Montreal: A Must

by Marika Flatt on March 6, 2024 in Travels,

Experience a taste of Europe just across the Canadian border.


I’ve wanted to see Montreal for a dozen years, since my best friend visited for a few days before meeting up with me in Maine. She reported back on the city’s architecture, energy, and spice! It is cosmopolitan while also showcasing history. It is hip and vibrant while also an homage to the French Canadian culture that reverberates throughout the city.

The US dollar is doing very well in Canada right now, which makes it a perfect time to travel there.

It’s commonplace for the locals to talk about the “island of Montreal.” That is because there are waterways that surround the city, separating it from other parts of the province of Quebec. Visitors will find festivals all throughout the year such as jazz fest and lasso festival featuring country music.

For a Good Lie In

Created in 2018, Monville Hotel boasts abundant windows providing panoramic city views, combining modern tech, eco-friendly practices, and attentive service in a friendly setting. Photo courtesy Hotel Monville.

Hotel Monville is an ideal place to stay, geographically centered, close to most of the areas that you will want to explore in this very walkable metropolis. It’s considered modern with its hip lobby, a robot who will deliver warm slippers to your room, and its modular type rooms. We found the space perfectly sized, extremely comfortable, and right in the heart of the action.

Hotel Monville’s sunlit lobby features a striking architectural design, boasting natural light illuminating its modern elegance. Photo courtesy Hotel Monville

Take the elevator downstairs to enjoy a delicious and hearty breakfast in the sunlit lobby restaurant. Enjoy something as light as a tray of croissants and other breakfast breads, or the very large avocado toast entrée that comes with a side salad, a fried soft boiled egg, yogurt and granola, and a bowl of fresh fruit.

The restaurant features the lobby bar that opens for craft beer, local wines and beautiful cocktails at 5 p.m. (most bars around town don’t open until 5 p.m.)

My Top 2 Activities You Must Experience:

Dive into a world of wellness with special events, workshops, and activities aboard the floating oasis of Bota Bota. Photo courtesy Pierre Jarry on Unsplash.

Since 2010, this former riverboat has been transformed into a decadent spa. Sitting on the St. Lawrence River, treat yourself to the hydrotherapy circuit. You’ll be allowed three hours so use it wisely and be strategic. I recommend starting on the second floor to enjoy the outdoor “garden” which features a little bit of all the great stuff: heated pools with a waterfall massage, a cold plunge, dry sauna (176 degrees F!), a steam room, a cozy room with fur coated adirondack chairs, and a “bunk room” with beds ideally suited for a nap. Hydrotherapy circuit prices range from $44-$52 depending on time of day and year.

Bask in the rejuvenating warmth of Bota Bota’s sauna, where tranquil views of the St. Lawrence River complement the soothing heat for a truly relaxing experience. Photo courtesy Thibault Carron.

Another strategy starts at the top, on the fourth floor, with a dry sauna, then the quick cold plunge, followed by the outdoor hot tub, then relaxation in one of the many relaxation areas such as a hammock on the third floor (as you make your way down).

Savor serene river views while enjoying delicious treats at Bota Bota’s café. Photo courtesy Thibault Carron.

Extend your visit to enjoy lunch in their cafe with a glass of wine. The lunch menu features small, healthy plates, or you can choose the heartier cheese-covered creste di galli pasta, which hit the spot after a morning of relaxation.

Explore the vibrant surroundings of Bota Bota, where the historic Old Port of Montreal and bustling city life provide endless opportunities for adventure and relaxation. Photo courtesy Thibault Carron.

When you leave, you’ll be down on the riverbank, and you can enjoy Old Montreal in this very walkable city. Do not miss Saint Paul Street, the oldest street in Montreal, which is home to many art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and cafés. The store fronts are decorated and make it a nice stroll.

Uncover the history of Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica, admiring its stunning neo-Gothic architecture and intricate interior decor as you explore at your own pace. Photo courtesy Moment Factory.

Montreal is known as “the city of 100 steeples” due to their early Catholic influence. Today, some of the most beautiful structures in the city are Catholic churches, such as St. Patrick’s, and of course, the famous Notre Dame Basilica. Since 2017, the Aura light show has been dazzling guests in the Basilica. Do not miss this. It is one of the most beautiful displays I have ever seen. A local Montreal company called Moment Factory created this stunning display of light in the gorgeous cathedral. It’s hard to put into words. The show lasts approximately 25 minutes and is well worth the fee. Adult tickets are $35, however they offer group, family, children and youth discounts. Buy tickets here.

