The NYLON Guide To Montreal

    Where to eat, where to drink, and where to shop

    by · July 28, 2017

    Though officially Francophone, Canada's Montreal is a place where French and English commingle, thanks to most residents speaking a little bit of both. This makes Quebec’s biggest city feel like the product of multiple worlds all existing side by side. The booming food culture. The internationally recognized music scene. (What up Arcade Fire?) The slate of citywide art and culture events that make summer a sleepless season. Even Tim Hortons. (Not specifically Montreal based, but we should all be so lucky to be loved the way Canadians love this hockey player-turned-coffee slinger.) In short, there are plenty of reasons to visit—including the slate of activities we’ve compiled below. Bon voyage.

    Photo courtesy of The Hyatt

    WHERE TO STAY

    The Hyatt at Place Des ArtsNewly remodeled with a downtown location that can’t be beat. And if it can, no worries—nearly every transit line in the city seems to coalesce steps away from the Hyatt’s front door. Splash around in the huge pool, sit in the steam room, book a massage, and grab a drink at the blue-toned bar. If room service isn’t your bag, no worries. You’re also located in Complex Jardins, a huge indoor shopping mall with a grocery store and multiple food options. Bring dinner back to your room, because nothing says “I’m off duty” quite like Indonesian food and Netflix.

    Photo via Tourism Montreal

    WHAT TO DO

    Go for a street art stroll: For the last five years, the Plateau neighborhood just off Boulevard Saint-Laurent has hosted Mural, a festival where local and international artists are invited to take over a wall and create larger works. Take a long walk through the area, and duck into a few back alleys. You never know what characters—from Jackie Robinson (who first played for the Montreal Royals) to space aliens—you might encounter. Don’t forget to stop by Crescent St. and Saint Laurent to see local artist Kevin Ledo’s multistory purple-toned tribute to Montreal great, Leonard Cohen.  

    Photo via Tourism Montreal

    WHAT TO DO

    Bike (everywhere and all the time): Biking is far and away locals’ favorite form of transit. The city has numerous bike lanes, and local drivers are fairly conscientious about two-wheeled commuters. Rent a bike, open up your Apple Maps (offline function, FTW), and hit the town. Or for a more in-depth look at the city, join up with a tour at Fitz and Follwell, who offer detailed looks at both southern and northern neighborhoods. Montreal is one of the few cities where guides have to be licensed, which means any tour will feature a heavy helping of history in addition to fun personal facts. (For example, My guide met his girlfriend at an Arcade Fire concert—making him the most Canadian ever.) 

    Photo via Tourism Montreal

    WHAT TO DO

    Visit Montreal Jazz Fest: Sometimes it seems like Montreal has a festival for everything. There’s Yul Eat for food, Pop Montreal which focuses on upcoming bands, and Nuit Blanche which celebrates art. But for the granddaddy of all festivals, visit the city at the end of June and beginning of July for Montreal Jazz Fest. The city has an old tradition of embracing the musical art form. Previously jazz and blues luminaries such as Dave Brubeck, Johnny Lee Hooker, and Chuck Berry have all performed at the Fest. These days the festival’s purview has loosened, which means in addition to getting schooled on the art of the downbeat, you can also catch sets from pop and rock artists, which have previously included Feist, Bob Dylan, Natalie Prass, and Austra. Check the website for scheduling as dates shift slightly every year.

    Photo via Tourism Montreal

    WHAT TO DO

    Bota Bota: Fun fact: You are allowed to ignore your phone during a vacation. If you struggle with disconnecting (guilty), book an afternoon at Bota Bota. The Nordic-style spa is located on a boat moored in the old harbor—with hot tubs, dry and wet saunas, rest areas, massage rooms, and a bar (stocked with rosé—praise be!). Go for a steam, soak, and general downtime while you take in amazing views that include the waterfront, brutalist housing structure Habitat 67, and the Montreal Biosphère, built for the 1967 World Fair.

    Photo via Tourism Montreal

    WHERE TO DRINK

    Lill Co: Botanic wine is experiencing a resurgence in Montreal. Free from sulfates and additives (the crap that gives a lot of wine lovers headaches), these wines are likely to be earthier than what you’re used to. Stop by Lill Co for a refreshing sample, which they’re happy to pour in both full and half glasses. The cozy bar also features a whole slate of small dish options, best ordered several at a time. Offerings change depending on what produce is in season, but expect unusual and delicious options like roasted cattails and savory crème brûlées.

