From the vibrant boroughs of Montréal to the rolling hills of the Eastern Townships, your next trip to Québec should include these stops
Whether it’s a quick getaway or a longer stay, a visit to Montréal, Montérégie and the Eastern Townships showcases what this French-Canadian province and its people are all about: big city lights and nights, rolling hills, quaint historical villages, and fabulous food. Soak in the energy of the city and its countless culinary delights from nationally revered chefs, or roam through Québec farms, wineries, orchards and breweries by bike on the brand new Véloroute Gourmande.
Wherever you find yourself in Southern Québec, you’ll be greeted by a natural warmth, a passion for both tradition and innovation and a true desire to indulge. Here are twelve ways to experience exactly that.
There’s a vibrancy to Montréal – a sense that something fun and unexpected is just around every corner. The aroma of freshly baked croissants wafts out the door of a bakery; buzzing conversation carries out the windows of any number of renowned restaurants or terrasses; acclaimed food festivals dot the social calendar; and opportunities to indulge in food and conversation are plentiful. And as nighttime descends, the city and its rooftops come even more alive with revellers, dancers, fireworks, more music, and more food.
In just a weekend – or a week – you can explore, celebrate and savour this amazing city.
1. Make your way through Montréal’s microbreweries
Brasserie Artisanale Dieu du Ciel / Alison Slattery - Two Food Photographers
Whether you crave lager, stout, IPA, or something more hoppy to make you happy, Montréal’s microbrasseries have it all. From one end of the city to another, you can count on knowledgeable staff to guide you to a brew that you’ll enjoy as much as the atmosphere. Mile End’s Dieu du Ciel! is a great place to start; home to an expansive menu of both classics and fruity innovations, it’s one of the places where this movement started. Downtown’s Benelux and Pointe-Saint-Charles’ Messorem boast boisterous patios and vast selections. There are even stores focused exclusively on local microbrews, so if you’re looking for something to take home, try Peluso, Décapsuleur, La Canette, Veux-Tu Une Bière or Boutique Cheers, where rows of colourful cans dazzle.
2. Fresh samples abound at the city’s public markets
Marché Jean-Talon / Anne-Marie Pellerin Tourisme Montréal
There’s so much history in Montréal’s vast, open air public markets – the two most famous, Jean-Talon and Atwater, were started in the 1930s. You might not be thinking about their age, though, when you see the mounds of tomatoes and eggplants piled up in pyramids and taste the wild blueberries, corn, and every other morsel on offer in these vibrant markets, with seasonal treats, samosas, and sorbets to munch on while you wander. Vendors are always keen to explain the virtues of one artisanal salami over another, which cheese goes with what, and guide you to the best local products to bring home or prepare for a picnic.
3. Discover the city’s rich history on a food tour
Les Tours Spade & Palacio / Tourisme Montréal
There’s nothing like having a local show you around a city, and going on a walking food tour in Montréal is a great place to start. Whether it’s Beyond the Bagel with the Museum of Jewish Montréal – a dive into the city’s diverse Jewish community led by museum researchers – or Beyond the Market with Spade and Palacio – a small group tour of the city’s best kept culinary secrets – you’re guaranteed to spend a few hours tasting your way through neighbourhoods as though you live here. Arepas, bagels, goat cheese, maple syrup, freshly roasted coffee and the best cherry tomatoes you’ve ever popped in your mouth await.
4. Try unique deals and dishes at MTLàTABLE
Restaurant Helena / Alison Slattery - TwoFood Photographers - Tourisme Montréal
For a couple, a family or a group of friends, MTLàTABLE is the perfect opportunity to discover the diverse Montréal restaurant scene. The formula is simple: restaurants of all kinds, all around the city, offer special, limited-edition menus to choose from, with à la carte menus starting at $35. This year, from November 3 to 13, 2022, this unmissable event celebrates its 10th anniversary. It’s a perfect opportunity to discover new restaurants or rediscover the classics of the culinary scene.
Country feasts are on the menu in Montérégie, Québec’s kitchen garden. There’s a bounty of products in this verdant region nestled in the south of the province from the St. Lawrence River to the U.S. border, just this side of New York and Vermont. As spring turns into summer and fall, pick your fill of berries and apples, pears and squash, as the trees and fields turn from green to golden. Microbreweries, cheese factories, apple products and maple syrup abound here, and it’s all accessible on wheels – two or four – as you take in the variety, quality, and quantity of this agrotourism hub. No matter if you’re eating on the fly or filling up your trunk with treats to bring home, there’s something for everyone.
1. Buckle up for the Véloroute Gourmande
Véloroute Gourmande / Tourisme Montérégie
“Will ride for food” – or coffee, or cider or beer – may well be the motto of the Véloroute Gourmande, a 235-kilometre stretch of the Route Verte and the TransCanada Trail connecting Montréal and Sherbrooke, in the Eastern Townships, via Montérégie. This route features 122 foodie destinations (microbreweries, ice cream stops and distilleries), 26 cultural attractions, 82 options for overnight stays, and innumerable breathtaking views: just a few of the ways you can enjoy this terrific agritourism destination at your own pace. Rent a bike, bring your own, choose your own itinerary, or have your route mapped out for you and add a luggage transport service and return shuttle for a baggage-free expedition – it’s all possible.
