Exploring Montreal: A Guide to the City’s Historic Charms and Modern Luxuries

Whether you're lured by the siren call of world-class festivals, the technicolor dream of fall foliage or the sheer thrill of making your dollar stretch like a Cirque du Soleil acrobat, Montreal is your passport to joie de vivre with a side of poutine.

view of buildings and skyline in montreal
Montreal. Nathália Segato/Unsplash

Montreal isn’t merely a city—it’s an experience; a melange of European elegance seamlessly fused with uniquely Québécois grit and gusto. Every cobblestone has witnessed a chapter of history, and each soaring skyscraper is in the throes of scripting its legend. As autumn approaches, the city’s natural landscape shifts, bursting forth in a riotous canvas of deep crimsons, radiant ambers and gleaming golds.

The gastronomic wonders of Montreal have made headlines, but it’s the rhythmic heartbeat of its festivals—from the sultry notes of the International Jazz Festival to the captivating visual tales of the World Film Festival—that defines its soul. These aren’t just events; they’re the pulse of a city with an artistic verve. 

But Montreal isn’t just about the dazzle. Its warmth and familiarity make it as cozy as your go-to café, further sweetened by a USD to CAD conversion that nudges you to explore. Here, uncharted boutiques await, where the latest trends haven’t yet made their Instagram debut. Spending here isn’t mere consumption—it’s a deep dive into an officially bilingual city where cultures soar and intertwine side by side.

Speaking of spires and structures, the architecture here is a dialogue between epochs: Gothic cathedrals trade style tips with Brutalist towers, creating a cityscape that’s as much a visual feast as any dish you’ll savor here. Every corner, every street suggests that history is merely the starting line, with the finish line perpetually being redrawn. 

Whether you’re lured by the siren call of world-class festivals, the technicolor dream of fall foliage or the sheer thrill of making your dollar stretch like a Cirque du Soleil acrobat, Montreal is your passport to joie de vivre with a side of poutine. Prepare to be enchanted, engaged and, above all, surprised. Voilà, your curated guide to Montreal.

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Where to Stay

Image: Skyline dining area at Hotel William Gray, Montreal.
Hotel William Gray. Hotel William Gray

Hotel William Gray

421 R. Saint-Vincent, Montreal, QC H2Y 3A6, Canada

Nestled in Old Montreal, Hotel William Gray is a masterful blend of historic elegance and quiet luxury. Imagine 127 rooms swathed in a blend of 18th-century gravitas and contemporary panache, all under a glass atrium that could make even a Parisian sky jealous. Whether you’re toasting the skyline at La Terrasse or savoring a cocktail at La Perché, you’re enveloped in a rich tale of past and present.

Image: Interior of Four Seasons Hotel Montreal.
Four Seasons Hotel Montreal. Olivier Blouin

Four Seasons Hotel Montreal

1440 Rue de la Montagne, Montreal, QC H3G 1Z5, Canada

After 15 years, the Four Seasons made its triumphant return to Montreal, setting up shop in the ritzy Golden Square Mile. The 169-room hotel is a gateway to luxury—quite literally, as it connects to the ritzy department store Holt Renfrew Ogilvy. From gold-infused facials to sunset toasts over Mount Royal, indulgence is the order of the day. Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s sustainable seafood offerings add a downtown twist to the opulent setting.

Image: Interior of Hotel Birks.
Hotel Birks. Hotel Birks

Hotel Birks

1240 Phillips Square, Montreal, Quebec H3B 3H4, Canada

Once the Beaux-Arts headquarters of Birks (Canada’s answer to Tiffany), Hotel Birks has undergone a meticulous transformation by local hotel operator Le St-Martin Hotels. A 7,500-square-foot Birks boutique is still linked to its grand lobby. With interiors by Nicole Vekemans, it’s a plush cocoon spun from a palette of whites, grays and taupes, punctuated by gold sculptures and marble fireplaces.

