If you’re heading to Montreal for a quick getaway and have no idea where to start with your vacation planning, you’re in luck because I’ve narrowed down a few must-do’s for you if all you have is just a few days in la belle province.
Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone in Montreal. I lived in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce ten years ago and in the decade that followed I’ve gone back to visit and I still spend most of my time in that neighbourhood. It’s one of my favourites so I always have an amazing time, but it’s been a minute since I’ve ventured off of my beaten path.
So, for the first time in a long time, I hit the road with a few girlfriends with just a few recos in our back pockets, the wind in our hair, and not much of a plan. Good thing spontaneity often makes for the best times.
We managed to cram a lot into our three days in the city, but I’ve pulled out the highlights to make the perfect Montreal girls’ weekend. Here’s what you need to do.
1. Embrace the unfamiliar
We stayed in an unfamiliar to all of us neighbourhood, Côte-Saint-Paul. On the cusp of the hip St Henri, it’s a quiet residential area which was the perfect home base for the weekend. A quick Uber ride got us anywhere we wanted plus there is lots to offer in the ‘hood, or in nearby St Henri. We discovered cute parks and streets to explore, coffee shops to frequent (grabbing an iced coffee at Yo & Co Espresso Bar became my morning ritual – bonus, they’re dog friendly), and local bars where you just might meet a cute Montreal boy (Loic serves up good drinks and a fun atmosphere – I highly recommend).
2. Spend a night out bar-hopping
We decided we’d spend our big night out in the Griffintown borough; “a buzzing, creative area with a mix of converted warehouses and condo developments” (according to Wikipedia, but also very accurate). Start with dinner at Pizzeria Moretti, which might be the best Italian meal I’ve ever had. I’m writing this four days later and I’m still thinking about it. We shared the funghi and “Norma” pasta dishes with the burrata pizza, and the food was exquisite! Perfectly cooked, amazing flavours, and despite how full I was I was left wanting so much more. It’s a busy spot though, so make a reservation. Also, I’ve just learned that there’s a Toronto location. I’m dead.
From dinner, take a quick Uber ride to the much buzzed-about and highly recommended to us, Atwater Cocktail Club. I recommend the Uber because if you try to just walk up to it, you may never find it. There’s no signage, so you really need to know where the club is, which is literally in an alley directly behind a restaurant. Though a little grungy on the outside, once inside you’re met with an elegant, speakeasy-style bar serving up delicious, creative cocktails. You’ll wait a long time for a drink but the vibes are fun and the people watching is spectacular.
End your night on the well-hidden dancefloor at Makro. Located below the restaurant of the same name, this is (again) a bit hard to find but if you know where to find it, or can ask a kind stranger on the street where to find it, you’re set. Like most dance bars in Montreal, it has a club/lounge feel (seriously, where are all the sweaty hip-hop bars at in Montreal?) and it really picks up around midnight. Fun fact: if you’re lucky, you’ll spot Canadian hockey darlings, Sydney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon heading into Makro for a late dinner.
3. Get cultured with Thierry Mugler
If you’ll be in Montreal before September 8, 2019, definitely add to your list the Thierry Mugler: Couturissime exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts Montreal. You only need $24 and a few hours to take in the full exhibition, but it’s very worth it to see over 150 awe-inspiring garments spanning the years 1977 to 2014, including some worn by Beyonce, David Bowie and Lady Gaga. The museum is open on Saturday and Sunday and you don’t need to buy tickets in advance, so you can have your pick of the best day to go depending on how you round out your weekend. On your way there, stop for brunch at Foiegwa or Arthur’s for a true Montreal foodie experience (expect a long wait at either place though).
4. End your weekend at the spa
We made the very smart decision to end our weekend at the iconic Bota Bota spa-sur-l’eau for an epic weekend wind-down. Located in the Old Port, you can wander the cobblestone alleys or the waterfront piers at sunset before heading to this illustrious steamship-turned-spa for the most amazing relaxation treat you could give yourself. Whether you’re with your girls, your mom, or your partner, it’s a great way to slow down time, recover from the whirlwind few days, and just bliss out. We booked after dinner massages and a water circuit, which gave us access to the pools, sauna, and steam room until the Spa closed at 11pm. Sitting under the stars, not a cell phone in sight, and surrounded by the sound of water and the scent of eucalyptus was the most perfect wind-down before hitting the road back to Toronto early the next day.
Of course, there’s so much more to do in a city like Montreal, but if you’re looking for a weekend getaway these spots are sure not to disappoint. Plus exploring the unfamiliar in a city you know so well is a fun way to make the most of a quick vacation. This trip was all about that; other than our reservations at Bota Bota, we went into the weekend with not a single to-do list item but only an open mind to whatever recommendations came our way and wherever the wind blew us from there.