For some background on this post read on here, otherwise let’s get to it! I’ll start with the to-do list since it’s a bit shorter photo-wise. 😛
1. Wander in Old Montreal
Much like Old Quebec, Old Montreal is the ideal place to wander. During our two days in Montreal, we were drawn to Old Montreal both times, the first to see the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal…
and the second in seek of maple desserts (more on those in the to-eat section) as well as to enjoy the charming streets and adventurous waterside.
2. Discover plants you never knew existed at Montreal Botanical Garden
For a plethora of photos, see here.
3. Feel like a kid again at the Biodôme
Along with the Botanical Garden, the Biodôme is part of the Space For Life museum district. I hadn’t been to a zoo since I was little, but unlike a typical zoo, the Biodôme is arranged in a single loop, completely indoors, and organized by ecosystem. You won’t find lions or tigers here either. Instead the Biodôme is dedicated to ecosystems of the Americas, which include Tropical Rainforest, Laurentian Maple Forest, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Labrador Coast, and Sub-Antarctic Islands.
4. Take advantage of a quick photo op with the landmark Montreal Tower
While there’s also the $20 per person option of riding the funicular 165 meters up this world’s tallest inclined tower for a panoramic view of the city, we settled for the free selfie option. (Conveniently, it’s located right next to the Biodôme.)
5. Check out the view atop Mont Royal Park
This park shares the same landscape architect as that of New York’s Central Park in Frederick Law Olmsted. Here there are multiple vantage points for a free view of the city.
1. Fresh produce at Jean-Talon Market
Here the vendors try to win over your patronage with perfectly ripened, fresh fruits conveniently cut into bite-sized pieces that are entirely free to sample, no awkwardness attached.
But aside from fruits,
there are also lots of interesting veggies
and an unconventional variety of meat.
On our particular visit, along with some fruits, we bought eggs to hard boil back at our Airbnb apartment.
2. Maple anything
In addition to fresh produce and meat, Jean-Talon Market has a handful of prepared food stores, including one for Portuguese egg tarts! Being that we were in Canada though and not Portugal, we passed on the egg tarts and opted for maple syrup pie, which was intensely sweet and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
In Old Montreal, we went mad for maple at the specialty store Canadian Maple Delights. Here we bought maple chunk muffins for breakfast later and to eat then and there, three different flavors of maple gelato (maple delight, maple chunk, and maple leaf cookie) along with maple taffy on snow.
While maple gelato is pretty straightforward sounding, I’d never even heard of maple taffy on snow before. Turns out it’s extremely simple to make! All you have to do is pour some thick maple syrup onto ice and wait for it to firm up. The fun part is rolling the semi-solid taffy into a ball on the end of a popsicle stick. Although my store-bought version was more like “maple taffy on ice,” at sugar shacks where the harvested maple sap is boiled down to syrup, maple taffy is indeed made on snow!
3. Sesame bagel at St-Viateur Bagel
Call me a traitor, but in my book Montreal bagels trump New York bagels. They differ in appearance (Montreal bagels have a larger hole in the middle) but more significantly, unlike their NYC counterparts, they are mildly sweet from being boiled in honey water and extra crispy from being baked in a wood-burning oven. Sesame is the overwhelming flavor favorite in Montreal and after testing it from the two neighboring rivals, St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel (both of which bake them fresh 24 hours a day), my loyalty goes to St-Viateur for its slightly sweeter but still not too sweet bagels.
4. Smoked meat at Schwartz’s
Not personally a big fan of meat, I originally was going to pass on eating at this Hebrew deli but ended up making a visit upon my cousin’s insistence. Good thing too! The “oldest deli in Canada,” this place has a line down the block for their “world famous” smoked meat. Although the line is long, it thankfully moves rather quickly since the service is speedy and efficient. We arrived around noon and waited maybe twenty minutes for a group of seven of us to be seated.
It doesn’t look particularly impressive, but their smoked meat really is something special. It’s dry (but in the best possible way), not greasy tasting at all, and perfectly seasoned.
Whew this ended up being a lengthy post, but there really was quite a bit to do and eat in Montreal!