The best things to do in Montreal! These are the places to eat, visit, and local experiences to have around my favorite city in Canada.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Montreal? Is it poutine? Francophone culture? Maybe cold weather? The aspect that I love about Montreal is that it doesn't fit into one box.
Yes, the poutine is wonderful, but you can find authentic cuisine from all over the world throughout the city. Yes, it is very Francophone compared to other parts of Canada (outside of Quebec), but it's also a multilingual and multicultural cosmopolitan city.
Yes, the winters are freezing and the city goes into hibernation for a good part of the year, but as soon as spring and summer hit, it's one of the most vibrant cities in Canada. There's always something going on.
I've now been to Montreal in the dead of winter as well as at the end of spring. And what I experienced during those trips was two very different cities, which had the common thread of friendly, welcoming locals, a love for preserving history, and a bustling foodie scene. I also picked up quite a few suggestions for what to see in Montreal, from my personal experiences and my friends who live in the city.
The beauty of Montreal is that every time you visit you can have a completely different experience. It's a testament to the city's versatility and ability to be a home for people from all different backgrounds and walks of life.
There are more than 101 things to do in Montreal, by a long shot, but these are my favorite things in Quebec's largest city that you should experience at least once.
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101 Things to Do in Montreal, Canada
I broke down this list by the best things to do in Montreal, local attractions, outdoor activities and hikes, museums, food & drinks, tours, day trips, and events. Feel free to navigate from the table of contents above.
Top Things to do in Montreal
1. Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal
2. Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal)
3. Chateau Ramezay
4. Place Jacques-Cartier
5. Montreal Botanical Garden
6. St. Joseph's Oratory
7. Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel & Marche Bonsecours
8. La Ronde
9. La Grande Roue de Montreal
10. Le Bateau Mouche Cruise
11. Au Sommet (for one of the best views of Montreal)
12. Olympic Stadium
Local Things to Do in Montreal
13. Compare and contrast Montreal bagels from St. Viateur vs Fairmount (and choose a side)
14. Experience Tam-Tams at the foot of Mount Royal (free festival that happens every Sunday during the summer)
15. Go to Picnik Electronik (electronic music festival that happens every Sunday during the summer)
16. Grab late-night poutine from La Banquise (both for tourists and locals)
17. Sip on a freddo coffee from Cafe Olimpico
18. Grab a greasy bite to eat at Orange Julep
19. Go surfing! Aka brave the rapids of the Saint Lawrence River (but please only go with a professional guide)
20. Bike along Lachine Canal
21. Grab a pint from the Terrasse St-Ambroise beer garden or Le Sainte-Élisabeth terrace
22. Take a break at Square Saint-Louis and walk around Rue Denis
23. Stroll down Prince-Arthur
24. Jean Talon Market or Atwater Market (or both!)
25. Shop the boutiques in Mile End
26. Use the underground city to get around (make sure to stop in at the beautiful World Trade Centre Montreal)
27. Explore the many art galleries, especially around Saint-Catherine St W
28. Go to a Habs game at the Bell Centre
29. Hunt for street art around Saint-Laurent Boulevard (one of my favorite free things to do in Montreal!)
30. Devour a delicious food truck meal at First Fridays at Olympic Stadium (the first Friday of each month from May-October)
