As I stepped up to the immigration booth, the officer asked me, "who are you visiting?" Honestly? I panicked. I've always had someone to say I was visiting... but this time I couldn't. "No one... I'm traveling alone." I replied. She asked me, "then what are you doing here?" This, I knew how to respond without panicking and told her the truth, "I start graduate school in New York next week and I wanted to travel a bit more before I started school. I've heard so many great things about Montreal so I decided to visit!" And with that, she let me through.
Prior to my trip, I did a lot of research. I'm a very proactive person and like to be prepared. I read as many blogs as I could but had trouble finding one that really showed me what the experience was like. It didn't feel personal enough and I couldn't quite picture myself being there. A personal goal of mine is to find that sweet spot in writing where I deliver just enough to make my experience come alive, with enough context, useful tips and a bit of humor. Hope you enjoy reading my posts!
TRAVELTIP: I downloaded google maps and saved downtown Montreal so that I could access it offline. Also I bought the 3-day unlimited metro/bus pass for just CAD$18 when I got to the airport.
4 Day Itinerary in Montreal
Day 1: Sofitel Montreal and Schwartz Deli
The moment I stepped into Sofitel Montreal, I was greeted with a warm Bonjour! Check-in was a breeze and I immediately felt at home when I walked into my room, well, that is if my room had floor-to-ceiling windows, a ginormous king size bed, a bathtub AND shower, AND room for an office desk, lounge chair, huge closets, and a TV! Sofitel Montreal is also located nearby McGill University, so I felt extra safe and would highly recommend parents to stay here when visiting their child(ren) during parents weekend or move-in. Read my review on on Sofitel Montreal here!
Since it is located downtown and easily accessible to everything, I took the bus and walked down St. Laurent, enjoyed the murals and rows of food & bars until I reached my destination: Schwartz Deli. Lots of reviewers suggest skipping the line and ordering take-out but I couldn't find where the annex on the left was... so I walked inside to ask the cashier where I could order take-out. She asked me if it was just for one, I said yes, and she said there might be space for 1 at the bar. WHAAAAT?! Perfect!! Perks of traveling solo?! Or... did they feel bad for me? Either way, I graciously accepted to skip the 30-45min wait and devoured a smoked meat medium* (for fattier meat), pickle, black cherry coke, and of course, poutine. Also, if I had gone to Schwartz Deli the day after, I would've seen Celine Dion make a surprise lunch visit and would've had lunch with her!! She was there the next day (because she's part-owner) and I was soo sad to have missed that cool opportunity.
TIP: BRING CASH! If you don't have cash, there is an ATM at the back, however it doesn't take foreign cards. I was in the back of the restaurant freaking out that I couldn't pay but thankfully one of the servers told me to go a few shops down to a convenience store and use ATM outside or buy a water and ask for cash back!
Day 2: Bagels (Fairmount & St. Viateaur), Mont Royal, Crafts Beer Tour, Juliette & Chocolate, Chinatown and Renoir Bar
It was so hard not to sleep in, the beds at Sofitel Montreal were so comfortable and only unique to Sofitel hotels (and Air France first class cabins)! I took a cab to Fairmount Bagels and got a sesame bagel with cream cheese (which wasn't necessary, the bagel tasted so good on it's own! Also, no one else around me ordered cream cheese... ). Then I walked over to St. Viateaur and got another bagel, but this time blueberry. Since Montreal Bagels are smaller and chewier, I devoured them both (#fatty). However, I wish I ordered the sesame bagel at St. Viateaur instead of the blueberry because I think it's actually their specialty and it looks fresher. After, I took a bus down to Mont Royal (super easy to do with google maps app!), strolled around before taking the bus again to St. Denis to meet up for the Crafts Beer Tour by Local Montreal Tours. We went to 3 different brewery's, drank, ate, and learned about the different beers and historical culture of Montreal as we walked from place to place. There were 8 of us: me, a couple, and a group of family-friends. It was the perfect activity to do for someone like me traveling solo and I'm so glad I did it! Plus the beers were soo yummy and I discovered my new favorite beer!
