Pitusa’s Packs // Montreal
Montreal gets a bit of an unfair reputation for being the ultimate frigid city in North America. People seem to even think it’s freezing year-round, and whilst we would like to keep Canada’s best kept secret under wraps, we just have to break it to you: Montreal is the absolute best. Once the winter cold thaws a bit, the city comes alive, the patios at restaurants and bars fill up and the parks are dotted with sun-worshippers playing beach volleyball, bocce ball and enjoying picnics. Montreal is a quintessential eating city, with its eclectic mix of cuisine from all over the world, the list is long, but there are a few spots not to be missed.
Really, you’ll need multiple trips to enjoy all the city has to offer in terms of food but we’ve rounded up some of the best for a mini-break. There are also some fantastic museums, like the Musée Des Beaux Arts, great bars, the Just For Laughs comedy festival in July and the Montreal Jazz Festival in June – all worth taking a trip to the true North. Plus, you’ll feel like you’re in Europe with the bilingual flex Québec is on and the architecture of the 375 year-old island-city.
With crowd pleasers like a Shakshouka with Challah Breadcrumbs (are you joking?!), Challah French Toast and Cottage Cheese Pancakes, plus an inventive but comforting weekday menu, Arthur’s is a new-ish Montreal fave and definitely an important stop on what is bound to be a delightful food tour (if you stick with us).
Hof Kelsten serves the best croissants, pain au chocolats and apple turnovers this side of Paris, and they have a chocolate babka that is positively sinful. Everything is so addictive that you may find yourself dreaming of their delectable fare long after you leave Montreal, and you’ll be beckoned back again and again. They also serve a brunch on the weekends – their French toast is the dish to order – you won’t be sorry.
With its light and airy interior and beautifully crafted salads and sandwiches, Le Butterblume is the perfect place to stop off for lunch. They have a shop attached to the café, which is a good place to pick up gifts.
Dépanneur Le Pick Up
This vegetarian friendly café serves incredible sandwiches and pastries – they do a Grilled Halloumi sandwich for the vegetarian in your life and a Pulled Pork sandwich for the meat lover. Be sure to get a side of potatoes and a cookie (for the road).
This restaurant is little pricey, but it’s one of the best restaurants in Montreal—nae, the world, it is notable David Chang’s—of Momofuku fame—favorite restaurant. Everything is locally sourced and they even grow some of their veggies at the back of the restaurant—and the lobster spaghetti is out of this world. Its sister restaurant, Le Vin Papillon, is more veggie friendly whilst remaining extremely adventurous with its own menu items. If you can’t get into one, try the other – and prepare to be wowed.
Designed by Toronto restaurateur Jen Agg and co-owned by one of the many, many members of Arcade Fire, this restaurant and bar has the most delicious Haitian food and inventive cocktails. Go early and stay late—it can be difficult to get in sometimes because it fills up so quickly. The vibes are very much Caribbean tropical island meets city-chic – every server looks like they stepped off a Paris catwalk and the food is hearty and delicious, get the fried plantains and accra fritters.
This bar is housed in an old warehouse and is perfect for drinks with friends over a weekend, and to mingle with a local crowd. They have a good, solid beer selection and inventive, yummy cocktails like Bourbon Lemonade.
Also, if you manage to find an after-party or “after” as the locals call it, don’t delay – get yourself there immediately to dance until the wee hours with some of the friendliest Montrealers to some of the best tunes you’ve heard in a long, long time.
To really enjoy an authentic Montreal experience, the best option is to stay in an Airbnb in some of the more interesting areas. Mile End, Plateau and Mile Ex are all vibrant neighborhoods with easy access all over the city. Most of the hotels are in Old Montreal, which is a lovely part of town, but better for walking around than staying in.
There is some great shopping in Montreal, and whilst we’d love to just tell you where to get your Pitusa fix (it gets steamy in the summertime!) – but you should also know where you can find some amazing vintage steals. So we’ve given you the option: some amazing contemporary boutiques where you’ll find some of the Pitusa mainstays plus some vintage classics in Mile End.
Nouveau Noir Boutique
Parc La Fontaine, Parc Jeanne Mance and Parc Jarry are all lovely places to have a picnic. Go to Dinette Triple Crown and have them pack you a picnic, grab a bottle of wine from the SAQ and people watch or, if you’re feeling frisky play “pétanque” (bocce ball) in Parc La Fontaine or Beach Volleyball in Parc Jeanne Mance.
An offshoot of the festivals of the same name, Wanderlust is a Vinyasa-based studio in Mile End and promises to offer the same sort of experience one might get at the travelling festivals. They also offer Qi Gong and meditation if you feel like zenning out for a minute. It’s a great place to drop in on a class in between the many meals you’re sure to be enjoying (if you know what’s good for you).
Rent some bicycles at one of the many city bike stations dotted around the city and wander around the city. It’s a cyclist friendly city and a great way to weave your way around the canals.
Marché Jean Talon and Atwater Market have an amazing array of food—go simply to witness what the city has to offer in all its glory.
This is a spa unlike any other – it’s house on a barge and the treatment rooms make you feel like you’re out at sea. The boat is parked on the St. Lawrence River in the Old Port and you will walk away not only feeling completely relaxed, you’ll feel as if you just took a quick trip on the high seas. Definitely worth a try if you have time. Bota Bota boasts two saunas, a eucalyptus steam bath, and an outdoor Jacuzzi. So once you’re done with your massage, pedicure or facial – take full advantage of what this Hammam style spa has to offer.