Foodie Finds

Le Central

Le Central boasts a lively atmosphere with live music performances, making it the perfect spot to enjoy delicious food while soaking in the city’s electric energy. Photo courtesy Le Central

A short walk from the hotel, enjoy this food court featuring a variety of different cuisines. Whether you’re in the mood for pizza, sushi, or an elevated lobster poutine, this is a great option for everyone to be able to get the food of their choice. Don’t miss Kaviar wine bar at the front, which overlooks the bustling street and nearby square. Here, you’ll find some of the best wines from all over the world in a vibrant setting.

Bar George

Embrace tradition with Bar George’s 140-year-old history, where warmth, wit, and eccentricity abound. Photo courtesy Oliver Bonacini.

Only about a 25-minute walk from the hotel, this weekend brunch in a restored mansion is not to be missed. From the cozy seating to the beautiful vintage china plates and the exceptional customer service, this was a stand-out meal. Be impressed by their lobster omelet, cooked to absolute perfection, or venture off the typical avocado toast, and try their Matane shrimp toast, which resembles a shrimp and egg salad on top of a brioche bread with the thickness of a pound cake. The avocado purée and fresh cucumber really accentuate this dish. The ambiance features stained glass from Austria, depicting scenes from Shakespeare plays.


Rosélys’ cuisine harmoniously blends French sophistication with English influences. Photo courtesy Rosélys.

Also, an easy walk from the hotel, Rosélys is actually inside the Fairmont hotel downtown. I absolutely enjoyed the dimmed lighting and quiet atmosphere with a music overlay. The seasonal truffle cream soup was the ideal prelude to the ricotta ravioli with pan fried porcini mushroom. On a cold night, this was absolutely perfect paired with a lovely red wine. Top it off with the caramel trilogy.


Prime beef, meeting the highest standards from farm to slaughter, stands out as the superior choice, with only 2% of cattle graded Prime, attesting to the exceptional quality of Moishes. Photo courtesy Grandio Group.

A steakhouse that’s been around Montreal for over 80 years is an example of historic preservation in the culinary sense. Started by a Jewish immigrant, and still featuring some of the original offerings, such as dill pickles and slaw served with the bread before the meal, the new restaurant, which is only about a five minute walk from the hotel, is the epitome of cultured steakhouse.

Jean Talon Market

Amidst an atmosphere infused with the fragrance of flowers, herbs, and market aromas, you can leisurely wander through the diverse outdoor aisles, meeting local producers and merchants along the way. Photo courtesy Thomas Lardeau on Unsplash.

From the Hotel Monville, walk just one block to the Place D’Armes metro stop and take the orange line to the Jean Talon Market. Here is where local farmers will bring their seasonal veggies, dried meats, spices, and flowers. Make plans to have lunch at Patati Patata (so fun to say!) and indulge in classic poutine with a cold local Pilsner.

Montréal en lumière Festival

Montreal’s Lumiere Festival is one of the largest winter festivals in the world. Photo courtesy Victor Diaz Lamich.

Strategically designed to happen during the more quiet winter months, this festival of lights celebrates 25 years. In winter, it serves to bring tourists and locals downtown to the restaurants, concert halls and outdoor spaces to enjoy culinary, music, and outdoors. It highlights a wide display of cuisines found in Montreal at all different price points. 53 restaurants participate in this year‘s festival that runs from February 22 to March 10.

Fun Facts:

  • Low season runs January through March.
  • Ice-skating is a popular activity for locals and can be enjoyed November through April in the downtown rink.
  • Montreal receives 11 million visitors per year.
  • It is named the second safest city in the world.
  • Due to its affordability, food and festivals, it is a popular bucket list destination.
  • 80% of the world’s maple syrup comes from Quebec, with 20% coming from Vermont.
  • Montreal was the location of the Olympics in 1976 and the World’s Fair in 1967.
  • Texans will enjoy direct flights from Houston and Dallas.
  • Montreal is home to the contemporary circus, including Cirque du Soleil and they have a circus school.
  • Cultures that founded Montreal include Irish, French, British, Scottish and the Indigenous peoples.
The Montreal flag features the fleur-de-lis for the French, the rose for the English, the thistle for the Scottish, the shamrock for the Irish, and the White Pine for the Indigenous people. These symbols showcase Montreal’s rich cultural diversity and heritage. Photo courtesy grebeshkovmaxim.
TLM’s Travel Editor Marika Flatt. Courtesy photo.


Photo courtesy Michael Descharles on Unsplash

Marika Flatt, Outstanding Austin Communicator 2021, is the Travel Editor of Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She began her travel writing career in 2002, and can be seen as a contributor on TV shows across Texas, such as KVUE, Daytime (FOX), San Antonio Living, Good Morning Texas, and KXAN!  Marika spent five years as the voice of the “Weekend Trip Tip” on NPR’s Texas Standard pre-Covid. She enjoyed practicing her limited French in MTL: bonjour, bonsoir, merci, si vous plaît.