Frommer's guide to Montreal and Quebec City is one of the best Frommer's guidebook I have ever read. This book hits all the key wonderful things in Montreal, from where to stay, what to see, and where to eat.
The book is heavy on text with about the right number of photographs. There is a plastic coated pull out map of Montreal and Quebec City. They are decent maps; useful in a pinch, but either the free maps available in every hotel or a larger more detailed map are a better choice.
This is the ideal guidebook for a trip to Montreal or Quebec City. Over the past ten years I have spent a lot of time in Montreal, last year I was there every week from January through April. I have personally visited about half of the things Frommer's discusses about Montreal, and can say they understand the city well and give excellent recommendations. Following the advice in this book will guarantee an amazing visit to this wonderful city. I have not spent much time in Quebec City, but if they got this city even 50% as right as Montreal, you won't go far wrong.
Montreal is an accessible city; it is completely different from any city in the US, but still somewhat familiar. Although French is the official language (all building and street signs are required to be in French) most everybody speaks English. The only people that fake not speaking English are some cab drivers. Know that all taxis in Montreal accept credit cards. If a driver plays like he doesn't, simply call the phone number in the cab with his license number - you can bank on your credit card being accepted instantly. If the driver doesn't understand the address, write it down, if he still doesn't understand, get another cab. Cabs are on par with most major US cities. The subway is just about everywhere and is the least expensive way to get around.
The most incredible part of Montreal is the food. There is a diversity I've never seen in any other city. There are amazing chefs experimenting and succeeding at creating fantastic dishes. There is no official Canadian cuisine - oh maple syrup and poutine are close. Instead Canadians have been influenced by so many other cultures and applied that to local ingredients. It is genuinely difficult to buy a bad meal in Montreal (unless of course you stop at the American fast food chains).
Hotels are about what would be expected in a major US city, slightly less expensive than New York, Chicago, or LA. Rooms are as large as in the US. But service is at a completely different higher level. The idea of the friendly Canadian is so true in hotels. Frommer's mentions the major festivals and events in Montreal. Expect that hotel rooms will be difficult to find during that time. Unless you are attending the Formula One race, avoid Montreal at all costs during that week and weekend, the price of hotel rooms double and triple. Hotels sell out very quickly once the F1 schedule is released in roughly November. Frommer's description of the hotels is very accurate.
Travel to and from Montreal is fairly simple. A passport is required. Customs is cleared both directions in Montreal - so all flights to Montreal depart from the domestic terminal in the US. Canadian customs agents are some of the friendliest in the world, sadly the US customs agents when departing are some of the worst in the world. Departure security is efficient but different from any airport I've ever cleared. First stop is boarding pass control with a bar code scanner, leading to a huge hall where bags are screened - two more boarding pass scans and everything must go on a plastic tray, followed by US customs, and finally another boarding pass scan at the exit. For first time travelers, this is a confusing and daunting experience. Unfortunately airfare has gotten expensive in the last year. The exchange rate has gotten slightly better, but is nowhere near the bargain it was several years ago. Canadian and US dollar is almost 1:1, where not long ago it was a 60% discount.
Driving in Montreal is about like driving in any US city, there are no confusing European rules of the road. The only difference, there is no right turn on red in the island of Montreal. Canadian drivers are very aggressive around stop lights, they tend to push yellow lights well into red (the joke is there's no right turn on red, but they can run red lights if close to the yellow light). Pedestrians must be yielded to everywhere. Parking is difficult in some areas, but generally not impossible. The streets are somewhat confusing because the city is not a grid, and some street names change across the city.
My personal favorite hotel in Montreal is the InterContinental. The hotel was completely renovated in 2009. The rooms are large and comfortable. Most bathrooms have a bath tub and shower stall. The hotel is ideally located for Old Montreal, one of the more comfortable places to walk around. Place des Arts is a decent 15 minute walk. And the hustle of St Catherine Street is about a 20 minute walk. The InterContinental has one of the best bars in Montreal - the Sarah B, an absinthe bar. Johanne is one of the top bartenders in Montreal and really knows absinthe (which is legal in the US since 2002). I disagree with Frommer's evaluation of Osco, the InterContinental's restaurant. I prefer eating in the bar for dinner. For breakfast, Java-U is a much better choice.
The Hotel Vogue, a Loews hotel, is incredibly elegant, with some of the best service I have ever seen anywhere in the world. At one time this was the hotel for the F1 drivers. They do know how to manage celebrities at this hotel (I have met Wayne Gretzky in the bar). The location is perfect for museums and the activity on St Catherine. The Sheraton is a tired older hotel. The Hilton Garden Inn is one of the best hidden treasures in Montreal, although it is a somewhat out of the way location. The Hyatt has been on my avoid list for several years now. Even after the recent renovation, it still has problems. The Hyatt location is fantastic - right on Place des Arts and connected to a mall. However, it takes two elevators get to rooms. Reception is located up three floors. Then there is another bank of elevators to reach the rooms. Service is the worst I have seen at a Hyatt. The Westin is very nice, ultra quiet rooms that are massive. Decorating is bland and beige, but the beds are classic incredible Westin.
Anthony Bourdain did two programs on Montreal (No Reservations and Layover). He nails the restaurant advice so well in both programs. I have my favorite restaurants and am hard pressed to choose a favorite between Joe Beef, Au Pied de Cochon, and Le Club Chasse et Peche. Joe Beef is all about a sense of humor with their food and sustainability (there is a garden in the back yard). The menu changes frequently and is written on two massive chalkboards above the bar. Who would ever put lobster and pork inside a sausage? Portions are large and it is your own fault if you leave hungry. Reservations are required; this is an incredibly popular restaurant (they are included in open table). Eating at the bar is a fantastic experience. The restaurant is located way way west (corrected June 20, 2013) on Notre Dame. Au Pied de Cochon is all about pork, fois gras, and cooking on an open wood stove. The food is to die for. It is almost impossible to get a table outside of the first or last seating. The chef is a genius and slightly tormented. He works very hard at taking away all pretense in what he serves. I have eaten there several times and would never give back a single bite of any food I ate there. It is located in one of the cooler areas of Montreal, the very French neighborhood. The restaurant has no sign outside, simply a menu in a frame on the far wall. Le Club Chasse et Peche is the other side of the food triangle - a romantic, intimate restaurant with service that is perfection. Portions are small and incredibly well researched. The wine list is remarkable. I have never seen a menu like this, a simple 5x7 card with roughly 5 appetizers and 5 main courses. Who would ever imagine slicing a lotus flower thin and frying it? Flavors are subtle and perfectly matched. Dessert is to die for. The restaurant is in a fantastic location right in old Montreal. There is a tiny plaque on the wall outside with the restaurant name. If you didn't know the address, you would miss this place.
The Kitchenette is an unusual newer restaurant, a combination of US soul food and Quebec cuisine. The kitchen is open and it is possible to sit at the counter and actually talk with chef. La Queue de Cheval is closing in July. They will reopen down the street in November and then eventually move to a new home. Although most Montrealers call this a tourist trap, it is some of the best service, wine, and steak I have had anywhere in the world. They were one of the few cigar bars left in the city.
Frommer's hits all the right notes with this guidebook. It is an excellent starting point to plan an enjoyable visit in this beautiful city.