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Montréal's boutique hotels are the current superstars for travelers' accommodations, the highlight being those in the Old Montréal that have transformed historical buildings into chic modern getaways -- it's hard to top the ambience of old stone walls while you cozy up in crisp white sheets. So popular are these small and personable spots that they're popping up in the downtown sector alongside the grand establishments. Big hotel chains, many of which arrived in time for Expo 67, may have time against them, but their central location is key (particularly for festival-goers) and recent renovations at several addresses have put them back in the stylish category, with often the added bonus of a pool.

Both Montréal and Québec City have familiar international hotel chains, as well as small B&Bs hosted by locals. In between are the boutique hotels, which combine high-end service with plush room accommodations and decor that ranges from Asian minimalist to country luxury. A good room in one of these smaller hotels could provide the best memories of your trip.

The tourist authorities in the province of Québec apply a six-level rating system (zero to five stars) to seven categories of establishments that host travelers. A shield bearing the assigned rating is posted near the entrance to most hotels and inns. The Québec system is based on quantitative measures such as the range of services and amenities. No star is assigned to properties that meet only the basic minimum standards, while five stars are reserved for establishments deemed exceptional. Most of the recommendations above have gotten at least three stars from the state system. Details are at www.citq.info.

The stars you see in the reviews in this guide are based on Frommer's own rating system, which assigns between zero and three stars. The Frommer's ratings are more subjective than the state's, taking into account such considerations as price-to-value ratios, quality of service, ambience, location, helpfulness of staff, and the presence of such facilities as spas and exercise rooms.

All rooms have private bathrooms unless otherwise noted. Most hotels provide complimentary Wi-Fi in either part or all of their facilities, although this continues to be a work in progress for some properties. Ask about the most current Internet options when reserving a room. Some hotels have stopped providing in-room coffeemakers, so ask in advance if this feature is important to you. Most Montréal hotels are entirely nonsmoking. Those that aren't have a limited number of smoking rooms available.

Getting the Best Deal

Most Québec hotels offer online specials and package deals that bundle rooms with meals or sightseeing activities. In many cases, this can result in rates significantly below what's quoted in this guide. Always check hotel websites before calling to make a reservation. And check discount sites such as Expedia, which oftentimes offers still more competitive rates.

Because the region is so cold for so many months of the year, tourism here is cyclical. That means that prices drop -- often steeply -- for many properties much of the September-through-April period. While rooms are less expensive these times of year, some of the essential vibrancy and joie de vivre of the region goes into hibernation as well. Hotel rates are highest during the region's busiest times, from May to October, reaching a peak during Grand Prix in June, and remaining relatively high in July and August. Rates also inflate during the virtually nonstop summer of festivals, annual holidays (Canadian and American), and winter carnivals in January and February. For those periods, reserve well in advance, especially if you're looking for special prices or packages.

Except for B&Bs, visitors can almost always find discounts and package deals. That's especially the case on weekends, when business clients leave town.

Most goods and services in Canada have a federal tax of 5% (the TPS). On top of that, the province of Québec adds a tax that comes out to 7.88% (the TVQ). An additional accommodations tax of 3.5% is in effect on hotel bills in Montréal. Prices listed in this guide do not include taxes.

Price Categories

Very Expensive C$300 and up

Expensive C$200-C$300

Moderate C$100-C$200

Inexpensive Under C$100

What You'll Really Pay -- The prices quoted are average prices during busy periods. These numbers can drop significantly in low season (colder months), but do take note that high-season rates return even in winter during festivals or certain events. Also, prices go through the roof during Grand Prix weekend in June; it's not unheard of that rooms for this car racing frenzy are booked up to one year in advance.

You can typically find discounts up to 20% for rooms when booking through through websites such as Hotels.com or Expedia.com. A recent cursory search of the usual Web discount sites revealed that the going rate was actually closer to $160.

Note: When putting together your travel budget, remember that many hotels include the price of breakfast in their rates.

Reservation Services

Most hotels don't ask for deposits but require that you pay the whole fee upfront, and usually won't reserve your room until your credit card transaction goes through successfully. Most of the larger hotels allow you to cancel rooms, but do check in advance how many days you have to receive all your money back.

Check out time is usually around 11am, but can normally be extended to noon or 1pm if requested. Similarly, check-in time is routinely after 3pm.

Planning and reserving ahead is always a good idea, especially due to the (seemingly) never-ending festival season in Montréal, so arriving with no reservations and the hope of winging it could make you an unhappy camper indeed. In such cases, however, do remember that there is a great selection of hotels near the airport, including a new Marriott adjacent to the arrivals gate at Trudeau International Airport.

Booking Agencies -- While there are no "agencies" per se that book hotels for you (other than the discount sites such as Expedia), you may want to look into Experience Old Montréal (www.experienceoldmontreal.com), which is run by the Antonopoulos Group and thus concentrates all their hotels and restaurants in one spot. Many, if not all, of their addresses (for spa, food, drinks, and accommodations, as well as seasonal events) are frequented by savvy locals, and so can be an easy go-to site for many of your Old Montréal excursions.

Alternative Accommodations

Bed-and-breakfasts boast cozier settings than many hotels and are often (but not always) lower priced than comparable hotels. They also give visitors the opportunity to get to know a Montréaler or two, since their owners are among the most outgoing and knowledgeable guides one might want. Tourisme Montréal maintains a database of recommended B&Bs at www.tourisme-montreal.org/accommodations.

Rules and types of rooms at B&Bs vary significantly. Ask upfront if bathrooms are shared or if children are welcome.

Keep Up Your Workout Schedule

If you're staying at a hotel that doesn't have a fitness center or whose exercise room is modest, keep Club Sportif MAA in mind (tel. 514/845-2233; www.clubsportifmaa.com). Located centrally downtown at 2070 rue Peel, between rue Sherbrooke and boulevard de Maisonneuve, the luxury facility has a 743-sq.-m (8,000-sq.-ft.) state-of-the-art gym with cardio and strength-training equipment, a lap pool, and a full schedule of classes -- everything from spinning to Pilates to Ashtanga yoga. Day passes are available for C$20 for adults and C$10 for children 17 and under.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.