A lot of people who find themselves in Montreal in the winter often ask "Why do people live here?" Consistent days of well-below-freezing temperatures and no sunshine after 5 p.m. between December and February don’t sound like ideal conditions when one considers the fun in the sun enjoyed by Brazilians or Californians in their party-ready cities. And yet Montreal is known as a great party city, it’s still a music factory pumping out some of the best bands and DJs in the world, and its rank as one of the international culture capitals has been unchallenged since the Arcade Fire dropped their second album. Piknic Électronik in the summer, Igloofest in the winter, and plenty of great music festivals in between, Montreal keeps it spinning all year round. Plus, the city’s got the food to match: hearty, succulent, made-for-sub-zero-temp poutines and smoked meat, available at all hours of the day. New York might be the city that never sleeps, but its little northern neighbor is the city that simply doesn't stop.
Montreal knows two things: you don’t need hot weather to party your tail off, and if a city can be inventive about how they tackle the cold it can keep up morale all year round. Enter Igloofest, an outdoor winter rave festival that takes place in the world-renowned Old Port every weekend between January 16th to February 8th. There’s wine and beer on sale on the premises, and every year they hold a competition for the best one-piece ski suit in attendance (get that neon shining in the black light). Some of the best DJs in the world brave the cold to spin to waves of neon bodies pulsating to the madness, backdropped by the glowing lights of the grand Vieux Port. Past DJs have included A-Trak, Diplo, Joris Voorn, Rusko, and other top billed names in the industry. This year, the line-up features Skream, Matthew Dear, me, Just Blaze, Sharam and more. But don’t worry if you haven’t heard of some of these names: get in early and party in the snow at Igloofest, and then go home and perfect a sly smirk because when everybody’s talking about Matthew Dear this time next year, you can nod coolly, like, "Yeah, dude was mad good at Igloofest last year" like you know and just walk away.
A lot of people – good people, honest, and hard working and hard partying Montrealers, no less – have compromised their view of what a good poutine should be in their drunken pursuit of greasy munchies. It makes sense. You can’t get greasier than poutine, the hard-won Quebecois delicacy of simple fries, gravy and cheese curds. Simple, right? Well, a lot of restaurants have managed to screw it up. That’s why there’s La Banquise. It’s open 24 hours, with its time-honored location just east of St. Hubert on rue Rachel (every cab driver knows where it is), Anthony Bourdain-recognized clout and menu featuring not just the classic poutine but 30 other variations, with toppings like bacon, hot dog, caramelized onions, steak, pepperoni and merguez sausage. More adventurous options include La Taquise, a Mexican-inspired twist which replaces cheese and gravy for guacamole, sour cream and tomatoes, and La Grecque, with feta, cucumbers, tomatoes and black olives. But for a greasy night, you can’t really beat the Classic, unless you slap some bacon on that, which they will happily do.
The W Montreal works hard to be the hippest luxury hotel in the city. Ther prime location in the historic Banque du Canada building, walkable to and from the train station and just a few blocks north of all the historic buildings and chic restaurants of the Old Port ensures that their guests don’t have to walk very far in the cold to get to exciting places. Once inside, however, the hotel checks all vintage aesthetic at the door in favor of sleek, fun and impeccably modern. They even have a special package with Igloofest that includes one night’s stay, tickets to the the party and two complimentary cocktails at Bartini, their stylish in-house bar. Fuel up at their trendy Ristorante OTTO which serves seasonal menus with flavors a little bit East-Asian, a little bit Mediterranean, all Montreal. Suited for the festival crowd, the W offers the sleek and highly amenable luxury of any other top-class hotel, tailored for the unstuffy trendy set.