From unforgettable hotels to breathtaking experiences, we’re here to show you just how much there is to explore in our own Canadian backyard. Let us inspire your next Stylish Staycation!
This year has been a difficult one. For those of us who love to travel, especially so. But more so than ever before, there has really never been a better time to explore Canada. Many cities are making the perfect staycation not only a luxurious and world-class experience, but one that feels safe and comfortable, too. Plus, cities like Montreal that would normally be crowded with tourists are much quieter. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to grab coveted restaurant bookings, find availability at the best hotels, and feel like a VIP with full rein of the city all to yourself. In my opinion, there’s no better time to visit Montreal than right now.
Montreal staycation highlights
- Stay at the luxurious, recently renovated Le Germain Hotel
- Pamper yourself with a massage on the water at Bota Bota spa-sur-l’eau
- 4-course dinner at Le Boulevardier
- Chef’s tasting menu at the newly opened Kamuy restaurant
- Brunch cruise aboard AML Cruises for epic views of the city
VIDEO: Montreal Staycation
Travel the world without leaving home at Le Germain Hotel, pamper yourself at Bota Bota spa on the water, indulge in the city’s best of the restaurant scene at Le Boulevardier and Kamuy, and take to the water for a brunch cruise with epic views of the city.
Where to stay: Le Germain Hotel
This luxurious, boutique-feel Canadian hotel was renovated in 2019 and reopened as a stunning 1960s time capsule, bringing to life the building’s rich history and recalling the city’s vibrant heyday when the world came to play in Montreal for Expo ’67.
Three of the best places to soak up the heritage are in the Flâneur Bar Lounge on the first floor, Le Boulevardier restaurant on the second floor, and your hotel room’s bathroom. Yes, that’s right. Each bathroom’s walls are covered in newspaper clippings and nostalgic memorabilia from 1967. A great collection of reading material if, you know, you need to spend a bit of time in there.
Sumptuous rooms with unique designs
Hotel rooms come in all shapes and sizes, some with can’t-miss era-appropriate features like spinning bubble chairs hung from the ceiling, or, if you’re in the mood for something really different, why not ask for the room with the circular-shaped bed??
If you’re just looking for calming, minimalist design with luxurious comfort, there’s no wrong choice of room. Subtle nods to its groovy history include Artemide Nesso table lamps.
Bathroom amenities by Ruby Brown (local model-turned-businesswoman) are light, freshly-scented and perfectly unisex in appeal—a difficult feat to pull off. You can even purchase your own to take home at shop.rubybrown.com.
60s-inspired bar and restaurant
In the bar and restaurant, moody lighting, smoked mirrors, brass accents and rich woods set the tone for a truly 60s-inspired experience.
The word “flâneur” is a French term describing those passionate observers of the world—poets and philosophers, for instance— who have the luxury of contemplation, who lounge, wander or stroll at their leisure. Indeed, time does seem to stand still here. An ideal spot to shrug off the rat race and genuinely slow down over a bottle of local Muscadet and oysters.
Gym with a view
Even the hotel’s gym boasts a stunning panoramic floor-to-ceiling view of the city, worth a turn on the treadmill alone.
In an appropriate departure from the 60s theme, the equipment is state of the art, including Peloton bikes and a video-equipped mirror so you can match your movements to instructors in a whole library full of exercise classes. The best part is you can book an in-house massage in an adjacent room to ease any sore muscles afterwards.
Take the experience home with you
A quick note on bedding and bathrobes: I have not yet found better in any hotel I’ve stayed at around the world.
The best part is that you can actually bring your Montreal staycation sumptuous hotel experience home with you—you’ll find Le Germain pillows and duvets at Maison Simons, just a short walk from the hotel. Or, ask for a ride in the hotel’s courtesy Lexus.
Insider tip: Right now, all Quebec residents and CAA members get 20% off their stay at Le Germain Montreal.
Where to relax: Bota Bota spa-sur-l’eau
There’s something that puts this spa above the rest when it comes to gorgeous, relaxing atmospheres: it’s on a boat. Floating in Montreal’s Old Port on the St. Lawrence river, Bota Bota is one of the most unique spa destinations in the country.
There are so many pools, saunas and relaxation areas to choose from that it can be hard to decide where to spend your time. I recommend checking out the heated pool on the top deck with views of the Old Port. Make sure to get your neck and shoulders under the pool’s powerful fountain spout to work out any tension. Similar views can be enjoyed in the city sauna.
Hammocks, bean bag chairs and cozy nooks abound on board on all levels, so bring a book or just shut your eyes for a time and let a healthy dose of fresh air and sunshine wash over you.
If you’re up for a refreshing circulation booster, take a dip in the St. Lawrence off the back of the boat before warming up in the sun on a lounger. When you’re ready for a bite, the restaurant is just inside.
A relatively new addition, Bota Bota now has a beautiful garden area with a collection of outdoor pools and relaxation areas to explore.
If you’re two, I recommend booking the Calypso package that includes full access to the water circuit, a Swedish massage and a 3-course light lunch with a glass of wine.
Some massage rooms feature huge porthole windows onto some of the spa’s outdoor pools, letting in beautiful natural light. (Don’t worry, you can see out but nobody can see in!).
Lunch is served in a breezy indoor-outdoor restaurant on deck, and consists of light yet thoroughly satisfying and elevated dishes like chilled pea soup and a roasted red pepper and caramelized onion tart with arugula salad, olives and hummus. Dessert, being a hazelnut brownie with fleur-de-sel caramel, is a must.
