Imagine a hotel whose hallway walls look like giant pieces of Wasa rye crisp crackers. Except that these walls won’t break apart like a Wasa rye crisp if you bump into them. If you lose your balance heading back to your room one night after a few drinks, you sure don’t want to hit your head on them. They’re made of concrete. Sharp, jagged, hard as rock concrete.
This, folks, is the Hotel Bonaventure in downtown Montreal. We stayed there in early September when visiting Montreal for the first time. Our Boston neighbor down the hall, an architect who had showered us with lots of great suggestions for a Montreal visit, recommended it to us.
He did warn us, “When you pull up to it, you’re going to wonder ‘Why did he send us here?'” And yeah, he was kind of right about that. Despite it looking like an enormous block of concrete, we were supposed to keep in mind that we’d find gardens, pools, and waterfalls inside.
From what I could tell, the hotel rooms only occupy three floors at the top of the building. The building, called Place Bonaventure, is a complex of offices, an exhibition center, and the hotel. The guest rooms on these top floors — the 14th, 15th, and 16th — wrap around the perimeter of a rooftop labyrinth of gardens both with and without ducks, a swimming pool and hot tub area, a goldfish pond, and various gentle waterfalls.
After passing through seemingly endless dim corridors of the Wasa rye crisp walls, it was a surprise to enter our room and see what was just outside our window. There were secluded views of a section of the rooftop gardens, complete with ducks:
Walking through the corridors over the next 5 days, I’d happen upon glass hallways that looked out onto gardens like this:
There were doorways leading out to these open courtyards, so I could go outside and either walk along a little path or relax in an Adirondack chair by a waterfall. Or, go for a swim in the pool or relax in an outdoor hot tub.
Furniture in the common areas spanned mid-century modern through 70s chic, featuring woven egg chairs, hanging basket chairs, and tulip tables.
It was definitely a remarkable hotel experience. Rooms were very comfy and hotel staff was helpful and friendly. It would be interesting to be there in winter, and to swim in the open air heated rooftop pool and hot tub. They are open year-round. In the elevator is a large night-time photo of it surrounded by snow with swimmers in it.
As much as I appreciated the experience of the hotel’s unusual design, I’m not sure if I’d want to stay in that part of downtown again. The location felt a little isolated to me, more like a business district for at least several blocks around it. To be fair, it is only about a 10 minute walk to some nightlife, and a 15-20 minute walk in the other direction to Old Montreal. If you’re going to Montreal and you’d like a truly unique hotel experience, however, this is it.