After drinking my way through the Crafts Beer Tour, I made my way to Juliette & Chocolate and ordered a grandmas chocolate and savorydane crepe. SO good, chocolate-y, and just everything I was craving after drinking all that beer earlier. Later on, I went to Bar Le Mal Necessaire for their Abacaxi Mai Tai served in a pineapple. The bartender said it serves 2 drinks but it was more like 1 with a bunch of ice, so I wouldn't recommend it. I strolled through Place des Arts then stopped at the hotel's restaurant & bar, Renoir, for a drink and everyone gets complimentary pretzels, crisps/wasabi peas, and olives (SO worth it!). Great nightcap, great day full of... drinking basically. I walked everywhere so it felt good to draw a hot bath and relax before bed.
Day 3: Old Montreal Food Tour, Notre Dame Basilica, Biodome & Parc Olympic, and Au Pied de Conchon
After the amazing time I had on the Crafts Beer Tour, I was so happy that I had signed up for the Old Montreal Food Tour. Local Montreal Food Tours offers two different tours: Old Montreal and Mile End. I decided to go with the Old Montreal Food Tour because I KNEW I had to go to Old Montreal no matter what and what better way to try all the different foods there? The food was soo good! We stopped at 7 different food places, Notre Dame Basilica, what used to be a bank-turned-into-a-work-space/cafe, and ate soo much. Read about my Beer Crafts Tour & Old Montreal Food Tour experience soon!
3 hours later of non-stop eating, I walked back to the Notre Dame Basilica and spent a few hours there, taking in everything and listening to the live pipe organ performance. TIP: the organ performance only happens at 3:30pm (or certain times! Check beforehand because it's absolutely worth it).
I had a lot of time before my dinner reservations, so I decided to head to the Biodome and Parc Olympic. I took the metro and made it to the Biodome. Quite honestly, this was the least favorite part of my trip and I kept asking myself why I was there. Other tourists and lots of locals told me that it was really great, but it wasn't really suited for me on this particular trip. However, the Parc Olympic was very cool since it was the first olympic park I've been to and it felt so surreal being inside of one, albeit one from 1976.
Dinner at Au Pied de Conchon was slightly hard to find, but the foie gras themed restaurant was worth the metro and slightly long walk. I ordered the foie gras (FG) cromesquie, FG poutine and then because I was craving for more foie gras, I ordered the FG nigiri. The cromesquie are 2 crispy fried balls with a creamy filling inside (didn't taste particularly like FG though), the FG poutine was amazing! It's very salty and rich though, but had around 5 large pieces of FG that was soo good. I didn't finish all the fries, but I used the sauce on my FG nigiri because the soy sauce provided and rice was strangely sweet and I didn't like it at all. I ate the FG sashimi but I honestly wouldn't recommend it as it wasn't worth it.
TIP: Make your reservation early in advanced! If you're traveling solo, you can try your luck with seating at the bar but later in the evening, even the bar became packed.
Day 4: Shopping @ Ste Cats and lunch @ Renoir Restaurant
My flight was in the afternoon, so I did some shopping at Sainte Catherine's, which is conveniently located right by Sofitel Montreal. After I was all shopped out, I went back to the hotel to finish packing and had lunch at Renoir Restaurant. There were so many healthy, locally-sourced options that I really didn't know what to choose! I finally settled on the Soup of the Day (fennel soup) and the Fish of the Day (snapper with delicious eggplant) tastefully paired with a Pinot Grigio. The soup was so creamy despite not made with any cream and I can still taste the crispy skin and juiciness of the snappers' meat. Then I got to choose a dessert from a tray full of mouth-watering options to pair with a cup of hot cappuccino. It is a complete understatement to say that the renowned French head chef, Mr. Olivier Perret, was magnifique.
Have you been to Montreal in Quebec, Canada? What other recommendations do you have for me when I go again? Like, share, and comment below!
I was a guest of Sofitel Montreal, Montreal Craft Beer Tours and Local Montreal Tours. Thanks also to Tourisme-Montreal for sending me a list of activities to do! Part of my stay was sponsored by Sofitel Montreal, but as always, all opinions are my own.