Recent years have seen the old town district of Canada’s second-largest city become a hotbed of independent, design-oriented hotels. These properties, all converted from heritage buildings, celebrate both past and present with a distinct montréalaise flair.
Nostalgic charm comes to the fore at this restored 1880s warehouse overlooking the St. Lawrence River and the parklands of Montreal’s Old Port. About half of its 45 rooms face the water; the rest look out onto a cobbled section of Rue Saint-Paul, the oldest street in town. Most feature antique wrought-iron beds, while those in the signature category are characterized by exposed stone or brick walls and original wood-beam ceilings. En suite bathrooms even have heated floors and, in the case of premier rooms, a soaking tub with whirlpool jets. Terrasse Sur l’Auberge, the rooftop bistro and bar, draws locals and tourists alike for the views and its creative cocktails and tapas, which showcase the culinary bounty of Quebec. Downstairs, complimentary breakfasts can be ordered off the menu at the convivial Taverne Gaspar, a British-style gastropub with a local gourmet twist. If you’re here for lunch, try the classic poutine—don’t forget the extra topping of duck confit—and draft beers like the Gaspar house lager (1-514/876-0081; doubles from US$162).
Named after Andrew Frederick Gault, an Irish-born textile magnate who made his fortune as Canada’s “King of Cotton,” Hôtel Gault occupies a handsome gray limestone landmark built in 1871 as the mogul’s store and warehouse. Homegrown design practice YH2 Architecture gave the 30-room property a minimalist glamour: the open-plan reception area—incorporating a small restaurant and bar—has a midcentury-modern vibe thanks to a cast-metal check-in desk, raw concrete floors, and colorful Arne Jacobsen Swan chairs. Beyond this, a cozy oak-paneled library beckons with a collection of architecture and design tomes. Art lovers have another perk to look forward to: contemporary pieces dotted throughout the lobby put a spotlight on Canadian talent from Quebec and other provinces. The guest rooms upstairs may be individually furnished, but there are certain constants. Each comes with high ceilings, arched French windows, Italian designer beds by Flou, and Molton Brown bath amenities. Suites boast freestanding tubs big enough for two, and four open out to private terraces where you might want to tuck into a platter of local cheeses or a Montreal smoked-meat sandwich off the room-service menu (1-514/904-1616; doubles from US$195).
Late-19th-century details meet casual contemporary style in the Hôtel Place d’Armes’ public spaces and 169 rooms, which take up four neoclassical buildings just steps from the hotel’s namesake square and the landmark Notre-Dame Basilica. No matter if you’ve booked an entry-level classic queen room or a two-story junior suite, beds here are fitted with goose-down duvets and pillows by high-end Quebec brand Marie L’Oie. Wellness-minded guests will want to stop by the third-floor Rainspa and its eucalyptus-scented Turkish hammam. Dining, too, is a strong point: Kyo Bar Japonais is known among Montrealers for its izakaya-style fare and extensive sake list, while the Parisian-inspired Brasserie 701 serves updated French classics—think prawn-and-lentil cassoulet, beef tartare tossed with avocado and caviar mustard, or flank steak with sweet-potato frites. And if the weather’s right, the rooftop bar is just the place to pair a tipple with local charcuterie (1-514/842-1887; doubles from US$155).
The hip William Gray made a big splash when it opened four years ago, and the place remains as buzzy as ever. Local architecture firm Béïque Legaul Thuot deftly merged two listed stone buildings, including a merchant’s house from 1785, with a modern eight-story tower; interiors by Montreal-based studio Camdi are just as accomplished. The atmospheric spa in the cellar stands out for its Himalayan salt chamber (the first of any hotel in the country) while the 127 guest rooms and suites sport a neutral color palette, dark wood furniture, works by Canadian artists, and sleek white-marble bathrooms. Camdi also fitted out the hotel’s inviting, skylighted atrium—a de facto co-working space by virtue of the high communal table at its center—and the stylish Maggie Oakes bistro. Adorned with glass dry-aging coolers and a green wall of herbs and microgreens, the latter spills out onto an umbrella-shaded patio on Place Jacques-Cartier (Old Montreal’s liveliest square) in the warmer months. On the roof, Terrasse William Gray is a must-visit for the 180-degree vistas of the Old Port, St. Lawrence River, and landmarks like the silver-domed Bonsecours Market (1-514/656-5600; doubles from US$163).
Small is indeed beautiful, as evinced by this 28-room bolthole, whose modish vibe befits its location on a stretch of Rue Saint-Paul populated by designer boutiques and bijou galleries. The front desk in the intimate lobby doubles as a specialty coffee bar, so the concierge can easily give insider tips while pouring you a cappuccino. Upstairs, the 19th-century stone walls and iron railings make for a stark but pleasing contrast to the custom-made furniture, including plush armchairs in the hotel’s signature shade of orange. Bluetooth speakers and USB ports are found in every room, as are multi-jet massage showers, Le Labo toiletries, and Elchim hair dryers. Couples should opt for M (medium) rooms with king-size beds; families are best suited to those marked XL, some of which have fold-down futons and Nintendo Wii consoles (1-514/940-0360; doubles from US$142).
This article originally appeared in the April/July 2020 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Montreal Makeovers”).