Montreal Shopping: 15 Trip Mementos

Montreal Shopping: 15 Trip Mementos

The outpost of Frenchness in North America (and the world's 2nd largest francophone city after Paris), Montreal is the meeting point of the New and Old World styles, the collision of the French, English and Aboriginal cultures. The historical and ethnic uniqueness of the city is seen throughout and you will definitely be tempted to have a piece of that as a token of your visit to Montreal. Listed here are some of the items Montrealers would consider truly representative of the city's spirit.
Image Courtesy of: Willem van Valkenburg

1. Artisan Jewelry

Artisan Jewelry
Quebeckers have a long history of working with their hands, ever since the first settlements in the 17th century, whether they were carpenters, painters, cooks or jewelers. This heritage is still very strong today and results in beautiful local works of art, always made with love by expert artisans, and jewelry being the prevalent industry. With the ever growing popularity of certified Canadian diamonds, which are mined, cut and polished in the Northwest Territories of Canada, it’s only natural that this trend has inspired the artisan-jewelers of Montreal, offering a few hand-made and unique items. Rings, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, there is certainly something perfect for a special someone – and nothing says “from Canada with love” like a certified diamond! The best place to get your hands on such coveted treasures is the Bonsecours Market (350 Saint-Paul Street East, opening hours vary) in Old-Montreal, the local artisans’ Mecca. Obviously, these treasures come with a salty bill, but an exceptional piece of diamond jewelry is a priceless and timeless souvenir.
Where to find it:
Bonsecours Market (350 Saint-Paul Street East, opening hours vary)

2. Quebec Cheeses

Quebec Cheeses
Maybe it’s because of the French heritage, but Montrealers love themselves a good piece of locally produced cheese (and not just the cheese curds on their poutine). There are many cheese farms all around the province that offer every type of cheese paste, from soft to blue-veined to firm, all of which can be used to cook delicious meals or served in a cheese plate for dessert. The brands Oka, Saint-Benoît, Saint-Paulin and Trois-Pistoles are particularly popular in the Montreal kitchens, both in restaurants and at home. While you can get most of them at any good supermarket, there is a specialized store in the renowned Jean-Talon market (220, Jean-Talon Street East, opening hours vary) called Fromagerie Hamel, with kind and knowledgeable employees that will be happy to help you discover the mouth-watering Quebec cheeses and wine or beer pairings. For only a few dollars per 250g piece, bring 3 or 4 samples back home and share the cheese love with a hearty family meal!
Where to find it:
Fromagerie Hamel, Jean-Talon market (220, Jean-Talon Street East, opening hours vary)

3. Maple Products

Maple Products
Image Courtesy of: Trish-56
A trip to Montreal would not be complete without some sort of maple souvenir. After all, the province of Quebec is by far the largest producer of maple syrup in the world, with about 75% of the global supply! Once you have grabbed a mandatory can of syrup (remember, the darker the syrup, the stronger the taste), make sure to take your taste buds a little further down the sweet path and explore the vast range of products available, such as maple butter, maple candy, maple tea, maple cones, maple liquor and even maple cookies! The prices vary according to the quality and origin, but expect to pay around $7 for a syrup can and $5 for other produces (excluding the liquor, which is around $25, available at authorized liquor stores like SAQ). While the peak maple season is in March-April, there is a small selection year-round in grocery stores and markets, but if you have to chance to visit the specialized boutique Les délices de l’érable in Old-Montreal, you are guaranteed a sweet time! The store is located at 84 Saint-Paul Street East, and is open from 10am to 6pm every day of the week.
Where to find it:
Canadian Maple Delights
84 Rue Saint Paul Est, Montréal, QC H2Y 3R1

