Montreal - long airport layover, suggestions?
Los Angeles area hound here, I will soon be traveling to Europe and will have about a 10 hour layover at the Montreal airport. Arriving early morning. Any suggestions for good chow (breakfast/lunch) at the airport or outside of the airport, any tips appreciated!
If it were me, I would take a cab to Old Montreal, and spend a few hours wandering around there, taking in the sights and the shops. This is an area that is unlike anything else in North America (with the exception of old Quebec City). Grab coffee and pastry at Olive + Gourmando, and/or brunch at Le Gros Jambon.
if I’m allowed a dissenting note, I think going to either market (Jean-Talon or Atwater) is simply a terrible idea. Neither market is very impressive – at least, not from a touristical point of view –, and the food you can get around them is nothing to write home about.
For instance: if you go to Jean-Talon, after you’ve seen several stands selling apples and potatoes, you’ll be hungry (and bored) and will want to eat something. Your best bet, in this scenario, would be, most probably, El Rey del Taco. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love El Rey del Taco, and often go there – but I wouldn’t spend my 10 hours in Montreal eating there. And I guess you can get better taco in LA, anyway.
I guess the only reason to go to either market would be to buy local stuff that you cannot (easily) find elsewhere – e.g., cloudberry jam. But, since this is just the first stop on a longer trip, I don’t think you’ll want to do that.
If you’ve never been to Montreal before, I think you should try our bagels (Fairmount* or St. Viateur**), and the smoked meat sandwhich (at Schwartz’s). (Apparently, you can get bagels and smoked meat sandwhiches at the airport – how fresh, though, I don’t know. I think you should come to town, anyway – in which case it’s better to have them here.) If you’re brave enough, you should also have poutine – and a couple of places even make good breakfast poutine (Café Regine is one of them, but it may be a bit roundabout getting there by public transportation).
Also, note that arriving on a Saturday has its own drawbacks: many good places do not open at all. The ones that open do so for brunch. Off the top of my head, I can recommend two brunch places that are open on Saturdays: Maison Publique and Lawrence. Both places, though, seem to have line-ups; this might be a con.
You may want, at some point, to drink something hot. Camellia Sinensis is an excellent choice for teas; Au Festin de Babette is a great choice for hot chocolate. And there are many good coffee shops, depending on the area you find yourself in.
Again, if this is your first time in Montreal, you should probably have a good sugar pie (tarte au sucre), or a good poor-man’s pudding (pouding chômeur) – but, unfortunately, I don’t know where you’d get these (not on a Saturday morning, at any rate). You should probably also get a maple taffy (tire d’érable; tire sur la neige) – this you can get at the entrance of the Mont-Royal metro station (among other places, I’m sure).
(*) If you decide to go to Fairmount Bagel, you should also go to Kem CoBa. I don’t know exactly when you’re coming, but hopefully they’ll already have started making ice cream again. Their soft serve ice creams are simply the best.
(**) If you decide to go to (the original) St. Viateur Bagel, you should definitely check, on the same street, the chocolates from Geniviève Grandbois. The one with olive oil is simply out of this world.
It's true that the markets, especially Jean-Talon, are relatively dull this time of year, especially in comparison to the great markets of Europe. But at least they will offer the chance to try maple taffy.
Speaking of maple + brunch, right now (not sure for how long) Sparrow has a traditional sugar-shack brunch: pea soup, tourtière, scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes, pork rinds, baked beans, pancakes, apple fritters, taffy. It's pretty good, certainly better than your average sugar shack.
Rather steep at $25 (all-you-can-eat, but none of our party needed a second helping of anything), but then again it isn't much more than what I've paid at rural places in the last few years, not to mention the cost of driving out and back.
re: Mr F
No cretons at Sparrow either, but they did have the traditional jars of pickles on the table (beets and string beans, in this case). I like cretons, but didn't miss them at all. And I left the bacon out of my post. It's a very substantial meal....
There's also a vegetarian option, with meatless soup, tourtière and beans to substitute for some of the meaty stuff.
For clarification purposes - though this is more about transit than food ;) - , you'll take the 747 Airport Express bus from the airport. Option 1 will take longer but provide a better experience: you take the bus to the last stop, the central bus terminal at Berri-UQAM metro station. You then take the orange metro line north to Jean-Talon station; the market is right there.
