24 Hours in Montreal: Visiting the Old Port
Montreal marked my first time traveling to Canada. Mike and I made the trip towards the end of December and much to our dismay were greeted with some of the coldest temperatures on record. Despite layering clothes like we've never layered before, Canada, and Montreal specifically, did not disappoint. With its mix of urban design and old world architecture it was the perfect place to explore over a 24 hour period before driving to Quebec City for four days. We ate lots of food, chatted with incredibly nice people and learned how to survive the cold like a boss.
Get Lost in the Vieux-Port
Since our stay was so short, we focused our time in the Old Port of Montreal. This quaint area of the city is home to adorable little stores, cobblestone streets and an amazing food scene. The Old Port is a mix of North American and European culture and it’s easiest to see the charm of the area by foot. We were in Montreal in -15 degrees F and still criss-crossed our way through the small streets, stopping in local shops along the way for warmth and hot chocolate. Make sure you trek down Rue Saint Paul, especially in the winter when Christmas lights frame the street. Walking a couple blocks east will take you along the water near the Montreal Observation Wheel which runs 12 months a year: air-conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter!
We stayed overnight at Hotel St. Sulpice, a beautiful boutique hotel located in the heart of the Old Port and just a half-block walk from the architecturally stunning Basilique Notre-Dame. This church, opened in 1890, faces the busy Place d'Armes Square and is open for tours of its ornate stained glass windows and Gothic Revival architecture.
Become a Montreal Foodie
We came to Canada ready to eat one thing: poutine. Thankfully living in Chicago, we have access to a couple bars and restaurants that serve the diet-busting dish filled with french fries, gravy and cheese curds but we mentally prepared to inhale the real thing whenever we could in Canada. For dinner we stopped at L’Original, a cozy basement restaurant with a cabin theme, a bar built from a kayak and a menu that focuses around game meat. Dinner meant truffle poutine and the juiciest bison burger I’ve ever had. Heaven in my mouth.
We also made sure to stop at Tommy, a gorgeous café with large windows and plants and flowers hanging from the ceiling. This eatery is known for its breakfast dish, avocado toast. Served on a huge slab of rustic bread, the dish is divine with fresh avocado, seasoning and lemon juice. Make sure you add an egg to make it a meal.
Make a Stop for Recycled Fur
Having volunteered/worked in a zoo for 12 years of my life (fun fact alert) I can’t morally purchase real fur. I’m not on the level of a PETA activist but it’s something I’d rather not do. Plus it’s hella expensive. But recycled fur…that’s a different story. Harricana is a little shop in Montreal that buys people's old furs and restores them into new items. I went into the store ready to buy a warm hat with a big fur pompom on top. Not only did they have multiple styles and colors of wool hats, but the pompoms are interchangeable! You can customize your hat and get backup fur pompoms to swap out. Such a great idea! They also have gloves, scarves and jackets if you need any essentials to brave the winter chill outside.
Explore the Biodome
Originally built for the 1976 Olympic Games, the Montreal Bidome houses areas mimicking four different ecosystems found throughout the Americas with over 4,500 animals and countless plant types associated with each area. Everything from the rocks used to the climate in each part of the dome is a replica of a specific region of the globe, making it a world's first when it opened in 1992. Clocking in at roughly a 15 minute drive from the Old Port, it's a great day trip within Montreal and a unique take on a traditional zoo or aqaurium.
Montreal is a diverse urban city with so much to check out and experience. Even though we only had the chance to see a small portion of it, we loved the vibe and the positive attitude of everyone we encountered. Everyone was braving the cold together and still having a great time. However, after 24 hours we packed up our car and began the 3 hour drive to Quebec City.