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Montréal Itinerary: A Laid-Back Weekend in Montréal

Leah Fishman

Vermont, USA

Famous for its electric vibe and alluring nightlife, there are hundreds of things to do in Montréal after dark: mad Montréal events, music festivals, swanky bars, sexy cabaret shows, and vintage thrift stores. But where do you go if you just want to laze about, sunbathe in a park, see some art, soak in a hot pool, and eat your weight in vegan comfort food? From cozy brunch spots to serene floating spas, we vetted hundreds of destinations to find the chillest escapes. So, check into your Airbnb, comfy up, and get ready to enjoy a perfect laid-back weekend Montréal itinerary:

Montréal Itinerary: Friday

6pm | Pit stop at The Dumpling Hut

The Dumpling Hut, Montréal, Quebec, Canada.
The Dumpling Hut, Montréal, Quebec, Canada.

Ring in the weekend with a quick stop at one of city’s best kept secrets. Hole-in-the-wall spots like The Dumpling Hut are home to some of the city’s best eats, without a huge scene. Hidden behind minimal signage and a bland brick exterior, you’ll sneak in the front door and be greeted by the hostess, who, by the way, is also your waitress. Veggie lovers: order the Cabbage Mushroom plate ($10.99)— or the Zucchini Tofu ($10.99) if you eat egg — and you’ll be dished up a fresh hot bowl of 15 handmade dumplings within minutes. Fill up, stash a few in your bag for the end of the night, and then head off southeast down Saint Urbain St. Exploring the city by foot, you’ll pass by the growing noise surrounding the Quartier des Spectacles and Saint-Catherine Street. Don’t worry, we’ll loop back later.

8pm | Light show at Basilique de Notre Dame

Aura at Basilique de Notre Dame, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Credit: Aura Basilique
Aura at Basilique de Notre Dame, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Credit: Aura Basilique

Montréal’s oldest Catholic church, Basilique de Notre Dame, was built in 1818 and is home to intricately designed stained glass that tells the history of the city. But you here on a Friday night? Because you booked tickets to Aura Basilique Montréal: a trippy and immersive light and sound experience that guides you through the church’s grandiose architecture and history. Locals may be ambivalent about show and its price of admission ($28), but, its honestly one of the best things to do if you’re looking for a chill night out. The show is short (about 40 minutes, with a quick intermission and location change), which makes it the perfect layover between dinner and drinks.

10pm | Bespoke Cocktails at Cloakroom

The Cloakroom Bar, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Credit: The Cloakroom
The Cloakroom Bar, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Credit: The Cloakroom

From the Basilique de Notre Dame, it’s a 30 minute walk to drinks. Seem far? Maybe, and if you get desperate, you’ll pass by plenty of Montréal’s best weekend watering holes (Brutopia and ​Taverne Dominion Square) along the way. You can grab a quick beer, but but make sure to save some energy for Cloakroom Bar: Montréal’s cocktail crown jewel. Tucked behind a 19th century facade in Montréal’s Golden Square Mile sits a tiny speakeasy, concealed behind The Cloakroom — a tailored menswear shop—and The Cloakroom Barber. Stand outside until a server comes to get you. Follow their lead down a dark hallway with twinkling lights. Shimmy into a warm, intimate room with about 25 seats. A welcome shot will be served (on the house). And then the fun begins. At Cloakroom, there’s no menu: each drink is bespoke, made to your taste, yet highlights their range of fine spirits, liqueurs, house made tinctures, fresh produce, hand-shaved ice, and champagnes. Refreshing? Dry? Fruity? Gin-based? Your bartender will guide you through a series of questions, just like your favorite choose-your-own-adventure book, but way more grown up.

Montréal Itinerary: Saturday

9am | Quick bites and coffee at Tommy Montréal

Tommy St-Paul, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Credit: Tommy
Tommy St-Paul, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Credit: Tommy

Instagram aesthetic meets comfort at this neighborhood coffee shop and bar. One of two locations in Montréal, Tommy on Saint-Paul‘s weekend menu features the best of brunch. Try the Avotoast ($9) as a starter, followed by a bowl of When Life Gives You Lemons… ($8), an overnight chia pudding with lemon, coconut, maple syrup and pistachios. Nearby, the Grand Quai du Port de Montréal offers sunny and bright free public space with fantastic views of the river and the city.  If you have time before your next stop, sneak up to the Promenade d’Iberville: a giant living roof with wooden terraces and more than 20,000 live flowers, plants and herbs.

