Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Amanda Stancati
Montreal is rich in history, cuisine and Canadian politics. The people of Montreal are Bilingual, speaking English and French. The city is deeply rooted in a mix of history and modernity that makes it one of Canada’s most unique urban centres. The city is ultimately Canadienne: bold, beautiful, and attracting over 8 million visitors per year to its walkable core. It boasts an array of eclectic neighbourhoods that serve as a hub for artists, writers and musicians, a host to international festivals like Jazz Fest, and home to a food scene that only France can rival. Art and design lurk in its pristine streets, from colonial architecture found in churches to the art galleries of Old Montreal to streets filled with designer wares. If you haven’t already, we invite you to travel Montreal and experience Quebec’s inspiring city for yourself.
Montreal is for everyone
Montreal is one of Canada’s most beautiful cities. Plan a trip to Montreal if you enjoy sightseeing, dining, shopping, and nightlife. If you’re someone who thrives on cosmopolitan cities, Montreal offers all that a big city does, and is close to home. From colonial architecture and coloured homes to sweet French delicacies to clubs, and pubs that come alive after dark, there is much to be enjoyed on a Montreal trip. If you want to explore more of Canada and experience French culture, a trip to Montreal is for you.
Attractions in Montreal
Vieux-Port de Montreal: Old Montreal, also known as Old Port, was founded in 1642. Its romantic cobblestone streets, chic restaurants, public squares and green spaces attract visitors on sunny days to roam the quarter and pop in and out of shops. Roller blade or bike along the canal, take a relaxing and nostalgic horse and buggy ride, or simply enjoy a crepe on one of the patios. Be sure to visit the Basilique Notre-Dame in the Place d’Armes square in Old Montreal, North America’s largest cathedral built in 1824. Admire the stained-glass windows and gilded sculptures of this site, where Celine Dion was married in 1994, and which may even be considered Montreal’s most famous landmark. If you like architecture, you will love admiring Montreal’s 5-story city hall, Hotel de Ville, built between 1872 and 1878. Old Montreal is home to chic restaurants and boutique hotels, so be sure to save some time to walk around this area of the city when exploring Montreal.
Art: The Musee des Beaux-Arts de Montreal was designed by Montreal’s famous architect, Moshe Safdie. This fine art museum houses works by Rembrandt, Picasso, Monet, and the Group of Seven. There is also Inuit and aboriginal artifacts as well as furniture, sculptures, photographs, prints, and more. The Musee d’Art Contemporain is a modern art museum right next to the Place des Festivals in the Quartier des Spectacles, where festivals and performances are held.
Parc du Mont-Royal: This 200-hectare park is Montreal’s finest green space. You’ll find the Georges-Etienne Cartier monument, the lookout over downtown built in 1906, Beaver Lake, a sculpture garden, ski slopes and trails, and several cemeteries.
Little Italy: Don’t miss out on the famous cheeses, meats and baked goods on your trip to Montreal. Walk the short strip of Little Italy to find restaurants, gelato bars, and specialty shops. While you’re in the area, visit the Marche Jean-Talon where you’ll find friendly merchants offering their fruits and vegetables, spices, oils, and more.
Chinatown: Located along De la Gauchetiere Street, this neighbourhood features many Asian restaurants, food markets, convenience stores, and cultural centers.
McGill University: Explore the grounds of this pristine campus and its Victorian buildings, dating back 200 years.
Biosphere: This site housed the United States pavilion during Expo 67. Now, it houses environmental exhibitions to spread an understanding of biodiversity, climate change, sustainability, and other issues.
Olympic Village: This tower structure was built for the 1976 Summer Olympics to house the athletes.
Neighbourhoods: Rue St Catherine is the commercial shopping capital of the city, home to the underground Eaton Center mall and countless trendy shops and high-end boutiques for the shopaholic’s ideal trip to Montreal. Boulevard St. Laurent is another shop-lined street bustling with action 24/7, where restaurants and entertainment are abundant. Montreal’s Gay Village is famous for being a fun place to hang around and enjoy dancing, cabaret, and community gatherings. On Rue St Denis, you’ll find music and clothing shops and eateries. What differentiates the St Denis area is its evident Francophone roots and its artsy and intellectual vibe. If you’re in search of nightlife, look no further than the vibrant bar scene on Rue Crescent.
If you’re visiting Montreal on a family vacation, things to do in Montreal with the kids include visits to the Biodome, Jardin Botanique, Centre des Sciences de Montreal, Montreal Planetarium, Plage des Iles, and Park du Mont Royal.
Where to eat in Montreal
Montreal has one of the best dining scenes in North America, famous for its smoked meat sandwiches and delis, Old Town restaurants, cheeses, baked goods, and favoured delicacies like bagels and poutine.
Locals debate about who has the better bagel: Fairmount Bagel or St Viateur Bagel, both stops on some Montreal city tours. But when it comes to the favourite poutine, the choice isn’t as difficult. La Banquise has been open since 1968 and serves 30 different kinds of poutine, 24 hours a day. For dessert, Juliette and Chocolat has multiple downtown locations and serves French bonbons, from macarons to crepes.
Find more places to play, stay, eat and chill in Montreal here.
Montreal City Tours
Guided Sightseeing Tour: See the highlights of the city on a 3.5 hour coach tour with a professional guide, stopping to admire Old Montreal, Olympia Park, Notre-Dame Basilica and St Joseph’s Oratory.
Dinner Cruise: Enjoy a five-course dinner and finish off the night with dancing under the stars on this 4 hour cruise.
