Everyone loves Montreal. It inspires a passion that Toronto just doesn’t. It’s a tiny, French-speaking city that’s been mostly forgotten by the Canadian economy, but it’s still the city visitors (and Canadians) gush about. It’s a Catholic city known for vice, in contrast to the Puritans of Ontario. It survived the great depression as Las Vegas for New Yorkers before there was the option of flying to Vegas. It’s known for its festivals — and drinking wine on the street.

Much of the city’s infrastructure is a legacy of Expo 67 and the 1976 Olympic games. It’s known for the charming old port and winding streets, but it’s got plenty of giant downtown highways for those who prefer to drive. Regardless, you should take the walk up to Mont Royal.

You’d do well to memorize a few key Quebecois phrases if you’d like to avoid having your waiter spit in your drink. Win them over by asking for their recommendations for where to get the best bagel.

crew collective

Working

Crew Collective

There is a clear winner for where you should be working while in Montreal: Crew Collective. Housed in the main hall of Montreal’s Royal Bank Tower, the street holds no hint of what’s inside. Past the security desk is the old bank branch, with the ornate splendor of a building that was once the tallest in the British Empire. The food is just as decadent, but still healthy.

Crew offers excellent coffee, top-notch food, fast wifi, power plugs, and enclosed tables for quiet work. If you’re in town for a while, you can become a member of the coworking space, but anyone is welcome to buy a latte and get to work. They take their food and drinks very seriously — with the best customer service I’ve experienced anywhere in Montreal.

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Coffee shops

Coffice

They go beyond the standard offerings of wifi, power, and snacks — they offer printing and photocopying. They’re also open later than most other Montreal cafes.

Kitsune Espresso Bar

Big communal tables, strong wifi, power, coffee, and a little back patio.

Kafein Cafe

If you like to work to a beat, Kafein has a full bar and a  live DJ.

Cafe Parvis

Just a block in from the main drag, Cafe Parvis manages to feel tucked away. They get busy at peak times, but this makes for a lovely spot to work in the mornings.

Other spaces

McGill University’s Bronfman Building is designed to provide ideal study spaces. In addition to meeting spaces, study areas, and lounges, Bronfman houses the Howard Ross Management Library and a cafe.

McGill’s Islamic Studies Library is another lovely, quiet place to work.

The Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec allows you to reserve work stations at the Grande Bibliotheque. There are plenty of spaces to use without reservations. The library will require you to check certain objects at the entrance and no food or drink (other than water in a clear bottle) is allowed.

Montreal’s Underground City is bursting with potential coworking spaces. Complexe Desjardins has a food court with wifi and the occasional plug. Gare Centrale also has a large seating area with wifi.

Need more info on where to work in Montreal? Check out the options in WorkFrom.

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old port of montreal

Exploring

Rue Sainte Catherine

Rue Sainte Catherine is the touristy heart of the city. It’s lined with shops, cafes, and is pedestrian-only for a long, art-filled stretch. If the weather is bad, you can jump underground and make your way through the climate-controlled expanse of malls and office buildings that is the ‘underground city’ (which is totally nothing like Toronto’s PATH because Montreal and Toronto are sworn enemies).

The Plateau

The Plateau is hip and has been hip for decades. Luckily for the Plateau, time moves very slowly in Canada and even slower still in Montreal. Walk around, eat some smoked meat, enjoy the ambiance of Quebec and the architecture of the Plateau.

Mile End may or may not be part of the Plateau, but regardless of boundaries, it’s rich in art galleries, boutiques, and cute cafes.

Classical architecture

Montreal was the financial capital of Canada during what many would consider a golden age of architecture, when things were made of giant hunks of stone. It’s mandatory to see the churches and walk the narrow cobblestone streets of the old city, as touristy as it is.

modern architecture in montreal

Modern architecture

Montreal may be known for it’s charming old buildings, but it’s the brutal masterpieces that stand out the most. These concrete monsters/masterpieces are rather squat, as nothing in Montreal can be higher than Mount Royal.

  • The entire metro is like walking into what they thought the future would be, circa 1960.
  • I.M. Pei’s Place Ville-Marie is hard to miss.
  • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Westmount Square combine a mall, office buildings, and apartments.
  • Habitat 67 is in the middle of nowhere, so unless you’re a big Moshe Safdie fan, just enjoy the view from across the harbour.
  • Place Bonaventure is the concrete monolith across from the train station.
  • 1000 de la Gauchetière is a striking example of postmodernism.

habitat 67

 


 

Eating

It’s not unusual for restaurants to be BYOB. Stop in the SAQ to get a bottle of wine. The city also has excellent public markets if you’d like to make a picnic of it or cook on your own.

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Patati Patata

The best place for poutine? Like claims for who has the best pizza in New York, there’s someone willing to fight you to the death.

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SuWu

SuWu has a small menu, but it’s bar food at its finest.

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La Diperie

They’ve taken the classic simple soft serve and turned it into something decidedly high-brow. Perfect for eating in Square Saint-Louis.

hotel in the plateau

Sleeping

M Montreal Hostel

I don’t understand what’s going on with the mix of purple lights, fake log cabin, and antlers. It’s certainly memorable. Everything is very clean and they’re going for a certain (confusing) look, unlike some places that feel like an IKEA showroom or a secondhand shop.

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Hotel Abri du Voyager

This is not a great hotel, but it’s a cheap hotel in a convenient location. It’s frozen in time in the 1940s, with shared bathrooms and sinks in the rooms. No one’s smoked in the rooms for a long time, but the ghosts of smokers past remain. Don’t plan on working from your room, as the wifi is spotty.

Hotel Nelligan

If you’d like to stay in the old town and pretend you’re in Europe for the weekend, this is an excellent choice. There’s a lot of exposed brick and stonework happening, along with fireplaces and a restaurant on the roof terrace.

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