Image: Interior of The Ritz-Carlton Montreal.
The Ritz-Carlton Montreal. The Ritz-Carlton Montreal

The Ritz-Carlton Montreal

1228 Sherbrooke St W, Montreal, Quebec H3G 1H6, Canada

The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal is the “Grande Dame of Sherbrooke Street,” a timeless bolthole where history and modernity waltz in elegant harmony, evident in suites that pair marble fireplaces with high-tech touches. Maison Boulud is the culinary crown jewel, a must-visit for any gastronome, but before, start with a flute of bubbly at Canada’s inaugural Dom Pérignon Champagne Bar. Another only-here touch: the hotel’s Spa St. James offers uniquely Québécois-inspired treatments, like the Montreal Maple Sugar Nail Treatment.

Where to Eat 

Joe Beef 

2491 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal, Quebec H3J 1N6, Canada

This spot is the superstar of Montreal’s culinary stage, where Québecois classics take center stage. Picture rustic lobster spaghetti and smoked meat sandwiches served on the dreamy garden terrace—an al fresco experience that’s as intimate as it is exclusive. Can’t get a reservation? Pop over to sister venues Liverpool House and Vin Papillon, which are also hitting epicurean high notes.

Image: Interior of L'Express.
L’Express. L'Express


3927 Saint-Denis St, Montreal, Quebec H2W 2M4, Canada

In a city brimming with dining options, L’Express remains Montreal’s archetypal bistro, its black-and-white tiles a landmark on St-Denis. The zinc bar and vintage staff photos add to the allure. Your culinary journey begins with baguette and cornichons—a prelude to what is arguably the pièce de résistance: steak frites lavished with shallot butter. The wine list is a curated experience, expansive yet approachable in price. 

Image: Dishes from Tuck Shop.
Tuck Shop. Tuck Shop

Tuck Shop

4662 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal, Quebec H4C 1S6, Canada

Head to this Saint-Henri hideaway for a culinary pilgrimage, where young chefs and entrepreneurs have turned the tables—literally. Chef and forager Théo Lerikos is the maestro here, orchestrating a seasonal menu that’s a gastronomic ode to both forest and sea with ingredients like Gaspé halibut woodland mushrooms.

Image: Interior of the dining area at Le Serpent.
Le Serpent. Alison Slattery

Le Serpent

257 Rue Prince, Montreal, QC H3C 2N4, Canada

Helmed by chef Claude Pelletier, Le Serpent offers Italian-inspired cuisine with a focus on raw and cooked starters, decadent pasta and creamy risotto. The restaurant itself is a culinary theater, where every ingredient is an in-house star and each wow-worthy course delivers a standing ovation. The industrial-chic interiors serve as the perfect stage for this gastronomic performance.

Image: Interior of the dining area at Damas.
Damas. Damas


1201 Ave Van Horne, Outremont, Quebec H2V 1K4, Canada

At Damas, chef-owner Fuad Alnirabie crafts a love letter to Middle Eastern cuisine, sealed with staple flavors like tangy sumac and fiery Aleppo peppers. Dining here is a feast for the senses that’ll enrich your palate—and lighten your wallet—but as you sip a glass of anise-flavored arak, you’ll find it’s the perfect full stop to a lavish, soul-soothing meal. 

Where to Drink

Image: Bar area at Bar Henrietta.
Bar Henrietta. Alison Slattery

Bar Henrietta

115 Av. Laurier O, Montreal, QC H2T 2N6, Canada

Bar Henrietta is where the soul of a Portuguese tavern meets innovative mixology. Picture yourself savoring a cocktail laced with hibiscus and honey vermouth, enveloped in an ambiance that’s both luminous and effortlessly elegant; alternatively, work your way through the wine list, which is a passport to Europe’s most cherished vineyards.

Image: Exterior of outdoor dining area at Dieu du Ciel.
Dieu du Ciel. Samuel Joubert

Dieu du Ciel!

21 Av. Laurier O, Montreal, QC H2T 2N2, Canada

One step into Dieu du Ciel, and you’re immediately initiated into a fellowship of beer aficionados. The air is a heady mix of hops and malt, setting the stage for a rotation of artisanal brews. From the bitter bite of hoppy IPAs to the velvety embrace of rich stouts, each pour is a liquid sonnet to the brewer’s art. But it’s not just about the beer; the nachos have a cult following, making them the unsung heroes of this Mile End microbrewery. 

