Experience Montreal’s famous joie de vivre at Hôtel Le Crystal
Photo credit: Visit Montreal
Montreal is a treat for tourists and locals alike. I’ve always loved that in less than two hours you can drive from Ottawa to Montreal to experience the many things Canada’s cultural capital city has to offer, whether it’s the historic sites of Old Montreal, the glorious Mont Royal, the many galleries, exceptional restaurants and bars or friendly joie de vivre of its residents.
Montreal is a romantic, cosmopolitan and vibrant city that retains a small-town, friendly charm. My spouse and I went for a weekend sojourn and we quite enjoyed ourselves just strolling the streets of rue Ste.Dennis, admiring architecture, visiting art galleries, coffee shops and a pub or two!
You can’t go wrong if you stay at the charming Hôtel Le Crystal in the heart of the Montreal. This boutique-like hotel has a relaxed and contemporary atmosphere. Located just one block from Ste-Catherine Street and a ten minute walk from Old Montreal, it is the closest hotel to the Bell Centre and a popular choice for visitors whether you've come for the Montréal Canadiens, a concert, business event or festival. If you're flying to Montreal, Hôtel Le Crystal is only a 20 minute drive from Pierre-Elliot-Trudeau International Airport (YUL).
The hotel staff is friendly, helpful and courteous all while providing exceptional service. We parked our car with valet for the weekend and had no need for it until we checked out. Hotel Crystal offers many options for customers to see the variation in prices depending on the dates you are visiting. The hotel suites are comfortable and cozy and include free Wi-Fi, a small kitchenette supplying dishes, cutlery, a microwave, kettle, coffee machine and a fridge. Our bedroom was adjoined to the living room with a sliding door that provided additional privacy. The bathroom was big, with 2 sinks, a bathtub and a shower. All this made for a restful weekend.
The hotel is currently undergoing renovations that will be complete by the summer of 2019. By happenstance, I had mentioned when booking that this was a romantic weekend getaway. When we arrived in our room there was a complimentary bottle of champagne and chocolates for us, as well as a welcoming note from the hotel manager wishing us the best for our weekend stay. How nice is that? A very kind gesture!
Hôtel Le Crystal has an indoor saltwater pool, outdoor hot tub and Swedish sauna on the 12th floor rooftop. There is also a spa and a well-equipped fitness centre (including spin bikes). Having visited in December and spending most of our time walking around the city, there was no better feeling than being able to come back to the hotel for a swim in the rooftop pool before slipping into the outdoor hot tub that overlooks glorious Mont Royal. The Siam Centre-ville is the onsite restaurant at Hôtel Le Crystal offering cocktails and refined authentic Thai cuisine. The food was very nicely prepared with fresh ingredients including lots of vegan selections. The curry beef is excellent and really hit the spot on a cold winter’s night.
Montreal is walkable year-round and for me it’s the best way to enjoy the city. Ste-Catherine Street, located in the heart of downtown between Robert-Bourassa Street and Guy Street, is a shopper’s paradise. It’s also Montreal’s main commercial street and if visiting during the winter months underground tunnels can connect you to the street from multiple points. The city’s bike lanes skirt throughout most of the core including Old Montreal. Concordia University has a large presence on east Ste. Catherine and there is frenetic energy in the area. I suggest having lunch at one of the many Asian restaurants offering everything from Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Noodles, Pho – you name it and you can find it. On west Ste. Catherine you’ll find the storied downtown Montreal Hudson Bay store, many of the legendary Montreal style smoked meat restaurants, historic churches, fabulous shopping hot-spots and comfy bars. Be sure to step into Hurley’s on Crescent just south of Ste Catherine. It’s a comfy Irish pub with lots of little nooks and crannies, live traditional music each night, a lineup of craft beers and single malts, great food and a great time.
Old Montreal and the surrounding port area are about a kilometer south of west Ste. Catherine from Saint-Antoine south to the St. Lawrence river and from McGill to St-Hubert. This area has been revitalized and re-energized with a large number of condo projects built over the past decade. Retailers, restaurateurs and revellers have made this the new it spot in Montreal. Be sure to walk along cobbled St. Paul Street, the oldest street in the city and home to many art galleries, boutiques and restaurants. You'll also find newly re-constructed homes and condos that juxtapose the glorious historic buildings of Old Montreal. To live in Montreal must be fabulous as everything that makes up the soul and excitement of the city is either here or within a 15-20 minute walk.
Mont-Royal Park and its lookout offer the best views of Montreal. A popular destination spot for tourists, this area is also noted for offering a handful of outdoor activities including hiking and snowshoeing in the winter months and running in the spring, summer and fall.
The Taverne Square Dominion is a must if you visit Montreal. Open for almost a century, you’ll be forgiven if you think you’ve just walked into the 1920’s when entering The Taverne Square Dominion. The original tavern opened its doors as a hotel and restaurant in 1927 and it remains one of the most beautiful bistros in all of Montreal. It reminds me of several of the restaurants I’ve been to in Paris with its high ceilings, antique chandeliers, period furniture, beautiful tiles, woodwork and magnificent long bar lined with barstools. It seats 90, including 20 at the bar. It’s known for its diverse cocktail menu, small selection of craft beers and ciders, and wine list with prices between $40.00 and $80.00.
They serve scrumptious French brasserie style comfort food including fish or meat, mussels and fries, chicken, sausages, pork, cod, salmon and more. There is a daily special and fixed menu. Try the salmon gravlax and fish terrine to start, followed by either the cod or braised beef shoulder. Finish your meal with their famous sticky toffee pudding topped with coffee ice cream. Sundays are always popular as the place is known for its famous Sunday Roast! Everything is made on site and is simply delectable. The servers are experienced, professional and friendly. For location, quality, food, price, ambiance and service it doesn’t get any better that the Taverne Square Dominion.