Business trip: Montreal
As one of Canada's largest cities, Montreal stands out from the pack for its combination of big city ambiance and small-town neighbourhoods, European flair and North American attitude. The confluence of culture and economy has also transformed the city – the second largest French-speaking city in the world – into a business hub for numerous industries, including aviation, banking and insurance.
Operating a strong North American and transatlantic hub from Montreal-Trudeau International Airport, Air Canada has been a key driver behind the 1.4 million business travellers that arrived in Montreal in 2012. The airport (a 20km taxi ride from downtown clocks in at a flat 40 Canadian dollars) recently completed the first phase of its C$261 million expansion project named Gate 62, and the second stage will begin construction in 2014, adding six new wide body gates, including two equipped for the Airbus A-380 jumbo jet.
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And though the city's frigid winter temperatures can dip to -7C in January, there are 32km of underground pedestrian walkways that are lined with more than 1,700 shops and restaurants – meaning you may never have to step outside.
Known as the cheese grater due to its iconic, half moon-shaped windows that resemble the kitchen appliance, downtown’s Marriott Chateau Champlain is one of the city's most recognisable high-rise hotels. Inside the 592 rooms and 19 suites, guests are treated to unending views of downtown, the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, the Saint Lawrence river and Mount Royal, the mountain that gave the city its name. A 2011 renovation added in-room marble-slab desks with convenient power ports that connect devices to the flat-screen TVs. The hotel sits directly above the Bonaventure metro station and underground city, making it popular with conference groups.
Originally opened for the 1976 Olympics, the Omni Mont Royal, located along historic Sherbrooke Street downtown, is fresh from a C$20 million interior renovation, which included a total overhaul of its 299 guest rooms, decorated with velvet fabrics and containing Nespresso machines. Its lobby saw the addition of a new fireplace, giving an added sense of warmth in the winter months.
The 605-room Hyatt Regency Montreal, located near Chinatown, also recently overhauled its chic lobby and SIX Resto Lounge, where visitors can sip bubble tea infused with essences of lemongrass mint and lavender citrus. A new Enomatic wine system in the bar allows guests to sample vintages with the swipe of a credit card, enjoying a sip, half glass or full swig of various regional drops.
Fresh from its grand opening this autumn, the 221-room Courtyard by Marriott, located by the convention centre, features a unique interior garden, while its rooftop pool terrace provides some of the best panoramic views in the city.
At the airport, the completion of the 272-room Montreal Airport Marriott in 2009 atop the US departure terminal means the transfer time from bed to check-in desk can be less than two minutes. The property's lobby opens directly into the airport check-in area, making it easy to gauge the wait time.
Despite opening a decade ago, Hotel Gault is Montreal's hippest hotel, with only 30 rooms and a style all its own. It is the city's only member of the Preferred Hotels Group, which caters to luxury and business-minded travellers, and is located in the popular Old Montreal neighbourhood. The hotel's restaurant has unveiled a speedy new breakfast and lunch menu, sporting favourites like French crepes prepared with Nutella, fresh fruit and homemade compote (fruit cooked in a sauce or syrup). The express lunch menu includes salmon tartare with salad or braised oxtail with pappardelle pasta.
Coming in early 2014 is the 154-room Alt Griffin hotel, which will be part of the largest multi-use real estate project in town (expected to combine residential, shopping and dining outlets in the blossoming Griffin district). Priced more affordably than other full-service hotels, which include a restaurant and meeting spaces, the fusion of IKEA and Pottery Barn designs will appeal to business guests, artsy types and trendy baby boomers alike.