Now that I’ve learned some French, I pronounce Quebec’s largest city “Monro-YAL,” no longer “Mon Tree All.” After all, it’s the second-largest, native-French speaking city in the world, right behind Paris.
Named after the iconic mountain Mount Royal, the city sprawls over the Island of Montreal.
During a 24-hour birthday visit, we wandered its cold, clean streets—and even climbed the mountain. But mostly, we ate.
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🕣 8:30P: Alep
We kick off at Alep, a Syrian-Armenian restaurant in the Saint-Michel neighborhood
The fusion is authentically Arab with serious meze, traditional Middle Eastern small plates.
The birthday girl ordered the food—filet mignon kebabs, garlicky and excellent—and I ordered a bottle of Rosso Piceno. The place is also known for its wine list.
Check out the Rosso Piceno.
🕙10P: Parc Jean Drapeau
We skip dessert and cross the Pont Jacques Cartier to Parc Jean Drapeau.
The skyline is incredible. The Molson beer factory is out there. So is Montreal’s Biosphere, a geodesic dome created for the 1967 World’s Fair.
But my nose is running, and my toes are numbing. We hurry back to the car and crank the toasty-butt seats up to full-blast.
See the Biodome in its full neon glory.
🕦11:30P: Casino Montreal
I’m not a big gambler, but I had to get in a couple hands of blackjack. Not normally afraid of a late night, we called it early, anyway. Blame it on the cold.
🕙10A: Marché Jean-Talon
Seasonally indoor-outdoor, Marché Jean-Talon is indoors in November.
It’s a vegetarian’s Garden of Eden, but a carnivore carnival, too.
Figs, for sure. Apples, absolutely. Pears, plenty. Tomatoes, all colors. Meat purveyors dot the interior with specific cuts. We saw cheeses, pastries, you name it.
Expect crowds on the weekends, a mob-scene when the weather is nice.
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🕥10:30A: Caffé Italia
Located in Montreal’s Little Italy, Caffé Italia is must-visit for coffee drinkers.
I ordered an espresso made from a machine practically the size of a smart car. The barista sounded like he came straight from Lombardy last week (I didn’t ask).
The coffee tasted like Lavazza, a fine grind, and one of my top choices for caffeination, next to Cuban coffee and what’s coming out of Kona.
🕚11A: Bistro L’Enchanteur
When locals fill a restaurant, that’s a good sign.
This charming corner spot in Villeray is a good place to score local art, too. Check out the walls for what’s new.
I had the Assiette Bucheron or Lumberjack Plate. Eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, toast, crepes, fruit, paté—so, appropriately named.
Check the local breakfast vibe in Montreal.
The most efficient way to travel within Montreal, especially when the roads are covered in snow is the Metro.
It’s impressively clean, especially coming from New York, and the stations support lots of recycling.
The train cars have rubber tires, too, for a smoother, quieter ride than most cities.
🕜1:30P: Old Port
A port from the early 1600’s until 1976, this 2-kilometer stretch along the St. Lawrence River is still clad with cobblestone streets and stone buildings with copper roofs.
We walked off breakfast past the Montreal Science Centre, around the Old Montreal Ferris Wheel, and over to the Clock Tower.
Our technical destination was McGill University, an 80-acre campus bequeathed in 1821 by Scottish fur trader, James McGill.
But, first, oysters. At a buck a pop, and small, sweet, then briny, a worthwhile stop.
🕟4:30P: Mount Royal
The only reason it wasn’t pitch black when we reached the top of Mount Royal were the 400 steps helping us.
Even with the steps, I would have called the top “the summit,” but it’s not that kind of mountain. More of a hill, allegedly.
Although 400 steps later, it feels like a mountain—especially with the steep parts and icy waterfalls along the way.
The view is fuh-queen amazing (use your imagination; I have quite the tongue and have reined it in thus far).
The descent was only a bit easier. There are no lights lining the stairs or paths.
See sweeping nighttime skyline views of Montreal from Mount Royal.
🕠5:30P: Schwartz’s Deli
Y’ever been to Katz’s in New York? This is Montreal’s answer.
By this point, we were soaked in sweat from our hike. My backpack felt like it quadrupled in weight. I was definitely limping.
The food went down fast before a bus ride across town to regroup before birthday dinner.
🕣8:30P: Les Enfantes Terrible
A shower, a fresh pair of shoes, and we were out the door.
Featuring local distilleries at the bar, Les Enfantes Terribles is the highest up in town, perched on the 44th floor of Place Ville Marie.
Exhausted, but happy, we settled into burgers to wind down a magnificent birthday.