FOR THOSE CRUISING FROM, TO, OR VISITING OUR FAIR CITY THIS YEAR:
Good Hotels at the airport include The Hilton (closest to airport), Sheraton Four Points (3 miles away), Holiday Inn, and Le Pavilion Hotel (Quality chain). There are many "Day's Inn" type places as well. The problem with staying at the airport as opposed to downtown is very simple... good restaurants are not easily found there, and you must travel 10 miles to get downtown, there's nothing of interest at the airport. You can always eat at the OK restaurants in the hotel though.
Good Downtown hotels include The Chateau Champlain, The Queen Elizabeth (better, where John Lennon had his "bed-in" with Yoko) and the Delta. There's also the Ritz-Carlton (if price is no object) and the Omni Hotel. If you want to stay near the Old Port then the Intercontinental Hotel is very good. All these hotels are pricey, but US dollars buy a lot here.
You must try poutine (available at any greasy spoon)....Poutine is French fries, sprinkled with cheese curds, and smothered in gravy. Every Quebecois consumes at least 10 times their body weight in poutine annually. For the authentic restaurant in which to partake, the greasier the better. Any joint starting with "Patate" is usually good. The chains serving good poutine are "Restaurant Lafleur" and "La Belle Province". "Gibeau Orange Julep" and "Decarie Hot Dog" are also not bad. Consult the Yellow Pages or e-mail me for directions. If you really want to get truly "Quebecois", ask for "Cretons", fried organ meats and pate, it is not for the faint of stomach. Better yet, visit a sugar shack (Cabane à Sucre) and you will get the whole works, and a french singsong also. Tourtiere is also a must. (it's a ground-meat pie).
Another "Must Do" is smoked meat (pastrami) served fresh at Schwartz's on the Main (Boul. St. Laurent near Des Pins Ave.) There is always a line-up there, and they're open late. Van Horne Bagel Bakery and St. Viateur Bagel make some of the most amazing bagels in the world.
Other attractions are : The Big Owe (Olympic Stadium), Biodome and Botanical Gardens, St. Joseph's Oratory (The big shrine to St. Joseph up on the mountain), The Casino, and perhaps a day trip up north to Mont Tremblant Village, or Le Village Du Seraphim (a historically-accurate village with actors, also up North). Strolling areas include De La Commune and St. Paul Streets in Old Montreal and Rue St. Denis in between Sherbrooke and St. Antoine Streets. The Main (Boul. St. Laurent) can also be interesting, but is less Quebecois, more international. The museum at Pointe a Callière is good for history buffs, right near the cruise-ship terminal in Old Montreal. A lot of tourists opt for the calèche (carriage) ride in the old port area. I hear some drivers can be very entertaining. The more adventurous opt for jet-boat rafting on the St. Lawrence river rapids. Hockey aficionados will love the Holy Shrine of Hockey, the Forum (now an entertainment complex), located at Ste. Catherine and Atwater streets. It's haunted, you know. A seasonal amusement park like Six Flags can be found on Ile Ste. Helene.
A word about the "underground city"... Montreal has linked up all the Metro (subway) stations and buildings into what amounts to the largest underground pedestrian shopping concourse in the world, and this is something not to be missed. It is possible to walk underground for several miles, and it is completely possible for local residents to live, work, buy groceries, shop, bank, and be entertained without setting foot outside (not that we'd want to). The Metro is a clean, safe and very quiet mode of transportation, easily accessed from the Old Port cruise terminal by walking or driving north on Boul. St. Laurent to the closest station, Place D'Armes, located at the Convention Center. 10 minute walk, 5 minutes by car.
The Fireworks Festival runs from Mid-June to Mid-July, twice weekly. Can be seen for free from anywhere near the Jacques Cartier Bridge.
International Jazz Festival (Late June to Mid-July) has many free shows.
Just For Laughs Comedy Festival (Mid-July)
Les Mongolfieres Hot Air Balloon Festival in St Jean Sur Richelieu, about 1 hour south of the city.
Montreal International Film Festival (in August)
Les Francofolies, is a festival of Quebec culture without English translation or explanation.
June 24 is La Fete St. Jean, celebrated by some Quebecois as Independence Day, complete with parade and annual civil unrest. It is wise to stay away from downtown on the eve and day of the 24th. English being spoken is not tolerated very well by some trouble-makers at this time, especially after dark.
A word of caution: if you must drive, note the following:
All of our road signs are in French. You can get lost very easily, which can be fun. Speed limits are in Kilometers per Hour, not MPH.
We have two seasons here... Winter and Construction. Avoid crossing any bridges at all cost. (for those who do not know... Montreal is an ISLAND in the middle of the St. Lawrence river).
TAXI from the Airport (Trudeau International) to downtown or the cruise terminal is 20 minutes (except during rush hours), and costs about $25.00 CDN. Taxi from Mirabel Airport is one hour and about $60 to downtown. In general, estimate a dollar a minute or so.
PLACES TO EAT:
The Casa Grecque chain, Chalet BBQ (BBQ chicken, a local landmark, at the intersection of Sherbrooke St. W. and Decarie Expressway), St. Hubert (BBQ Chicken) chain, "La Stanza" or "Vichy" Buffets (like cruising for under $10), Le Pub St. Paul (pub meals), Orange Julep Drive-In (fast food, closed in winter)
Au Vieux Duluth chain (very good, not too expensive), Boccacino's (Italian) chain, Baton Rouge Restaurants (chain), and most Creperies and Fondues are good, for French cuisine on a budget.
Most French restaurants, such as Restaurant Le Parchemin (1333 University St.), Restaurant Helene de Champlain (on St. Helen's Island), Le Mas Des Oliviers (1216 Bishop St.), and Alexandre (1454 Peel St.). Moishe's Steakhouse (3961 St. Laurent Boul.) is also often voted a local favourite (note: dress code in effect here). The grand-daddy of all prices can be found at Le Queue de Cheval (1225 Boul. Rene Levesque W) literal translation of their name is "the horse's ass", bring a no-limit credit card.
RESTAURANTS IN OLD MONTREAL (NEAR CRUISE TERMINAL):
Restaurant Les Remparts (93 De la Commune St. E.) has expensive true French cuisine, Pierre Du Calvet Restaurant (405 Bonsecours St.), Gibby's Steakhouse (298 Youville Pl. - voted best steakhouse by locals), Restaurant du Vieux-Port (39 St. Paul St. E.) has moderately-priced, Mediterranean-Style fare, Restaurant Les Filles Du Roy (405 Bonsecours St.)
RESTAURANTS NEAR TRUDEAU INTL. AIRPORT:
Le Bifteque Steakhouse (6705 Cote de Liesse) is like Outback, but cheaper and slightly better, Restaurant Tevere (285 Dorval Ave) for Italian, and will deliver to your hotel room, Barbie's Restaurant (15 Bouchard Ave.) has good cheap fare, Restaurant Lafleur (10800 Cote De Liesse) is a Quebecois institution, poutine is served here in all its forms (Try an Italian Poutine). Most big hotels near the airport have at least one respectable on-site restaurant.
The Montreal Casino also has several very good restaurants, ranging from buffet-style to gastronomique-exorbitant. A five-star restaurant is located here.
Our personal favourites are Casa Grecque, Le Bifteque, Chalet BBQ and Baton Rouge restaurants, for quality/price.
Have a great visit and cruise. E-mail me if you want me to get even more specific.
WOW -Best review on Montreal I have ever read and I have read a few and been there too and I agree it is a wonderful place to visit. Thanks - Merci - it made great reading and will be invaluable to those travelling there. Happy cruisin'!