Montreal City Guide: Things to Know About the Most European of The Canadian Cities / by Didier Young

When I arrived to Canada in 2009, I landed in the city of Toronto, the fast paced and commerce oriented capital of Ontario. Years later, I can now call this city a home that I cherish and love. I am by all means a Torontonian. However, sometimes I do feel a slight bit of ennui in the city and when this happens, I usually head off to La Belle Province to the beautiful city of Montreal. I recently took a spontaneous trip to the highly European influenced city for the brief duration of two days, spending a full day of simply strolling around the city and stopping by cafés and cute independent stores.

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First of all, let’s talk about shopping. Unlike Toronto where our malls are open until nine thirty at night, everything is closed in Montreal by six thirty. As such, if you wished to indulge in some retail therapy, you might wish to partake in the money spending activity earlier on during the day.  The city is populated with a multitude of independent shops such as La Papeterie Nota Bene and V de V. When it comes to clothes shopping, I always make sure to head to La Maison Simons. Their in-house brands are highly affordable but they also carry high street and high end brands as well.

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Montreal’s favourite tourist destination would definitely be the Vieux Port. The area has a very European feel to it that is simultaneously charming and nostalgic and boasts quite a few great places to eat and shop. Along with the headquarters of the e-retailer juggernaut Ssense and a Rad Hourani store, the old town is the home to the fantastic eatery Olive et Gourmando and the highly acclaimed Garde Manger by celebrity chef Chuck Hughes.  Coffee lovers will be delighted by the charms of TOMMY and the grandeur of The Crew Collective, a cafe set inside an old 1920s bank. The cobble stone streets have seen many a pair of legs strolling along them especially in summer when the area bursts with life and the Vieux Port becomes the hosts of summer fairs while people sunbathe at the Quai de L’horloge. The waterfront also proves to be quite the romantic walk with a clear view of the fleuve Saint Laurent and the biosphère across the water.

 I have found a new love for the Mile End/ Plateau area of the city where time seems to slow down a bit. The famous Hebrew delicatessen Schwartz’s is located in those surroundings and is well known for its Montreal smoked meat but this is not the only great place to eat in the area. Au Pied de Cochon and Maison Publique always make it on my list of favourite places to eat and an early morning walk might lead you to the Patisserie Kouign Amann where you might find happiness in the Breton cake after which the pastry shop was christened. There are some notable coffee shops in the area as well; the newest outpost of Dispatch is a fantastic place to sit down and work, while the gorgeous Butterblume and Café Pista are great places to grab a bite at while sipping on a hot beverage.

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Montreal is so expansive that it would be hard for me to truly divulge all of its secrets in a single blog post. However those are my two favourite areas to explore each time I head to the city and I love just spending the day walking around and exploring the streets of Montreal. It is definitely the best way to discover the city and all of its treasures.

-Didier