4. Winter Accessories

Winter Accessories
Image Courtesy of: Stefania Savluc
Canada is well known for its rigorous weather and Montreal is no exception – temperatures can get as low as -40 °C in the winter! Proper attire is essential in order to avoid frostbites or extreme shivering, and fortunately you should not have a problem finding a solution to this matter, regardless of where you are in the city (especially if you plan on using the famous underground complex downtown). Most high-street stores carry a winter accessories line that’s filled with muffles, hats, scarves and gloves, in all colors, fabrics and shapes, giving you dozens of options to fit with your trusty winter coat. The most popular store for winter accessories is called La Maison Simons and is located right in the heart of the shopping district (977 Sainte-Catherine Street West, opened 10AM to 6PM from Monday to Wednesday, 10AM to 9PM on Thursday and Friday, 12PM to 5PM on the weekends), and prices vary between $10 and $30. To perfectly blend in Montreal’s winter scene, why not put your work boots on and help the Montrealers shovel the snow off their staircases?
Where to find it:
La Maison Simons, 977 Sainte-Catherine Street West

5. Bagels

Bagels
Image Courtesy of: Mathieu Goulet
Montreal is one foodie city with many well-known delicacies, including the famous bagels (often in competition with New York’s version). Montreal’s bagels are not only much tastier, but also sweeter and smaller. The best place to enjoy bagels in Montreal is undoubtedly the legendary Saint-Viateur café-bakery at 263 Saint-Viateur West (open 24/7 for the continuous enjoyment of your taste buds). The dough is hand-rolled, boiled in honey water and baked in the iconic wood-burning ovens. This institution is one of Montreal’s greatest food landmarks and offers the same high-quality products as it did when it opened in 1957. If you happen to love Montreal’s bagels so much that you wish to bring back more than one or two, you can go to the nearest grocery store and get a package of 6 for around $2.50, in as many flavors as you can think of – sesame seeds and raisins-cinnamon being local favorites. You can eat them with a simple touch of butter or a decadent layer of cream cheese, both equally good!
Where to find it:
Saint-Viateur café-bakery at 263 Saint-Viateur West

6. Canadian Coins

Canadian Coins
Image Courtesy of: KMR Photography
Pretty much every country in the world has its own set of coins, each of which representing something significant in the country’s history and culture. Canada is no exception! Canadian coins are all different in sizes, metals and design, with the one notable exception of the heads side, which always represents the ruling British monarch. Have a look at the 1 cent maple leaf, the 5 cents beaver, the 10 cents boat, the 25 cents caribou, the $1 loon or the bi-metallic $2 polar bear, and choose your favorite lucky coin! Tourists take great pleasure in collecting them, and if you pay a visit to the local post office (locations and opening hours vary), you will be able to browse through the many special editions coins, like war anniversaries or Olympics, for example, as well as albums, coin sets and stock sheets, available in different styles and prices. Keep an eye out of the award-winning ones. It doesn’t get more Canadian than a caribou or maple leaf coin!

7. The Bay Point Blanket

The Bay Point Blanket
Not only is The Bay the most popular chain store throughout Canada, it is also the oldest company in all of North America. While it may look like another generic department store, it has a strong Canadian identity and is not afraid to show it, with many typically Canadian products in store, including the famous memorabilia from the 2010 Winter Olympics. But one of the most coveted items is, without a doubt, the point blanket, a large wool quilt woven with four large colored striped on each end, representing The Bay’s color theme: red, blue, green and yellow. The blanket was traditionally south after by the First Nations in exchange for beaver pelts, and has now become a Canadian classic and a pricy collector’s item - although a regular quilt will cost around $260. What could be more representative of a Montreal visit than a warm quilt to snuggle yourself in on those chilly nights? Make sure to pay a visit to the Montreal branch of the chain, located at 585 Sainte-Catherine Street West (opened from 10AM to 7PM Monday to Wednesday, from 10AM to 9PM on Thursday and Friday, and from 10AM to 6PM on the week-ends).
Where to find it:
The Bay, 585 Sainte-Catherine Street West

8. Ice Wine and Cider

Ice Wine and Cider
Image Courtesy of: karendotcom127
When most people think of wine, they think of a nice red to go with a steak, or of a dry white to enjoy on the patio. Ice wine, however, remains a mystery to most visitors (even though Canada is the world’s largest producer). Both its production and taste are different from the regular table wines: since the grapes are harvested while completely frozen, only the sugars and other dissolved solids can be extracted, resulting in a concentrated and obviously very sweet product, although lower in alcohol with an average 10%. The wine is meant to be served during dessert and tastes best with berry pies and strong cheeses. The most popular brand, Domaine Pinnacle, has received outstanding reviews and prestigious awards around the world. You can find it, as well as other brands, at the authorized liquor stores called SAQ, spread all over the city, but the branch located at 900, Beaubien Street East has a particularly extensive selection that ranges anywhere between $20 and $70. The store is open from 10AM to 6PM Monday to Wednesday, from 9:30AM to 9PM on Thursday and Friday, and from 12PM to 5PM on the week-ends. Ideal stop after an outing to the Jean-Talon market!
Where to find it:
SAQ, 900, Beaubien Street East

