Happy Friday!! I hope you enjoyed my last blog post, Montréal Part I! Montréal is a beautiful city, and fall’s colorful abundance made it even more stunning to enjoy. With an eclectic mix of a modern downtown, preserved historic district, beautiful parks, cool neighborhoods, great bars and restaurants, and easy, safe public transportation system, Montréal is a world-class city!
Although public transportation is the quickest way to get around Montréal, to view the beautiful architecture and enjoy the brilliance of fall, the best way is to walk around the city. Montréal is a very walkable city! Besides the walk through the historic Vieux (Old) Montreal (read about in Montréal Part I), the most enjoyable walking tour we did was through downtown on Peel Street and up to Parc du Mont-Royal. We started at the corner of St. Antoine and St. Peel streets at Windsor station, a former railway station for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Continuing on Peel Street, toward downtown, the Cathedral-Basilica Mary Queen of the World, shows visitors it’s beautifully, impressive facade. This Catholic Church was inaugurated in 1894. We took a few minutes to view the stunning church interior, then proceeded back to Peel Street. The further out of downtown you walk on Peel Street, the steeper the street becomes. Known as “the mountain” (be it a small one), pedestrians climb the steep street to Parc du Mont-Royal.
At the top of Peel Street sits Parc du Mont-Royal. This 494-acre urban park, provides visitors with wide (paved and graveled) pedestrian only paths in a gorgeous natural oasis in urban Montréal. Most visitors come to Parc du Mont-Royal for breathtaking views of Montréal from the Chalet du Mont-Royal. Two options to ascend to the top of Chalet du Mont-Royal are to take a set of steep stairs, or walk along the wide pathway that serpentines throughout the park. We decided to enjoy the beautiful autumn splendor and serpentine the park. At a leisurely pace, we reached the top in about an hour or so. During our walk, we were joined by bicyclists, joggers, school groups, families, and other leisure walkers enjoying the great outdoors. Once at the top, visitors are treated to spectacular views of Montréal from the lookout at Chalet du Mont-Royal. With vibrant fall foliage, sunny skies, and crisp fall air, amazing views, it was the perfect way to spend an afternoon in Montréal!
The Mile End District is an eclectic, multi-cultural neighborhood with a laid back vibe. With cafes, boutique shops, art galleries, small corner groceries, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and great vintage clothing stores (one of my weaknesses!) this family-friendly and dog-friendly neighborhood seems to welcome everyone. Many cultures (consisting mainly of Greek, Italians, and Jewish communities), hipsters, artists, and families all live cohesively in this charming neighborhood. When visiting a city for the first time, I love walking through neighborhoods like this to get a real feel of how the locals live. This was definitely my favorite neighborhood we visited in Montréal! Although it was great to visit, this neighborhood was not within walking distance from Old Montréal (where our hotel was), so we initially took the metro and then walked to this wonderful neighborhood.
In the Mile End District, you will also find bagels. Not just any bagels, but St. Viateur Bagels. Open since 1957 by a Jewish, Polish immigrant, these handmade bagels are still created the same way they were in 1957. The bagels are boiled in honey-water, then baked in a brick oven. Walking towards the bagel shop, the wonderful smell of fresh baked bread filled the air and lead us to the bakery. We visited the original location, but now the popular St. Viateur bagel shop has three other locations and a food truck throughout Montréal! The original bagel shop is opened 24 hours/7 days a week, for late night party-goers and night owls to munch on fresh, warm bagels at any time of the day! The location is small, so we grabbed our cinnamon raisin and sesame seed bagels and enjoyed them on a bench outside. They were perfect bagels and very delicious!
Jean-Talon Market opened in 1933, it is one of the oldest public markets in Montréal, and the largest open-air public market in North America. Offering locals and visitors fresh produce, plants and flowers, delicatessens, multi-cultural food vendors, and specialty shops. This market reminded me of Boqueria Market in Barcelona, Spain. With vibrantly colored produce, flowers, and specialty items all perfectly displayed to attract buyers. We visited on a Saturday, with a bustling crowd of locals and tourists alike enjoying food samples, ethnic dishes, and the beauty of farm fresh produce. We enjoyed sampling local meats and cheeses, and ate an incredible crepe with bananas, chocolate sauce, and handmade whipped cream (it was divine!). Although Jean-Talon Market is a little outside the main tourist loop, I would recommend taking the metro, follow the signs towards the market and experience the sights, smells, and food at this market!
Parc Jean-Drapeau is located on two small islands in the St. Lawrence River. Taking a bus (Jean-Drapeau metro station was closed for repairs) and crossing over the Jacques-Cartier Bridge to get to the park, visitors can enjoy a unique mix of nature, cultural and sports-related activities. Nature enthusiasts can hike, picnic, ride bikes and visit the Biosphere (an environmental and weather center). While sports enthusiasts can visit the Olympic Basin and gamblers can try their hand at the Casino de Montréal. During the summer, visitors have access to a beach and several swimming pools. Crossing the river also provides great views of the Jacques-Cartier Bridge and downtown Montréal.
Montréal is known for their nightlife. One of our favorite bars was La Distillerie No. 1. This laid-back, intimate and rustic bar was perfect for enjoying handcrafted cocktails. Serving their drinks in mason jars and providing guest with Goldfish crackers only enhanced our experience here. The staff was friendly, and the cocktail list was unique, and it had a casual vibe. The bartenders, more like mixologists, were talented and perfected every cocktail we had! My husband had the best old-fashioned he has ever had (he is very particular with this cocktail), and I enjoyed a fruity mixed cocktail, a Chupa-Chupa. If you are looking for a laid-back, non-pretentious bar for handcrafted cocktails, visit La Distillerie No. 1!
Montréal is a perfect mix of a modern and historic city. With wonderful parks, markets, restaurants, bars, many tourist attractions, and friendly locals, any visitor will be delighted with Montréal! I urge you to visit this wonderfully eclectic French-Canadian city, I’m sure you wont be disappointed! I hope you enjoyed my experiences in Montréal!!
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