A Personal Shopper’s Guide to Montreal With Martin Charbonneau

Martin Charbonneau, a veteran of the Montreal fashion scene, knows the top spots in town
Martin Charbonneau, a veteran of the Montreal fashion scene, knows the top spots in town | Courtesy of Martin Charbonneau
Alicia Miller

From cool clothing boutiques to slick restaurants, this chic Canadian city knows a thing or two about style. Follow our insider’s guide on where to stay and shop.

Born-and-bred Quebec local Martin Charbonneau has worked in the Montreal fashion industry for 20 years. He’s a personal shopper at Holt Renfrew Ogilvy, the flagship luxury department store in Montreal, which has been serving up the world’s top fashion brands since 1912. The Christmas window displays at Ogilvy, dating back to 1947, are so dazzling, in fact, they’re now exhibited at the McCord Museum. Ready for your close up? We sat down with the resident stylist to get the measure of Montreal.

1. Holt Renfrew Ogilvy


A Christian Louboutin stand at Holt Renfrew Ogilvy

“I’ve worked in television and styling, but I love personal shopping the most. It’s rewarding building relationships with my clients and making sure they look their best. Holt Renfrew Ogilvy is Canada’s largest luxury department store and houses the world’s top fashion brands. I love being surrounded by amazing clothes in this exquisite environment. It’s a great place to visit during Christmas, too: you’ll get lost in the glamor of our holiday decor and hear joyous music playing, as you browse everything from home goods to gourmet food and kidswear.”

2. Hotel Germain Montreal

Boutique Hotel

The dimly lit, industrial dining area at Hotel Germain Montreal
Courtesy of Hotel Germain Montreal / Expedia.com

“This hotel is a true Quebec success story. The Germain group is a family business, founded in the province, and now they have hotels around Canada. I’ve stayed with my husband in many of their hotels and let me tell you, the bedding is out of this world. The decor is luxurious and yet cozy. The Montreal hotel has also broken new ground, unveiling an impressive permanent mural by Canadian artist Michelle Hoogveld, Dazzle My Heart, on its front façade.”

3. Monarque

Restaurant, French

A dining space at Le Monarque, with views through a window into the kitchen
Courtesy of Monarque

“The Monarque has only been in the Montreal food scene for a couple of years but this strikingly beautiful restaurant already feels like an institution. Subtly divided into two sections – a brasserie and a salle à manger (dining room) – it’s an impressive size as soon as you step in. The French-inspired menu is designed to showcase fresh local products: you’ll find delicious tartares, bouillabaisse and fresh seafood. My personal favorite is the foie-gras parfait.”

4. Igloofest at Jacques-Cartier Pier

Architectural Landmark

A DJ raises his right hand to a packed crowd at Igloofest at Jacques-Cartier Pier
Courtesy of IGLOOFEST

“Montreal is renowned for its music scene, as well as its cold winters. So, why not enjoy the best of both? Every year in January, Igloofest is held in the open air, despite the cold and snow. Punchy audio-visual ambiance, electronic music and a wacky ski-suit competition – all this takes place at Jacques-Cartier Pier. It’s so much fun and unique to Montreal’s winter nightlife. Everyone dresses up in their tackiest winter attire, there’s no shame.”

5. Maison Pepin – the Pepin Shop


“In winter, this shop in Old Montreal puts Christmas trees in its inner courtyard, making you feel like you’re on a movie set. It’s stocked with amazing things for the home – everything from dining chairs to duvets and decorations, plus fabulous candles. There are a lot of local products on the shelves. If I need to find a great host gift to bring to a festive party, or something new for my house, this is where I come.”

6. Bar George

Bar, Hotel Restaurant, British

The stylish Bar George at the Mount Stephen Hotel, with an oval bar, oil paintings, and a chandelier
Courtesy of Mount Stephen Hotel / Expedia.com

“Bar George is an atmospheric bar, housed in the splendid Mount Stephen Hotel heritage building, which was built in 1880. It’s a stunning setting, filled with gold-crown moulding, a marble bar and beautiful light fixtures. If you want to feel like royalty while sipping a delicious cocktail, this is the perfect place for a chic cinq à sept (happy hour). After a walk in the cold, I love having the Godfather (bourbon and amaretto) to warm up, along with a side of spicy popcorn.”

7. Four Seasons Montreal

Luxury, Hotel

A stylish, modern room at the Four Seasons Montreal with a sleek, monochrome design and a four-poster bed
Courtesy of Four Seasons Montreal / Expedia.com

“This hyper-chic hotel is definitely a contender for the most luxurious in town. First, you can relax at the spa with a massage, facial or body treatments. Then, unwind with some shopping at Holt Renfrew Ogilvy, connected directly with the hotel, where you can book a personal shopping appointment with me. Then top it off with a great dinner at Marcus, the beautifully designed restaurant, filled with fashionistas.”

8. Mont Royal Belvedere

Natural Feature

Montreal Skyline in winter (2018)
© Marc Bruxelle / Depositphotos.com

“Not too many cities have a natural promontory in the heart of the center. But Montreal does, and even though it’s only 233m (764ft), locals always refer to Mont Royal as a mountain. In winter, climbing to the top and admiring the island of Montreal, under the night snow, is a magical experience. You can rent ice skates, try cross-country skiing or even snow tube your way down the slopes. Afterwards, boost your energy at Au Pied de Cochon with a pouding chômeur filled with maple syrup.”

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