48 Hours in Montreal

Get the most out of a shopping weekend in Canada’s style capital.

Montreal's skyline. Image courtesy Shutterstock.

Montreal’s skyline. Image courtesy Shutterstock.

FRIDAY

5 p.m.

We’ve arrived at the Toronto Island Airport to catch our 6:30 p.m. Porter flight, giving ourselves plenty of time to enjoy the plush lounge complete with complimentary snacks and WiFi. A few Instagrams later and it’s time to board. Tip: Don’t say no to the chocolate chip shortbread cookies.

The lobby at the Loews Hotel Vogue Montreal.

The lobby at the Loews Hotel Vogue Montreal.

8:15 p.m.

Shaving at least 15 minutes off our evening thanks to carrying on our luggage, we hop into a cab straight to our weekend respite, the Loews Hotel Vogue Montreal, which is perfectly positioned for retail indulgences. After settling into our oversized room, we freshen up before heading out for a late dinner, European style (do like the French, as the expression goes).

Read our full review of the Loews Hotel Vogue Montreal.

10 p.m.

Thankfully we thought ahead and reserved a seat at Pullman, a wine bar that serves up small plates. It’s bustling, but we’re instantly whisked away to the back of the restaurant where side-by-side counter seats zigzag around the bar. With over 350 wines by the glass, a trio of 2 oz. white wines gives us plenty to sample, minus the hangover. On the verge of hangry, we order a variety of tapas-style dishes, with standout bites including the Mini Bison Burgers with Matchstick Fries and Port-Stepped Grilled Cheddar Cheese. Polishing the plates, it’s time to call it a night.

SATURDAY

9 a.m.

This morning’s plan is to shop in the Mile End district, where it’s less about brand name boutiques and more about local finds from vintage clothing to home accessories. But first, fuel. Taking a brisk walk from the Mont-Royal Métro station, we head to one of Montreal’s dining institutions, Beautys Luncheonette — a classic diner that’s been welcoming hungry patrons since 1942. Narrowly missing the brunch rush, the mouthwatering menu slows down decision making, with favourites like omelettes, pancakes and Montreal-style bagels standing out, not to mention the smoothie list. Is it too early for a cookies and cream shake?

Part of the experience is seeing owner Hymie Sckolnick, now 90-something, play host and manage the line. We watched as he greeted guests, kept an eye on tables and occasionally step behind the counter. Full of eggs, toast and bottomless coffee, we are now equipped to shop.

Rack of clothes hand at Unicorn Boutique in Montreal.

Rack of clothes hand at Unicorn Boutique in Montreal.

11 a.m.

Walking up to Saint-Laurent, an eclectic window display featuring vintage-style home accessories and furniture lures us in. Channeling a French country meets urban rustic vibe, VdeV stocks an affordable mix of everything from glassware and bedding to quirky hardware. Restraining to leave with only a sweet floral ring dish, we continue on.

A few doors down we pop into Boutique Unicorn, where Montreal designers dominate the racks. We browse through the fashion-forward feminine pieces, from local darlings such as Mélissa Nepton and Eve Gravel, and peruse the large assortment of jewellery.

Next we wander over to Les Étoffes, an extremely well-crafted collection of men and women’s clothing from less-obvious international designers like Patrik Ervell, Chauncey and Risto. Maybe it’s the cabin-like interior or the dim lighting, but whatever the case the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, making it easy to try on our picks.

A leafy green salad at Aux Vivres.

A leafy green salad at Aux Vivres.

1 p.m.

Naturally all that browsing built up our appetites. Neither can say no to a good salad, so we walk over to Aux Vivres, a popular vegan restaurant that offers healthy, ethnic-inspired cuisine. The Chapati sandwiches, brown rice bowls and chili fries all sound appetizing, but we opt to keep it light with the California salad (remember, we haven’t finished trying on clothes). Two mountains of fresh veggies arrive and we instantly regret not sharing. Thankfully it’s just vegetables.

Inside Cahier D'Exercices.

Inside Cahier D’Exercices.

2 p.m.

The next neighbourhood on our shopping radar is Old Montreal. We don’t want to miss the charm of touring around the cobblestone streets, plus we know there are gems to be found. A quick Métro ride to the Place D’Arms station and we make our way to SSENSE, the only bricks and mortar location of Canada’s largest luxury e-retailer. The two-storey boutique features many of the designers it sells online, including Saint Laurent, Balmain, Givenchy and Marc Jacobs. Lusting over a pair of neon pumps, we debate as we stroll to our next destination.

With its minimalist stone exterior, Cahier D’Exercices is unassuming from the street, but inside it’s brimming with avant-garde fashions and accessories from both established and up-and-coming designers. Stocking labels such as Ann Demeulemeester, Rick Owens, Jil Sander and Céline, owner Laura Gurandiano does justice to her carefully curated collection, artfully displaying each piece.

3:30 p.m.

Desperate for a kick of caffeine, we pop into Olive & Gourmando, a rustic, yet charming bistro and bakery serving up gourmet coffee, artisanal breads and decadent pastries. Opting to kick up our feet, we take two bar stools at a communal hightop and order two Americanos and an apple turnover to share.

4:30 p.m.

Hoping to get one last shop in before closing, we check out an Old Montreal favourite: Espace Pepin. Mixing interior design with art, fashion and accessories, it’s a one-stop shop for that perfect something to complete a room or outfit.

La-Societe-Montreal

8 p.m.

Conveniently connected to our hotel is La Société, a Parisian-style bistro popular with the Mimosa-sipping brunch crowd in Toronto. Fond of their eggs benedict and French toast, we decide their dinner menu deserves a taste. Sipping on custom cocktails  the extensive raw bar selection looks tempting, but instead we start with the colourful roasted beet and heirloom tomato salads. The homemade gnocchi literally melts the moment it hits your mouth, and even the steak frites manages to dissolve like butter. Even though we have little room left, in a food-blind moment we order Petit Fours for dessert. Our regret disappears after we devour the profiterole.

SUNDAY

11:30 a.m.

There’s just enough time to do a bit more retail damage, so we stay close to “home” and focus on the commercial shopping on St. Catherine Street West. We saunter over to Simons, a Quebec-based department store still run by the family that founded it in 1812. Merchandised exactly how fashionable women build their own closets, we spot budget brands literally steps away from high-end designer fashions. With a mountain of clothes in hand, we’re officially obsessed.

We have one last shopping institution to cover and it also happens to be directly across the street from our hotel. Also boasting over a century of retail history, Ogilvy has a traditional style sensibility, offering luxury fashions, accessories, and home goods. We focus on the lower level, which garners more of their fashion-forward labels.

3 p.m.  

With our carry-on bags stuffed shut, we jump into a taxi and head straight to the airport. We’ll be a touch early for our flight, but isn’t that what airport shopping is for?

This story originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2014 Issue of Travel & Style Magazine.