Coming up with a tidy list of Montréal travel musts is an exercise in restraint—and the reasons to visit just keep on multiplying. By 2024, a number of high-end fashion houses, including Louis Vuitton and Gucci, will be debuting their first stand-alone stores in Québec, joining about 170 others also setting up shop in Royalmount, a new mixed-use shopping district taking over the city’s midtown. Montréal’s constant influx of new restaurants (joining an already-legendary dining scene), ever-magnetic artistic community and historic charm aplenty further add to its allure.
A renaissance tour through one of Canada’s most fascinating cities.
By Valerie Silva - May 23rd 2023
Make the necessary pilgrimage to Montréal’s cobblestoned historic center and pop into the Notre-Dame Basilica, a striking example of Gothic Revival architecture that hosts immersive multimedia shows. Just south of Old Montréal, on a man-made strip of land called Cité-du-Havre, lies Habitat 67, a Brutalist architecture landmark (and oddity) designed by Moshe Safdie. This cluster of modular concrete condos sought to reimagine high-density apartment complexes with the gardens and natural lighting. Seek to survey Lachine Canal on foot, right through to Mount Royal Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (of NYC’s Central Park fame), and then discover the Plateau neighborhood’s maze of colorful early-20th century facades.
For a dinner that feels distinctly Montréal—French-influenced, but internationally inspired, chic, yet not self-serious, and an overall good time—make a reservation at Montréal Plaza. Its menu changes regularly, but diners can expect options like foie gras terrine with eel, miso butter whelks, and its signature “crispy fruit,” a layered dessert of berries, white chocolate mousse and slivers of dacquoise. One of the hottest tables to snag right now comes from chef Massimo Piedimonte, an alum of Copenhagen’s Noma and big-name Montréal spots like Le Mousso and Maison Boulud in the Ritz-Carlton—both still setting the bar for fine dining in the city. Piedimonte’s buzzy new restaurant, Cabaret L’enfer, crafts seasonal, fermentation-centric tasting menus with nods to his Italian roots and French training. Other new arrivals to the scene include Kabinet, a swank new spot for caviar with a scintillating crystal chandelier; Okeya Kyujiro, for lavish 20-course omakase; and Shay, where executive chef Joseph Awad (ex Au Pied de Cochon, Momofuku and Osteria Francescana) plates Lebanese fare in a swish space inspired by the desert sun.
Get a firsthand look at a Montréal success story at the flagship store of fashion retailer SSENSE, located in the heart of the city’s Old Port. Launched by three brothers, this is the place for luxe labels and keeping pace with emerging designers. Set in a Brutalist, concrete-clad space, it offers a super-tailored, appointment-only, next-gen shopping experience. A diamond find in the Mile End district is Les Étoffes, a pint-sized shop featuring an expertly curated collection of brands ranging from Sweden’s Stutterheim to New York-based design duo Mansur Gavriel.
Those who prefer their art in a museum or gallery setting are spoiled for choice in the city. Multidisciplinary contemporary arts hub PHI, which comprises a center, a studio and a nonprofit foundation, is perhaps one of the most reliable and riveting places for it. The organization is plotting a major expansion for 2026 into four heritage buildings in Old Montréal, consolidating its public art presentation in one locale. For an art gallery with a local focus, visitors would do well to head to Bradley Ertaskiran, which occupies the restored industrial building that once housed Parisian Laundry.
With the arrival of the Four Seasons in 2019, Montréal solidified its status as an upscale travel destination. Aptly sharing space with the city’s leading (and recently revamped) luxury department store, Holt Renfrew Ogilvy, the hotel stuns with sumptuous marble, plush velvets and lustrous brass accents. It also boasts a stellar view of a mural portraying Montréal poet-singer-legend Leonard Cohen, an ultra-chic on-site restaurant from celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson and an all-new spa experience with face sculpting, four-hand massages and some kiddo-friendly treatments. Still in downtown Montréal’s Golden Square Mile is Hotel Birks, where guests quite literally sleep in opulence in what was once the corporate headquarters of an iconic Canadian jeweler.
Located 15 minutes from the city’s commercial, hospitality and entertainment districts, Signature-Montréal (YUL/CYUL) is the perfect gateway to the epitome of French Canada.
Reservations can be made at www.signatureaviation.com.
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