French-influenced culinary scene north of the border.
A European ambience mixed with modern skyscrapers and a French accent make Montreal a romantic place to rendezvous. The city’s culinary scene has also expanded, meaning that you can still canoodle over classic French fare but also order more experimental dishes, making it a delightful sojourn for food lovers.
Le Marche Atwater
Close to the bike paths along the Lachine Canal, Le Marche Atwater pieces together a farmers’ market atmosphere from a mix of pastry shops, chocolatiers, and flower stalls. Built in 1933 and designed by father and son Ludger and Paul Lemieux, the Art Deco-style market was a government economic-stimulus project during the Great Depression. Atwater’s outdoor plant, fruit, and vegetable stands lead indoors to wine shops and bakeries. Grab-and-go options include blueberry juice from Alma Fruits Distribution, steamed pork buns at Satay Brothers, and sweet and sour cashews from Les Noix du Marché.
Le Marche Jean-Talon
Once you have the gourmet accoutrements from the Les Touilleurs kitchenware store, cab it up to Little Italy and this enormous food market, which is the city’s culinary epicenter. Here, you can stop by the William J. Walter boucherie for—count ‘em—more than 50 kinds of sausage; at La Fromagerie Hamel you can sample from dozens of raw-milk, unpasteurized cheeses that you won’t find stateside. Before you leave, pick up a package—or three!—of sugary, leaf-shaped bonbons d’érable (maple candy) at the farmers’ stalls in the center of the market.
For eight years, chef Laurent Godbout has been putting a delicious spin on classics (try his pan-seared sea bass with squid-ink risotto, scallops, and a chorizo cream sauce) in this Old Montreal dining room—and he hasn’t missed a beat yet. The tables are draped in white linens, but the vibe is delightfully unpretentious, aided by the attached l’épicerie (grocery store), which stocks local gourmet products. Pick up a souvenir jar of artisanal olive oil or Godbout’s own maple vinegar on your way out.
Place d'Armes Hôtel & Suites
Consisting of three combined 19th-century office towers, the hotel features boutique-style rooms that mix historic details from the buildings’ past (soaring columns, exposed bricks, arched windows) with sleek, contemporary interiors. The rooftop bar, Aix la Terrasse, is one of the city’s hottest nightspots. But Le Place d’Armes is more about substance than style. The in-room amenities are plentiful, including gas fireplaces, LCD-screen televisions, Aeron-style desk chairs, and bathrooms that have rain showers and oversize Jacuzzi baths. Add to that a spot-on team manning the concierge and front desks, and you have a remarkably well rounded hotel.
Room to Book: Though they have an unmistakable air of masculinity (gunmetal-gray carpeting and black wood furniture), the Deluxe Suites are worth the $150 upgrade for the extra sitting area and enormous bathrooms. We like those in the old Scottish Life building, which are a bit more intimate than those in the Banque du Peuple and Alexander Cross buildings next door. Beware of rooms ending in -17 on the eighth floor of the Scottish Life building; they sit next to the Aix la Terrasse entrance, which can be loud on weekend nights.
Doubles From $218, including breakfast and wine-and-cheese cocktails.
Designed by Marius Dufresne and completed in 1914, the five-story Maisonneuve Market is located in its namesake district. Although historically a daily market, from the 1960s to 1995 there was a police office and cultural center in the Beaux-Arts building. The large plaza in front has a fountain and Canadian artist Alfred Laliberté's statue, La Fermière. The bronze figure is a 17th-century farmer, alluding to the area’s long history as a market. Vendors range from grocery to gourmet, like the Fromagerie Maisonneuve cheese stand, Boulangerie Première Moisson bakery, and Aux Champêtreries, which sells Quebec-made products.
The oldest public market in Montreal, the Lachine Market dates to the 1840’s. The farmers’ market became a permanent market in 1909, and the bulk of items on sale are still basics like local cheeses, fresh breads, and garden vegetables. Apart from groceries, visitors can find macarons and meringues at Marius et Fanny, and an outdoor patio at Le Café du Marché. The market also sells seasonal items such as cut flowers from Crispina de la Rueda and Christmas trees from Maison des jeunes L'Escalier.