Thursday, February 8, 2018

Winter Weekend in Montreal

winter weekend in Montreal
Travelling no matter what the season can be challenging, but travelling in the winter is particularly fun. Yes, fun!

With flight delays, snow fall and unpredictable circumstances brings excitement, adventure and fun.

Montreal has been our winter destination of choice for the past 10 years - it all started because of the Montreal Canadiens and the Mr’s love for the game of hockey, but has continued year after year as our little getaway. Thinking back, we always talk about one of the very first trips walking through the narrow European style streets in Old Montreal, freezing our butts off in our fashionable, but not warm attire, and how we discovered so many new places by trying to take shelter from the cold. 

We still walk around in the cold weather no matter each year, but ever since that experience, we dress for the weather!

Over the past ten years we have tried countless restaurants, pubs, coffee shops, etc. so trying to name them all would be impossible. For today, I am going to walk you through where we ate, where we stayed, and what we did while visiting Montreal in January 2018. Be sure to read to the end of this post for links to some of my favorite "go to" restaurants and my "go to" hotels to make sure you have lots of options when planning your next trip to the city.

We flew in Friday evening and didn't have much planned other than going for dinner. Arriving Friday night gives us the chance to have a "date night" since we typically pack the rest of the weekend with activities. We had (for once) planned ahead and knew where we wanted to go, but we waited until we landed in Montreal to actually make a reservation. I used Opentable.com for both reservations I made during the weekend and I highly recommend it - it makes making a reservation as simple and convenient as possible.

After checking in at Hotel Le Crystal we went to Le Balsam Inn for dinner. I had never been before and so was pretty anxious to give it a try.

The atmosphere was quaint but with sophistication. The details in the decor including the walls, the chevron wood floors etc. made the ambiance really quite special. It didn't hurt that the food was also extremely good.

Oh, and to top it off, the wine list was one of the better wine lists I've seen at a reasonably prices restaurant. They even had two selections of my favourite French white wine (Sancerre)! What a treat!

Saturday morning we woke up to 20+ cm of snowfall which transformed the city into a winer wonderland.
winter weekend in montreal

But now that we are older and wiser we were dressed appropriately for the weather. The snow wasn't going to hold us back. Here's how our day went...
winter weekend in montreal

Eggspectation for Breakfast - where we spotted Jack Edwards, play by play announcer for the Bruins and had a big breakfast to keep us going for the majority of the day. Eggspectation is a chain similar to Chez Cora, I like it because I know what to expect, the staff is always friendly and they don't mind if you hang out and use the wifi for as long as you want (I have literally spent hours here on business trips waiting for hotel rooms to be ready or between meetings).
winter weekend in montreal

Shopping on St. Catherine Street - whether you have lots of shopping to do or no shopping to do St. Catherine street shopping is a must for me when we are in the city. Shops I always go to (not available at home) include Maison Simons, Lululemon AthleticaSteve Madden and Browns.

McLean’s Irish Pub for a Break - Lunch break on occasion, but on this trip we didn't have a lot of shopping to do, so we took the opportunity to enjoy hanging out in McLean's for a bit and enjoying a few beverages before heading back to the hotel. McLean's is a great pub to watch a sporting event, get lunch and is a fun spot later in the evening too.
winter weekend in montreal

We are huge sports fans so often when we travel to a city with a professional sports team we try to take in a game. When we go to Montreal in the winter you can be sure we are going to a Montreal Canadiens game! I have to say that as a girl, one of the best parts of going to a game is not worrying about what you are going to wear to go out on the town afterwards... it's a standard hockey jersey, red lipstick and touque kinda night!
winter weekend in montreal

1909 Taverne Moderne - Having dinner close to the Bell Centre, especially for winter games is critical... after all, if you're like me you are a crazy Canadian running around in the middle of winter with only a sweater and an oversized hockey jersey on! 1909 is a new restaurant located IN the Bell Centre. Not only does it have the largest screen in Canada, but the bathrooms are super cool and well designed (a little confusing to enter though...you'll see what I mean). The best part about this place is that you can make reservations, even on game day!

