Montreal to Boston

Boston, New England’s alluring metropolis

The closest major American city to Montreal is a vibrant, welcoming place, with fantastic (sea)food, museums and accommodations.

Boston has tons of personality.

A lot of the things you might think about when you think about Boston, whether you know the city or not — its working class Irish roots and the accent that goes with it, Harvard University, the Kennedys, the Bruins/Red Sox/Celtics — are such strong brands that they all exist as their own worlds orbiting the city. But if you’re visiting the city as a tourist, you may be surprised how little these things will be in your face — with the exception of the Kennedys, perhaps, because it’s surprising how often you’ll see JFK on posters, plaques, busts and statues all around town. What you will find, and where that personality carries over beyond the obvious historical touchstones, is a very vibrant city with fantastic (sea)food, excellent museums and incredible accommodations.

Being in the very blue state of Massachusetts, New England’s metropolis has a familiar feel for Montrealers, sharing a similar climate — literally as well as politically and culturally — as it’s the closest major American city to Montreal (a five-hour drive or one-hour flight). Aesthetically, it’s a charming town in any season, with the Boston Common park and Boston Harbor area blooming in the summertime with festival programming and family-oriented activities. The Harbor area features the Boston Tea Party Museum, the New England Aquarium and the Boston Harbor Hotel, a lovely spot to stop in for New England clam chowder and a cocktails, located next to the iconic giant American flag hanging in the Rowes Wharf archway — though it had been switched up for an Irish flag when we visit back in March, right after St. Patrick’s Day.

While there is no shortage of historic hotels (Omni Parker House is worth a stop as the birthplace of Parker House rolls, Boston cream pies and “scrod”) and luxury accommodations in Boston (we randomly met and chatted with Boston’s former mayor Kim Michelle Janey in the bar at the brand new Raffles), you can’t beat the Mandarin Oriental, Boston.

Mandarin Oriental, Boston

The Boston location of the internationally renowned hotel brand — recently named among the best hotels in the world by the 2024 Forbes travel guide — is at once very modern (they have MOBI the robot handling contactless check-in and in-room deliveries) and classic, with the kind of vintage elegance you’ll find at five-star hotels, from the lobby to the beautiful rooms and suites.

Mandarin Oriental, Boston

Mandarin, Oriental Boston

Their spa offers all the services you’d expect along with free access to its steam rooms and vitality pools. And the adjacent restaurant and bar/lounge, Ramsay’s Kitchen (part of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant empire), is a great go-to for twists on local favourites — the vast and varied menu includes lobster rolls, crab cakes and oysters but also a Beef Wellington, smash burger and Korean-inspired sticky pork belly bowl.

Beef Wellington at Ramsay’s Kitchen, Mandarin Oriental, Boston

Only a few minutes’ walk from the hotel, in the very central Back Bay area of Boston, is a restaurant to prioritize: Sonsie, a bistro that has been a regular haunt for locals and visiting celebs for the past 30 years. Aside from the quality of food and cocktails, the restaurant’s success lies in the fact that it’s got everything: the Parisian seating upfront offers a great view of Newbury Street at weekend brunch or at buck-a-shuck oyster happy hour, while at night, the dining room’s dim lighting, eye-catching paintings (which all have cocktails named after them, including the unreal Lady Chainsaw) and good selection of tunes creates a cozy nightlife atmosphere. We were told that there used to be more of a supperclub vibe in the’90s and early 2000s, after Matt Damon and Ben Affleck popularized the place (it was the site of Good Will Hunting-related parties), but in 2024, it’s a place I wish we could bring to Montreal.


While Montreal has a famous art heist in its history, the 1972 Skylight Caper is nothing compared with what went down at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1980. There’s a fascinating four-part Netflix series dedicated to this incident (This Is a Robbery) — former mayor Janey told us to watch it but I’m almost glad we didn’t do that until after we visited because it’s all I would have been thinking about, and it would have taken away from the pure enjoyment of the beauty of this museum. Established by Ms. Gardner in 1903, this series of magnificently designed rooms is not just about the paintings — those that remain and the 13 that are still missing (their empty frames still hang as a reminder) — but about the distinctive atmosphere of each space in the palace, which has a beautiful interior garden at its core.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

A seven-minute walk away is the even more epic (but far more conventional) Boston Museum of Fine Arts, a massive edifice with a sprawling modern wing built onto the already imposing old building — together, they house 450,000 works of art. If that’s not enough walking for you, the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail connects 16 historically significant sites in the city, from churches and burial grounds to the site of the Boston Massacre.

You can’t leave Boston without crossing the Charles River to Cambridge to see the Harvard University campus (and stop by the Hourly Oyster House off Harvard Square) and visiting the city’s hallowed sports shrines. Even if you don’t catch a game, a stop at Fenway Park and at the bronze Bobby Orr statue outside TD Garden is a nice nod of respect to icons of our old sports-rival city. ■

Nonstop flights from Montreal to Boston are offered by Air Canada and United Airlines. This article was originally published in the June issue of Cult MTL.

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