Ask any Canadian and they’ll tell you that Montreal is on their list of destinations to visit. In fact, according to Expedia.ca, Montreal is the #4 most searched destination. It really should come as no surprise since the city has booming as of late; the food scene has absolutely exploded (well beyond poutine) and there are plenty of things to do in the city. Thanks to my friends at Expedia.ca, I was able to spend 48 hours in Montreal and it was amazing.
With the weak Canadian dollar, many Canadians are staying closer to home but did you know you can save even more by booking your hotel and flights together? I ended up choosing Hotel Le Germain Montreal as it was a brand I had heard great things about and it didn’t disappoint. The hotel was conveniently located near McGill University and was a joy as soon as I stepped through the doors. The doormen and front desk staff were polite and courtesy and check-in took no time at all.
The room itself felt like I was in a home away from home. It was a condo style room with an open concept layout; Wi-Fi and continental breakfast were included in the price. What’s also cool was that the hotel was one of the sites for the Montréal en Lumière which is one of the main reasons why I chose this time to visit.
When you’re in Montreal you must have poutine. After checking in I immediately headed to the most famous poutinerie in the city, La Banquise. If you’re unfamiliar with poutine, it’s fries with cheese curds and gravy; it’s a Canadian stable. At La Banquise gourmet poutines are served and my wife and I each decided to get one each. I had La Trois Viandes which included ground beef, bacon, and pepperoni. My wife went for the “vegetarian” La Rachel that came with green peppers, mushrooms, and onions. Needless to say, we weren’t disappointed.
Despite the look, the poutines weren’t that heavy. That being said, we figured it would be a good idea to walk it off so we headed over to rue Saint-Denis which is a popular tourist spot for shopping, eating, and drinking. We were obviously not interested in eating anymore but I did want to check out the Grande Bibliothèque which is Quebec’s national library. The contemporary-styled building may not be recognized around the world, but it is an architectural marvel. With more than 4,000,000 items to browse and more than 2,000 places to study, this library is a bookworm’s dream.
Montréal en Lumière was the main reason I came to Montreal so I decided to check out the venue since they had ongoing events every night. A Ferris wheel, giant slide, musical acts, zip-lining, and even art from Sponsor city Shenzen, China greeted me. This two-week festival is one of the most popular events in all of Montreal but I would have to wait until the next day to catch Nuit Blanche which is one of the highlights of the festival. The festival takes place at Place des Festivals and Place d’Armes, two side-by-side outdoor event areas that play host to almost event major event in the city.
Montreal is a major food city so I let me wife choose the restaurants. It wasn’t a terrible surprise when she decided on Park, a Japanese restaurant owned by Canadian celebrity chef Antonio Park. Park is Korean and was born in Argentina and lived in Paraguay, and Brazil before moving to B.C. in Canada. His family eventually settled in Montreal but he later took off to Japan for culinary school. It may technically be a Japanese and Korean restaurant but the flavours from his South American roots are clearly evident.
48 hours in Montreal wouldn’t be complete without a stop in Old Montreal so that’s where I headed the next day. Rue Saint-Paul is the city’s oldest street will easily make you think you’re in Paris which includes tacky tourist shops. In the summer, the area is quite busy since it’s by the river but since I visited in the winter, many shops were closed. To be honest, there’s not much to see in Old Montreal but you should still stop by to snap a picture of City Hall and Notre-Dame Basilica.
Another sight I didn’t want to miss was The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. I had missed the Pompeii exhibit when it was at the ROM in Toronto so I was thrilled that it was currently in Montreal. Entrance to the Exhibit was extra but it was well worth it since there were many artifacts, moves, and body casts on display. The museum also has a collection of paintings and modern art; there’s even a new living exhibit where you can see birds playing music.
For dinner, we decided to do the tasting menu at Syrian restaurant Damas. Normally I’m not one to do a tasting menu but I absolutely love middle eastern food and I was assured it wasn’t an excessive amount of food. Somehow Damas managed to take middle eastern staples such as fattoush, falafel, humus, and elevated it to the next level. For our main we chose the fish which was pan seared and stuffed with vegetables; what made this dish so interesting is the fact that they used two different fish fillets so you had two distinct tastes.
At night, the city came alive since it was Nuit Blanche. The event had three different zones and offered free shuttles all night. Even Hotel Le Germain Montreal had their own events going on; this was surprising to me as in Toronto it seems like there’s less corporate involvement. Since Nuit Blanche tied into Montréal en Lumière you could pretty much walk in any direction and find something cool to look at.
Again, thanks to my friends at Expedia.ca for inviting me to take part on this awesome adventure. I flew Air Canada from the Toronto’s Bill Bishop airport which has service every hour. Flights and hotels can both be booked through Expedia.ca but don’t forget to take a look at their vacation packages too which can offer good value. If you missed my earlier post, here are some Montreal winter activities to check out.. #BigWorldExplorer