31. Relax at Village au Pied-du-Courant
32. Go dancing on Saint-Denis
33. Go thrift store shopping on St. Laurent Boulevard (don't miss Eva B.)
34. Walk down Saint-Catherine during Aire Libres
35. Go ice fishing at the ice fishing village in the Old Port
36. Ice skate at Atrium Le 1000
Outdoor Activities & Hikes
37. Mont Royal Park
38. Parc Jean Drapeau
39. Parc la Fontaine
40. Des Rapides Park
41. Nature Park of Île-de-la-Visitation
42. Outremont Park
43. Parc Maisonneuve
45. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
46. Centre d'Histoire de Montreal
47. Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal
48. Museum of Archeology and History (Point-a-Calliere)
49. The Phi Centre
50. Montreal Holocaust Museum
51. Redpath Museum
52. Montreal Biosphere Environmental Museum
53. Stewart Museum
54. Montreal Insectarium
55. Montreal Science Centre
56. McCord Museum
Food & Coffee
Coffee & Tea
57. Crew Collective & Cafe
59. Cafe Oui Mais Non
60. Banc Public
61. Les Affames
64. Allô! Mon Coco
65. Schwartz's Deli
66. Beauty's Luncheonette
68. Olive & Gourmando
70. LOV (100% plant-based, 100% delicious)
73. Satay Brothers
74. Maison Christian Faure
75. Kem CoBa
Nightlife & Live Music Venues
76. Bar George
77. Brouepub - Dieu du Ciel!
78. The Coldroom
79. La Voûte
80. Cabaret Mado
81. Casa del Popolo
Short Day Trips from Montreal
85. Parc National des Iles-de-Boucherville (45 min)
86. Bois-de-Liesse Nature Park (45 min)
87. Cap-Saint-Jacques Nature Park (1 hour)
88. The Laurentides (1.5 hours)
89. Parc National d’Oka (1.5 hours)
90. Mont-Tremblant (2-2.5 hours)
91. Igloofest (Jan/Feb)
92. Francos de Montreal (June)
93. MURAL Festival (June)
94. Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day (June 24th)
95. Montreal International Jazz Festival (June/July)
96. Montreal Complètement Cirque (July)
97. Just for Laughs Comedy Festival (July)
98. Fantasia International Film Festival (July)
99. L’International des Feux Loto-Quebec fireworks (July/August)
100. Osheaga Festival (August)
101. Montreal Pride Parade (August)
Best Time to Visit Montreal
It depends on what you're looking for, but, in general, the best time to visit Montreal is in the summer. This is when the city truly comes alive and there are events happening every weekend. Drinking on the terraces around the city is a favorite pastime for locals and one that is fun to join in on as a tourist.
If you don't mind humidity, some of the best things to see in Montreal can be found throughout this season, such as the many music, comedy, and film festivals (aka some of the most fun things to do in Montreal during the summer).
The aspect that makes summer such a magical time in Montreal is the fact that locals truly appreciate it. After having to deal with cold weather and frigid winter temperatures for a good part of the year, people don't take the nice weather for granted.
There's camaraderie in the air and the mindset of wanting to enjoy all that life has to offer while the weather is nice.
Summer is also the best time to experience one of the most popular Montreal things to do, the Botanical Garden, because flowers bloom in the summer here as opposed to spring when it's still too cold.
If you're okay with braving the cold temperatures that Montreal sees in the winter, I'd say that winter is another great time to visit the city because of how beautiful it looks in the snow.
If you walk around Old Montreal, you'll feel as if you've been transported to a European Village from the 1800s. And similar to Europe, Montreal is big on Christmas markets, complete with hot mulled wine. It's one of the top things to do in Montreal in winter.
If you're big on fall foliage, mid-September to early November is the perfect time to enjoy the colorful yellows, oranges, and reds that are prevalent on the trees around the city.
Where is Montreal?
Montreal is the largest city in the Quebec province in Eastern Canada. The city is located on an island in the Saint Lawrence River and only about 3 hours from Quebec City, 2.5 hours from Ottawa, and a 6.5-hour drive from New York City. Because of its location, Montreal has distinct seasons, long winters, and humidity in the summer.
How to Get from Quebec City to Montreal
The quickest way to get from Quebec City to Montreal is to rent a car and take Autoroute 40 O. It usually takes about 3 hours without heavy traffic. If you're coming from Trois-Rivières, it takes an hour and 45 minutes. You can book your rental car here.
If you want to save money or you're not interested in driving, you can take the train to Montreal from Quebec City using Via Rail Canada. The journey is just over three hours and costs CAD $30 for a one-way ticket. You can book tickets here.
If you'd prefer to take the bus to Montreal, you can hop on the Orléans Express (Montreal-Quebec Express). This also takes around 3 hours and costs CAD $25. You can purchase tickets here.