The rest of the night was...well I can't tell you about everything that happened that weekend, but I can tell you the Habs lost in a shootout making it a pretty exciting game!
winter weekend in montreal

We saved Sunday for our "tourist day". No shopping, no sporting events, just being tourists in the city we both love.

Knowing that we would be flying out later that evening we took full advantage of the hotel before we had to check out. We spent the morning lounging in the hotel room, enjoying the roof top hot tub and just relaxing which we so rarely do just the two of us.
Winter Weekend in Montreal

We enjoyed the morning thoroughly but as two people who are used to being on the go all the time we were excited for the day ahead.

Cora's for Brunch - Cora's is located right around the corner from Hotel Le Crystal which was ideal since it was an extremely cold day (-18 degrees Celsius without the wind chill!). The Mr. ordered eggs benedict, as he normally does, but made it a point to mention that he enjoyed it much more than the eggs benedict he had the day before. So keep that in mind when searching for the "best" eggs benedict downtown Montreal.

La Grande Roue de Montreal - When I learned there was a new ferris wheel with heated cabins in Old Montreal I knew it would make our list of things to do for this winter weekend in Montreal! I wrote an entire blog post about our experience so if you're headed to Montreal be sure to check out this post and add this attraction to your itinerary.
Winter Weekend in Montreal

Coffee Shops & Walking Routes - As I mentioned it was an extremely cold day, but that's part of the fun when travelling in the winter. We took new routes through buildings for moments of warmth, used some of the underground tunnels and walked through the colorful Palais des congres.
Winter Weekend in Montreal
For us, these are the parts of weekends away you can't plan - taking in the full winter experience, warming up at a coffee shop and reminiscing about that trip 10 years ago when we were younger, more fashionable and frozen. They are also the moments that create memories that last a lifetime. If I can be so bold as to offer one piece of advice when travelling is to do little things you don't normally do at home and enjoy them to the fullest. I NEVER sit in a coffee shop at home or walk around half-frozen for that matter, but in Montreal I do it almost every single trip.

Archibald Restaurant - Last but not least we decided dinner at the airport made the most sense and after all the Montreal airport has some pretty good options since the recent renovations. I opted for a smoked meat pizza since I hadn't had smoked meat during the trip up until this point and let me tell you it was amazing! I have ordered it again at the same restaurant since this trip on a layover in the Montreal airport - in my books it's now a must try when you're flying to/from or through Montreal.
Smoked Meat Pizza

Montreal is such a fabulous city and there are so many options of what to do while visiting - what are your favorite things to do in the city? Do you have any "go to" restaurants? I hope you enjoyed hearing about our winter weekend getaway and I'd love to hear from you to try some of your favorites on my next trip!

My shoes for that: UGG Adirondack Tall Boots
UGG Boots

As promised, here are all of my "go to" restaurants and hotels in Montreal:

My "go to" Restaurants
These are the places we go when we're not sure where to go. we have eaten at all of these places multiple times and they are all consistently good, hence why they are on my "go to" list.

Vargas Steakhouse & Sushi - order the sushi platter, you won't regret it!
Gibby's - a classic Montreal restaurant
W & G - Italian food at its best with a super fun atmosphere. This place is great if you're travelling with a group as well.
Holder - the Mr loves the calamari here (he has ordered it as an appetizer and as a dessert before, lol)
Schwartz - In my opinion there is nowhere else to get a smoked meat sandwich in Montreal. You have to go here for lunch at least once in your life!
Beautys - a historic restaurant with as much charm as the name suggests.
Burger Bar Crescent - don't overthink this place, just order a burger.

My "go to" Hotels
Tried, tested and true... these are always the first hotels I look up when I know I'll be traveling to Montreal, hence why they are my "go to" hotels.

Marriott Chateau Champlain - This hotel is literally my home away from home. I have stayed here countless times for a variety of reasons, it really deserves its own post!
Marriott Residence Inn - Free breakfast, a kitchenette and located right next to St. Catherine Street. If you're planning to do a lot of shopping, this hotel is located perfectly to drop off bags and keep the shopping going.

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