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Montreal is celebrated for being a culturally vibrant city with plenty to see and do, but one of the best things about it is the fact that it’s relatively small – so you can explore much of what the city offers during a short trip. If you plan on heading to Montreal for a few days, here’s a guide to how you can make the most of your time in the city.
Start your trip off right by heading into the heart of the Plateau neighborhood for a big breakfast. The Plateau is a quaint, evolving district that attracts many visitors; from its working-class roots it continues to gentrify and attract upscale restaurants, cafés and nightclubs. You’ll also find people lining up for brunch at popular spots such as Beauty’s, L’Avenue and L’Anecdote.
Spend the afternoon exploring some of the most iconic neighborhoods in Montreal, including the Plateau, Mile End and Little Italy. A good way to do this is by joining up with a local mural tour, which will walk you through several neighborhoods and offer insight into over 70 works of public art that have come to colorfully characterize the city’s streets and ruelles (alleys).
Afterward, for lunch, head over to the bustling Jean-Talon Market in Little Italy. Open year-round, you can browse through stalls displaying farm-fresh fruit and vegetables, artisanal bread and baked goods, smoothies, locally produced honey, maple goods, cider and much more. Grab something to go and have a picnic in one of the small nearby parks, or find a place to sit and enjoy your food in the heart of the market itself.
For your first evening in Montreal, take a leisurely walk through Mount Royal Park (assuming that you’re visiting the city during the warmer months, which is recommended), winding your way along the forested path to the top. There, from the Kondiaronk Belvedere, you can take in a sweeping view of the city’s skyline as the sun goes down. Alternatively, visit the regal Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal, which in addition to offering an impressive view of the city, also happens to be Canada’s largest church.
Spend most of your second day exploring the Old Port, which is the city’s historic district and among its most popular tourist destinations. First, stop for a leisurely breakfast or brunch at Olive et Gourmando, which is often listed among the city’s must-try restaurants. Indulge in their artisanal breads and pastries, sandwiches, hot panini, soups and more. The Cuban panini is especially popular, containing pancetta, roasted pork, raw-milk Gruyère and their house-made lime, cilantro, chipotle and pickle mayonnaise.
For the rest of the morning, peruse the many boutiques and souvenir shops that can be found throughout the neighborhood to find the perfect gift or keepsake to take home with you.
Olive et Gourmando, Saint-Paul St W, Montreal, Canada. +15143501083.
While exploring Old Montreal, you can take in the French colonial buildings and cobblestone streets, unique in North America. Be sure to visit the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, with its Baroque arches and tall stained-glass windows. Other must-see sights in the neighborhood include the 18th-century Château Ramezay, Montreal’s Town Hall, Bonsecours Market and Place Jacques Cartier, all of which reveal some of the city’s most impressive historic architecture. To gain insight into the city’s long and conflicted history, consider joining a walking tour of the Old Port.
Afterward, stop for a coffee and light lunch at Crew Collective & Café, a unique coffee shop and creative co-working space located on the ground floor of what used to be the grand headquarters of the Royal Bank of Canada, built back in 1928.
As an evening activity, you can hit up one of Montreal’s famous jazz clubs for a light dinner, drinks and great music that will take you late into the night. Diese Onze in the Plateau has an atmosphere reminiscent of an underground speakeasy, and Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill might be the most popular jazz and blues spot in Montreal. Either way, you’re guaranteed to have a lively night out on the town.
Now that you’ve spent a couple of days exploring the diverse neighborhoods of the city, for your third and final day here you can take some time to explore Montreal’s cultural and commercial offerings in the downtown core. Start with brunch at Les Enfants Terribles, located at the top of the Ville Marie building that offers one of the best panoramic views of the city.
There are numerous museums and galleries to explore around Montreal, and each one offers distinct insight into history and creativity at both local and international levels. You won’t want to miss the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts) or the Pointe-à-Callière Museum of Archaeology and History. The Musée d’art Contemporain (MAC) is another popular destination, right in the heart of Place des Arts.
In the later afternoon, you can enjoy some shopping at the nearby Underground City, with its interconnected malls (including the Eaton Centre, Place Montreal Trust and Complexe Les Ailes, among other shopping destinations), food courts and much more.
For your final evening in Montreal, you can enjoy some downtime at Bota Bota, a popular “floating” Nordic spa experience at the Old Port. A converted river ferry, Bota Bota is a unique way to enjoy the city while also feeling as though you’ve momentarily stepped away from it.
Bota Bota, spa-sur-l’eau, Montreal, Canada. +15142840333.