Only a short drive from the US border, this European-feeling city is a romantic gem.

By Sheila Callahan
March 18, 2009
Susan Lapides/Getty

Closer to home than its romantic cousin Venice, Montreal, is an hour-and-a-half flight from New York City and a 45-minute drive from the U.S. border. Easy to reach, it’s North America’s most European-feeling city, and while French is the official language, it is truly bilingual and easy for English-speaking travelers to navigate.

Whether it’s a snowy winter evening in front of a fireplace or a bright summer afternoon of cocktails on a rooftop terrace, Montreal is well suited to quiet moments of togetherness. Wondering why both cities bring on the love? Perhaps it’s the latitude. As it happens, both cities straddle the 45th parallel. Or maybe it’s the islands (Montreal is built on an island in the St. Lawrence River).

Eat smart: Montrealers, like Venetians, take their food seriously. Try Chef Laurent Godbout‘s Chez L’Epicier for lunch. This wine bar/gourmet delicatessen and bright upscale restaurant serves excellent foie gras. The menu changes, but the salmon trout steak, zucchini risotto, yellow cauliflower purée, bok choy, and cod cream stand out.

Be fit: Frederick Law Olmsted designed Mount Royal Park, where you’ll find trails for romantic strolls, rigorous hikes, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and Rollerblading. Time your visit for a sunset view.

Live well: You can cycle the length of the nine-mile Lachine canal, which like Venice’s Grand Canal, offers insight into the city’s past and present. Begin your adventure by renting a bicycle at Ca Roule in Old Montreal. Explore the Lachine National Historic Site, which includes an exhibit documenting the city’s fur-trading history housed in a stone warehouse dating to 1803. During your travels, stop at Atwater market, which boasts flowers, fruits, local cheeses, meats, jams, and breads. Gather picnic makings and be sure to stop by the liquor store to check out ice cider, a local specialty made from frozen apples and sipped as an aperitif or dessert wine.

Where to stay: Like Venice, Old Montreal has centuries-old buildings clustered together on narrow thoroughfares. Listen for the clip-clop of horse carriages picking their way along Old Montreal’s Rue Saint-Paul at Auberge Les Passants du Sans Soucy in the heart of Old Montreal, a nine-room B&B with mortared stone walls, a block from the waterfront.