Image: Buvette Chez Simone.
Buvette Chez Simone. Atelier Zébulon Perron

Buvette Chez Simone

4869 Park Ave, Montreal, Quebec H2V 4E7, Canada

Perfect for those 5 à 7 rendezvous or intimate date nights, this Parc Avenue pioneer offers an inviting selection of wines by the glass that dare you to stop at just one. The interior, a Zébulon Perron creation, is a warm tableau of exposed brick, russet woods, and neon-orange wire fixtures. The horseshoe-shaped bar and narrow tables create pockets of intimacy, ideal for deep conversations or light banter. And the selection of vintages features unexpected discoveries and edgy selections from small, independent wineries—all reasonably priced.

Image: Interior of Loïc.
Loïc. Matthew Perrin


5001 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal, Quebec H4C 1T2, Canada

Löic isn’t just a wine bar; it’s an ode to the art of winemaking. Housed in a grand neoclassical edifice in Saint-Henri, the venue radiates an inviting brightness, setting the stage for a wine list that’s as discerning as it is expansive. Here, natural and biodynamic are not just buzzwords but a philosophy, reflected in every glass of riesling, chenin blanc or gamay.

Image: Interior of bar area at Atwater Cocktail Club.
Atwater Cocktail Club. Atwater Cocktail Club

Atwater Cocktail Club

512 Atwater Ave, Montreal, Quebec H4C 2G5, Canada

Atwater Cocktail Club is the epitome of Montreal’s cocktail renaissance—a speakeasy with a novel twist, tucked away in a back alley near Atwater Market. Step inside and you’re greeted by an emerald marble bar, velvet upholstery and an ambiance that’s as sultry as it is sophisticated. The cocktails are the stars here, each a masterful blend of tropical freshness and Mexican heat—think hibiscus, jalapeño and agave. But it’s not just about the drinks; the venue shares owners with the adjacent French brasserie Foiegwa.

Where to Shop

Image: Interior of SSENSE Showroom Montreal.
Ssense Showroom Montreal. Ssense Showroom Montreal

Ssense Showroom Montreal

418 St Sulpice St, Montreal, Quebec H2Y 2V5, Canada

Canadian luxury retailer Ssense’s Montreal showroom is as much an art installation as it is a fashion hub. With a stark layout spread over five floors, the showroom embraces a tech-forward ambiance, from iPad checkouts to appointment-only fittings. While the absence of price tags adds mystique, the real allure lies in the curated selection of eclectic fashion from established and up-and-coming brands that you can order online and try in-store.

Image: Interior of Annex Vintage.
Annex Vintage. Annex Vintage

Annex Vintage

5364 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, Quebec H2T 1S1, Canada

This well-loved vintage clothing and independent design shop in the Mile End is home to one of the largest collections of artist pins and patches in the city. The hyper-curated shop also stocks various independent Montreal gifts, trinkets and apothecary products along with a pared-down selection of retro unisex clothing, ranging from retro bomber jackets to button-down flannels.

Image: Interior of Espace Pépin.
Espace Pepin. Espace Pépin

Espace Pepin

350 Saint-Paul St W, Montreal, Quebec H2Y 2A6, Canada

In the heart of Old Montreal, Espace Pepin is a lifestyle boutique that blurs the boundaries of fashion and artful decor. Originating as artist Lysanne Pepin’s studio, the space evolved into a thoughtfully assembled store featuring European brands as well as local designs. With a second location dedicated to home décor called Maison Pepin and a coffee bar, it’s a veritable multi-sensory experience.

Image: Interior of Drawn & Quarterly.
Drawn & Quarterly.

Drawn & Quarterly

211 Rue Bernard O, Montreal, QC H2T 2K5, Canada

A haven for graphic novel enthusiasts and literary explorers alike, Drawn & Quarterly is a Mile End staple. With two outlets—one for children’s books and another for a broader range—this cozy bookstore offers everything from superhero sagas to political commentaries, all in illustrated form. It’s a vibrant space that turns casual visitors into graphic novel aficionados.

Exploring Montreal: A Guide to the City’s Historic Charms and Modern Luxuries