Option 2 is to take the 747 bus to Lionel-Groulx station (before the bus enters downtown) from where you walk south 2-3 blocks and you'll see Atwater Market. From there you can explore the canal and also the shops, restaurants, and cafés of Blvd Notre-Dame just to the east of Ave Atwater. If you are concerned at all about time or about navigating the Metro then Option 2 is a good one. Atwater is very nice; it's not as large or busy as Jean-Talon but still worth visiting. There are loads of new restaurants on Notre-Dame; I'm too out-of-touch to know what are the best, new places. However, Quoi de N'Oeuf and Toi, Moi, et Café are two breakfast places on that strip. If interested more in pastries, Premiere Moisson is right in the market.
There is an Option 3, which allows one to experience Montreal culture first-hand but does not include a market visit. You can take the orange metro line from Berri-UQAM to Mont-Royal station. From there you are in the heart of the Plateau, with a plethora of shops, cafés, and restaurants. The St-Viateur café a couple of blocks east of the Metro station will do a decent breakfast. Restaurant L'Avenue is very popular, also east of the station. Binerie Mont-Royal just west of the Metro station is a long-time old-school favourite for breakfast. Good luck!
Michelle, you should probably give us more details concerning the day of the week you'll be arriving, how far out you are willing to venture, type of food you are looking for, your comfort zone of driving or taking public transport in an unfamiliar city. There's not much nearby but there's great smoked meat just 4 km away at Delibees. Heck you can even walk it, beats the suggestions of taking public transport which could potentially eat up a lot of your time. I'll chime in too on public transport vs rental if that's the route you decide to take, I'd personally rent a car especially if you are here on a weekend.
Thanks for all the suggestions! I'll be arrive early Saturday morning and leaving early that evening. I would prefer not to rent a car or drive. Please forgive me for not mentioning the details in my original post!
I'd be comfortable taking public transport as long as it is easy to navigate. My connecting flight is with an different airline, so I would probably just go ahead and check my bag or store it at the airport.
I like all different kinds of food except for very spicy, and I don't drink alcohol. Other than that, looking for chow-worthy finds.
Thank you so much to everyone who has responded, really appreciated!
Weather should be alright otherwise I wouldn't risk dashing into the city and back again. 10 hours is not a lot of time when you factor in security and passport checks in and out. I was at the airport recently and as the thread posted above mentions, you can get St-Viateur bagels there which is a nice thing to try. There's roast chicken from St-Hubert Chicken which is a chain but a local one, not too bad. I had sushi from Tatami as others suggested - very pricey for what I got and pretty average but fun as a snack anyway. Lester's Deli probably has smoked meat sandwiches. Here's the list of airport restaurants: http://www.admtl.com/Passengers/Aeros...
10 hours is plenty of time. Take the 747 bus into town (you get it on the Arrivals level). Saturday is not a particularly bad day for traffic. I would suggest then getting on the Metro and go to Jean Talon market and walk around there. Go to Little Italy as well. Check out the ktichen store on St. Dominque. Go to Pastaga for lunch.
If you are really tight for time, take a taxi from there back to the airport.
(When you say 'early morning' are you meaning around 7 am? If so, nothing will be open, so I suggest finding a good place for breakfast near JT Market. Others may have suggestions for where that might be).
I think this is a good plan, though to save time you could get off at the first stop and head for Atwater market. This is significantly smaller, but easier to get to. From there you could potentially walk east down the canal to old Montreal.. about a 1hr walk... or metro would be a few minutes.
If you haven't been here before, regardless of the cost, you're better off taking a cab. If you rent a car, you would likely have to rent from one of the companies available at the airport (so costs will be higher regardless). And with the possibility of your flight arriving late, and the recommended 3 hours to clear customs for Europe, you don't have a huge amount of time to spare to deal with the semantics of car rentals.
And time of day (and day of week) are important, as has been noted - while it can take 20 minutes from the airport to downtown in light traffic, it can easily take 40 if traffic is heavy.
Yes, I think the most important issue is what day you'll be here. Lunchtime options are much more limited than those for dinner, and if you'll be here on a weekend that really changes what's available.
I agree that renting a car might be easiest if you'll have luggage. If your bags are smallish, the cheapskate option would be to buy a transit day-pass and take the 747 airport bus downtown to the last stop at the central bus terminal (9$ return, including unlimited access to the metros). Luggage lockers are available there for a minimal fee if you'd like to drop your bags. From there you are at the base of the plateau neighbourhood, and on top of the main metro lines. If you're in town on a Friday, head to 400 Coups for lunch. If any weekday but Monday, maybe aim for Olie & Gourmando in old montreal. You could also just wander the plateau and Mile end to the north until you see interesting places to eat, but make sure to leave yourself lots of time to get back to the airport. During rushhour the bus will probably take 60-75 minutes to get from the east of downtown to the airport.
