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Valentine's Day in Montreal: 2018 Edition
When you've lived in Montreal all your life, you kind of take for granted how romantic this city is. Sometimes it takes a chat with American or European colleagues to remember that Montreal has a lot going for it in the love department.
And Valentine's Day in Montreal is just the occasion to discover—or rediscover—that salient point.Continue to 2 of 12 below.
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Keep It Simple
You could plan a more elaborate celebration of your pairdom as suggested further down this list or you could keep things simple. Can you ever go wrong with flowers and dinner? Book a table at one of Montreal's most romantic restaurants for a meal you won't soon forget.Continue to 3 of 12 below.
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Winter Sports Meet Molten Cheese
A forest trek atop Mount Royal on snow shoes that starts after the sun goes down, this particular V-Day activity is led by a guide who shares insight on mountain fauna and flora while throwing in historical anecdotes about Montreal as the snowshoe trek progresses, leading a small group through the woods with either hot cocoa, or in the case of Valentine's Day edition treks, mulled wine. Mount Royal forest trek info here.
Does the prospect of exploring an urban mountain daunt? Here's a different Montreal winter activity for your consideration. Ice skating at Parc La Fontaine. If you've never skated before, there's no time like the present to strap on a pair of rented skates and learn. Parc La Fontaine ice skating info here.
Now here's where your evening comes together. Finish up your trek and mulled wine, hop in a cab and head down to bring-your-own-wine restaurant La Raclette, which coincidentally is not too far from Mount Royal and only two blocks away from Parc La Fontaine. The Swiss-themed restaurant is known for its eponymous house specialty, melted Swiss raclette, the perfect winter dish. For the bring-your-own wine, splurge on either an Austrian Grüner Veltliner or an Alsatian Riesling to bring out the meal's flavors.Continue to 4 of 12 below.
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Float my Boat
Ever go swimming outdoors in toasty waters in the dead of winter? One of the BEST feelings in the world. Memories of bathing in Banff's hot springs or Mont Tremblant Hilton's pool overlooking Quebec's poster child ski resort spring to mind. The rising heat raises body temperature enough that surrounding cold air has no cooling effect on the skin. And the white mist effect skimming the water's surface is magical.
Intrigued? So here the Valentine's Day deal. You and your date will linger in a heated pool. This pool will be on a boat. This boat will overlook Old Montreal's heritage buildings. And it will relax you to no end since this boat is a full-service spa complete with massage therapy, facial and body treatments, mani-pedis, yoga sessions and the pièce de résistance: a nordic water circuit.
And there's a restaurant on the boat. A great one, if you can believe it. Food is supplied by Auberge St. Gabriel, a nearby Old Montreal restaurant which just happens to be one of my favorite places in the city to wind down after a long week or day (if you spot me sipping on a glass of red at the bar while picking apart a charcuterie platter, say hi).
Back to V-Day. Bota Bota always proposes Valentine's Day packages. Their 2017 deal is called the Ice Breaker Package at $240 plus taxes for two which includes a glass of vino, three-course meal prepared by Auberge St. Gabriel, a live harp and handpan performance and access to the spa's water circuit.
Other packages are offered at different price points. Visit Bota Bota's website for the scoop.
Apart from Bota Bota, there's another way to swim outside in a heated pool in Montreal in the dead of winter. Book a room at Hôtel Bonaventure and access to their mythical pool is yours.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Ancient Artifacts, Nouveau Cuisine
The first is a small free admission natural history museum with a smattering of Ancient Egyptian mummies and dinosaur bones. The second is the city's most illustrious art museum, complete with a collection of pieces and replicas from Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, Persia, Japan as well as a sizeable collection of Pre-Columbian artifacts.
See Also: Montreal's Top 15 Museums
Treat your lover to the grand tour -and don't forget to check out the Fine Arts Museum's most romantic room- before heading to the evening's pièce de résistance.
Considering you're in the thick of downtown Montreal's Golden Mile, you're also but a short walkway, both French fine dining establishments prized for their consistency, be it in the kitchen or in terms of service.
For the broke among you who aren't prepared to spend three figures on dinner, head to Ste. Catherine Street and go west. There is an assortment of delicious cheap eats, most of them Asian. If you can handle Kazu's perpetual lineup, then do what must be done. It's the best Japanese izakaya in the city. Or try Sammi & Soup Dumplings' xiaolongbao. They're super affordable. Messy. But affordable.Continue to 6 of 12 below.
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Can anyone say couples massage? Most, if not all of Montreal's top spas offer it. Or go for a Nordic spas experience à deux.Continue to 7 of 12 below.
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Okay. This V-day idea is so simple and so straightforward, you'll probably wonder why you didn't think of it first.
A night of jazz. It's smooth, it's sultry and it sets the mood. More info on Montreal's best jazz clubs here.Continue to 8 of 12 below.
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You've done the flowers. You've downed the chocolates. Now you want to do something sexy.