2. Get up close at country-style restaurants
Farm to table takes on new meaning when you can see the farm from your own table. That’s the way Montérégie approaches fine, fun dining – informal and informed. Chef Fisun Ercan runs Bika Farm, where diners are taken on a tour through a greenhouse and lush vegetable rows before being seated. Here, Turkish flavours meet local organic growing practices to create meals that let seasonal ingredients sing. Prize-winning La Rabouillère is another spot where you can enjoy a spectacular meal with all local ingredients, get up close with farm animals and stay overnight on the family farm. And if flowers are more your thing, the gardens at Fleurs et Feuilles Gourmandes will amaze you with their range of edible flowers: their cosmos, pansies and basil are used in some of Montréal's top restaurants.
3. Sip away at cider houses and orchards
Vignoble et Cidrerie Coteau Rougemont
It’s no surprise that this apple-growing region is at the heart of cider and wine production in the province, and Montérégie’s got a special 140-kilometre cider route that’s ripe for exploration. Starting with the lush grounds of Coteau Rougemont, this breathtaking spot is perfect for sipping on its award-winning ice and sparkling ciders and fortified wines. And as Québec garners more and more recognition for natural craft spirits, a visit to the micro-distillery and cider house Cidrerie Entre Pierre et Terre – literally, “between stone and earth” – will charm you with its offerings made from ancestral varieties of apples and pears. In the fall, choose your own in Montérégie’s orchards, when apple picking and cider tasting is in season.
4. Pick your own vegetables from Québec’s finest farms
Ferme "La Fille du Roy"
Artichokes and sea buckthorn are just two of the extraordinary vegetables you can pick in Montérégie; berries, flowers, and apples are also on offer, but why miss out on bragging rights? Add a corn maze and picnicking – plus an outdoor pizza oven in the fall – and you’ve got all the makings of a great weekend with family and friends. Ferme La Fille du Roy, Les Petites Écores and Au Beau Pré for flowers are just three spots sure to make you fall in love with this remarkable region.
The air is clear, the lakes are inviting, the spas are relaxing – and then there’s the coffee and the food! Heritage homes and rolling hills form the scenery of the Eastern Townships, where there’s hiking, biking, swimming and of course, weekend markets and restaurants highlighting local foods, all just calling out to be visited. The Coeurs Villageois – a special designation for the twelve charming towns and villages that embody the spirit of the Townships – are a great way to start exploring. Stop and stay the night in one or see them all by bike on the new Véloroute Gourmande. With views like these, any season is good to visit.
1. Tour the heart of Québec wine country on the Brome-Missisquoi wine route
Vignoble Léon Courville / DAPHNÉ CARON
You might not know that the Eastern Townships are the birthplace of Québec’s viticulture: 60% of the province’s wine production takes place in this 140-kilometre long marked circuit that rambles through hills, valleys and villages. For the past thirty years, the region’s winemakers have learned from the best, adapting production to the land and climate. Whether you’re traveling on two wheels or four, keep your eyes open for the hundred or so Amis de la Route des Vins (Friends of the Wine Route), where you can lunch or lodge. Love learning and talking about wine? There are 22 vineyards and vintners to connect with, 21 amazing restaurants to discover, four breathtaking road trips, four cycling routes for all levels of skill, and even more activities.
2. Dip into Québec dairy
Fromagerie La Station/ DAPHNÉ CARON
Cheese lovers will be in their element in the Eastern Townships; many have been known to fall in love with the beautiful Chemin Hatley cheese from Fromagerie La Station, the extra-strong blue and smoked fontina from the Benedictine monks of Saint-Benoît-du-Lac Abbey (especially when paired with their cherry spread), and the delectable ice creams from milk producer Coaticook, one of the largest ice cream makers in the province. The prizewinning producers of the region are connected by one common thread: a passion for dairy and a pride in their craft.
3. Experience agritourism at its finest
Bleu Lavande / DAPHNÉ CARON
Lavender hills and maple syrup, black currants and bees, small-batch soaps, produce picking and alpaca or mini-horse walking: whatever you love about being in the countryside is at your disposal in the Eastern Townships. Here, farmers and food artisans take tremendous pride in their work and can’t wait to share their wares and knowledge with visitors to their farms, shops and market stands. There’s delight to be had for every kind of traveller – including massage and meditation – and plenty to pack in your picnic basket to savour.
4. Sample espresso and gourmet specialties at the Cafés de Villages
Café Folies / Daphné Caron
From one village to another, the Eastern Townships’ network of Village Cafés double as welcoming committees that will make you feel right at home. Try the gooey grilled cheese at coffee-bar La Shop or traditional crêpes Bretonnes at Café Folies. Sit down, make yourself comfortable, and learn all about the village, the surrounding area, where to go and what you shouldn’t miss. We’re as famous for our sandwiches, soups, and pastries as we are for our coffee and our love for our community.
This content was produced by The Globe and Mail’s Globe Content Studio on behalf of Bonjour Québec. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.
CREDITS: Concept and oversight by JESSICA ROBINSON; Editing by Audrey Carleton; Art direction, design and development by AASHISH ARORA; Project management by JANINE COLE