Top 10 To-Do’s in Montreal
Traveling breathes life into me. It’s just one of those things in life that brings me so much joy, and makes me grow and expand in ways nothing else can. This past Labor Day weekend, I went to Montreal with one of my best friends to celebrate our 30th birthdays (our birthdays are 2 and 3 months away so we got an early start! haha). If you haven’t been, it’s a little French gem of a city on the eastern side of Canada. Side note: everyone speaks English but you’ll definitely hear them speaking French often.
As my relationship to eating, moving, and my life in general has become more and more intuitive, so has my relationship to traveling. And, oh, what a phenomenal thing – I felt more relaxed and had more fun than I could have ever imagined (It helped that we were also in a very European city where everyone is very easy-going).
Alex and I literally had no plans except to eat poutine (basically fancy cheese fries) — a Canadian specialty — and French pastries. We let our moods and interests lead us the rest of the way. That’s one of the most beautiful parts about intuitive eating and movement — it is not just about food and exercise. It is about your whole life — it’s about letting go of rigidity and trying to plan every second of every day, and naming your hungers and allowing yourself to honor them. They spill over into every single area of life — including travel!
Every day, we woke up and had leisurely mornings on our hostel‘s common area, eating breakfast and drinking coffee with fellow travelers from all over the world. Then, we would talk loosely about our day’s plan and hit the streets. For the rest of my life, I hope to travel like this — letting it be fluid, adventurous and fun, instead of completely planned out and on an agenda (the way I used to try and travel).
If I try to tell you all of our stories, I would never stop writing, so I’ll share my top 10 suggestions for when you visit Montreal — of course if it’s in line with your intuition :).
1 ) Eat Poutine. Like I said, poutine was on our radar from the get-go. Alex insisted we try it (she had been there before), so we took a long walk to La Banquise — a place known for the famous dish. The menu’s a bit overwhelming — there are a million variations and toppings for the poutine — and I’m sure most of them are delicious (except for maybe the one with sliced hotdogs on top… not so sure about that one). Since it was my first time trying it, we went with the classic — it’s basically loaded cheese fries with cheese curds and some sort of amazing gravy that tastes like it came straight from heaven. We paired it with local Canadian beers and enjoyed every greasy, delicious bite.
2 ) Walk, bike or run the urban trail. The trail runs along the Lachine Canal, and is about 9 miles long. We walk/ran a portion of it, and spent much of our time walking all over Montreal. I also recommend allowing yourself to wander because there are so many different neighborhoods, each one with its own personality and vibe. And, like in most big US cities, Montreal has Bixi bike stations all over.
3 ) Hike Mount Royal. This is definitely the first urban place I’ve visited that has a little mountain in the middle of it (so cool). You start in a park and make your way up the mountain (you can take steps or dirt trails), and then you can see the entire city once you get there. I would say it takes between 30 and 45 minutes to get to the top, depending on which way you go. Fun fact: Montreal is named for Mount Royal.
4 ) Eat French pastries. Naturally, we enjoyed our fair share of pastries on the trip, since it is a French city of course! Go to this cafe, grab a ticket and wait for them to call your number (don’t be like me and be distracted by taking pictures, and miss your number being called). You really feel like you are in France here — all the guys behind the counter are wearing cute little hats and don’t speak much English. You can choose from fresh baked breads, fruit tarts, warm cookies, buttery croissants and sandwiches filled with meats, cheese and veggies. We shared a mix of savory and sweet treats — a curried chicken salad sandwich on fresh baked French bread, a chocolate croissant and a strawberry rhubarb pie. And their coffee is amazing. YUM.
5 ) Walk around the Gay Village. This was arguably my favorite part of the trip. The main photo for this blog post is an image of the main street in the Gay Village, and it was one of the most fun, colorful streets I’ve ever walked. There are drag queens walking around in the middle of the day, and people on leashes wandering the streets – just hanging out like it ain’t no thang.
6 ) Check out Bar Darling. Like the Gay Village, Bar Darling is incredibly colorful and vibrant. One of the parts of Montreal that I loved and stood out to me so much, was the abundance of plants and flowers everywhere. Almost every cafe and bar we visited or walked by seemed to be overflowing with greenery and bright beautiful flowers. I wish everywhere was like this in the world! I recommend sitting at the bar at Bar Darling, ordering a cheese plate and a glass of wine, and enjoying the ambiance.
7 ) Take a yoga class at Luna Yoga. We had the pleasure of taking two yoga classes at this charming studio right in the Old City. It just has good energy and is a beautiful space. I recommend taking a class from Bram – his class was a perfect combo of movement and relaxation. He has a lot of spiritual insight and brings that into his classes, which I always appreciate.
8 ) Try Canadian wine and/or beer. One night, we picked up ingredients for a charcuterie & salad dinner with wine. I’ve never thought of Canada as a place known for its wine, but we gave it a try and really loved this “Phenix” red. You can find it there locally — we picked it up in a butcher shop — Boucherie Grinder — in a part of the city called Griffintown.
9 ) Visit Atwater Market. This is a must — it’s a huge food market with both open-air and indoor vendors selling fruits, veggies, bakery items, cheese, meats and local Montreal chocolates (definitely grab ya some of those). We had so much fun walking around, enjoying lunch (and more pastries), and then shopping for our charcuterie dinner to have later that night.
10 ) Wander the Old City. Whether you’re staying in the historic part of Montreal or not, it’s definitely a part of the city you’ll want to spend significant time in – I recommend wandering in and out of the cafes, boutiques and churches. This is where our hostel was located, and I really did feel like I was back in Europe.
So, if you’re looking to go somewhere relatively close by (my flight from Atlanta was about 2.5 hours) but want to feel like you are really far away, Montreal’s your city. It’s a vibrant, colorful, friendly and gorgeous place to have a travel adventure.
Thanks for reading! Happy traveling.
In true health,