The Insiders’ Guide To Montreal

Montreal is renowned for its energy, creativity and eccentricity. As the longstanding home of a tight-knit community of talented artists and designers, the city is cultured, diverse and boasts travel-friendly regulations, like enjoying wine in the park as long as you have a food pairing. Plus, as one of the only French speaking cities in North America, it offers up something truly special. It’s easy to feel like you’ve jumped the ocean over to Europe when strolling Old Montreal on the winding cobblestone streets. Whether you decide to visit during a blistering-hot summer or below-freezing winter, this city will not leave you hanging with things to do. But before you pack your bags, we asked some of our local fashion friends for the lowdown on where to find the best eats, drinks and live music, plus their personal seasonal survival tactics. 

 

WHERE TO EAT

poutine
Photo by @labanquise_resto

There is no shortage of amazing restaurants in Montreal, but what we really do right is diners, greasy spoons and lunch counters,” says Davis Guay designer of Cartel Footwear. “Nothing feels more Montreal than having a poutine and Pepsi sitting at the counter of a greasy joint.”

Boutique Unicorn‘s Zola Martin-Lim also swears by the city’s poutine. She recommends La Banquise (above) which is open 24/7, bonus! 

La Banquise, 994 Rue Rachel E

Montreal musician Ryan Playground hits up Rotisserie St-Hubert for hands-down the best chicken. With locations in almost every part of the city, it’s a Montreal classic.

Rotisserie St-Hubert, 6355 rue St-Hubert, Montréal, QC

The Stowe’s designer Molly Spittal feels most at home with casual-fine-dining. “I like to be able to show up in jeans and a t-shirt but be able to expect a meal you’ll talk about later. I highly recommend Agrikol, which is a Haitian restaurant with an unbelievable menu and cocktails.”

Agrikol, 1844 Rue Amherst

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Photo by Satay Brothers

It’s easy to find food from a variety of cultures in Montreal. Caroline Pham, designer of Ora-C, swears by one of her favorite restaurants Satay Brothers (above). “It serves South East Asian cuisine, owned by two brothers from Singapore. Beautiful, cheap food, always packed.”

Satay Brothers, 3721 Notre Dame Ouest

“I love Dinette Triple Crown (southern style food like fried chicken, ribs etc., comfort food) for dinners and Chez Buvette for the best Greek salad,” reveals designer Eliza Faulkner. She is also really into Dépanneur Le Pick-Up (below) for lunch. “Their Halloumi sandwich is the best.” 

Chez Buvette, 4869 Av du Parc

Dépanneaur Le Pick-Up, 7032 Rue Waverly

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Photo by Dépanneur Le Pick Up

“I don’t eat meat so my choices in Montreal are a little limiting,”explains Mérida Anderson the multidisciplinary artist behind jewelry line YYY. “But there are some standbys like Jardin du Cari on St. Laurent run by a couple that makes the best roti I have EVER eaten.”  

Jardin du Cari, 5554, boul Saint-Laurent

The ladies at The Sleep Shirt gave us their go-to brunch spots. “As sleepwear enthusiasts, we love a good brunch. Le Vieux Vélo and Sparrow serve some of our favorites.” Find delicious buckwheat pancakes and any kind of fresh pressed juice imaginable at Sparrow.

Le Vieux Vélo, 59 Rue Beaubien E

Sparrow, 5322 Boul St-Laurent

“We see so many tourists doing foodie trips to Montreal and just spend the whole time eating. Montreal has the second most restaurants per capita after New York.” Well said, Alex Danio, owner of the rad shop Rooney.

WHERE TO DRINK

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Photo by Mariel Rosenbluth

“For fun drinks I’d recommend this speakeasy Tiki bar in Chinatown called Le Mal Nécessaire (above),” Caroline says. You can spot the place by its famous neon pineapple sign and once you’re inside you’ll be sipping on delicious drinks served in a pineapple. Need more? Caroline continues: “Kazu, Loic, Tacos Frida, Junior, Big in Japan, and Harricana.”

Le Mal Nécessaire, 1106 B Boulevard Saint-Laurent

Kazu, 1862 Rue Sainte-Catherine O

Loïc, 5001 Rue Notre-Dame O

Tacos Frida, 4412 Rue Notre-Dame O

Junior, 1964 Rue Notre-Dame O

Big in Japan, 4175 Boul St-Laurent

Brasserie Harricana, 95 Rue Jean-Talon Ouest

Eliza has faith in two bars: “Best drinks are at No Name bar on Avenue du Parc, or Bar Henrietta on Laurier.” Known for amazing cocktails and delicious eats, Bar Henrietta (below) is the perfect spot for post work relaxation on the lovely terrace. 

Bar Henrietta, 115 Avenue Laurier O

bar henrietta
Photo by @barhenriettamtl

Molly doesn’t have to go far when happy hour hits. “I’m a sucker for a dive bar. My favorite neighborhood pub is Idee Fixe, a local hangout in the Mile End. I guess it doesn’t hurt that it’s right around the corner from my apartment.”

Le Petite Idée Fixe, 4857 Av du Parc

Ryan gives us insight on where to go for both the best alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks: “For non-alcoholic I love L2 Lounge and for alcoholic Suwu is the place to go.”