Rent a car, but be aware that airport rentals are more expensive just because of the location. The flat fee for taxi is now $40 (+ whatever tip you leave) one way so rental + parking is about the same as cabs.
If that's 10 hours between the flights themselves, you will have about 6 hours total time to explore. 1 hour or so to clear Customs, get your vehicle and make it to your first location, and you'll want to have about 3 hours to make it back to return and of course clear security for an international flight, which can be brutal if you're stuck behind yokels.
if your flight's on a Friday, you could make a beeline for the Jean Talon Market and then have lunch at Pastaga before cruising for snacks elsewhere.
It's a small city so I'd rent a car (if you have the funds...) and that way you would not be limited to where public transportation can take you. in 10 hours, you've got time for basically anything you want to do, don't need to stay close to the airport (which is not very interesting anyways). i found $43 on Hotwire for a day's rental. Considering it's $38 flat fee (one-way) cab ride downtown, renting is worth it. Public transportation downtown will take you about 45 minutes vs. a 20 minute car ride if there is no traffic. So, for me, $43 is not much considering I'd be able to leave my carry-on in the trunk while exploring!
With a layover that long, I'd suggest renting a car to get into and around town. It will be way cheaper than cab rides there and back and quite possibly as cheap as public transportation which would be $18 round trip. With a car the whole city is available to you.
Binerie Mont–Royal, 367 Mont Royal O
Brisket's, 1093 Beaver Hall
Kouign Amann, 322 Mont Royal E
Le Sinclair, 125 Saint Paul O
Tous les jours, 1689 Mont-Royal E
Le Valois, 3811 Ontario E
Wilensky's Light Lunch, 34 Fairmount O
La Soupiere, 5th Floor The Bay
Smoke Meat Pete's, 283 1st Ave. Île–Perrot
Petit Alep, 191 Jean Talon E
Casa Minhota, 3959 Saint Laurent
M sur Masson, 2876 Masson
Lawrence, 5201 Saint Laurent
Laloux, 250 Pine E
La Flammée, 3638 Saint Denis
Dic Ann’s, 10910 Pie IX
Chez Delmo, 275 Notre Dame O
DeliBee's, 24 Valois Bay
Brasserie Capri, 2172 Saint Patrick,
Afternoon snack suggestions:
Abu Elias, 733 Côte Vertu
La Bete a Pain, 114 Fleury O
Boulangerie de Froment et de Sève, 2355 Beaubien Est
Manger Avec Eric, 6408 Côte St. Luc
Sparrow, 5322 Saint Laurent
Which rental company is that cheap?
I don't know what date the OP is coming, so I just checked two companies (Avis, Enterprise) for an airport pickup at 9 a.m. and return at 5 p.m. next Monday. Both came up with similar prices, and the cheapest was about $72 taxes in. Add money for gas and parking, and you'd be better off with taxis + one-day transit pass.
Obviously the cheapest way is the bus/metro, which is covered in both directions by a single $9 day pass.
Here's a recent thread on the airport itself:
tl;dr: mostly mall food.
You should have enough time to take a cab into the city, in which case you should search the board for lunch recs that suit your taste.
Depending on the time of day it should take about 20 minutes each way. Fare is a non-metered $38 each way to/from a designated area covering most of the downtown, otherwise metered.
Jean-Talon Market, which is outside the designated area, costs around $35 in light traffic.
Public transit is also available if you're on a budget, but of course takes longer.
re: Mr F
First stop (métro Lionel-Groulx), from Public transport (bus, ~30mins) from the airport will get you close to :
(and probably other good places for lunch or breakfast)
You can hop on the subway to Old Montreal (métro place-d'arme) or to "Le Plateau" (métro mont-royal)
Thanks for all the responses! I met a fellow passenger on my flight who also had a long layover, so we decided to stick together. We bought day passes ($9 each) and took the bus downtown, walked around there for awhile, taking photos of the interesting buildings. Went to the information center, also went shopping, and went to the pier and walked around there. It was really windy and cold!
Anyway, we eventually found a small cafe in an area by the pier that had shops with local artists' works for sale. Had a sandwich, chips and a yogurt parfait, nothing fancy but it was good. Eventually headed back to the airport.
We probably spent about 6 hours wandering around. It was fun, and was better than sitting at the airport all that time! Thanks for the tips.