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Snow Day

Visiting Montreal in Winter
  • Le Place d'Armes Hotel & Suites

    Le Place d’Armes Hotel & Suites

  • Ice Skating

    Old Port of Montreal, © Marie-Reine Mattera

  • View from Mont Royal Park

    View from Mont Royal Park

  • Le Petit Hotel

    Le Petit Hotel

  • Le Petit Hotel

    Le Petit Hotel

  • Club Chasse

    Club Chasse et Pêche, courtesy of Nicolas Ruel

  • Auberge du Vieux Port

    Auberge du Vieux Port

  • Sledders, Mont Royal Park

    Sledders, Mont Royal Park

  • Outside Le Petit, Old City / Walking in Mont Royal Park

    Outside Le Petit, Old City / Walking in Mont Royal Park

CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

The island city of Montreal lies between two rivers, the St. Lawrence and the Prairie, in southwestern Quebec, thirty-five miles from the U.S. border.

WHY GO

For its unique architectural character, its French heritage, and its flourishing arts scene, encompassing everything from indie rock to haute cuisine.

HOW

It’s a reasonable drive from Vermont, upstate New York, or southeastern Ontario, and it’s served by an international airport named for the former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. From New York, a direct flight takes less than an hour and a half.

TABLET TIP

Choose your timing wisely — winter in Quebec is no joke, though bargains abound and the city looks especially pretty in fresh snow. Spring and fall are magical, if brief, and in summer Montreal gets downright hedonistic.

Montreal, January, 2013

Admittedly, it takes a certain streak of contrarianism to visit Montreal in January. Even the cab drivers, who you have to imagine have seen things worse than icy roads, have a world-weary look in their eyes as they talk about the weather, heaters blasting full-gust, bulky coats zipped up, as if the warmth were a thing to be hoarded, greedily, in anticipation of the moment when someone insists on opening that passenger door again. So yes, winter is cold in Montreal; there’s not much getting around that.

But off-season travel deals reward the intrepid, with some of the city’s best hotels offering steep discounts. In the Old City, Le Petit Hotel, Auberge du Vieux Port, the Place d’Armes and Hotel Nelligan, a group of family-owned boutique hotels that radiate a distinctive Québécois charm, land in the $100 – $200 range at this time of year. And their neighborhood looks especially good in the winter light — those stone façades all the more picturesque with icicles hanging from their eaves.

The many warm, French-inflected restaurants are particularly inviting, too, with a little snow piled on the sidewalks outside their entrances, and the cold weather calls for indulging in some of the rich foods that Quebec does best — frisée with duck confit and poached egg at L’Express, a foie gras–topped piglet risotto at Club Chasse et Pêche, truffles and toast at Au Pied de Cochon. Deep, thoughtfully compiled selections of wine and beer — largely French and Québécois, respectively — are the norm.

For all the cozy restaurants and hotels to settle into, there’s just as much to do outdoors. Skip the famous underground walkways and head to Mont Royal park. It’s an almost disconcertingly cheery tableau of outdoorsy French-Canadians sledding and skiing and jogging across fields of snow, high above the city.

Back across town at the Old Port, a popular outdoor rink draws crowds of ice skaters late into the evening. When conditions are right, the adjacent canal is cleared of snow, transforming it into a long, gently curving skating lane. For those willing to brave the cold, it’s a singular winter scene — the dark, wind-whipped Saint Lawrence River on one side, the city’s warmly lit skyline on the other, just off in the distance.

Mike Parker

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CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

The island city of Montreal lies between two rivers, the St. Lawrence and the Prairie, in southwestern Quebec, thirty-five miles from the U.S. border.

WHY GO

For its unique architectural character, its French heritage, and its flourishing arts scene, encompassing everything from indie rock to haute cuisine.

HOW

It’s a reasonable drive from Vermont, upstate New York, or southeastern Ontario, and it’s served by an international airport named for the former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. From New York, a direct flight takes less than an hour and a half.

TABLET TIP

Choose your timing wisely — winter in Quebec is no joke, though bargains abound and the city looks especially pretty in fresh snow. Spring and fall are magical, if brief, and in summer Montreal gets downright hedonistic.


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