Article by: Molly Helfend
Amidst the frigid tundra of Québec, a bohemian and historic metropolis lies on an island in the Saint Lawrence River. As you cross over the Pont Champlain Bridge, the quiet Canadian landscape is transformed into a vibrant and cultural hub for artists and business professionals alike. Montréal is ideal for those who want a European getaway without actually having to travel far and leave the comfort of North America. This effervescent atmosphere has a je ne sais quoi that makes this cosmopolitan city one of my favorite travel spots.
Montréal is an ethnically diverse city with a primarily French speaking society. However, I never seemed to have trouble finding English speakers amongst the city-dwellers. Montréal also happens to be one of the hippest cities in North America, boasting farm to table food, countless museums and galleries, and a thriving music scene, in which I got to see one of my favorite artists, Mac Demarco, play at the Metropolis Concert Hall. And for you nature buffs, Montréal hosts the second largest botanical garden in the world, with sprawling green spaces across the city as well. Although it is cold most of the year, the city comes alive during summer, with festivals, concerts and blooming viridescent nature abound. I loved the eclectic and cool Canadian way of life, while being able to navigate the city on foot and safely eating out without any digestive reactions. And as I meandered through the ancient cobblestone streets of Old Montreal and boogied my way through the eclectic nightlife scene of Mile End, I truly experienced a lively French provenance, melding old and new worlds together.
For a classy more high-end meal, go to this award winning restaurant that boasts exquisite interior design of high ceilings and an open kitchen setting. They offer an array of finely crafted wines and innovative menu items. Reservations should be made in advance.
4095 Rue Molson, Montréal, QC H1Y 3L1, Canada | 514-903-1233
No Canadian trip is complete without experiencing a classic Poutine dish of french fries and gravy. La Banquise is the ideal hot spot that serves Poutine in not only its original form, but in many gourmet varieties as well. You will easily be able to find a time to visit, as it's open 24 hours.
994 Rue Rachel E, Montréal, QC H2J 2J3, Canada | 514-525-2415
Crudessence is the gem of Montréal. 100% organic, 100% gluten-free, 100% vegan, it was without a doubt one of the best restaurants I have ever eaten at. It is also extremely grain-free friendly, using dehydrated vegetable wraps as sandwich bread alternatives. Taste and presentation were interwoven to make this restaurant addictive for both omnivores and vegans alike. Their raw Lasagna and Matcha Latte are must haves.
105 Rachel St W, Montréal, QC H2W 1G4, Canada | 514-510-9299
Owned by the renowned Chef Laurent Godbout, this chic and modern restaurant brilliantly utilizes wild ingredients, such as elderberry and sea buckthorn, from Quebec to create elegant and succulent dishes with unsurpassed hospitality and service. A great spot for a relaxed night out. Make sure to check out their artistically designed website as well.
311 St Paul St E, Montréal, QC H2Y 1H3, Canada | 514-878-2232
For some of us, finding a juice bar when we travel is essential for detox and digestion. With multiple locations across the city, this local, fresh, all organic juice bar is touted as the best juice in the city. Browse their homemade hemp mylks, wellness shots and hues of juice varieties for an extra boost to your day.
1005 Bernard Ave, Outremont, QC H2V 1T9, Canada | 514-278-9090
Anthony Bourdain approved! This famous bagel shop is a staple in Montreal, made from family-owned love and devotion. So, don't forget to grab your warm bagels and schemer for breakfast on the go.
263 Rue Saint Viateur O, Montréal, QC H2V 1Y1, Canada | 514-276-8044
This hip clean cafe serves only bio-local cuisine that is vegan friendly and well priced. With healthy options and beautiful presentation, it is a sublime choice for brunch or dinner.
764 Rue Bélanger, Montréal, QC H2S 1G6, Canada | 514-508-5450
This exclusive, one of kind restaurant is half wild plant shop half restaurant. Jardins Sauvages has a set sui generis monthly seasonal menu that revolves around the wild plants blooming near the community. If you are able to travel just north of city, you will need to make a reservation to get a table and experience the sensational meals.
17 Chemin Martin, Saint-Roch-de-l'Achigan, QC J0K 3H0, Canada | 450-588-5125
Wonderful brunch spot with an open kitchen setting. Features innovative dishes surrounding seasonal and organic produce. The Mirror eggs with duck ham, celeriac purée, brussels sprouts and marinated shallots with a chilled mimosa was just the ticket for Saturday brunch hour.
4807 St Laurent Blvd, Montréal, QC H2T 1R6, Canada | 514-844-8467
This modern, fresh dinner spot is ideal for a more sophisticated night out. With a very chic atmosphere, it is a great place to grab natural wines and elegant cocktails while sharing and noshing on delicious plates and desserts. You can really sense the true Montréal souls, as the restaurant makes an effort to patronize primarily local farmers, winemakers, and breeders. If you decide on dessert, the Hazelnut sorbet, with seasonal berries, lavender and hyssop powder, is heavenly.
4675 boul. Saint-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2T 1R2, Canada | 514-507-7278
Robin des Bois is beyond just an excellent dining choice, it is a not-for-profit organization, which donates all its profits to local field organizations working directly to help the less fortunate urban communities of Montréal. From servers to kitchen help, the staff if made up of volunteers who are passionate about donating their time to a worthy cause. With plenty of options for any dietary restrictions, there is an array of delicious options…I particularly loved their Coconut Milk Curry Broth.
