24 Hours in Montreal

24 hours in Montreal—mission possible? Absolutely. Visitors trying to craft the perfect day can eat their way through Montreal’s legendary food scene, admire its most popular attractions, from Old-Montreal to Outremont, mingle with its friendly locals, and visit classic Montreal cultural attractions such as downtown art museums or the designer shops on boulevard Saint-Laurent.

312 R. du Square-Saint-Louis, Montréal, QC H2X 1A5, Canada
The Carré Saint-Louis (also known as St. Louis Square) is one of Montréal’s most important literary streetscapes. Famed Québecois poets Émile Nelligan and Gaston Miron called this home. Brightly painted Victorian/Second Empire graystone rowhouses line the square—one of the best leafy spaces in the city. (It’s been called “the closest thing to a European neighborhood square you’ll find this side of the Atlantic” by the Project for Public Spaces.) A few blocks away is the fabled Schwartz’s Deli. Grab a “smoked meat” to go, then come here to chow down by the fountain, surrounded by trees and 19th-century façades. (The nearest subway is Sherbrooke station on the Orange Line.)
3895 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2W 1X9, Canada
While New York has its pastrami, Montréal is the home of smoked meat. (The preparation of both is similar: A beef brisket is cured in spices for a week, then hot-smoked and finally boiled before being served.) Though others may question the claim, Schwartz’s boasts that it is the original home of smoked meat, serving it since 1928. Regardless of who was first, Schwartz’s is the most popular smoked-meat option in town. Order a sandwich, on rye with only yellow mustard to accompany the meat, and you’ll soon understand why the citizens of Montréal are so passionate about the dish.
181 Rue Saint Paul Est, Montréal, QC H2Y 1G8, Canada
Poutine is the stuff of legends, much to the chagrin of many Canadians. It is the one food non-Canadians seem to know the most about, and a snack of this heavy dish is at the top of the list for most visitors to Montreal. Even though it can be found throughout Canada, poutine got its start in Quebec back in the 1950s and truly is a collage—some would say train wreck—of ingredients. The classic recipe is simple, really: french fries topped with brown gravy and curd cheese. But this simple explanation really doesn’t do it justice. Like many other comfort foods, poutine may not be the healthiest dish, but there is just something satisfying about the experience. I love sharing a big bowl amongst friends, each armed with a fork scouting out the best fries and melty cheese curds as the gravy drips drop by drop into the bowl below. There are a thousand varieties of poutine, including BBQ, lobster, and even foie gras, but there’s nothing like the simple original version.
7070 Avenue Henri-Julien, Montréal, QC H2S 3S3, Canada
After Toronto, Montréal is the Canadian city with the largest population of residents of Italian descent. For more than a century, the community has been centered in one of the city’s most charming neighborhoods, Little Italy. The way to the heart of this neighborhood is arguably through its stomach or, rather, the Jean-Talon Market, where residents have come to buy produce and stock their pantries since 1933. Even if you aren’t shopping for fresh vegetables or fruits, it’s a good place to come to sample Québecois products and buy gifts like local jams, jellies, and maple products to take back home.
1425 Rue Jeanne-Mance, Montréal, QC H2X 2J4, Canada
Ask any Montrealer the question “Which is the fanciest restaurant in town?” and chances are Toqué! will be a frequent answer. Indeed, quite fancy. But also quite expensive. Luckily, chef Charles-Antoine Crête, once mentored by Toqué's Normand Laprise, decided that a more accessible and younger version of the famous restaurant would fit perfectly well with the new Place des Festivals—in style, location, and ambience. And he wasn’t wrong. I always go for the beef tartare, and not once have I been disappointed. The menu changes according to the season, but there is a constancy in quality, regardless of the time of the year. This is definitely the best way to get a taste of Montreal‘s finest, sans the waiting list and the steep check.
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