It wasn’t all that long ago that a visit to Montreal seemed easy to manage in a day. A morning wandering the Belgian block streets of the old town, a pop down the extensive pedestrian underground and maybe a quick jaunt to a futuristic sight related to Expo 67 about did the trick. Now, as Canada’s second-largest city experiences a building boom in all directions—including below, where parts of the subterranean city are receiving much-needed updates—it’s hard to know where to begin.
The rejuvenation is slated to continue into the next few years, but there’s no doubt that the recent completion of Four Seasons Hotel Montreal (suite rates from $647 per night, fourseasons.com/montreal) will remain a highlight. Featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and marble baths, its public spaces are the real stunners. They include an elegant reception area, a cheery terrace restaurant helmed by Marcus Samuelsson, and a series of lounges where curving velvet banquettes bring out your inner peacock and prismatic glass accents lend sparkle.
At some point during your stay, take time to enjoy a preview of the relocated Holt Renfrew Ogilvy (holtrenfrew.com), where brands like Brioni, Gucci and Moncler have set up boîtes on the just unwrapped men’s floor, accessible directly from the hotel. If your shopping runs more toward bling, stroll over to Birks, the so-called Tiffany’s of Canada, located in the lobby of a new hotel of the same name (hotelbirksmontreal.com). It’s an easy hop across the lobby for lunch at the serenely beautiful brasserie Henri (restauranthenri.com). A stroll along Sainte-Catherine Street just outside will bring you past all manner of shopping and don’t forget to poke around the underground as well.
But for the city’s best boutique shopping and most adventurous dining, take a cab or Uber to the happening neighborhoods just outside downtown. In the emerging Mile-Ex neighborhood, for example, the relaxed and rustic Manitoba (restaurantmanitoba.com) emits a Brooklyn vibe, while in Griffintown, the minimalist white-box exterior and plant-filled interior of Perles et Paddock (perlesetpaddock.com) neatly echoes an experimental yet accessible menu that emphasizes clean presentations and ingredients. Back downtown, be sure to stop for a nightcap at the ornately coffered bar in Le Mount Stephen (lemountstephen.com), a drop-dead gorgeous mansion that was recently transformed into a hotel. Reserving time to explore the historic area is still a must, more for the atmosphere than anything else.