9. Roots Canada Clothing

Roots Canada Clothing
Everybody recognizes the iconic beaver! Founded in 1973, Roots Canada successfully mixes the concepts of both alpine and urban lifestyles, and has known a growing popularity worldwide since then, with almost 200 stores - but not one is better than the Montreal branch, located at 1035 Sainte-Catherine Street West, right in the heart of the shopping district (open from 10AM to 9PM from Monday to Friday, from 9AM to 9PM on Saturday and from 10AM to 6PM on Sunday). Decorated with large wooden beams and floors, forest green painting, paired with a compulsory Canadian smile and an overall feel-good vibe, the store offers a large range of items, like traditional sweatshirts ($70), original watches ($150), as well as the new favorite leather satchel ($175). Roots Canada products have a reputation of lasting throughout the years, thanks the quality fabrics and sturdy built, which helps justify the expense. Pretty much all Canadians have owned a Roots item at one point in their lifetime! Such pretty Montreal souvenirs will make you want to wear them all the time - talk about something that won’t be covered in dust on your fireplace mantel!

10. Local Beers

Local Beers
While Canadians are not notorious heavy drinkers, it doesn’t mean that they don’t appreciate a good pint – and when they do want one, Montreal is the best place to be, with its 20 high-quality microbreweries. Some of these companies even sell their products in supermarkets and liquor stores, luckily for both locals and tourists. You can find many different types of beers, from the regular lagers to blueberry or maple flavors to stouts – there’s something for every palate, amateurs and connoisseurs alike. You can expect to pay around $5 per bottle in most microbreweries and stores, but it’s going to be a very tasty $5! Montrealers have a soft spot for the Unibroue brand, which includes beers like La maudite, Blanche de Chambly, La fin du monde and Éphémère. The most popular store in town for beer-shopping is Le paradis de la bière at 151 Laurier Street West. Not only do they sell they own micro brewed beer, but they also have an extensive selection of other local beers and can help choosing one (or two, or three) that’s right for you. The store also has convenient opening hours, open every day of the week from 8AM to 11PM. It’s 5PM somewhere, right?
Where to find it:
Le paradis de la bière at 151 Laurier Street West.

11. Canned Foods

Canned Foods
Image Courtesy of: Danielle Scott
Who would think of buying canned food abroad when so few people eat them at home anyway? When in Montreal, think again. Quebeckers were not always prosperous - men worked draining hours in the cold and woman had to find ingenious ways to use all of the food they got their hands on and cook substantial meals with it, so cans quickly became the most cost-effective option. While availability isn’t that much of an issue nowadays, the tradition of canned foods is still very much anchored in Quebec’s families. Grandmothers and aunts take great pleasure in preparing the cans for the Christmas holidays, but if you don’t have a Quebecker relative, just pay a visit to the Jean-Talon Market (220, Jean-Talon Street East, opening hours vary) and browse their numerous stalls for the perfect $7 love-made delicacy. From berry jams to fruity ketchup to meat sauce, you are guaranteed a wholesome and succulent meal back home, for a great taste of both Montreal’s culinary traditions but also its rich history.
Where to find it:
Jean-Talon Market, 7070 Avenue Henri Julien, Montréal, QC H2R 1T1, Canada

12. Aboriginal Handicraft

Aboriginal Handicraft
First Nations and Indians are essential parts of the Canadian history, and their beautiful handicraft and art is very much coveted – the authentic pieces that is, not the generic stuff you can get in the tourist’s shops downtown. Their highly artistic culture dates back for several centuries, and has been passed on from generation to generation since then. There are many different items to choose from, but the most popular key pieces are the dream catchers, a web woven on a willow hoop, which varies in size and color, and is often decorated with beads or feathers, depending on the artist’s family beliefs. It was given to infants as a protective gift and hung over their bed to chase away the nightmares. While most of the dream catchers are sturdily made today, they were initially meant to dry out by the time the kid reached adulthood. The prices depend on the dream catcher’s size, of course, but expect to pay at least $15 for a small one in the specialized boutiques of Saint-Paul Street in Old-Montreal.