How to Get from Ottawa to Montreal
If you're coming from Ottawa to Montreal, it's a slightly shorter journey. You can rent a car and drive down Autoroute 50 E. The journey takes about 2.5 hours without much traffic. You can book a rental car here.
Alternatively, if you want to take public transit, Via Railway Canada is the best option. For only CAD $30, you'll get to Montreal in about two hours from Ottawa. You can book tickets here.
Montreal Travel Tips
If you're going to be in Montreal for a few days, grab the 3-day Opus Card for CAD $19. One of the best ways to quickly get around Montreal is via one of the city's 220 bus lines or 68 metro stations.
The Opus Card can be used on both the metro and the bus. One way tickets are CAD $3.25, so if you're going to be traversing the city for a few days get the 3-day card for CAD $19. You can grab these cards from a fare vending machine or ticket booth attendant at any metro station.
If you plan to do a ton of sightseeing, purchase the Passeport MTL for more value - If you plan to spend 3 days in Montreal and want to experience the top 10 things to do in Montreal and more, I'd suggest getting the Montreal attraction pass (Passeport MTL). The pass is good for 3 days and it gives you access to 28 attractions and unlimited public transit. You can find out more about the pass here.
There's Uber in Montreal now but no shared or express rides available - If you prefer to get around the city with Uber, it's not going to be as inexpensive as San Francisco, where you have options for shared and express rides that lower the cost. In Montreal, the only option is a private ride so it's best to use it if you're sharing the ride with a friend or two.
Montreal is one of the best foodie cities in Canada - Yes, definitely try the poutine, as Quebec is the province where it originated from, but also make sure to try the diverse culinary scene that's all over the city (starting with the recommendations listed above!).
I've never had a bad meal in Montreal. Take advantage of the fantastic foodie scene here and taste test your way through the city, either on your own or through a food tour.
Take public transit to the airport instead of Uber - If you want a cheaper option that is almost as convenient as taking an Uber, hop on the 747 bus that takes you from central Montreal directly to the airport in 40 minutes. You can simply grab a day pass for $10 and get whisked away to your flight.
Keep taxes in mind when purchasing anything - This isn't anything new coming from California where the sales tax is 7.25%, but for other travelers where that's not the usual, be mindful that the tax on goods and services in Quebec is a whopping 9.975%. So, don't be surprised if that maple syrup costs a bit more once you get to the register.
What to Pack for Montreal
Where to Stay in Montreal
With over 10 million tourists that visit Montreal each year, there's accommodation for every budget in this city.
If you're looking to travel on a budget, Montreal has one of the best hostels in all of Canada. Alternatively, if you're looking for a luxe stay for a romantic weekend getaway, the city has plenty of options for that too. As well as everything in between.
These are my picks for the top three places to stay in Montreal, no matter your budget!
If you're looking for an affordable central stay in Montreal, I highly recommend HI Montreal. I stayed here for three nights in a private room and loved the location, staff, and activities offered. They have both private and dorm-style rooms, free tours every day, free breakfast, and a safe space for solo travelers. It's a great place to meet other people if you're traveling by yourself or in a small group.
And, as an added bonus, they're offering a 10% discount right now! Just use MIMI10 (in all caps!) to apply the discount on their website, valid until July 31st, 2019 via the link below.
This historic accommodation is located at the edge of Le Plateau, right in the midst of all the great coffee shops that the neighborhood has to offer but still close enough to walk to various popular sights in Montreal. Expect unique old-world themed decor in the rooms as well as free breakfast, coffee, tea, and snacks.
If you want to experience that summer 'terrace life' without having to leave your hotel, the luxe Hotel Birks is a great option as they have a highly-rated terrace and street-level restaurant, Restaurant Henri Brasserie Française on-site. Some rooms offer a private terrace, as well as a desk, and flat-screen TV.
There's a relaxing spa at the property and a continental, buffet or à la carte breakfast offered in the mornings. This is a good option for those who are in Montreal for a romantic getaway or the business traveler who's looking for a bit of luxury during their work trip.
Hopefully this gave you a good overview of what to do in Montreal, Canada! If you're looking for more Canadian travel inspiration, check out these related posts below!
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