I used to think that I was allergic to the South Shore, but for two months now I’ve been heading to the Square at Quartier Dix30 (the mega shopping neighbourhood with every big-box store imaginable) every other week, partly for work, but also to shop, eat and unwind. At first glance, the Square seems to be a somewhat antiseptic man-made shopping village (think Premium Outlets in the States), but if you can get past the cold exterior, it’s what you find inside that counts. Plus, the fact that everything’s all in one place and there’s always plenty of free parking makes it worth the trip over the Champlain. You might ask, what could make me want to leave my beloved urban island and take a trip to the ’burbs? Here are my top six places to check out if you’re thinking of heading to the Square.
- hr2 – Before, I was a huge fan of Winners, but hr2 is my new coup de coeur for discounted designer fashion. Since May, I’ve been handling the social media accounts for Holt Renfrew in Quebec and their two new hr2 stores (there’s a second one in Toronto), so I may be biased, but honestly, I would shop at hr2 any day. I have to be careful, though, because I can’t seem to walk in without buying something!
- Zyara – My second favourite stop when I head to the Square is for lunch or dinner or drinks at this trendy new Lebanese restaurant. The décor looks like something out of a Mediterranean Sex and the City episode, with a lot of colourful accents in a well-thought-out design (right down to the stylish washrooms). Adding to the ambiance each Friday and Saturday is live dj music. And the food! Chef Nabil makes Lebanese dishes and appetizers to die for (love the mini falafel). Unwind on the terrace lounge after a day of shopping and pampering around a chic chicha. And don’t go without trying their beet juice mojito!
- Téh Bar – One thing that’s missing at the Square is a decent coffee place. There’s a Presse Café (meh), but you want someone who can sling a really great espresso. As an alternative, I discovered Téh bar, a Montreal-owned tea bar (they also have one in Quebec City), a bit like David’s Tea, but better. Their frothy, hand-whisked green tea matcha (get it hot or as an iced tea) is what I go for (with a shot of vanilla!) It’s now my ritual and first stop whenever I head to the Square! Try one of their tea-flavoured cookies; they also carry Point G macarons.
- Rouge Nail Bar – Before hr2, I was the social media manager for all the Rouge Nail Bars in Montreal, so I really got to know each one. The Rouge at the Square is the most branded with its slick exterior facade, but inside it’s the same concept as the others in Montreal, with the mani stations at the front and the pedi lounge in the back. I still don’t tire of watching Sex and the City whenever I go for a mani-pedi. They also have a mini menu, so you can enjoy snacks and a glass of wine with your pampering.
- NeoSpa – Take the pampering even further with a spa treatment at this modern spa. I had a chance to visit the spa, which is very chic and modern, and now I can’t wait to go back and try their signature massage which includes pre-massage unwinding in their hammam! The owner is very cool and the women that work there are super sweet. Bonus: it’s right across the hall from Zyara!
- Williams Sonoma – Personally, I wouldn’t make a special trip to shop at Williams Sonoma now that their sister store, West Elm, has opened up within walking distance of my place (and it’s much more my style). But I do recommend WS for their free cooking demos! On my first visit, I learned how to make fish tacos and a refreshing watermelon and feta salad, perfect for these sweltering summer days. You can even hire the chef to do cooking demos in your home. While I was there, I picked up some pretty oven mitts, and contemplated a crystal martini set, so it’s a nice place to shop for kitchen and bar gadgets and accessories if you are already at the Square. And since you’re already there, check out their other stores (the first in Quebec): Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids for home décor ideas.
That’s my must-do list at the Square, but there are plenty of other stores not to be missed. A lot of them we already have downtown, but it’s nice that they are all within walking distance of each other, and again, that you don’t have to worry about parking!
Other stores not to be missed (and that are the only ones in Quebec): Bebe, Peak Performance (for golf and ski wear), Lollipops Paris (kitschy girly shoes, handbags and accessories).
Other classics to hit while at the Square: Lululemon, Diesel, BCBG, Vero Moda, Rudsak, Juliette et Chocolat, Bilboquet, Urban Outfitters, Birks (opening this month!), Sephora (also opening very soon), Browns… I could go on, but check out the full list here: www.quartierdix30.com/stores
What’s missing: a place to grab fast healthy food in between shopping, and a great café!
Important to know before you go: Although it may only take 10 mins to get there, it can take 40 mins to get back! Just try not to travel at peak traffic times. (Trust me, I made the mistake of leaving the Square at 6 p.m., only once).
Check out my VIP day at the Square on my blog, including a 20-min. helicopter tour of the Square and Old Montreal (my hood)! If you are at the Square this weekend (July 27–28), you can enter to win the same heli-tour (with champagne!). Or, you can also book one.