Bota Bota is usually a popular place and can get quite crowded, especially on weekends. Right now, however, numbers are much lower which means you get to enjoy a quieter atmosphere with more access to all the most popular pools, saunas and relaxation areas. Don’t forget to bring a pair of sandals, your mask, and a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated.
On your way out, don’t miss the chance for an extra 10 minutes of relaxation on your Montreal staycation in two hammocks by the water with great views of both the boat and the Old Port.
Where to eat: Le Boulevardier, Kamuy
A Montreal staycation would not be complete without indulging in the incredibly diverse and ever-changing food scene. From traditional French fare steeped in history to new openings that take your taste buds on a journey around the world, you are spoiled for choice.
Inside the Le Germain Hotel, restaurant Le Boulevardier envelops you in the glamour of a bygone era. Request a table near the smokey glass windows in an elegantly cantilevered addition to the original facade. Here you can bask in the twinkling lights of the city after sundown.
Our 4-course dinner kicked off in style with a chilled avocado and cucumber soup followed by scallops with strawberry water (poured at the table), and deer gravlax with beets, currants and creme fraiche. Dishes are stunningly presented, each one an art piece unto itself. The freshest ingredients shine perfectly in delicate layers that juxtapose flavour and texture with serious expertise.
We were in a seafood mood so tuna tataki with green peas, buttermilk and herbs came next, along with a recommendation from hotel manager Jacques-Alexandre: “you’ve got to have the salmon tartare.” He is 100% right.
Leave dessert to the kitchen’s creative inspiration of the day; you won’t be disappointed. The wine list, unsurprisingly, contains some stellar picks that compliment the dishes well, and some unexpected stars—like our naturally and gently carbonated Sauvignon Blanc—that make for a fun tasting experience.
This brand new kid on the block in Montreal’s thriving restaurant scene is helmed by Paul Toussaint of Agrikol fame. Continuing his love for his own culinary roots, it’s a hub of bright colours, upbeat live music and a playful indoor-outdoor vibe with Haitian-Caribbean dishes meant to share.
While the menu remains true to its no-nonsense Haitian roots, there’s a trace element of French fine dining here, making it the perfect option for a smart-casual meal with friends and family.
The obvious way to begin is with a rum sour cocktail, a beachy-boozy temptation that sets a convivial tone. Dishes feature unusual and satisfying ingredients like the jicama carpaccio which comes with watermelon radishes and ground cherries. While the hummus, made with black-eyed peas, is served with yuca bread. A platter of fritters with fillings ranging from cod to cheese keeps things interesting while tiger shrimp shares the limelight with goat curry. Of course the meal wouldn’t be complete without some braised pork shoulder and fried plantains.
Want to try making “carimañola” ground beef fritters at home? Check out renowned Colombian chef Leonor Espinosa’s recipe here.
However, my favourite dish of the night is a beguiling combination of gnocchi-style sweet potato dumplings and grilled slices of octopus with a totally addictive creamy coconut bisque sauce. This dish is Caribbean comfort food at its absolute best. I’ve never tasted anything quite like it. If I could have taken a bottle of that coconut bisque home with me I would have asked for a case.
Insider tip: Leave plenty of time for a meal at Kamuy, as the service tends to run on “island time”!
What to do on your Montreal staycation: Brunch cruise on the St. Lawrence, discover the art scene two ways
Brunch cruise on the St. Lawrence
It may seem counter-intuitive to think of doing a cruise at the moment, but AML’s 2.5-hour brunch cruise might change your mind.
It’s a tasty way to start the day—mimosa included—and get a unique perspective on the city all in one. Tables are spaced and protected with plexiglass, and plenty of open-air deck seating makes it easy to follow all the right safety precautions while feeling comfortable on board.
Art scene two ways: Montreal Museum of Fine Art / MURAL street art
Head to the Montreal Museum of Fine Art to glimpse some of the world-class exhibits that grace its walls. We were lucky enough to catch one on Post-Impressionist Paris, including an original from Monet’s famous Water Lilies series. It left us feeling like we’d travelled to the city without having left Canada—a great way to escape for an afternoon.
Just northeast of Mount Royal park along a stretch of Boulevard St. Laurent home to the infamous Schwartz’ deli (you know you need that smoked meat sandwich) is a collection of massive murals adorning the sides of buildings around every corner. You don’t need to go during MURAL Festival to see them, as this stunning set of street artworks which are added to each year become permanent features of the cityscape.
You’ll find one of my favourites by Five Eight on the corner of Clarke and Rue Sainte Cuthbert, and don’t miss a very Instagramable addition in 2020, Fvckrender at the corner of Boulevard St. Laurent and Napoleon.
Do it all on your Montreal staycation with a Passeport MTL
The Passeport MTL is a good way to see it all on your Montreal staycation if you want to keep your options open for activities in the city. It’s actually very good value. It includes an AML cruise and entrances to many museums and attractions.
I hope this gives you some great inspiration for planning your own Montreal staycation!
Latest posts by Nicola Brown (see all)
- Italy’s Parmigiano Reggiano is More Than a Pasta-Topper - January 5, 2021
- What’s New, Canada? New restaurants, hotels, spas, arts & culture, activities & travel experiences to discover across the country – November 2020 - November 10, 2020
- Montreal Staycation [VIDEO]: Travel the world without leaving home at Le Germain Hotel + pamper yourself at Bota Bota spa on the water - September 24, 2020
- Essential Morocco: A Trip for First-Timers - June 2, 2020
- Calgary Staycation [VIDEO]: Escape to Kananaskis Mountain Lodge near Banff + go horseback riding and kayak glacier lakes - May 28, 2020