13. Tim Hortons Coffee

Tim Hortons Coffee
Image Courtesy of: candycanedisco
No proud Canadian misses out on an outing to Tim Hortons. Even though the coffee & doughnuts chain is nothing fancy or glamorous, entering one of the stores is always a comforting experience – locals affectionately call it a “Timmy time”. It’s like coming home! Everything on the menu is tasty and much less expensive than other similar chains. Montrealers are always more than willing to encourage this truly Canadian company, founded by a hockey player in 1964. There’s even a popular saying stating that bad driving is tolerated if you are heading to Tim Hortons! If you are tempted to indulge on a doughnut and coffee break, you won’t need to look very far: there are over 10 branches open 24/7 in downtown Montreal only. You can even take the pleasure back home by buying one of the coffee tins available in stores or in supermarkets, whether you opt for the regular flavor, a tasty hazelnut twist or a sweet French vanilla treat. Too bad their doughnuts cannot be exported as well!
Where to find it:
Tim Hortons 895 Rue de la Gauchetière Ouest, Montréal, QC H3B 2M4, Canada

Tim Hortons 2081 Rue Guy, Montréal, QC H3H 2M8, Canada

Tim Hortons 605 Boulevard René-Lévesque Ouest, Montréal, QC H3B 1P4, Canada

14. Hockey Memorabilia

Hockey Memorabilia
Image Courtesy of: Jerry "Woody"
If you happen to visit Montreal between late September and early May, there is no way you can miss out on what the locals call the “hockey fever”. Being the official 21st century religion of the city, the tri-weekly games are the most important social event of the winter, and everyone’s invited! If you can’t get your hands on tickets, there is still a possibility to be quite close to the action by watching the game at the sports bar in the Bell Center, cleverly located at 1909 Canadiens de Montreal Avenue, just a little bit south of the business and shopping district. The atmosphere is electric and unforgettable! A good pint, a bucket of chicken wings and a live game – enjoying hockey in Montreal doesn’t get any better than that. And while you are there, make sure to visit the Canadiens souvenir shop, which offers hundreds of memorabilia items, from traditional hockey jerseys ($120) to baby bibs ($10) to license plate frames ($5). There’s something for every hockey fan in your entourage! Opening hours are from 9:30AM to 6PM Monday to Wednesday, 9:30AM to 9PM on Thursday and Friday, and 9:30AM to 5PM on Saturday and Sunday. Also note that the store closes its doors two hours before the start of a game, so make sure to plan ahead!
Where to find it:
Bell Center sports bar: 1909 Canadiens de Montreal Avenue

15. Poutine Sauce

Poutine Sauce
Image Courtesy of: Morgan
Even though Montreal is well-known for its high gastronomical standards and variety… it does have one little quirk to it. Poutine will always be its most famous dish, whether people opt for its comfort-food feel on gray days or hangover-curing powers. Made with French fries, cheese curds and a special gravy sauce, it does sound as unappealing as it looks. But once you get your first bite, you know you have entered a new level of gluttony, and you know you’ll want to have it again. Unfortunately, technology has yet to find a way to effectively take poutine on the plane, but a simple visit to any supermarket can fix this: get one of those powdered mix packets or sauce cans and recreate a poutine of your own in the comfort of your home and for only $3 - but do plan a couple of gym sessions later in the week, as one serving of this hearty dish contains as much fat as a pound of butter! If you had the chance to taste the famous dish at its Mecca, la Banquise (994 Rachel Street East), the closest supermarket is located two blocks North at 1000 Mont-Royal Avenue East (open from 8AM to 11PM every day of the week).
Where to find it:
la Banquise (994 Rachel Street East)
Intermarché Boyer at 1000 Mont-Royal Avenue East
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