A European-style getaway in Montréal

Rebecca Sellers

Hailing originally from the big country skies of Manitoba, Rebecca adopted Montréal over 20 years ago after living in Québec City and France as a student. When she is not writing, translating or teaching English, she can be found pedaling the city’s bike paths, strolling the streets in search of hidden gems, and striking up conversations with local merchants, creators and folks in the neighbourhood.

Winter is just around the corner, bringing with it the colour and cheer of the holiday season. And what better way to enjoy the experience it than with a trip to Montréal? Glittering snowscapes, mouth-watering cuisine, holiday treats, wellness pamperings, oodles of shopping, romantic architecture and endless discoveries await. And best of all, no long-haul flights or jetlag! It’s a short jaunt to all this wonderful hint-of-Europe bounty. Now, who wouldn’t want that on their winter calendar?

Delve in to dreamy Euro architecture

Reconnect with Old World architecture on a stroll around Old Montréal. As soft snowflakes gently fall around you, wander its cobblestone streets dreamily, popping into designer shops, art galleries, cafés and restaurants at your own pace. Be sure to stop by Place Jacques-Cartier and Place de la Dauversière for a glimpse of the beauty and bustle of yesteryear that has continued to the present. When it gets darker, gaze in wonder as exterior lighting bathes 18th-century buildings in a gorgeous warm glow. More inspiring illuminations are to behold at the Notre-Dame Basilica with AURA, its immersive multimedia experience will leave you wowed. For a deeper dive into the old city’s history, watch the buildings and streets leap to life with the captivating Cité Mémoire tableaux. Then head toward the water where you’ll catch the colourful pulsations of the Jacques Cartier Bridge as you look out over the majestic St. Lawrence River.

Feast on European treats, savoury and sweet

Montréal’s culinary scene is famously diverse, creative and, of course, accented with continental flavours. You’ll love its authentic French cuisine, which is liberally sprinkled around town. Craving the delicious, farm-to-fork goodness of Italy? Try Impasto and Primo & Secondo for sublime pastas, pizzas and other delicacies from the Bel Paese. If you like to share, what about appetizing tapas at Ibericos, Tapeo or Taza Flores? Warm up with the mouthwatering mezzes and succulent seafood of Greece and its beautiful islands, or the fresh fish and vegetables of Portugal at Helena, Portus360 or Ferreira Café. If the ambiance of a European-style brasserie is more up your alley, reserve a table at Holder and Bier Markt, or relax with an ale in the English pub ambiance of The Burgundy Lion. Can’t choose? You don’t have to at two-storied Alexandre et fils. Of course, what would Montréal be without its morning-fresh baguettes, buttery croissants and decadent desserts? Check out the appetizing options at Montréal’s best bakeries and pastry shops. Whether you choose classic fare or get more adventurous, you’re guaranteed a dynamic dining scene, as proven by these new Montréal restaurant openings.

Bundle up for a bounty of outdoor activities

We love winter outings in Montréal: invigorating air, bright eyes and rosy cheeks. What says European flair quite like outdoor ice skating? Loop and twirl to your heart’s content to music, whether surrounded by twinkling trees at Parc Lafontaine’s sweet outdoor rink, gliding at the enchanting Old Port rink, or pirouetting in Mount Royal Park at Beaver Lake. The “mountain” is also an excellent spot to go sliding and snow tubing, while it and Parc Maisonneuve and Parc Jean-Drapeau also offer hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing (not to mention sightings of chirpy birds and cute furry creatures). Enjoy a leisurely city stroll combined with mood-boosting light therapy with Luminothérapie at the Quartier des spectacles. Be sure to follow up all this fun with a decadent and delicious cup of hot chocolate. Or how about winding down with deluxe pamperings at one of Montréal’s many soothing spas?

The winter season holds an exciting line-up of holiday concert favourites to hear and to sing. Treat your eyes and ears to the wonder of a special double bill of The Nutcracker (Clara’s Journey) by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal will be showcasing Hervé Niquet and Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ (The Childhood of Christ). Hear Handel’s Messiah performed by the Orchestre Classique de Montréal high atop the mountain at St. Joseph’s Oratory, or later by La Chapelle de Québec and Les Violons du Roy, then the Ensemble Caprice at the Maison symphonique. The Cabaret du Casino de Montréal will feature traditional Christmas songs, folk tunes and the famous singing Dion family. As part of the Festival Bach Montréal, you can enjoy J.S. Bach – Christmas Oratorio, or reacquaint yourself with the Peanuts gang during A Charlie Brown Christmas at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art’s Salle Bourgie. Finally, let the sounds of gospel stir your soul during ONE21 - Gospel Christmas Celebration featuring the Jireh Gospel Choir and Montréal Gospel Choir at Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste.

Splurge on seasonal shopping

To market, to market Montrealers go for their special holiday shopping (so very European!). If you need some gift-giving inspirations, check out Souk MTL’s curated wares and beautiful showroom at downtown’s iconic Place Ville Marie or the incredible artisanal items at the Salon des métiers d’art at Place Bonaventure. Le Richmond shines the spotlight Italian culinary delights, showcasing local products and gourmet treats that enhance the holiday season. And the Nutcracker Market at the Palais des congrès overflows with unique and magical gifts. You can also head to major malls and department stores like The Bay, Centre Eaton, Holt Renfrew Ogilvy and Simons for that special something, or wander for hours among the thousands of boutiques and shops of the “Underground City”. And don’t forget that kilometres of fabulous finds await on Sainte-Catherine Street. Looking for something more signature? Then check out Montréal fashion designers and artisans, bookstores or jewelry shops for something special for that special someone. The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without the decadent gift of chocolates from Montréal’s chocolatiers. Wrap it all up with these sweet stationery stores, where pretty paper and cards lend presents extra meaning.

So, there you have it. Dashes of Europe, right next door. Who needs to go globe-trotting when you’ve got all of these amazing experiences so close? Book a Sweet Deal at your hotel and you’re all set for a decidedly EuRoad winter getaway!

Rebecca Sellers

Hailing originally from the big country skies of Manitoba, Rebecca adopted Montréal over 20 years ago after living in Québec City and France as a student. When she is not writing, translating or teaching English, she can be found pedaling the city’s bike paths, strolling the streets in search of hidden gems, and striking up conversations with local merchants, creators and folks in the neighbourhood.

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