Quebec City and Montmorency Falls Day Trip from Montreal: On this day trip from Montreal to Quebec City, enjoy a sightseeing tour to see famous landmarks like Notre Dame Basilica, the Parliament Building, Montmorency Falls, and Old Quebec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hotels in downtown Montreal
Most leisure travellers who want to explore Montreal’s core choose to stay in a few distinct neighbourhoods. Old Montreal is home to stunning architectural and historic hotels with character that lead to the cobblestoned streets of the fortified city. For those who want to stay close to bars and pubs, Crescent Street is your match for nightlife – it is more English than its counterpart St Denis – where trendy shops and restaurants are occupied by the French. Then there are St. Catherine and St. Laurent streets, both central and convenient locations for shopping and attractions, a must see on your trip to Montreal.
Hyatt Regency Montreal: 3.5 star
This stylish hotel is ideally located close to the Place-des-Arts, Musee d’Art Contemporain, and a short walk to the shopping of Rue Ste Catherine. Dine at the SIX Resto Lounge, take a dip in the swimming pool, relax in the spacious guestrooms or spa, or head out on the town.
Intercontinental Montreal: 4 star
Set in the middle of Old Montreal and downtown, the Intercontinental Montreal provides the best of both worlds. It features a bar and restaurant, 10th floor health club with lap pool and exercise room, and 380 rooms and suites.
Hotel Nelligan: 4 star
Housed in a 19-century building in Old Montreal, the 103-room boutique Hotel Nelligan provides guests with luxurious amenities and the comfort and charm of original stone walls. Here you’ll enjoy elegant French-inspired cuisine and cocktails at two restaurants and a rooftop terrace.
Most Canadians take a trip to Montreal for a weekend and choose to fly, drive, or take a train or bus into the city, depending on their proximity. Montreal is a popular destination for groups of friends looking for some fun, whether for a graduation trip or bachelor party. Montreal provides a romantic getaway for couples and lots of activities for families with children. Montreal is also a great destination for solo travellers looking to indulge in some cultural activities. Hotels and hostels at different price points are available.
Best Time to Visit
Montreal has very cold winters and hot, humid summers. Montreal winters have temperatures ranging from -6 to -15C with lots of snow. If you’re visiting during the winter, bring warm boots and heavy jackets and enjoy outdoor activities like tobogganing and ice skating. Average July temperatures range from 16-26C. Summertime is popular for sightseeing, but spring and fall are nice times too, when the weather is mild.
Festivals occur year-round, but some of Montreal’s finest like the International Jazz Festival, Osheaga, Gay Pride Parade, Just for Laughs, and Beer Festival, occur during the summer months. Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada attracts hundreds of thousands for this annual top-tier racing event in June. Fete des Neiges in January and Nuit Blanche in February are winter festival highlights.
Most people who visit Montreal for a weekend getaway are from Eastern Canada, since getting there is a short flight or train ride away. If you’re coming from Western Canada, few people visit for just the weekend unless they are travelling for business. In this case, it is common for a visit to Montreal to be paired with stops in Ottawa, Toronto, and Niagara Falls.
If you’re within driving distance of Montreal, you may opt to take Via Rail or Greyhound services instead of driving your own car.
- Via Rail train fares are approx. $44 one way, 5.5 hours
- Greyhound bus fares are approx. $50 one way, 8 hours
- Via Rail train fares are approx. $33 one way, 2 hours
- Greyhound bus fares are approx. $19 on way, 5 hours
Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport (YUL) is 19 km from the city. Non-stop flights across Canada are available daily, starting at approximately $270.
Once you arrive, a cab from the airport into the city is a $40 flat rate for the half hour ride. The 747 bus line runes 24 hours a day between the airport and the central bus station (Gare d’autocars de Montréal – Berri-UQAM métro station). Travel time varies from 45-60 minutes and the fare is $10.
Private transfers and limos are also available.
Montreal has lots of taxis and an effective bus and subway system. Walking is the best way to travel Montreal – but bring comfortable shoes and dress appropriately for the weather.
A ticket can be purchased on the bus and in the metro from the vending machines for $3.25. A 3-day pass is $18. Evening passes grant unlimited travel from 6pm to 5am the next morning for $5, great for a one-nighter in the city and for business travellers who get to explore at their leisure after a day of meetings.
Tip: A $10 day pass grants unlimited travel for 24 hours and is valid on the Trudeau/Downtown Shuttle. When you arrive at the airport, take the shuttle towards downtown and use that same pass to tour the city that day.
There are Montreal city tours that can be arranged to take you around the city.
Hop-on Hop-off Tour: Go as you please on this fully narrated tour, where you can get on and off the double decker bus at any of the 10 stops around the city, including the Notre Dame Basilica, Chinatown, and Mont Royal Park.
Half-Day Bike Tour: Explore the city on a three-hour bike tour led by a professional guide. Choose from three exciting itineraries: The city tour includes stops at Old Port, Latin Quarter, La Fontaine Park, the famous St-Viateur Bagel bakery, Mount-Royal Park, and more. The Vista Architecture Tour brings you past architectural and historical delights along the Saint-Lawrence River with a food tasting. On The City of Contrasts Tour, you will cycle through the ritzy Westmount district, the busy downtown, the Atwater market, and the industrial area of St-Henri.
Walking Tour of Old Montreal: See famous sites by foot with the knowledge of a local guide. Begin near Notre-Dame Basilica and visit attractions such as Place d’Armes, Royal Bank, Place Jacques-Cartier, St Jacques and City Hall and Champ de Mars public park. Choose either the east or west side of Old Montreal for a 1.5-hour tour, or explore both on a 3-hour tour.
Flights start at around $270 and can go up to $1000 for direct flights from the west coast during high season. Hotels range from $130-$350 per night, and packages cost around $450-$650 per person.
You may also be interested in Where to Play, Stay and Eat and Chill in Montreal.