Don’t be fooled. Despite its Old World architecture, cobblestone streets, and century-old facades, Montréal is a bustling hub of culture, design, art, food… the list goes on. Only a train ride away from New York City (and a gorgeous one at that), Montréal also happens to be the second largest French-speaking city in the world! Due to the intriguing juxtaposition of old and new world, Montréal has its own romantic charm that distinguishes it from Paris and any other city, at that. Get a glimpse of that certain je ne sais quoi that both residents and visitors alike describe when visiting this glittering metropolis.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Gault: This boutique hotel focuses on creating a design-oriented experience with outstanding customer service. Choose from four different atmospheres to suit your tastes — maybe you prefer an airy loft, a generous suite, a room with a terrace view, or a cozy apartment that’s like home. Of course you can’t miss snapping a picture in their lounge, with the statement sofa designed by Francesco Binfaré.
Hotel St. Paul: Luxurious jewel-toned tufted sofas, opulent facades, and even a decadent Black Suite, this hotel is a perfect example of Old World architecture merged with modern day design. For those who seek an experiential stay in a hotel, then the St. Paul is for you.
Hotel Chez Swann: For those who desire a more out-of-the-box experience, the Hotel Chez Swann is a hotel, art gallery, and a show at the same time. Steering away from the typical, this hotel is a flurry of color, art, texture, and light. None of the 23 rooms in the hotel are the same. Each room has furnishings commissioned from different local artisans, immersing the guest in the full Montréal experience.
WHERE TO PLAY
The Biosphere: The only museum of its kind in North America. Having survived through an epic ice storm and raging fire, this steel and acrylic dome was designed by architect Buckminster Fuller. Take a stroll inside to see its green roofs, indoor garden, and wind turbines, keeping it a truly green building. It also has different technology and multisensory installations rotating through the museum.
Au Sommet Place Ville Marie: Get a sweeping 360 degree view of the Montreal Skyline from the observation deck at Au Sommet Place Ville Mari. Then, enjoy the rooftop garden on the 44th floor, or head to the photography gallery on the 46th floor. Either way, you’ll get epic views that span the entire city. Place Ville Marie was designed by I.M. Pei (designer of the Louvre Pyramid) along with Henry N. Cobb.
The Village at Pied-du-Courant: The Village of Pied-du-Courant is a space built for the people, by the people. It is meant to be a gathering spot of sorts — where residents and tourists alike can come to enjoy the true spirit of Montréal. It is also a platform for emerging local artists and creatives to share their work. Large geometric pyramids, recycled wood furniture, sandboxes and colorful shipping containers keep the boardwalk interesting for people of all ages and backgrounds.
Never Apart: Familiarize yourself with established and emerging artists at Never Apart, an art and cultural hub. Whether it’s music, art installations, panel discussions or workshops, Never Apart aims to bring about “social change and spiritual awareness” through different mediums in its creative space.
Arsenal: This edgy industrial space in the Griffintown district of Montréal highlights contemporary local and international artists. With looming ceilings of steel and concrete, the space is large enough to even hold its own sculpture gardens and interactive installations. A must-visit for anyone who is interested in contemporary art.
The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal: The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) brings together modern art from artists around the world in one space. Founded by the Québec government, its mission is to create unexpected and fresh new experiences to visitors. From avant-garde artistic performances to educational events, the MAC is non-stop contemporary art inspiration.
Palais des congrès de Montréal: The Palais is an environmentally-friendly venue with a colorfully bold facade that’s recognizable immediately. When the light hits the colored glass walls, it immediately creates a striking kaleidoscope effect in its shadows unlike any other. The interior houses an ultra-modern space with cutting edge technology, making it perfect for digital art installations and any other similar event. It was originally designed by architect Victor Prus, then updated by several architectural firms under the supervision of Mario Saia.
WHERE TO SHOP
Philippe Dubuc: Though mostly focused on menswear, the beloved Québec designer has also dabbled in the performing arts, jewelry, and even food. His eponymous store features a minimal black and white palette with flashes of bold yellow. It looks more like an art gallery than a menswear store.
Frank + Oak: With a massive space of over 5,000 square feet, the Frank + Oak flagship store is full service — with a cafe, barber shop, bar and event space along with their retail space. What differentiates Frank + Oak is that they’re all about personalization and customer service, where stylists are available in person, or online 24-7. They aim to bridge the gap between online and offline, by streamlining the shopping process as much as possible.
Lambert et Fils: We’ve featured Lambert et Fils’ sculptural lighting here before, so it’s no surprise that their showroom is on our city guide. See their architectural lighting in all its glory at their showroom that’s perfectly close to Little Italy and Mile-Ex, the hip neighborhood of Montréal.
Want Apothecary: Parquet flooring, ample natural light, and matte black accents mark Want Apothecary as the place to find a carefully edited collection of style and beauty products. Rather than buying into trends, the brand aims to bring quality, timeless products to their shoppers.
Anywhere we missed? Tell us in the comments below.