If you are looking for European charm on a college student’s budget, Montreal is the city for you. Just a short five-hour ride from UConn, this Canadian gem will have you feeling like you’re in France – as French is the official language. But don’t worry, most of the population speaks English as well. I spent this past weekend there to celebrate my birthday, so here is your guide of where to stay and what to do if you don’t know where to begin.
Where to Stay
Like most cities, Montreal is very walkable and even if you don’t feel like walking there is a metro system. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn at Centre-Ville. Everything we wanted to see was a 10-20 minute walk from our hotel so it was the perfect location. Plus, for only being a little less than $100, we all got to enjoy the enclosed rooftop pool and hot tub.
What to Do
Mont Royal – This is one of the top destinations to see in Montreal and the only one that I recommend driving to, or at least taking an Uber/Lyft. Mont Royal is a mountain in the city with lots to do. In the winter months, there are seasonal activities like cross country skiing, sledding and ice-skating. In the summertime visitors can experience the Tam-Tam Jam – a gathering of Montrealers playing hand drums – as well as the various sports fields, playground and wading pool. There’s also an overlook where you can park your car and view the whole city below you.
Old Montreal – Another popular destination, and for good reason, Old Montreal is the oldest part of the city with some buildings dating back to the 17th century. The roads are narrow and laid in cobblestone. Many shops, bars and restaurants line the streets, which are adorned with European architecture that will transport you to Paris. Also located nearby is the Notre-Dame Basilica and Old Port. In January and February Montreal’s Old Port transforms for Igloofest – an outdoor, electronic music festival.
Saint-Laurent Boulevard – Each summer Montreal hosts Mural Festival where street artists from all over the world attend to show off their craft. Their artwork still resides on most of the buildings spanning up and down the street.
Where to Eat
La Distillerie – This is a bar unlike any other I have ever been to in North America. They primarily serve a wide variety of crafty, dangerously delicious cocktails for a very reasonable price. Their food menu is very limited, so they recommend you “BYOF” – bring your own food. The inside is small and cramped, but nothing college students aren’t used to. The only downside is that you typically have to wait in a line to get in. We waited for 45 minutes, but it was definitely worth the wait.
Café Chat l'heureux – Attention all cat lovers, this is the place for you. In addition to a café atmosphere, this one has cats roaming around to keep customers company. There are a number of house cats that live there, but they also foster cats to socialize them. The menu consists classics like salads, soups and sandwiches as well as smoothies, hot beverages and lemonade that is to die for.
La Habanera – A small-plate Cuban fusion restaurant, La Habanera is the place to be. The restaurant is super trendy and very small, fitting probably no more than 50 people, so be sure to make a reservation. The décor is flawless and there is a neon sign that welcomes you in: “All you need is love & Mojitos.” Try the fish tacos. You won’t regret it.