2013
    Patricia Gajo answered the question: Patricia Gajo

    What are the best restaurants in Montreal?

    Oysters at Le Filet. Photo by Patricia Gajo I have a personal rotating restaurant list that I frequent over and over again, that is, when I’m not busy testing out other restaurants for work. There are a solid five that I always go back to – each one depending on my mood.

    When my fiancé and I need a little tête-à-tête, we head to Le Club Chasse & Pêche in Old Montreal. It has low ceilings, a handsome décor, contemporary French cuisine and a savvy sommelier. After dinner and dessert, if we feel like taking a stroll, picturesque, rue Saint-Paul is just a cobblestoned block away.

    When it’s time to catch up with friends, we all like gathering at Le Filet, which is run – no coincidence – by the same minds behind Chasse & Pêche. The seafood-focused menu is offered in tapas-size plates, perfect for sharing. Four words to remember: cavatelli with foie gras. In summer, the patio is the best spot in the city for late-night gossiping under the stars.

    When there’s an anniversary or life achievement to fete, I now turn to Maison Boulud. There’s something regal about its address in the historic Hotel Ritz Carlton – and, oh yes, the fact that celebrity chef Daniel Boulud is at the helm – that give weight to any milestone occasion.

    When I don’t feel like cooking during the week, I like the laidback attitude, attentive service and dependably satisfying but reasonably priced menu at Le Comptoir.

    When I get a pasta craving, I head to Little Italy’s Hostaria. The owner’s sons, Massimo and Fabrizio, didn’t fall far from the tree. They run La Bottega just across the street, which serves quite likely the best pizza in the city.
  • On March 31, 2013
    Patricia Gajo answered the question: Patricia Gajo

    What are the best restaurants for a business lunch in Montreal?

    Restaurant Graziella serves classic, elegant Milanese cuisine in an atmosphere that is equally so. The cream, coffee and mocha palette of the decor creates a soothing space for Type A personalities to (breathe and) enjoy the popular $25 prix fixe power lunches (a starter plus a main) – or a longer lingering dinner when negotiating a deal.

    Chichi regulars appreciate the grown-up setting and understand that both discreet service and a refined menu come at a price. Plus you don’t want to appear like a penny-pincher in front of people that are most-likely judging your choice in venue.

    Graziella's menu changes with the seasons, but you really can't go wrong with the ricotta and Grana Padano gnocchi, duck confit ravioli, or the osso buco served with risotto milanese. The comprehensive wine list is conveniently listed in order by price, with interesting options by the glass.

    Finally, nonstop business folk will want to know that the restaurant also offers four private rooms that accommodate 10 to 80 people for all your working-lunch needs. They also have a projection screen that’s yours for the asking and complimentary Wi-Fi connection.
  • On March 31, 2013
    Patricia Gajo answered the question: Patricia Gajo

    What are the best restaurants for a business lunch in Montreal?

    Restaurant Graziella serves classic, elegant Milanese cuisine in an atmosphere that is equally so. The cream, coffee and mocha palette of the decor creates a soothing space for Type A personalities to (breathe and) enjoy the popular $25 prix fixe power lunches (a starter plus a main) – or a longer lingering dinner when negotiating a deal.

    Chichi regulars appreciate the grown-up setting and understand that both discreet service and a refined menu come at a price. Plus you don’t want to appear like a penny-pincher in front of people that are most-likely judging your choice in venue.

    Graziella's menu changes with the seasons, but you really can't go wrong with the ricotta and Grana Padano gnocchi, duck confit ravioli, or the osso buco served with risotto milanese. The comprehensive wine list is conveniently listed in order by price, with interesting options by the glass.

    Finally, nonstop business folk will want to know that the restaurant also offers four private rooms that accommodate 10 to 80 people for all your powerlunching needs. They also have a projection screen that’s yours for the asking and complimentary Wi-Fi connection.
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