Vieux-Montréal, or Old Montreal, is one of the major highlights of a visit to Montreal, Quebec. Home to Notre-Dame Basilica, the old port, cobblestone streets, and a genuine European flair, travellers can spend an entire weekend in this urban district, one of the oldest in North America.
In summer, the port comes alive with a variety of festivals, Cirque du Soleil performances, zip line rigging, and buskers. But for those who want to forgo the crowds and hype, the cobbled, restaurant-lined alleys are entertaining in themselves, with shopping and eating and coffee-drinking galore.
Olive et Gourmando – This hipster cafe and eatery serves up fresh sandwiches, breads and pastries, and a delicious brunch. Thanks to some good publicity in the blogosphere, it is often very busy, and brunch-goers can expect to wait in the entry, or spill out onto Rue Saint Paul, before getting a cozy table beside other Francophone and Anglophone diners.
Marché de la Villette – Across the road from Olive et Gourmando, Marche de la Villette offers modern French cuisine, deli meats, and fresh cheese selections in an traditional, cabin-like setting. Stepping in is like entering the perfect Quebecois cabin, with hard wood tables, low beams, and large, wholesome dishes. I highly recommend anything that comes in a skillet, hot from the oven, with a fried egg still cooking on top.
Cantinho de Lisboa Épicerie – For a quick bite of breakfast or a light lunch, try this Portugese-inspired market and cafe. Soup, salad, and full breakfasts are available in house, along with coffee, breads, and pastries. To go, pick up condiments and treats from Portugal, as well as those made in-house.
Lunch à Porter – Brown bag lunches will never be the same. Everything is Lunch a Porter is screaming to come home with me every time I stop in. From Bento boxes to water bottles and thermoses, lunching at your desk has never looked so cute.
Espace Pepin Home – The most chic and Quebecois-feeling shop I’ve ever been in for homewares, dishes, furnishings, and sweet things for the kitchen that I certainly don’t need but end up dreaming about for months following a visit. Stop in for elevensies to have a cup of vegetarian soup so you can imagine the cafe space at the back of the shop really is your kitchen.
Nüspace – I found this gem on my last trip to Montreal, and happened to be in while a group of very young children were entranced by a collection of vintage toys, a highlight of this spot. Also to be found: mix and match chairs, a room of rugs, housewarming gifts for the goof in your group, and the funkiest collection of accessories to brighten up your blank slate. Find them on Instagram (@nuspacemobilier) for inspiration, and to begin your wish-list.
Librairie Bertrand – One of my favourite independent bookstores in Montreal, the staff here say very little without prompting, allowing for solitary browsing through the huge stacks of both French and English selections. In March, Irish literary options were prominently displayed, as were recent award-winning French novels and poetry collections. Pick up a combined French-English translation of a classic to improve your language skills – one page, two languages, and no need for a dictionary!
Délices Érable & Cie – The Canadian maple syrup chain is expanding rapidly, and now has four stores in the province of Quebec (including this one in Old Montreal) and one in Vancouver. Stop in for gift sets of pure Canadian maple syrup (I brought one home with syrup, maple sugar, and maple butter – YUM) or have a coffee and maple dessert in the fresh and modern cafe. We ran in to escape a brief rainstorm, and were thrilled to find ourselves surrounded by maple everything. Try whatever is being sampled at the front of the store- it’s all delicious.
Flyjin Café – This hole in the wall espresso bar on Rue Saint-Pierre could be missed easily, but should be a destination stop for an afternoon caffeine hit. Serving high-test espresso (with beans from Anchored Coffee of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia!) and freshly juiced oranges,
Want to see more of Quebec? Try this: Quebec’s Seven Secret Falls