AUBERGE DU VIEUX-PORT
An atmospherically dark, wood-lined lobby conjures up the feel of the Old Montreal area - a centuries old fur-trapping hub that later became a financial powerhouse. There's a choice of older or more modern rooms, but the classic ones have more character, with wooden pillars and beams kept in place. There are also big windows looking out over Rue St-Paul, the charming, pedestrianised, fashion store and restaurant-lined heart of the district. Come summer, when Montreal launches regular fireworks displays, the terrace overlooking the old port area and St Lawrence River becomes a prime viewing platform. Rooms from $180.
PIERRE DU CALVET
History and romance are the conventional selling points, but the feel of being a guest in a castle owned by a roaringly eccentric minor duke trumps them. The building dates back to the early 18th century, and it is filled with model ships, animal heads, bird cages and other barkingly odd clutter. Original fireplaces remain, gargoyle-like stone carvings appear on the walls, ostentatious drape curtains cover the windows and the four poster beds are entirely lacking in decorative restraint. You might also get a piano in your room, candlesticks covered in piled-high wax or stained glass windows. Rooms from $240.
As transformations go, turning this 19th century cotton importer's warehouse into a hotel is pretty spectacular. The reception desk doubles as a large, central bar, while photographic exhibitions line the walls. In the rooms, original stone and brickwork is kept where possible, while bare concrete floors give a touch of edgy minimalism. They're heated for winter comfort, though. Each room is slightly different, although giant beds generally get centre stage, with everything else built around them. That includes filmy curtains that divide off the bathroom. The look's not one easily forgotten. Rooms from $180.
When jeans magnate Georges Marciano's collection of pop and modern art got too big, he decided opening a hotel would provide a perfect place to showcase it. L'Hotel takes over an old bank and fills it with eye-catching installations. A cartoonishly rotund human figure sits on top of an equally bubble-like horse outside, while works by the likes of Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Jaume Plensa fill the sinuously merging bar/ lobby area. The standard rooms err towards the homely-but-spacious, while the suites all contain an original work by the artist they're named after. Doubles from $165.
HOTEL LE ST JAMES
Also inside a former bank, the plushest hotel in Old Montreal goes for alternating wows with home-from-home comforts. Suites on the lower levels are inside the bank's old meeting rooms - with the masculine wood-panelling retained. Elsewhere, the multi-level XO restaurant is an exercise in jaw-to-the-floor power dining decor and the owner has left his mark on the rooms by leaving items he's collected on his travels. Mini bar snacks, therefore, come in treasure chests, while you may have a carved wooden duck, leather-print stool or something equally random by your bed. Doubles from $350.
There's something of a hip hostel vibe to this affordable-but-fun 28 room joint. This partly comes from the hybrid lounge, reception and cafe area with cowskin seats and ultra-detailed street-art murals over the walls. But head upstairs and the rooms have a touch of class. Quirky, colourful chairs that feel like they belong in a design museum, the old stone walls are left exposed and bamboo floors create a sense of peace. Should a wake-up call be in order, the multi-jet showers will quickly power away the last vestiges of slumber. Rooms from $190.
The writer was a guest of Tourisme Montreal.