    Photo via Tourism Montreal

    WHERE TO DRINK

    North Star Machines à Piastres: North Star Machines à Piastres answers the question of what to do after you’ve talked your friends into going to a bar. Pinball—duh. Grab a cocktail named after one of the machines (i.e. The Dolly Parton that features gin, rose water, and a tiny bud floating on top) and try your hand at any one of the bar’s fleet of machines. After you’re done, take some downtime to watch the ever-repeating loop of pinball-related film clips, or just stare at the disco ball and try to decide if it’s turning. (It is—at a rate 1,000 times slower than normal.)

    Photo via Tourism Montreal

    WHERE TO DRINK

    Brasserie HarricanaFun fact: Brasserie Harricana’s wooden table and salmon-colored 1970s-evoking chairs were inspired by the owner’s original family restaurant. Which means in addition to a micro brewery’s deep bench of options (coffee beer? sour berry beer? why not?), you’re also going to enjoy a legacy of excellent customer service. Sports fans take note: This place has got your back. See: the outdoor seating, bleachers instead of tables, and the collection of trophies in the corner. Those crazy numbers on the menu? They represent jerseys, naturally. 

    Photo from Instagram @banquise_resto

    WHERE TO EAT

    Veggies—everywhere: There’s a misconception that French and French Canadian food is a very meat-heavy affair. Certainly, there’s a lot in the city aimed at carnivores. But in North America, Montreal is only second to New York in terms of restaurants per capita. So after you’ve gotten your vegetarian poutine at La Banquise, here are a few other options worth exploring. 

    Photo via Tourism Montreal

    WHERE TO EAT

    Aux Vivres: The airy restaurant in Montreal’s Plateau neighborhood has been open for 20 years—and yet they were still way ahead on the whole bowl trend. Stop by for the Dragon, which features beets, carrots, cabbage, daikon, lettuce, sprouts, tempeh, and dragon sauce. Or tuck into one of their elaborate sandwiches. They also have a fully stocked juice bar where you can get a take-your-face-off spicy ginger juice.

    Photo from Instagram @the_food_chain

    WHERE TO EAT

    Foodchain: Located downtown near McGill University (where Grimes used to attend class), Foodchain operates on the belief that if you’re going to do one thing, do it well. For them that would be ornate, all-vegetarian chopped salads, sliced and diced and topped with nuts to order. (Note: They don’t allow substitutions, but there are plenty of options so that shouldn’t be an issue.) Plus, each meal comes with “pain magique” (magic bread), a cheese-coated croissant. Score!

    Photo from Instagram @lovrestaurant

    WHERE TO EAT

    LOV: Acronym alert: LOV stands for: local, organic, vegetarian. The downtown eatery features all three in large quantities. The brainchild of chef Stéphanie Audet, the eatery has a menu that highlights vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options all meticulously plated and beautifully presented. Pro tip: The kale mac and cheese goes quite well with a cocktail.

    Photo via Tourism Montreal

    WHERE TO EAT

    Les Enfant Terribles: You’re in the city to eat the local stuff, right? For some unfussy French bistro dishes (seriously unfussy—the chairs are shaped like butts) and an impressive view, grab a meal at Les Enfant Terribles (that’s “the terrible children” for Anglophones). Expect artful salads, heavy meat dishes, and decadent desserts. Just as nature intended. 



    Photo via Tourism Montreal

    WHERE TO SHOP

    Épices de Cru: A small spice shop located in the Jean Talon Market. The owners are incredibly passionate about spices and teas, often traveling to other countries and staying for extended periods of time to better understand the culture around what they’re selling. So come prepared to experience several forms of vanilla, tarmac, oolong, etc. Foodie bonus: For a more in-depth look at the store and the market and surrounding food scene as a whole, check out tours through Spade and Palacio.

    Photo via Tourism Montreal

    WHERE TO SHOP

    Annex Vintage: For those with the patience, Montreal is a treasure trove of vintage finds. Start at Annex Vintage for threads from the '90s, '80s, and '70s. They also carry a line of screen-printed T-shirts, candles, and pins, all made by local artists.

    Photo from Instagram @blisscraftandbrazen

    WHAT TO BUY

    Blisscraft & Brazen: Elegant homeware at reasonable prices. Blisscraft & Brazen go in on the light and airy look—so expect wood, porcelain, natural fibers, and simple elegant designs.

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