Spring break in Montréal: flying solo through the city

Tommy Dion

Tommy is the founder of the blog and gourmet guide Le Cuisinomane, whose mission is to showcase Québec’s local products and gastronomy. With an in-depth knowledge of Montréal’s food scene, his expertise and professionalism make him a trusted source for all the best food spots and experiences in Montréal. In addition to tasting and writing about food, Tommy also creates content for brand, always related to food and gastronomy.

Spring break will be a little different in 2021, but Montrealers aren’t hibernating this year. It’s the perfect time to get out and rediscover your city. Explore new parks and trails, visit museums, update your wardrobe and drop by your favourite cafes and restaurants. If you're spending spring break on your own, here are some ideas for things to do in Montreal to make the most of your break!

All around Montréal

Get to know another neighbourhood better on professionally-guided private walking tours: architecture, history, murals and even ghosts are sure to brighten up your day. Located throughout the island of Montréal, 28 winter stations (designed by the Bureau du Design de Montréal in collaboration with numerous creative collectives) are ready to welcome visitors at a friendly social distance, of course. Add free parking downtown on weekends and you won’t break the bank as you head off to explore.

Art galleries, coffee and treats in Old Montréal

With the Images Boréales, Héritage and Le Chariot art galleries, plus the PHI Centre and the Marguerite-Bourgeoys historic site, you’ll find lots to do to keep you inspired.

Along the way, stop for a café-gourmandise at Le Petit Dep, NELLI Café + Vin nature, Café Paquebot, Café Mère-Grand or Olive and Gourmando, a veritable institution in Old Montréal.

Burn off a little energy and then refuel along the canal

Did you know that Montréal has its own “Antique District”? Spring break is the perfect time to journey back in time and browse the city's best antique shops on Notre-Dame Street, between Guy and Atwater. After stopping at the Atwater Market to refuel and fill up on its pantry of local produce, the return trip along the Lachine Canal is a great way to extend your visit and enjoy some quality “me time”.

If you're new to the neighbourhood, you won’t want to miss a visit to Patrice Pâtissier, Le Richmond Italian Market and then treat yourself to a sublime take-out dinner from the one and only Foxy.

Shopping, museums and restaurants galore downtown and in the Village

With the gradual reopening of businesses, there’s never been a better time to set out on a voyage of discovery downtown. Plan a day (or several days!) to soak up some culture and Montréal’s many world-class museums:  the Museum of Fine Arts, the Musée d’Art Contemporain, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Écomusée du fier monde, Galerie Blanc, Galerie MX). Immerse your senses in an experience designed to connect to what matters today through powerful visual projections and stunning sound at OASIS immersion.

Enjoy a little retail therapy at the many fabulous downtown shopping centres: Complexe Desjardins, Centre Eaton, Place Montréal Trust, Les Cours Mont-Royal, Place Ville-Marie, Centre Alexis Nihon and, Holt Renfrew Ogilvy. And to keep you going, fuel up at the many indie coffee shops in the area.

End a perfect day with gourmet pizza or sushi. Are you yearning for Italy? Head to Moleskine. Dreaming of Japan? Ryu offers authentic tastes from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Get a breath of fresh air in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve

Nature is never far away in the very urban Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood. With the reopening of the Biodôme, you’ll never feel alone with lynxes, monkeys, exotic birds and the famous penguins to keep you company. Get outside for some fresh air at the Botanical Garden, which offers free entry in winter. Even if snowshoes are not permitted, you can enjoy a little cross-country skiing.

Just next door, Parc Maisonneuve has a skating rink as well as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails to get you all rosy-cheeked before that well-deserved hot chocolate, coffee or chai tea. And while third-wave coffee lovers are eagerly awaiting the reopening of Hélico Café, scheduled for March, you can get your coffee fix at the Club Social Wolfgang arts café – if you don’t know it, you really have to check it out. The Hoche Café, as well as the Antidote – Comptoir végane, are there to warm you up with the hot drink of your choice. For a more substantial meal to take home and savour, head to the L’État-Major or its little sister, Pizzéria Heirloom.

Plateau, Mile-End and Outremont

If you've decided to take this time to rediscover your city, why not start by biting into some of the city's most iconic dishes? Start your gourmet journey at Schwartz’s to bite into Canada's best-known smoked meat sandwich. Then, walk north along “The Main” to Fairmount Avenue (stopping, of course, at Boulangerie Guillaume for a pastry) for a piping hot bagel at Fairmount Bagel and the $5 gnocchi in tomato sauce next door at Drogheria Fine.

If you want to walk off some of those calories, walk on to Saint-Viateur Street to taste their famous bagels (St-Viateur Bagels) and decide which one is your fave (tough choice). If you still have room, grab a slice of pizza at Toni or taste one of the best falafel sandwiches in town at Yoni. Before you head home get a coffee to go at the local favourite Olimpico café.

If you are more of an arts-culture-shopping type, download Festival Mural's interactive map and create your own self-guided tour of local street art. Stroll along Mont-Royal Avenue for a few cool finds, then keep walking to browse many boutiques on Laurier Avenue West. If all this shopping has worked up an appetite, enjoy a savoury Neapolitan-style pizza at Fiorellino

Little Italy and Villeray

Have you explored Little Italy and Villeray lately? The Jean-Talon Market is always a great place to start. You’ll find everything you can think of, from fruits and vegetables to third wave coffee spots – but save some room to discover the tasty gems all along the little streets nearby. Stop by the Alati Caserta pastry shop for fresh cannoli, San Gennaro for a real Roman pizza or maybe a more substantial gourmet lunch at Gus’s little sister, Lou sur Beaubien.

As you continue up Villeray, make a little detour to the famous Quincaillerie Dante  before diving into 100% local products at Arloca. Chocolate lovers will be in heaven at État de Choc fine chocolate makers – the perfect boost to whet your appetite for the sublime panzerotti and salads at the newly opened Knuckles. If you want to stock up on fresh bread and pastries before returning home, La Boulangerie Jarry is an absolute must. For a little something to warm your heart and comfort your soul, take home a delicious meal from La Belle Tonki.

Parc Jean-Drapeau

Always well-maintained, the 25 km of hiking trails at Parc Jean-Drapeau offer city dwellers lots of ways to enjoy an invigorating day of winter exercise. If you’re craving a little speed, dust off that crazy carpet and slide for free on the natural slope near Espace 67. Lace up your skates and practice your figure eights on the refrigerated rink or wax up your skis for some cross-country skiing on the beginner (Île Sainte-Hélène) and intermediate (Île Notre-Dame) trails. The “Fat Bike” craze is alive and well at Parc Jean-Drapeau, where it's a great place to ride on trails designed and maintained especially for these bikes. If you’re a history buff, you’ll want to don your snowshoes (or rent them on-site) and follow the trail dotted with panels offering fascinating information from the Stewart Museum.

Tommy Dion

Tommy is the founder of the blog and gourmet guide Le Cuisinomane, whose mission is to showcase Québec’s local products and gastronomy. With an in-depth knowledge of Montréal’s food scene, his expertise and professionalism make him a trusted source for all the best food spots and experiences in Montréal. In addition to tasting and writing about food, Tommy also creates content for brand, always related to food and gastronomy.

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