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 that you can explore much of what the city offers even 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 neighbourhood 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.
Beauty’s Restaurant, 93 Mont-Royal Ave W, Montreal, Canada, +1 514 849 8883
Restaurant L’Avenue, 922 Mont-Royal Ave E, Montreal, Canada, +1 514 523 8780
Restaurant L’Anecdote, 801 Rue Rachel E, Montréal, Canada, +1 514 526 7967
Spend the afternoon exploring some of the most iconic neighbourhoods 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 neighbourhoods and offer insight into over 70 works of public art that have come to colourfully characterise the city’s streets and ruelles.
Afterward, for lunch you can 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, and cider, and much more. You can 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.
Jean Talon Market, 7070 Henri Julien Ave, Montreal, Canada, +1 514 937 7754
For your first evening in Montreal, you can take a leisurely walk through Mont 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, you can 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.
We’ll spend most of today 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 paninis, soups, and more. The Cuban panini is especialy 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 neighbourhood to find the perfect gift or keepsake to take home with you.
Olive et Gourmando, Saint-Paul Street West, Montreal, Canada, +1 514 350 1083
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 neighbourhood 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/blues spot in Montreal. Either way, you’re guaranteed to have a lively night out on the town.
Diese Onze Live Jazz Bar, Saint Denis Street, Montreal, Canada, +1 514 223 3543
Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill, Mackay Street, Montreal, Canada, +1 514 931 6808
Now that we’ve spent a couple of days exploring the diverse neighbourhoods of the city, for your third and final day here you can take some time to explore the city’s cultural and commercial offerings in the downtown core. Let’s 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.
Pointe-à-Callière Museum, 350 Place Royale, Montreal, QC, Canada, +1 514 872 9150
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 des Ailes, among other shopping destinations), food courts, and much more.
For your final evening in Montreal, you can enjoy some down time 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, +1 514 284 0333