One of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, Montreal is a bustling hub of activity year round. Theatres, art galleries, and museums are all flourishing amongst chic contemporary hotels, smart restaurants, outdoor cafes and a thriving yachting scene. Its during the Grand Prix week though that the streets really come to life, throbbing with excitement and glamour.
For unparalleled luxury, book a room or better still, a suite at the Ritz-Carlton. This downtown hotel has become legendary over the years, hosting the likes of Queen Elizabeth II to the Rolling Stones. After a major restoration, the hotel enjoys the best of contemporary amenities whilst still maintaining an air of old world elegance. In the past, Club 55, a group of famous gourmets, met regularly at the hotel for feasts and today, it still remains a gastronomic hot spot with Masion Boulud (Daniel Boulud’s first Montreal restaurant) serving inspired French cuisine. Incidentally, the Ritz-Carlton also hosts the most exclusive F1 soirees; this year’s takes place on Friday 10th June with special cocktail bars, late-night dessert tables and live music from DJ YO-C as well as an exclusive display of the McLaren 675LT, 650S and 570S.
Hôtel Le St-James, located in the beautiful old Mercantile Bank of Canada and tucked amongst the quaint cobblestone streets of Old Montreal, is also a classic favorite. Each of the uniquely furnished rooms are equipped with Bang & Olufsen sound systems and carefully curated art work. The multi-level restaurant, XO is wonderful too, serving fresh seasonal dishes paired with wine from the hotel’s impressive cellars. Surrounded by museums, art galleries and shops, LHotel is another top pick, boasting its own impressive private collection of contemporary art from the likes of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Indiana.
When it comes for restaurants you’re spoilt for choice. Toque is still considered the best French restaurant in town, under the leadership of renowned chef Normand Laprise known for his ambitious, extravagant and slightly wacky dishes such as the foie gras terrine with a buckwheat crepe, pistachios, strawberries, shiitake mushrooms and buckwheat gel. For lunch, Cafe Ferreria is popular and more traditional serving fresh fish with a Portuguese twist, whilst Chez Schwartz Charcuterie Hebraique, though outwardly unassuming, is unbeatable for Montreal’s speciality: smoked meat.
As Montreal is also famed for its microbreweries, no trip to the city would be complete without a taste of real ale. Billy Kun is one of the coolest and more mature of those on offer with cosy candle lit tables and walls lined with stuffed ostrich heads. Else, Le Sainte Elizabeth has wonderful Quebec specialties on tap as well as its own brews and a romantic terrace enclosed within high ivy draped walls. W Hotel’s Wunderbar is always lively during the Grand Prix with expert mixologists keeping the glamorous guests well watered before they head to the Time Supper Club (especially well known amongst celebrity circles) to dance. This art deco inspired club’s main attraction is a red, lit-from-below catwalk that runs through right through the centre. For those really looking to release some pent up energy, Club Laboom in the heart of downtown Montreal is particularly wild post races where you can rub shoulders with drivers, models and actors or try Pandore, another of the city’s most exclusive nightclubs, which is hosting four sumptuous banquets in celebration of this year’s Grand Prix, accompanied by flowing wine and champagne, and naturally, post dinner dancing.
When you’ve had your fill of sports cars, make your way to the Yacht Club de Montreal to admire the boats that moor for the summer season. Just a short walk from the buzz of the city centre, the marina is designed for tranquility, though during F1, the parties inevitably spill onto the decks of the largest yachts, continuing late into the night under the stars.