I love traveling with my family. My boys are at that perfect age where they get along much better and are more patient with longer travels. Yes, I adore them. But every so often I crave a romantic trip alone with my husband, no kids in tow.
Only a short trip out of NYC (a 50 minute plane ride) makes Montreal a prefect romantic escape from everyday life. The city is walkable and very simple to navigate. The underground metro system makes it easy to explore the outer neighborhoods and take on different adventures than that of most tourists. The city’s bilingual presence is strong, with French being its first language, followed by English. Everyone we met easily went from one language to another making it fun to communicate with the very friendly locals we met.
We spent a lot of our time walking around Old Montreal which has a wonderful European vibe, having been influenced by both the French and English cultures that have ruled the area at one point or another in its history. The port of Montreal provides beautiful views of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which is the river gateway that stretches from the Great Lakes into the Atlantic Ocean. We enjoyed our evening strolls along the Old Port as well as taking in the many public park spaces and art displayed throughout the city. We delighted in discovering the outer neighborhoods and finding local favorites along the way.
My husband and I spent hours admiring the architecture and natural views. The cobbled streets in Old Montreal provided us with romantic moments as we ventured past the small streets filled with shops and cafes, where one could sit while enjoying a glass of wine watching the people and horse-drawn carriages passing by.
I fell in love with Montreal, and even more deeply with my husband during our time there, making it one of my favorite romantic destinations closest to home.
The following is a list of things to see and do while taking that romantic trip to this gorgeous city.
Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill offers the experience of a cool jazz bar, very much like Village Vanguard here in NYC. The feeling is laid back and relaxed, with a great selection of international jazz artists performing regularly. The decor showcases a collection of autographed photos and vintage LP covers for all to admire. The acoustics here are flawless, making the sounds of their showcase nights – which take place on Fridays and Saturdays – an experience to be had. The food is also very good, as is the service. Make sure to order their sangria, it is among the best I have tried and the wait staff is excellent in guiding you on menu selections. Located in Montreal’s college and business center it is easy to get to either by underground metro or by foot. During performance nights reservations are a must, and it is best to arrive at least an hour and a half before the show so you can enjoy your meal before the lights are dimmed. Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill is located on 1254 MacKay, Montreal, Qc, H3G 2H4 Tel: 514-931-6808.
If you want to take in jazz on a bigger scale than don’t miss the Festival International de Jazz which takes place ever summer and has been ranked as the world’s largest jazz festival by Guinness World Records where more 3,000 artists from 30 countries are represented.
The Japanese Garden at the Montreal Botanic Garden provides the feel of escape from city life into a magical place far away. With the sounds of the cascades trickling near by and the scenes and scent of the pine forest around us, we laid out a blanket and enjoyed a small picnic as we watched families and couples stroll by or rest their feet. Resting here is also a good recommendation as the area covers a lot of ground, with the Biodome and Olympic Park just a short walk away. The Montreal Tower, the tallest man-made leaning tower, will grant you access to the best views of Montreal. The sites are so breathtaking that even during our visit staff was preparing for a wedding at the top of the tower that was being held during sunset that afternoon. In addition to the garden and Olympic Park, Montreal is home to an endless selection of museums for every interest. Guests can chose to purchase 3-day museum passes (or one year passes) with or without transit. These passes provide access to the above mention attractions as well as many other museums throughout the city, 38 in total.
Brunching at Olive and Gourmando is not only delicious, but also romantic because of their story. It turns out that the owners, chef Dyan Solomon and Éric Girard met while she worked as the pastry chef at a trendy restaurant and he as sous chef in the same. They never met because of their opposite work hours, however, one day during the change of shifts, as he walked in and she walked out they saw each other and Girard was smitten. Though it took some time for the relationship to develop (something to do with each being in other relationships, and Solomon coming around a bit more slowly), they eventually fell in love. It helped their business as well, which brought to life their common dream to one day open a place that would serve quality and taste in a comfortable environment and that would incorporate both their passions in the kitchen and in life. They named it after Girard’s two cats. It is now the place to eat in Old Montreal. Awww, right? That alone merits the experience of some hand holding across the table over a bowl of latte and one of their scrumptious chocolate croissants. Olive et Gourmando is located at 351 St-Paul West, Montreal, QC H2Y 2A7 Tel: 1 (514) 350-1083
Rent a bike for two from Ça Roule Montréal (Montreal on Wheels) and experience this bike-friendly city together. You can rent a bike for an hour or a day or more, as well as a bike lock, and explore the city in the most unique way. If you would rather have a guide, tours are available offering a variety of experiences from “The City Classic” to “The City of Contrast” and “The Vista-Architecture”. Guests are provided with detailed maps indicating best bike routes as well as must see destinations. Ca Roule Montréal is located at 27 de la Commune East, Old-Montreal, Place d’Armes. Tel: 1-877-866-0633
Visiting and strolling through any one of the many public parks in Montreal makes for a beautiful moment any time of the day. But one of our favorite parks to visit was the Mount Royal Park, located north of downtown on the island. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed our beloved Central Park here in New York City. And like in NYC, this is where Montrealers go to relax or be active, both during the warm or cold months. The park offers trails that wind up to its peak at which point one has views to spectacular sights of flowers and forested areas.
Hotel Le St. James is as beautiful outside as it is inside. It exudes luxury, and when on a special romantic escape it provides the ambiance couples would want. It offers an elegant in-house restaurant, with intimate alcoves for those seeking a more private dining experience. Couples can also indulge in the services of their in-house spa, with treatments for two currently being offered through the hotel’s Amore package.
Le Place d’Armes Hotel offers romance gone chic and is located right in the center of it all, with terrace dining and bars, as well as spa services for visitors and guests to enjoy. They even offer a marriage proposal package to make that moment as special as it can be.
Right outside the hotel’s doorsteps is the Notre-Dame Basilica, a sight to behold. A tour of this incredible historical work of art is a must, as is the “And Then There was Light” show. Sitting in the Places d’Armes square is the perfect place to take in this architectural beauty, especially as you listen to the trickling water from the Paul de Chomedey monument (designed in 1895 by artist Louis-Philippe Hébert) and the sun sets.
There are so many more wonderful things that make Montreal such a romantic place. Its beauty, history and people set the tone for the perfect escape with the one you love.
Many thanks to Montreal Tourism and their partners for their generous hospitality.