You’ll Have to Go Underground to Find the Best Spa in Old Montreal
With the arrival of long days and warm weather, Montreal heats up as music, arts, markets and outdoor festivals take over. Tourists flock to sample a slice of the city’s joie de vivre, crowding the narrow cobblestone streets of Old Montreal and snapping selfies outside the Notre-Dame Basilica. Sitting along the St. Lawrence River, with a poutine in one hand and an ice cream cone in the other, you’ll be hard-pressed to imagine a better spot to soak up summer.
The swarms of people and flurry of activities, however, don’t necessarily create moments for peace and quiet. For that, Montreal offers world-class spas. In Old Montreal alone, there are over half a dozen wellness centres offering thermal circuits with heated pools, cold plunges and herbal saunas. The Scandinave Spa Vieux-Montréal—a brand that also has locations in Whistler, Blue Mountain, Mont-Tremblant—is one of the idyllic indoor/outdoor spots to unwind for an afternoon. Down the street, there’s also Bota Bota, a spa that takes the healing properties of “floating” a little more literally, with facilities located in a moored ship.
At 12,000 and 25,000 square feet respectively, the two mega-popular spa destinations can sometimes feel more colossal than calm. To achieve true tranquillity, you should head to the historic William Gray, a contemporary hotel that fuses modern aesthetic with a warm ambience. Located on the lower level of the hotel, the Spa William Gray is an urban hideaway where minimal design sensibility meets ultimate relaxation.
The spa’s hot/cold thermal circuit features a Himalayan salt room, Finnish sauna, steam room, experiential showers, cold room and herbal sauna, as well as a seasonal outdoor pool. It’s a small spa, which lends to the serenity of the space. With no windows to the outside world, it’s easy to let your mind escape and forget that there’s a clown busking a block over at Place Jacques-Cartier.
After hiking up Mont Royal and dancing the night away at one of the city’s famous after-hours clubs, a therapeutic massage is a welcome treat. The Spa William Gray features high-end Gharieni spa beds, which are filled with warm quartz sand before being draped with soft linens. The sand adapts to your body’s shape, helping detoxify, improve circulation, and reduce muscular tension.
When you finish your treatment, head upstairs to Off the Hook, a trendy boutique within the hotel that stocks its shelves with Stussy streetwear, issues of Gentlewoman and the latest Nike sneakers. Then, grab an espresso at Café Olimpico, an on-site coffee shop that was named among the “50 greatest cafés on Earth” by The Telegraph.
At this point, you might consider spending the night in one of Hotel William Gray’s 127 guest rooms and suites. You’ll wake up the next morning to exquisite views of Montreal’s iconic landmarks, feeling recharged and ready to take in all the sights, sounds and smoked meat sandwiches the city has to offer.