4653 St Laurent, Montréal, QC H2T 1R2, Canada | 514-288-1010
This is the perfect accommodation choice for a luxurious and boutique hotel choice. Located in the heart of downtown Montréal, you won’t be far from any of the action of the city. It boasts extremely classically luxurious accommodations, a rooftop pool, spa and high-end dining options.
1228 Sherbrooke St W, Montréal, QC H3G 1H6, Canada | 514-842-4212
Another boutique hotel choice, the Hotel Kutuma is a chic and modern option that is walking distance to the downtown center, Old Montréal, and Mount Royal park. It has superb, quality service and sleek room furnishings.
3708 St Denis St, Montréal, QC H2X 3L7, Canada | 514-844-0111
If you are on a tighter budget, or simply want to experience life like a local, most Montréal bound travelers are using Airbnb. With endless options of locations and prices, this is the ideal for anyone from the penniless backpacker to the wealthy globetrotter.
The second largest botanical garden in the world, Montréal’s Botanical Gardens showcase ten greenhouses and a gigantic property of magnificent plants. I was fortunate enough to spend numerous amounts of time exploring, as I was attending an Ethnobiology conference, and it was the quintessential escape from the bustle of city life. For an inexpensive price, you can bring a picnic and meander the gardens and truly enjoy a lovely day.
4101 Rue Sherbrooke E, Montréal, QC H1X 2B2, Canada
Located next to the Botanical Gardens and in the former Olympic Games Velodrome, the Biosphere is the environmental museum of Montréal. It features four distinct ecosystems representing the four most beautiful habitats found in North, Central and South America. Admission is 20 CAD, with discounts for students and children.
160 Chemin du Tour de l'isle, Montréal, QC H3C 4G8, Canada
This outdoor market is one of the oldest public markets in Montréal. It is family friendly and a great option if you are looking to cook in your Airbnb! It is known for its local fruit and vegetable selection and culturally diverse vendors. You can also find flowers, spices, oils, cheese, meat, fish and artisanal bakery goods, in addition to a wide selection of regional products from all over Québec.
7070 Henri Julien Ave, Montréal, QC H2S 3S3, Canada
Stroll along the Champs des Possibles, a local’s secret favorite park!
5605 Gaspe Ave, Montréal, QC H2T 2A4, Canada
Canada has a positive relationship with their indigenous people, so it is important to honor and support Aboriginal culture while visiting their land. This Sacred Fire Productions indigenous museum showcases art and hosts events that supports the development of local and cultural artists.
431 Place Jacques-Cartier #101, Montréal, QC H2Y 3B1, Canada
Montréal houses one of the highest ranking Fine Arts museums in the world. It has over 41,000 works of art from Antiquity to present, with paintings, sculptures, graphic arts, photographs and decorative art objects. It is an aesthetically diverse museum that is very fair with its entrance fee prices.
1380 Sherbrooke St W, Montréal, QC H3G 1J5, Canada
Walk around Mile End and Old Montréal districts to experience the historic old and trendy new worlds colliding in this heterogeneous city.
What better way to experience the hip foodie culture of Mile End then by taking a food tour?
localmontrealtours.com | (438) 600 - 0501
Stroll around Mile End to find a large array of Vintage Clothing stores and Used Book shops!
My favorite store in Montréal, this family-owned business specializes in everything related to mushrooms! You can almost any mushroom from locally sourced Chaga to wild harvested Chicken of the Wood, or grow-yourself kits, books and other various mycology paraphernalia.
4324 St Denis St, Montréal, QC H2J 2K8, Canada
This hip coffee shop and live music lounge is a local treasure. In the true French fashion, sip an espresso under the dim hued lights and listen to some funky jazz, blues and folk music.
206 Rue Bernard O, Montréal, QC H2T 2K4, Canada
A vibrant bar right at the heart of Mile End. With nightly DJs playing actually decent music, this a go-to bar if you are looking for a youthful, yet classy atmosphere.
5550 St Laurent Blvd, Montréal, QC H2T 1S8, Canada
Cozy and sophisticated, this wine bar is a great place to enjoy some quality time with friends, without the commotion of the bar scene.
4869 Park Ave, Montréal, QC H2V 4E7, Canada
I stumbled upon this gem and discovered exceptional service and new Canadian friends! This highly rated bar specializes in cosmic mixology, with special cocktails that change seasonally.
4128 St Laurent Blvd, Montréal, QC H2W 2Y8, Canada
If you are looking for a good time, walk through the Le Plateau Mont Royal district and you are sure to find some groovy fun!
Molly Helfend is part of the HOC team and is a writer, ethnobotanist, herbalist and environmental activist. She graduated from University of Vermont in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and a concentration in Holistic Health and recently from University of Kent in 2018 in Canterbury, England with a Masters of Science Degree in Ethnobotany. She has worked for Urban Moonshine, Greenpeace and received her herbalism training with Spoonful Herbals. Her goal is to travel the world, researching plant-human interconnected relationships while continuing to educate about the transformational energy of life. Molly resides in Raglan, New Zealand, working as an herbalist at the Herbal Dispensary.