A little smut and a lot of kink is the way of Cirque de Boudoir, a Montreal events team known for their risqué BDSM-friendly bashes like New Year's Eve's Carnavalesque. For Valentine's Day, Cirque always proposes something naughty. Admission generally ranges from $30 to $50 plus taxes and/or service charge. VIP tables for 2 or 4 usually range from $250 to $400. Buy tickets.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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The Late-Night Tête-à-Tête
Want to eat upscale at a steal? Then you're gonna love these late-night menus. Just one thing. Call and check that these menus stand on Valentine's Day itself. More than a few restaurants are known for voiding their usual specials to make room for a special Valentine's Day menu which is typically more expensive.Continue to 10 of 12 below.
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Bubbly on Ice
Quintessential winter activity? Ice skating. Romance potential at the Bonsecours Basin in the Old Port? Significant.
See Also: Montreal's Best Skating Rinks
Choice après-skate activity? Bubbly. About a five-minute walk from the Basin is La Champagnerie, a champagne bar and bistro. By-the-glass cocktails and bubblies at different price points are on the menu. Order a full bottle from their shortlist, staff will let you saber it. With a real saber. Technically you could do the same thing with a butter knife and a bottle retailing under $20 at home but I can't guarantee you'll have quite the same ambiance. The food menu is all over the place, fusing Asian, French, Italian, bistro and Quebec influences. Think foie gras lobster filet mignon poutine or a high-end pho with scallops, shrimp, muscles, clams, octopus, tempura crab and (also) lobster and filet mignon.
See Also: Montreal's Most Romantic Restaurants
Rather eat a meal dominated by seafood? You're on the same block as Le Bremner, a success story run by Food Channel personality Chuck Hughes. The raves are plenty and the bet is sure. You'll love it here.Continue to 11 of 12 below.
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Start V-Day on the right foot with help from an ancient southeast Asian discipline, yoga, one of India's most hyped exports in modern times if the abundance of studios dedicated its practice is any indication.
Count on yoga studios like Yoga Vieux Montréal proposing special couples accro yoga workshops, ''a combination of acrobatics, yoga and therapeutic arts'' which are generally intended for all experience levels, so don't be intimidated if you're a beginner. It might just bring the both of you closer. Admission per participant hovers around the $40 range.
Sticking with the Yoga Vieux Montréal? Then try these nearby dinner options.
Barely two minutes away is Kyo, an upstanding Old Montreal izakaya serving some of the best shrimps in the city. Count on choice sashimi too and an outstanding sake selection. If you're certain you hate sake, be prepared for a change of heart if you've never tried cloudy or premium varieties. Tell staff what flavors you tend to prefer and they'll guide you to your sake.
Or if you're prepared to walk an extra five-ish minutes, head down to Chinatown. The main street is lined with lanterns in celebration of the Chinese New Year. There are all sorts of best bets in that area so go with your gut. Go nuts eating Mai Xiang Yuan's thirtysome assortment of dumplings in a tiny hole in the wall, eat one of the best bowls of tonkinoise soup in Montreal at Pho Bang New York, or go upscale with Orange Rouge. And if you want a nightcap, there's one and only one place in Chinatown I'd heartily recommend: Le Mal Nécessaire, one Montreal's only tiki bars. Because who doesn't want to drink out of a hollowed pineapple?
Insider tip: Is Pho Bang New York packed? Try Pho Cali. I know, it sounds like an east coast/west coast rivalry type deal but Cali is actually 20 footsteps north of New York. I'll be the first to admit that New York edges out Cali by a smidgeon -their beef is a slightly better cut- but if you can't be bothered to wait, Cali does the trick. Minor caveat: reviews suggest Cali service is spotty. In contrast, I've been lucky myself and had consistently positive experiences.Continue to 12 of 12 below.
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Brunch and Butterflies
Not everyone is into Valentine's Day. I get it. If it isn't the sense of being forced to show one's love on a specific day, then it's pricey V-Day prix-fixe menus and crowded restaurants which irk select folks.
But instead of skipping V-Day altogether, why not simply carry the sentiment forward—an excuse to bond with your loved one—on a day that won't leave you feeling slave to a commercially imposed holiday?
So skip February 14 but consider highlighting anytime on or after February 22 on your calendar, just in time for Montreal Botanical Garden's Butterflies Go Free's debut. A chance to hang out with a couple thousand butterflies in climate-controlled greenhouses has a certain romantic charm, non? Source? Personal experience. And save some money on what could be an expensive restaurant bill by heading to brunch either before or after your visit. Here are some of Montreal's best brunch spots for inspiration.
Or how surprising your Valentine about an at-home wine and cheese two weeks after V-Day weekend? Here's what you're gonna do. Stuff yourself silly with free made-in-Quebec cheese samples at Fête des fromages d'Ici running February 22 through February 24, 2018. And once you've tried everything, buy your favorites samples on the spot for a discount, as little as $5 per block of cheese.