The best of Montreal, via Instagram

The best of Montreal, via Instagram

Montreal has been on my dream travel list for ages, if only for the opportunity to practice my French without flying over the Atlantic. I’ve also been itching to visit our neighbor to the north; Canada was tops on my list of places I wanted to go in 2013. As spring and summer and fall all sped by (and my vacation days dwindled), I finally decided that Canada still had to happen, winter or not. And so I booked Thanksgiving in Montreal, via the train!


Montreal in the winter isn’t recommended for the faint of heart or the thin of skin: it is bone-chillingly cold. Even though temperatures rarely hit above 20 degrees Fahrenheit while we were there–they generally hovered around 10 degrees–we still fell in love with the snow-covered squares, cobblestone streets and incredible foodie scene. Chilly or not, Montreal easily climbed its way into one of my favorite cities on the continent–and not just because I had excellent company to explore the city 🙂

The view from the Amtrak train from New York to Montreal

The New York to Montreal train curves through the Adirondack mountains for about 10 hours, and is one of the most scenic rides in the world. I’m a huge fan of train travel, and while this wasn’t quite as effortless as the TGV in Europe, it was still a nice break from the chaos of traveling by plane or stress of driving in the snow.

The view from the Amtrak train from New York to Montreal

A pending storm didn’t exactly enhance the scenery–I’ve heard stories of breathtakingly beautiful views when the leaves change in autumn–but it was still a nice backdrop while reading a book or watching a movie. 

The view from the Amtrak train from New York to Montreal

To celebrate Thanksgiving, I insisted on turkey sandwiches on the train!

Montreal in the snow in winter

Luckily, we came in the day after a snowstorm–just in time to see the city covered in a beautiful blanket of powder.

Inside of Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal

One place that absolutely blew me away was the interior of Notre-Dame Basilica. I never expected one of the most striking examples of architecture I’ve ever seen to be outside of Europe, much less in Canada!

Poutine at La Banquise in Montreal

Of course, we had to try poutine at La Banquise. Montreal’s most famous dish consists of French fries, cheese curds and gravy–and boy, does it stick to your ribs when it’s cold out!

Traditional Montreal bagel

Another must was the Montreal bagel. Delicious–but I think I’ll still to my everything, toasted, with cream cheese in New York.

Les Bains Scandinaves in Montreal, Quebec

One of the most incredible and relaxing experiences of our stay was an afternoon at Scandinave Spa in Vieux-Montreal: think hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms and “stress-free zones” that are essentially the best possible set-up for a nap.

Hotel Ambrose in Montreal in winter

We stayed at an adorable B&B called Hotel Ambrose–practically my namesake! Housed in a gorgeous house near downtown Montreal, I especially loved the sunny bay window in our room and the well-kept period touches, like exquisite crown molding and high ceilings.

Strawberries at Marche Jean-Talon in Montreal

Another favorite stop was Jean-Talon Market: it reminded me of the covered markets in Paris. We even stopped for crepes for a snack!

Montreal in the snow in winter

Special thanks to Tourism Montreal for kindly providing us with complimentary accommodation and select activities. As always, all opinions are my own. 

  • Casey

    Montreal is high on my list too but it’s so much harder to get there from the West Coast. I love that it’s an easy train ride from NYC! Looks beautiful!

  • Yeaaaaah favourite city ever ever! Come back in the summer 🙂

  • LostInCheeseland

    You went to my dream destination! Adding it all to the list….

  • Marie-Eve Vallieres

    Glad you enjoyed my city 🙂 I would like to point out that it isn’t normally THAT cold in November. Even Montrealers are angry with the weather (more than we normally are, that is). Gorgeous photos!

  • It looks SO cold! I love visiting spas and soaking in hot tubs in the cold.

  • dee

    Oh my gosh! I was right. Now that I’ve seen your pics and have read your reviews I definitely would like to go visit. And the train ride! What a dream! 🙂

  • CuriosityTravels

    I’d love to go to Montreal! Looks so pretty in winter too.

    That turkey sandwich made me really miss those! Can’t get one like that here in Spain.

    And that poutine….YUM.

  • Montreal is such a fantastic city! Your pictures of the city covered in snow are beautiful! I have only been in the summer and was blown away by how much I loved the city. Also, since I am from Boston I especially liked your Harpoon IPA on the train!

  • I’ve always wanted to go to Montreal. It sounds wonderful…except that it’s even further north than where I come from – too dark and cold in the winter! :/

  • camorose

    Definitely! But on the plus side, you’re so close to Vancouver!

  • camorose

    I want to!!!

  • camorose

    Have you never been? You’d love it! The food scene is incredible and it’s so picturesque!

  • camorose

    Well that makes me feel a LITTLE better–it sure was COLD! Would love to go back in the summertime 🙂

  • camorose

    It was such a nice little break from the cold–love!

  • camorose

    Yes! It was so much fun!

  • camorose

    Oh my gosh the poutine! So rich, but perfect in cold weather 🙂

  • camorose

    Yes! Love Harpoon! Montreal was beautiful in the snow, but I’d love to go back in the summer!

  • camorose

    True! I don’t think I’ll be going back in the winter anytime soon 🙂

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