A Girl’s Guide to Montreal: Shopping, Chocolate and French Men!
Canada’s hippest city is the perfect destination for an unforgettable girl’s summer vacation.
If you and your girlfriends can’t take a whole week off for a tropical vacation or afford the insane airfare to fly to Europe, might I suggest a super fun, foreign destination that’s only a short plane ride away? Montreal!
Canada’s hippest city is a great place for a girl’s trip in the summer. Typically known for its outrageous festivals like the Jazz Festival (the biggest in the world), Montreal also offers a burgeoning fashion scene, rich culture, delicious cuisine, and French men! Oui, oui!
To start planning your trip, TourismeMontreal.com is a great resource that provides facts about the city, resources to book your hotel and more. If you want the inside scoop on what to do and important things to know once you’re in Montreal, check out these lists below:
Things to Do:
1. Jean Paul Gaultier Exhibit
Fashion lovers can’t miss the opportunity to check out The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk exhibit held in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, now through October 2, 2011. From Madonna’s famous cone bras to Gaultier’s exquisite couture dresses, this retrospective will make anyone a fan of the French designer. For more information on the exhibit, visit mmfa.qc.ca.
2. Old Montreal
The city is divided into sections, with Downtown having the more modern city feel where people live, work and shop. Old Montreal, though just a mere walk or cab ride away, is like a trip back in time. Narrow, cobblestone streets and historic architecture give Old Montreal a very European, romantic feel, and yet the restaurants, shopping and nightlife are just as trendy as the spots in Downtown. Hollywood has fallen in love with filming movies in Old Montreal, specifically on St. James and St. Jacques streets (Martin Scorcese has filmed Catch Me If You Can here, and Jake Gyllenhaal fell in love with the city while filming Source Code here).
3. Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal
While in Old Montreal, make sure to stop into the Notre-Dame Basilica. Though it may look like a mini version of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris from the outside, once inside, you’ll be overcome with the unique magic and beauty of this historical church. Even if you’re not religious, the real gold moldings, stained-glass windows, and huge piped organ are impressive and well worth the visit.
4. Quartier International
When you’re Downtown at night, make sure to take a walk through the Quartier International, where you can see the ultra-modern, colorful façade of the Palais des Congres. In the dark, the building’s multicolored windows transform the sidewalk into a colorful light show. Right in front is also the Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle, which features a sculpture-fountain titled La Joute (The Joust). On summer nights, the fountain “puts on a show” and shoots up a ring of fire at certain times in the night.
5. Weekly Fireworks!
Want more fireworks post-July 4th? If you’re in Montreal on a Saturday or a Wednesday in July, you may be in store for a fireworks show courtesy of Montreal’s International Fireworks Competition. Locals head to the Jacques-Cartier bridge to get the perfect view of the fireworks, which start at 10 p.m. Check here for this year’s schedule.
6. Boutique Shops
The streets to explore Montreal’s best boutique shopping are Saint-Denis Street, Sherbrooke Street and Saint-Laurent Boulevard. Wander down these and stop in any storefront that piques your interest. In particular, we suggest visiting the Boutique Denis Gagnon, home of one of the most trendy Canadian designers of the moment, as well as Harricana par Mariouche, where designer Mariouche Gagne transforms your grandma’s old fur and leather coats into new, incredibly stylish coats, gloves, hats, boots and more. If you visit in August, you’re in luck: that’s when the annual Montreal Fashion & Design Festival is held!
Each neighborhood in Montreal has its own chocolate shop, which sounds like heaven to any girl! Seek out the ones closest to your hotel or make it a point to visit Juliette & Chocolat, which offers chocolate cocktails and even chocolate soup! Yum!
8. Dance Festivals
If you’re not in town during one of the larger festivals but you still want to get down, Montreal residents are known to congregate in their city parks for free dance festivals. Practice your salsa, flamenco, folk or tango moves under the stars as you mingle with the locals… and perhaps find a handsome French-speaking partner?
Important facts to know about Montreal, up next!