Who doesn’t love a good road trip?! Well, me. Usually. But when the destination is Montreal, it’s makes sitting in a car all day worth every second.
We opted out of the 4th of July festivities in the city to head upstate and eventually cross the border into Montreal. If you’ve been thinking about doing the same route, we made a few pretty awesome stops - Catskills Animal Sanctuary (like a farm but imagine if all the farm animals were more like pets!), downtown Saratoga (super cute town with lots of cafes and shops), and Lake George (imagine a beach town but… on a lake) were all great places to make a pit stop. Albany, on the other hand, was a ghost town and only worth it for this pic :)
But on to the main attraction! The first thing that shocked me about Montreal was just how French it was. Sure, everyone said it was pretty French and it is in French Canada. But I wasn’t expecting basically every sign, menu, label, banner, you name it, to be in French first and maybe English second. Every person spoke to me in French at first and then, after I made it awkward by making a weird noise before responding, spoke to me in English. It truly was as if we had travelled to Europe, not just up into our northern neighbor. The difference though was how friggin’ lovely everyone was - in France, you may not encounter a ton of people who exude warmth or overt kindness, but everyone in Montreal was much more Canadian in that sense.
We really only had a day and a half to really explore the city, so we tried to hit some good eats, the best sites, and then squeeze in whatever we could afterwards. My fave touristy hotspot was Old Montreal - the cobblestoned streets and lazy cafes felt more Parisian than anywhere else in the city. It was super cool to see that transform into the modernized parts of the city as you wandered around. My second favorite was the Gay Village - that’s right, the gays have their own village in Montreal and it’s incredible. It’s basically something like 10 blocks of pedestrian-only streets covered in LGBTQ friendly stores, bars, saunas, and restaurants. It’s the most blatantly accepting and deliberately queer space I’ve seen a not only city create but promote - and it was awesome.
We stayed at an Airbnb in a slightly more burb-y part of the city - but I use burb-y the same way I’d say Queens is burb-y. There are cute European style bar/cafes on every block corner and, even though the in between sidewalks would be quiet, each of them were overflowing with people sitting in and outside hanging out. We ended up driving most places since we rented our 🔥 Mustang convertible, but we saw lots of buses and metro stops so I’m sure public transportation is top notch too.
And of course, the fooooood. I say this about basically every trip I take, I know, but I love food and Montreal does not disappoint. We tried and hit the “iconic” spots of Montreal, so apologies if you were expecting a little more unique recommendations - BUT I will say some of the spots we went to truly earned their icon status. If you only have one day to spend in the city, I’d hit up Fairmount Bagel for breakfast to get a taste of Montreal’s famous bagels in their first bagel ever bagel bakery (no seating, so grab it and eat while you wander!), Schwartz Deli for lunch with their insanely simple yet delicious sandwich (did someone say smoked meats?!), and whenever you’re hungry for dinner, La Banquise is open 24 hours to satisfy all your poutine desires with some crazy combos - I had the La Sud-Ouest aka bacon, red onions, guacamole, onion rings & Chipotle sauce on top of your usual poutine toppings. In. Sane.
We really only spent 36 hours in this charming city but we were 100% sold. I’m already looking forward to our next trip back.
PS. if you want some more visuals and other places we stopped, I got a highlight with your name on it.