21 Dec 2023

Time 6 minutes

Holiday Guide : Trips through time and delicious finds

Holiday Guide : Trips through time and delicious finds

The holidays are in full holly jolly swing, and few other places come more dazzlingly alive with the season's spirit than Old Montreal. This time of the year, the neighbourhood is wrapped up in magic at every turn, and the east side is definitely no exception. Steeped in history and gourmet delights, it’s the perfect place to take a trip through time while finding fabulous gifts for all the foodies on your list.

Old Montreal - Key Areas - 4

Wondrous walks through way back when

To start things off on the good foot, go for some coffee and pastry bliss at the utterly charming Chez Mère-Grand before heading out to see the sights. Everything baked in this place is amazing, and you can even take the bliss home for the holidays, thanks to their offer of cookies, chocolatines, croissants and scones, ready to stick in the oven while you’re still in pyjamas. Christmas morning never smelled better.

Ever wondered what daily life was like in 19th century Montreal? So have we. Make your next stop the Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site for a tour of the Cartier family’s splendid Victorian residence, where you’ll find out all about life in their household and the Montreal of their day. For a deeper dive into the past, the outdoor audio tour will take you to a dozen spots throughout the neighbourhood frequented by Sir George-Étienne Cartier and his entourage in the mid 1800s.

Another great way to really get to know the neighbourhood is with a Christmas Secrets of Old Montreal walking tour. Let yourself be guided through all the illuminated splendour of the historic district while learning about the origins of local holiday traditions, the customs of New France, and, of course, the secrets of Christmas past. If you’re dying to know what they are, we’re not telling; you’ll just have to take the tour with Guidatour.

Breathtaking views and Christmas Eve at the oldest chapel in town

To experience the history and beauty of Old Montreal, but from a little higher up, be sure to pay a visit to the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel. Part of the Marguerite-Bourgeoys Historic Site, this magnificent, 350-year-old chapel features a belvedere near the top of its steeple offering up year-round, breathtaking views of Old Montreal and beyond.

Keeping with a tradition going back centuries, the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel will be holding a special mass featuring musical performances on Christmas Eve at 7pm. With its spectacular vaulted ceiling and soft yuletide melodies floating through the air, the chapel will be a wonderful place to be for one and all this December 24th.

While you’re at the Marguerite-Bourgeoys Historic Site, make sure to check out their temporary exhibit, Noah’s Ark according to Claude Lafortune. Through an array of impressive paper animal sculptures combined with works on loan from the Charlevoix Museum, visitors are invited to contemplate this biblical tale in a fresh, playful and engaging way sure to delight young and old alike.

Kicking back at the Marché Bonsecours

Need a little break from all the strolling and sightseeing? Head on over to the winter rest area set up right in front of the Marché Bonsecours. Take a load off in one of several comfy Adirondack chairs and admire the magnificent facade of one of the city's most iconic buildings while streams of passersby enjoy the festive atmosphere of the neighbourhood. At night, you will be dazzled by the columns draped in twinkling lights, while the towering cupola glows colourfully above for all to see.

The Marché Bonsecours, which served as the principal public market in Montreal for over a century, is now known for its trove of "made-in-Quebec" boutiques, featuring handicrafts, jewelry, clothing and accessories from right here in la belle province. It also has something else. Beer. If you find yourself pining for a holiday pint, Pub BreWskey and BreWskey Taproom have the goods. With a mighty selection of craft beers and fine whiskies (hence the name), as well as comforting pub food and a rustic-chic ambiance, these two sister spots will get the thumbs up from any brewpub aficionado. And if you’re looking for gifts of the beery kind, check out the L’Annexe BreWskey boutique, with its selection of canned brews, glasses, t-shirts and caps, as well as full-on kegs for maximum cheer.

Tasty gifts for every taste

Planning on giving the gift of good food this holiday season? While you’re at the Marché Bonsecours, be sure to pop in at La Cave à Manger, an artisanal bakery and wine store located just below street level. Their outstanding beer and cider collection and lovingly curated wine list are perfect for that special gift, while the homemade viennoiseries, like their super original croissant “rolls”, are scrumptious beyond belief. .

For the festive season, if you've set your sights on the classics of French gastronomy, head one block over to Maison Fayard on Notre-Dame Street East. These purveyors of superior gourmet products – and specialists in goose and duck foie gras – propose a magnificent collection of the very finest that the French terroir has to offer. Rosette de Lyon, Pork terrine with Armagnac, Périgord duck rillettes, cassoulet; everything here is of uncompromising authenticity and quality. It’s no wonder that Maison Fayard is now the number one French foie gras brand in Canada.

If it’s a sweet tooth that you’re looking to please, local cookie and cake paradise bar à beurre is going all out for the holidays right next door. With its Santa cakes, cupcake wreaths and special boxes featuring eggnog and gingerbread macarons among other treats, Christmas is absolutely everywhere here, down to the beautifully decorated storefront window. You’re even cordially invited to come and decorate your very own Christmas cookies, hot chocolate with marshmallows included!

No need to say goodbye

Finding yourself under Old Montreal’s holiday spell and don’t want to leave? A stay at the Hyatt Centric Montreal, just a block from all the festivities, is the perfect solution. Part of the magnificent Place Gare Viger, site of the first train station in Canada, this one-of-a-kind boutique hotel offers everything you need to make your visit even more memorable. Enjoy a great meal any time of day at their British-inspired restaurant, Pub Cartier Arms, where you’ll find all-time classics like Scotch Egg and Beef Wellington. Did we mention their bottomless mimosas at brunch? We can think of no happier way to start the rest of your stay in that magical place that is Old Montreal.

To discover more scintillating streets, superb restaurants and festive shopping options, we invite you to delve deeper into our Old Montreal Holiday Guide!

NOTA BENE: Your business would fit perfectly here but isn’t mentioned? Don’t hesitate to write to us at info@sdcvieuxmontreal.com, and it would be our pleasure to include it.