L2 Lounge, 71 Rue de la Gauchetière O

Suwu, 3581 Boul St-Laurent

WHERE TO CATCH A LIVE SHOW

hotsprings4
Photo by Yanick Grandmont

“On any given day, you can pop into Casa Del Popolo, check out their monthly calendar and see a handful of bands you’d likely recognize,” Molly recommends. “They’re a great little venue that’s always got a show going on. There’s also these tiny little venues that feel more like someone’s living room. These venues fill up their calendar with local talent and it’s always really fun and really intimate.” Caroline also loves Casa Del Popolo and adds Vitrola and La Sala Rossa to her list of classics. 

Casa Del Popolo, 4873 Boul St-Laurent

La Vitrola, 4602 Boul St-Laurent

La Sala Rossa, 4848 Boul St-Laurent

hotsprings3
Photo by Yanick Grandmont

Intimate venue Divan Orange (above) is Alex’s go-to when in need for some live music. The small space is a great way to discover under-the-radar bands and experimental DJs. It is one of those places that turns from a chill hangout pub to a hardcore dance party in a matter of minutes.

Divan Orange, 4234 Boul St-Laurent

Davis loves the venue Turbo Haüs in Saint Henri which hosts all kinds of events, from spoken seminars for alternative businesses to punk rock shows. “Coupled with a great bar downstairs and perfect decor, this is an easy win.”

Turbo Haüs, 5011 Rue Notre-Dame O

SUMMER VS. WINTER

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Photo by Lauren B

“Summer in Montreal is a special thing, tons of street festivals, lots of music, comedy, and excuses to get out of the house. To experience a real Montreal summer day just walk out your door without expectations and you’ll find what you’re looking for,” says Davis.

The summer can bring seriously hot temperatures… like stick to your seat hot, but according to Molly there is a simple solution: “Head to one of the local pools (my favorite is Piscine Laurier (above) at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park) to cool off from the extreme heat we get here in the summer months.” Afterwards hitting up any local park for a BBQ is ideal. FYI: “Drinking in public is allowed here as long as you have something to eat. It’s called the picnic law,” explains Caroline. 

Piscine Laurier, 5200 Rue de Brébeuf

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Photo by Benoit Rousseau, Montreal International Jazz Festival

The summer is really the best time to visit because Montreal has so many of the best festivals like the International Jazz Festival or Just for Laughs to name a few,” says Alex. Osheaga, the Mural festival and the Beer Festival are Zola’s musts. 

International Jazz Festival, Quartier des spectacles

Osheaga, Parc Jean-Drapeau

Mural FestivalBoul St-Laurent

Beer Festival, 2236 Rue Beaubien E

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Photo by @inayali

In winter, Montreal has many exterior skating rinks with great views like Lac aux Castors on Mont Royal (above), Parc Lafontaine and in the Old Montreal where they all rent ice skates,” says Zola. However, others prefer using the cold winters to stay inside. Caroline loves to “catch up on old movies at various movie nights hosted by small local venues.”

Lac aux Castors, Mont Royal

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Photo by Marie-Reine Mattera

A spa day is another way to spend a cold winter day. “I like driving to the eastern townships and visiting one the many nordic spas,” Eliza recommends. “There’s also Bota Bota (above) in Montreal which is an old boat converted into a spa.” Hot tubs, massages, manicures and pedicures? Sign us up.

Bota Bota, Entrée McGill Coin De la Commune et McGill, Promenade du Vieux-Port

Ryan has one simply advice in order to survive winter, “Get to know Kanuk”:  a Quebec clothing brand that is known for their signature winter coats that are guaranteed to keep you warm in the crazy cold weather.

Kanuk, 485 Rue Rachel E

WHAT TO WEAR

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Photo by @boutiqueunicorn

Montrealers do it right. Layers, accessories and footwear are always very well considered,” says Davis. The ladies at The Sleep Shirt admit that Montreal “is a city that values comfort, ease, and classic vintage inspiration.”

“There is also a lot of support of local brands here, which has benefitted us in so many ways. Quebecois like to support their designers,” they continue. Merida adds, “It’s a mix of old and new, and this city loves to support its local designers.” 

HOW TO HAVE A PERFECT DAY IN MONTREAL

st ambroise
Photo by @loriechater

“Perfect days in Montreal are definitely during summer! A little sunbathing on a terrace drinking a glass of tequila on ice and lime with good friends, sounds pretty dreamy right now,” Caroline says. These sunny vibes continue with Molly’s dream day: “Definitely summertime! Riding my bike with a group of friends along the canal up to Atwater Market and then carrying on to the St Ambroise Brewery (above) for some afternoon pints on their giant dog-friendly terrasse”. 

St Ambroise Brewery, 5080 Rue Saint-Ambroise

Alex agrees. “Walking around the city in the spring or summer then having an amazing dinner and good wine with friends at a restaurant with a terrasse to just soak up as much outdoor time as possible!”

Ryan explains to us that the “top of Mont-Royal when the sun comes up.” is the must see visitor spot and going up there right at that time can make any day in Montreal perfect.

olimpico
Photo by @cafeolimpico

Eliza has her perfect day down to a tee. “I’d start with coffee at Olimpico (above) in Mile End, then a walk down St. Laurent to check out the shops and stop by Eva B (amazing three-story vintage shop), lunch would be at Le Pick Up in Mile Ex where I’d have a Halloumi sandwich and then find a park to walk through. In the evening, I’d grab a picnic box from Triple Crown and have drinks and food with friends in the park… a lot revolves around food as you can see!”

Olimpico, 124 Rue Saint Viateur O

Eva B, 2015 Boul St-Laurent

Dépanneaur Le Pick-Up, 7032 Rue Waverly

Triple Crown, 6704 Rue Clark

And where to shop? We’ve got you on that front. Click here to find out.

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