Montreal is the anti-Disney: A sophisticated adult playground, where pleasures for grown-ups -- from savoring fine food and wine, to casino gambling, to boutique shopping, to the spirit of l'amour itself -- add to the city's many attractions. These are among the best for couples traveling free of children.
Check into a Romantic Montreal Hotel
When it comes to hotels, Montreal has properties to suit every type of couple. The full-service Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in the city center lays claim to the John & Yoko Suite, where the pair recorded the song "Give Peace a Chance" from their bed. Sofitel Montreal Golden Mile drips with French savoir-faire. Refreshed for a new generation, Pierre du Calvet in Vieux Montreal oozes old-world charm. And the elegant and traditional The Ritz Carlton, Montreal is close to several of the most sophisticated shopping, dining, and museum attractions in Montreal.
The Old Port area of Montreal alongside the St. Lawrence River is one of the most scenic spots to stroll. Couples can also rent bikes; a 220-mile long bicycle path leads cyclists in and around Montreal. And the city has more than one thousand parks. For utterly romantic transportation, hire a caleche (horse-drawn carriage).
Any time of year, explore the underground city on foot. Want to sail on the water? Amphibus provides a land-and-sea city tour in the same floating vehicle to help you get your bearings. (To avoid family groups, come late in the day.) Montreal's long and slender Le Bateau Mouche boats run day tours teeming with kiddies; dinner cruises provide a better opportunity to surround yourselves with grown ups.
Go to Market
Like to cook, or just eat? Pick up what you need for a perfect picnic at the Jean Talon farmer's market. At Le Marche des Saveurs du Quebec, gather delicacies from among 7,000 products from the province. And La Vieille Europe stocks more than 300 different kinds of cheeses and maintains a take-out sandwich and salad counter.
Shop for Montreal Treasures
Plan to leave extra room in your suitcase to pack treasures you pick up in Montreal: The sweetly intoxicating ice wine, genuine maple syrup from the countryside, Fruits & Passion products for the skin and bath, Roots leather goods are among unique things to buy here.
Along the city's main shopping street, rue Ste-Catherine, you can find the city's top department stores. Holt Renfrew, Ogilvy's, and Hudson's Bay Company carry Canadian, French, and international brands as well as ones familiar to United States shoppers.
And if you're in the market for something sparkly, Birks is a large jewelry store with a vast selection of rings, necklaces, earrings, and watches to commemorate your love and your romantic visit.
Dine Like a Montreal Gourmet
Montreal is home to some 5,000 restaurants. These include cozy French bistros in the Old Port where couples can linger over a bottle of wine to Little Italy spots where you can bring your own. True gourmets ought to experience XO Le Restaurant inside Hotel Le St. James. If the tasting menu is too pricey, opt for the delicious brunch.
Coming to propose marriage, or something more provocative? Reserve a spot at the historic, much-photographed, circa-1725 Pierre du Calvet in the heart of Old Montreal. The building housing it contains opulent, Victorian-style rooms, so you need not go far if someone swoons -- or agrees to be seduced.
Montreal has a sizable Jewish population that supports several bagel bakeries. Since the debate over New York versus Montreal bagels rages, you'll just have to decide which of the doughy delights you prefer by tasting one.
Hungry for more? Stop by the classic Schwartz's Delicatessen to sample the city's world-famous smoked meat sandwich.
No visit to the Old Port is complete without stepping inside the magnificent nineteenth-century Notre-Dame Basilica, completed in Gothic Revival style. The soaring interior, in addition to its intricate carving, includes brilliantly hued stained-glass windows. Rather than ancient biblical scenes, these depict the religious history of Canada, complete with images of the faithful forging through the icy wilderness. For something different to do at night, catch Aura, a sound-and-light show inside the church.
While family visitors explore Montreal attractions such as the Biodome and Insectarium, you can get an adult fix of fun at the city's eye-opening and thought-provoking museums. Among the top ones: The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts collects and displays European art, Canadian art, Inuit and Amerindian art, contemporary art and decorative arts. Connected to the underground city, Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art features new and conceptual art and stages multimedia events, including performance, experimental theatre, video, and film. Château Ramezay Museum, in the Old Port area, is a small history museum that features paintings and objects from Montreal's past in a circa-1705 stone building.
Shaped like a multi-deck ship moored at the former Expo 67 site across from the Old Port, the unique Casino Montreal operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's a short cab ride from the city center. Games such as blackjack, roulette, poker, keno, pai gow, and baccarat, familiar to any English-speaking gambler, are conducted in French. (How much more elegant it is to hear "égalité!" at the 21 table than, "That's a push.") Dealers, croupiers, and many players are bi-lingual, so if you want to bet or ask a question in English, you will be understood. Naturally, all bets are made with Canadian currency, and cashiers will readily exchange US dollars.
Come to One of Montreal's Amazing Festivals
Passionate people who love music, laughter, movies, fast cars, and more circle their calendars in anticipation of their favorite festival in Montreal. The Montreal Jazz Festival is considered the world’s biggest and best of its kind. It takes place from late June through the first week of July, showcasing more than 2,500 artists in 500-plus concerts from noon to midnight. Also held in the summer, Just for Laughs, the Montreal Comedy Festival attracts world-class comedians and fresh talent. Several hotels offer packages that include accommodations, admissions, dinner, and personal assistance throughout the stay.