10am | Bota Bota Spa

Bota Bota, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Credit: @botabotamtl
Bota Bota, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Credit: @botabotamtl

Just a 7 minute walk from Tommy is Bota Bota. Permanently docked on the St. Lawrence river, this 170-foot former-ferryboat-turned-spa (what?) was built in the 1950s and now features four Scandinavian-style decks and a ground floor garden, designed with deep rejuvenation and relaxation in mind. 18 luxury rooms and cabanas are available for massages and treatments, but if private pampering isn’t your thing, you’ve come to the right spot. You can spend a full day at Bota Bota’s four-deck Water Circuit— the spa’s multi-level hot and cold pool experience— but the 3-hour Layover water circuit is perfect for those on a budget and crunched for time. Bota Bota supplies a locker, towel and robe, but don’t forget to bring a clean swimsuit and flip flops (otherwise they’ll make you buy them with the circuit pass). 

3 pm | Stroll through MAC

The Musée d'Art Contemporain de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Credit: @macmontreal
The Musée d'Art Contemporain de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Credit: @macmontreal

Located in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles, Musé d’art Contemporain (MAC) is Canada’s first museum dedicated just to contemporary art. This eight room musé is home to four permanent collections and four temporary exhibits—like Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto: a thirteen-channel immersive video installation featuring Cate Blanchette— and features a blend of local artists, international events, creative workshops, and outdoor installations. Three hours is plenty of time for a casual first visit (MAC Montréal is open to 6pm on weekends), and admission is $10 per visitor.

8pm | Fuel up at LOV

LOV McGill, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Credit: LOV
LOV McGill, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Credit: LOV

This fast-fine restaurant is chic, healthy, and also happens to be totally vegan. LOV McGill—which stands for local, organic, and vegan— offers tasty and responsible cuisine that is good for you and the planet. Start with a LOV cocktail. If you like gin, The Botanist is a perfect mix of cucumber, lime, coriander, ginger, and portage gin ($12). Organic beer and organic wine is also available by the glass or bottle. For dinner, the Truffles & “Caviar,” ($16) made from tapioca pearls, is a standout, followed closely by the Mushroom Risotto ($18). If you’re visiting on a busy night, like a Saturday, make a reservation in advance to guarantee your spot at the table.

Montréal Itinerary: Sunday

9am | Breakfast bagel at La Fabrique de Bagel

La Fabrique de Bagel de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Credit: La Fabrique de Bagel
La Fabrique de Bagel de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Credit: La Fabrique de Bagel

No weekend in Montréal itinerary is complete until you’re introduced to the heart of the city’s culture and cuisine (cue drumroll please): the Montréal-style bagel. The Montréal-style bagel is distinctive, handmade and wood-fired. In contrast to the New York Style Bagel, the Montréal bagel is smaller, thinner, sweeter and denser. There are entire articles devoted to arguing why Montréal makes a superior bagel, but we’ll leave that fight to the experts and simply say this: a trip to Montréal is not complete with out a bagel and some schmear. If you’re bagel-obsessed, St-Viateur Bagel Shop and Fairmount Bagel are, hands down, the best spots in the city for an authentic experience. Both sell bagels fresh, 24 hours a day, and are located just a few blocks apart in the Mile End. If you prefer to stay closer to your home base in Old Port/Ville Marie, La Fabrique de Bagel is easy, local and personal fave.

11am | Uber to Montréal Botanical Garden

Montreal Botanical Garden, Montréal, Quebec, Canada.

To finish the weekend, hop in an Uber and take a quick 15 minute drive to the Montréal Botanical Garden: a magnificent 190 acres of thematic gardens and greenhouses just outside the heart of the city. This space is so impressive, in fact, that in 2008 it was designated a National Historical Site of Canada. Pay $21 for the day ($36 if you want to visit the Montréal Insectarium next door — recommend!) and set off winding through the garden’s themed greenhouses. Outside, find the cultural gardens. If you visit September-October, see the property set aglow while celebrating one of the best Montréal events: Gardens of Light, a massive and bright paper lantern exhibit that lights up the Chinese, Japanese and First Nations exhibits.

Where to Stay in Montréal

Auberge Saint-Paul Hostel

Auberge Saint-Paul Hostel, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Credit: Auberge Saint-Paul Hostel

Ideally located in the heart of Montréal’s Old Port, the Auberge Saint-Paul Hostel provides a warm welcome, comfortable rooms and a cozy family atmosphere – at a completely affordable price. Average cost per night: $30 CAD (shared room); $70 CAD (single).

Airbnb Montréal

Historic 1800s Loft, Old Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Credit: Airbnb

From Insta-worthy apartments to NYC-style lofts and OTT penthouse suites, Airbnb Montréal offers unique — and totally affordable— alternatives to your standard hotel stay. Average cost per night: $90

LHotel Montréal

LHotel Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Credit: LHotel Montréal

LHotel Montréal‘s motto is “dare to be different,” a motto that’s highlighted in their bold art — from Robert Indiana’s “LOVE” sculpture out front to pieces by Andy Warhol and Marc Chagall in the interior. Average cost per night: $200 CAD.