With an obscene number of restaurants, bars, hangouts, and hot spots, it’s hard to fit in everything Montreal has to offer if you’re only in town for a few days. Montreal guides in both digital and print formats will likely recommend classic Montreal spots like Saint Joseph’s Oratory, every major terrace on Saint-Denis Street, and the underground city (and they’re certainly classic for a reason), but if you’re looking for a more local-approved experience with a healthy dose of tourism, check out this sample platter of some of my fave Montreal spots for a perfect long weekend getaway.
The Emerald Hotel (A.K.A. No Name Bar)
If you’ve been searching for a bar with fake potted palm trees, hosts and hostesses dressed up in bow ties and décor straight out of a 1950’s Moroccan hotel lobby, look no further than The Emerald Hotel (really, no need to look further – you’ll never find another bar like it in the world). This local hipster mainstay is one of my absolute favourite Montreal hidden gems – kind of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hole in the wall, perched between a tapas restaurant and health food store on Parc Avenue. Adorned with a charming worn down (and fully functional) piano on the right side of the room, its dimly lit, hotel lobby-inspired lounge is a throwback to a time of glitz and glamour, with a familiar, musty feel of nostalgia throughout. Perfect for a casual date, a night out with friends, and people watching, The Emerald Hotel is a truly unique and unforgettable spot to kick off a memorable Montreal weekend.
I once had an English second language student who asked me what the word “cougar” meant. Ever the creative albeit wacky professor, I decided it would be cool to bring my adult students on a field trip to observe cougars in their natural habitat: Thursday’s. Worth it for the puns alone (gettin’ thirsty at Thursday’s on Thursday…teehee), this legendary Montreal bar is rife with divorce(e)s, 70’s-late 00’s music, and standard drinks. IMO, it’s the only place you truly need to visit on Crescent Street, one of the biggest tourist thoroughfares in the city.
Lunch-to-Go at Boucherie Mimmo
This epic butcher shop is located in the not-so-touristy borough of Saint-Leonard – so you might be a tad limited if you’re without a rental vehicle. However, if you’re lucky enough to have a means of escape from the throngs of tourists downtown, head over to Mimmo’s for their high-quality cuts of meat, diverse variety of cheeses and a wide selection of Italian imports. With patrons and staff shouting orders in Italian dialects, a stack of Italian-language newspapers by the register, and hot
pepper antipasto imported from the small Italian village of Mammola on the shelves – it’s truly one of the most authentic Italian negozio experiences outside of Little Italy. Drop by around lunchtime for an Italian deli sandwich, served up by Rocco with a healthy side of sardonic humour. If you’re vegetarian, ask Rocco to make you “Coco’s sandwich”, and feast on the irony of enjoying a meatless meal in a meat lover’s paradise.
Afternoon Drink at the Orange Julep
On the west side of Decarie Boulevard you’ll find a massive orange-shaped fast food drive-in restaurant turned roadside attraction: the Gibeau Orange Julep. The roller-skating waitresses serving greasy noms and orange-flavoured drinks are now gone, but the Julep still retains a throwback charm to the classic days of drive-in diners. On Wednesdays, the parking lot becomes an unofficial classic car show, so be sure to check it out if you’re around on a weekday.
Discover “the Main”: Saint Laurent Boulevard
From Chinatown to Little Italy, Saint Laurent Boulevard is the heart and soul of Montreal culture and nightlife. Here are my favourite places to check out on the Main:
Order the classic smoked meat sandwich platter to enjoy one of Montreal’s most celebrated restaurant experiences. Beware of lengthy weekend lineups that coil onto the street.
- La Maison VIP
The friendly maître d’ at La Maison VIP in Chinatown has excellent suggestions on what to order, so I usually bypass the lengthy menu and go with his culinary expertise. Open 24 hours.
Envision the melding of hipsterism and R&B, and you’ve got Suwu. Great food, drinks on point and funky menus (both aesthetically and selection-wise).
This dramatically refurbished hot dog diner still sells hot dogs – but these remodeled, fancier dogs will set you back 22$ a pop. Having said that, these pimpin’ hot dogs are the most expensive item on the menu, so opt for oysters, a glass of wine or a cocktail instead for the same eclectic-chic experience. With a healthy mix of hipsters and bros coupled with ultra trendy décor, Majestique packs a lot of charm – pretentiously priced hot dogs notwithstanding.
