Montreal is an exciting and dynamic city, but wow is it cold during the winter. I visited (for my first time) in January and embraced the cold, even staying in an ice hotel. When I wasn’t freezing in the ice hotel, I spent a few nights in the warm luxury of the Montreal InterContinental Hotel (360 Saint-Antoine Street West).

The Notre Dame basilica in Montreal, Canada

To me, like in buying real estate, it’s all about location when it comes to hotels. I would rather pay a bit more for a central location that puts me within easy walking distance of historic sites and monuments, than stay outside the city to save some money. The InterContinental Montreal is in an ideal location, almost straddling the border between Old Montreal, the city’s quaint historic area, and the modern international business district. The hotel is also within an easy walk from cool neighborhoods (Montreal is full of them) like Mile End, The Plateau and St. Denis.

My room
I was lucky enough to enjoy the hotel’s Vice Presidential suite, which featured a jaw-dropping semi-circular living room with windows looking out on almost the entire Montreal skyline, from the St. Lawrence river to Mount Royal. A spectacular view during the day, with the buildings and neighborhoods of the city, and equally, if not more spectacular at night, with a rainbow of twinkling lights. There was a large foyer with a marble floor, along with a guest bathroom. The bedroom was also large and comfortable, with a great view of the city towards Mount Royal. The bathroom was equally sumptuous with a large whirlpool tub. Rates for a standard room, for two people, with a buffet breakfast, start at $179.

My room at the InterContinental Montreal

One of the highlights of my visit was an epic French dinner at the hotel’s Osco! restaurant. Proud French chef Matthieu Saunier creates some great offerings served in an elegant, classical dining room. I had an amazing steak, preceded by French onion soup then a beet tart with mascarpone, chives, tomatoes, arugula with lemon and olives.

Guests at the Montreal InterContinental have the opportunity to “chase the green fairy” as the practice of absinthe drinking was known in the days of Van Gogh. The Sarah B absinthe bar features individual curtained booths, offering groups the chance to gather together to share in the exotic drinking process. Antique bar accessories are used to make the whole thing ever cooler. The whole process, including slowly dripping the absinthe over a sugar cube into a glass of water is done table-side, making it a very fun, group drinking experience. After the cool preparation process, the taste was nothing too wild, like a semi-sweet licorice liquor. I didn’t have any hallucinations, but it did get me drunk.

Montreal skyline
The historic building
While I enjoyed my room atop the new hotel tower, the building was added onto a historic Montreal landmark, the Nordheimer Building. A very cool connection between the old and the new, the hotel’s ballroom was once a Steinway piano showroom, where the likes of Enrico Caruso and Sarah Bernhardt are reported to have shopped in the elegant grand salon. That connection led to the hotel bar’s name: Sarah B. For some even older historic connections, I ventured into the hotel’s subterranean 18th century stone vaults, once stores for Revolutionary War-era gunpowder. The hotel has styled them into nice meeting spaces, retaining the raw stone barrel ceilings and walls.
Old meets new at the InterContinental Montreal
In the past six months, I’ve visited Turkey, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia and Canada and just returned from Peru. You can follow me on Twitter: @thefredsherman

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Hotel accommodations provided by InterContinental Hotels & Resorts
By Freddy Sherman