Weekend Guide to Montreal

Just a quick 6 hour drive from New York City, Montreal is a cultural and culinary playground just across the Canadian border. Escape the muggy heat in NYC, and head to cooler pastures in our friendly neighbor to the north. We made our drive a little longer and drove through the scenic Adirondacks, rather than sticking to highway driving. Aside from eating late night poutine and feeling bad about yourself, reasons to escape to Montreal in the summer are (1) Everything is cheaper in Canada! (2) It’s been called a poor man’s Paris (3) You are a poor man and can’t take your girl to Paris… yet. (4) Everything is cheaper in Canada! and finally (5) There’s a rumor that Canadians are nicer than us.  Here’s a quick guide to exploring the city in a long weekend. Remember to bring your passport!

Day 1

Old Montreal

Start where the city itself began, exploring a mix of cobbled streets, cozy restaurants and boutiques that make Old Montreal a stroller’s paradise. Station Place-d’Armes is the closest metro station to the area; the district lies east and is focused around Place Jacques Cartier.

Old Montreal

Notre Dame

Built in 1656, this is Montreal’s oldest church and a key Old Montreal landmark. Inside, the blaze of carvings, sculptures and stained glass may be a little gaudy for some tastes, but they’re certainly impressive and unmissable. This Gothic Revival basilica is one of the Montreal’s most remarkable sights. It is decorated with beautiful wood carvings.

Notre Dame Montreal

Chateau Ramezay

It was a home of French governors in the 18th century. Nowadays it is a repository of Québec history, there are over 20 thousand pieces of art and furniture.

Montreal City Hall

This building is built in the Second Empire style. It is famous for Charles de Gaulle’s speech from its balcony. Admission is free!

Walk along Vieux Port

 The old port experienced the pinnacle of its glory days in the 19th century as one of the most important inland harbors in North America, but its importance declined throughout the 20th century. By the end of the 1980’s, however, it experienced a breath of new life as it was transformed into a recreational area. Now, whether it’s the cycling in the summer or skating on rinks in the winter, the old port’s 12.5 km of waterside walkways adds to the charm of this popular district of Montreal.

Day 2

Pointe-a-Calliere Archeology Museum

This has to be one of the most interesting museums that we have ever been to, and if we go back to Montreal, it would be worth checking out a second time! Built on top of excavated building foundations and water systems from the 17th century, this setting makes the perfect setting for learning about Montreal’s fascinating history and the role it has played in Canada’s history as a whole. Just don’t visit on Monday- they are closed.

Shopping and lunch at Underground Street

A glorified mall to some but a refuge from severe weather for many, Montreal’s Underground City is a 30 kilometer labyrinth of climate-controlled subterranean passages. They are replete with restaurants, shops, cinemas, museums and metro stations.

Parc du Mont Royal

This mountain park offers wonderful view of the city of Montreal. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York’s Central Park.

St. Joseph’s Oratory

This magnificent oratory is dedicated to St. Joseph who is Canada’s patron saint. It is built in the Italian Renaissance style.

Montreal

Evening at Crescent Street

This busy street of pubs and restaurants intersects with Sainte-Catherine at the southern end of Downtown and is well worth a visit at the end of the day for food, drinks and people- watching. Unwind here before making the drive back to New York City!

Montreal

Banff National Park – Summer Experience

Words and pictures do not fully capture the beauty of Banff National Park. Located right outside Calgary, Banff National Park is Canada’s first National Park and is part of the Rocky Mountains. Everywhere you look is a perfect, picturesque view of nature. The air is fresh with an aromatic scent of pine, spruce, and fir. And during those moments you are engulfed with a sense of peace.

Banff National Park

Banff National Park

It is easy to see why the people here are so kind and happy! Travelers to Banff are able to relax and just enjoy the scenery or get as adventurous as their heart desires. During the summer, the days are long and sunset is between 9 and 10 PM. The most popular cities in the park are Lake Louise and Banff.

Lake Louise

You certainly won’t be disappointed with the choices of trails circling Lake Louise. Whether a novice or a time-tested hiker, the views of this breathtaking lake and mountains will continue to captivate you no matter where you are along the trail.

Lake Louise

A typical hike starts at the Fairmont Hotel and ends at one of the two tea houses at Plain of Six Glaciers or Lake Agnes. If you’re like me and can’t decide which tea house to see, I suggest starting on the Plain of Six Glaciers trail and returning home on the path of Lake Agnes. A little caveat: this is one of the longer trails, around 6 hours – but it’ll be worth it in the end. Plus, you’ll have another reason to eat that delicious homemade teahouse cookie!

Other popular hikes in the area include:

–       Consolation Lakes Trail by Moraine Lake

–       Saddleback Pass Trail

–       Helen Lake Trail.

You can also visit trails by horseback.

Canoes are available to rent on Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. For the thrill-seekers, white water rafting tours are available outside of Lake Louise.

Banff National Park

Banff National Park

Banff

The town of Banff, located 30 minutes south of Lake Louise, has a cute downtown with shops, restaurants, and bars. Besides eating delicious food in town (Park Distillery Restaurant & Bar) and listening to some great live music at night at the Fairmont Rundle Lounge, some popular activities recommended are:

–       Banff Gondola at Sulfur Mountain

–       Hiking and Biking Trails

–       River Float Trip / Boat Tour on Lake Minnewanka

–       Johnston Canyon – easy walk/hike, looking at nature within the canyon rather than out.

–       Swimming in the 104 degree hotel pool (while cold outside)

Banff National Park

Travel Tips for Banff National Park:

Direct flights to Calgary leave from New York, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. Before you fly into Calgary International Airport, it is best you have your rental car booked ahead of time. The most convenient method is to rent from the rental car companies located at the airport parking garage. From the airport, it is an easy and scenic 1.5 hour drive to Banff National Park.  As you arrive at the park gate, there is a per day park vehicle fee you must pay ahead of time. For example, if you are staying 4 nights then pay for a 4 day pass. Fill up gas before you leave Banff or have rental car reservations to include an empty tank as finding a gas station towards the airport is difficult.) Also, if you are flying out internationally, US customs is BEFORE you get on the flight. Leave plenty of time to go through customs and regular security before you get to your gate.

Banff National Park

What to pack for a trip to Banff National Park:

– Passport

– No foreign transaction fee Credit Card, much easier than dealing with paper currency as credit cards are accepted everywhere.

– Insect repellent (very much needed during hikes in Lake Louise)

– Umbrella (never know when it can rain)

– Bathing suit (hotel pools and any water activities)

– Wind breaker/jacket/sweater – to wear during the hikes, at night, or when it’s milder out. The weather can vary drastically both day-to-day and day-to-night.

– Trail shoes/hiking boots/water shoes (for white water rafting)

 

As much as Drake loves talking about “Views”, the best views of Canada don’t come from Toronto. Indeed, the views from Banff National Park are second to none.

Thanks to Nirali for her awesome travel tips on Banff National Park!
Thanks to Nirali for her awesome travel tips on Banff National Park!