- École Privée
If you’ve got social media FOMO, you might want to skip out on this speakeasy-of-sorts; you can’t take photos in the club, as it’s meant to be reminiscent of the members-only clubs of yore. A sexy crowd with even sexier décor, it’s a good excuse to leave your selfie stick at home and dance the night away
A favourite among celebrities and high profile clientele, the ambiance at Buonanotte is a little more upscale – but it never loses its raunchy appeal.
Late Night Eats at La Banquise
No trip to Montreal is complete without a visit to La Banquise, one of the most beloved poutine shacks in Montreal. With a wide selection of poutine plates (fries with gravy and cheese curds in its basic form; and yes, a classic poutine is usually tasty enough), you’re guaranteed to enjoy an authentic Montreal poutine experience, despite the long lineup and high calorie count.
Brunch at Lumière du Mile End
Lumière du Mile End lives up to its namesake: it is a true ray of light among the more commercialized restaurant fare in Montreal. This quirky boho gem has as much character as its legendary owner, Maria Modicamore. Maria is one of those few restaurateurs who will greet you with a hug, prepare your food herself, and excitedly tell you about the local cheese she sourced for your burrito – making your unforgettable brunch experience all that more personalised. Head over in the summer to enjoy a soy latte and tofu scramble on their whimsical private terrace.
Afternoon at the Montreal Botanical Garden
Check the schedule ahead of time to see what events are on at the Montreal Botanical Garden. Unrivalled garden sculptures and breathtaking walks await for a perfect summer, fall or spring day outside.
Evening at the Old Port
- Place Jacques-Cartier
Traipse on over to Place Jacques-Cartier, where locals and tourists gather to take scenic photos, get their caricatures drawn, and laze on the numerous terraces that flank this famous Montreal square.
- Les 3 Brasseurs
No trip is complete without the six-beer sampler from Les 3 Brasseurs, a classic Montreal microbrewery. In the summer, ask for a table on the terrace to enjoy a European-reminiscent view of cobblestone-lined Saint Paul Street.
- La Champagnerie
Welcome to one of the few supper clubs in Montreal where you can sip on champagne and learn a cool new party trick, to boot (ever seen someone open a bottle of champagne with a sabre?). The prices might make a budget traveller cringe, but if you’ve got a few extra bucks to splurge, it’s a great place to schmooze with Montreal’s trendy young and sexy business crowd with a glass of bubbly in hand.
The most popular supper club in the Old Port at the time of writing, Joverse gets packed to the gills quite early – so make sure to arrive either before 11pm or after 2 am, lest you wait the dreaded line outside. The food is delicious (and surprisingly affordable) and the music is usually on point. No party travel experience in Montreal is complete without a visit, so be sure to add Joverse to your barhopping itinerary.
Tam-Tams at Mount Royal
Yes, Tanzania’s got Kilimanjaro and Nepal’s got Everest, but Montreal’s got Mount Royal – the hipster/underground second-cousin-removed mountain that’s equally Instagram famous (not to mention a lot more accessible). On Sunday afternoons, the mountain hosts a time-honoured tradition we locals call Tam-Tams – an informal community gathering where hippies, academes, backpackers, hipsters, and tourists gather together to buy and sell folksy wares, play
obscure-turned-hipster-mainstream instruments, and my personal favourite – practice fancy partner yoga moves (or what I like to call, “the airplane”). If you’re up for some physical activity, join the Frisbee players, soccer players, Hackey Sack players, or medieval plastic sword fighters. Hipstergrams for days!
Coffee and a Bite at Cafe Santropol To Wrap Up Your Weekend
Though Santropol is famous for its coffee and sandwich selection, it’s the terrace that truly makes this local café memorable. Bistro sets scattered about a patio complete with fishponds and the light
humming sounds of nature make an excellent alternative to the standard coffee shop soundtrack. A feel good vibe with a low-key local crowd, it’s a refreshing alternative to mega coffee chain fare– and a fabulous way to cap off your weekend.
What are some of your favourite ways to spend a weekend in Montreal?
Share your love or haterade below!