Montreal is one of our favorite places. It is in the French province of Quebec in Canada, so they speak French and English (et je l’apprends). The city is sprawling and each neighborhood has its own culture with stuff to see/do/eat. Here are some of our favorite things to see, do and eat in Montreal.
Explore Old Montreal
We LOVE Old Montreal. In fact, a lot of what is in this post is in and around Old Montreal. It’s even our favorite place to stay! The Auberge du Vieux-Port Hotel is extremely cute and cozy if you’re looking for a place.
So what’s so special about Old Montreal? Well, Old Montreal is a really adorable section of town down by the water. It has narrow, cobble stone streets. There are a ton of restaurants and fancy shops, as well as some great art. Place d’Arms is nearby with the awe-inspiring Notre-Dame Basilica.
Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel is also right in Old Montreal. You can walk up to the top of Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours. Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel is one of the oldest churches in Montreal and gives a great history of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, a teacher who insisted on the church being built. It costs a few dollars to go up into the church, but it’s pretty cool. There are very narrow stair cases and windows leading out to views of the angels on top.
Old Montreal has a pretty awesome nightlife as well. Everything in Old Montreal is lit up, so it looks beautiful. We love just walking around this area.
The Old Port is next to Old Montreal (who woulda thunk!). There’s an easy walking path along the water (great for running as well!) that goes all the way down 5h3 port. Along the water is you’ll find the Montreal Science Museum; it has a public bathroom that can be a godsend in your time of need. There are also a lot of huge, beautiful boats in the port. Here’s one with the Old Flour Mill in the background (more on that later):
Visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
If it’s snowing too hard to keep exploring the city, or you like museums, visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Art! Here, we saw a Napoleon exhibit that was really interesting. They also have lots of rotating art exhibits featuring the likes of Van Gogh, Rudin, Chagall, Picasso, etc. There’s also art outside!
Visit McGill Campus
In the heart of Montreal is McGill University. I always like to visit campuses just to get a feel for what student life is like in any given city. I was also interested in seeing what their law school campus looked like because I was in law school at the time. McGill has a really pretty campus and it’s a great place to take a rest or have a picinic. The buildings look historic and it’s a nice backdrop in the middle of the city. I bet it is stunning in the fall.
It also has this gorgeous statue:
Hike Mount Royal
Mount Royal is a big hill in what feels like the middle of Montreal. It’s an easy, though steep, hike up along mostly paved paths. There are a few stops along the way, but your end goal is a lookout over the city.
There’s some interesting/fun art around here, too:
It’s hard to do this hike in the winter, so I strongly suggest waiting until spring or summer. The grounds around Mount Royal are also really nice. There’s food and bathrooms at this lookout point. Since Mount Royal is a half-day excursion (longer if you want it to be!), you can prepare to stop there and buy food, or you can bring food and eat at the tables there.
Explore the Biodome
The Biodome is a cool place that features exhibits on different ecosystems. It has presentations about sustainability and climate change. You can see it from Old Montreal and almost anywhere high in Montreal. It’s very pretty:
Shop and get out of the cold/heat in the Underground City Mall
One very cool aspect of Montreal is its underground city. It gets really cold in the winter and can be very hot in the summer so having a portion of the city underground allows people to shop, eat and drink without suffering through the weather. You can walk under large swathes of the city this way, and there’s free wifi! We sought refuge down there on one or two occasions when it was snowing.
Explore Pointe-du-Moulin Historical Park
There are a lot of parks in Montreal, but a nice one to visit if you want to get away from crowds is Pointe-du-Moulin. There’s an abandoned grain mill there and you can take a seat by the water:
Explore the Abandoned Flour Mill
Speaking of abandoned mills in Montreal, the Flour Mill is walkable from Old Montreal and very cool up close! The thing is massive with old walkways that run between buildings and over the St. Lawrence river. There are plaques along the path that show what it used to look like when Montreal was still a shipping hub.
On your way there, you may also see a spa on top of a boat in the harbor. We have never been, but I always get a little jealous when I see people in their bathrooms surrounding its outdoor pool.
Though it’s all of one block, Montreal’s Chinatown is really old and cool. There’s a lot of street art there and a pedestrians-only street, so you can eat and shop without being limited to a sidewalk. Like with many Chinatowns across the world, there also are magnificent ornate gates at its entrances. Montreal’s Chinatown has four gates, which apparently is more than most. It’s an easy walk from Old Montreal, and you can pick up some Chinese food if you’re not feeling anymore crepes or expensive French foods.
Eat and Drink!
We have a number of go-to spots now in Montreal. Here are our favorites.
Our Favorite Poutine
If you’ve never had poutine, Montreal is a great place to try it. Poutine is french fries with cheese curds covered in gravy. You can often choose the type of gravy and cheese as well as other toppings of your choice. Our favorite poutine place is Poutineville. It has fabulous vegetarian options. There’s one on the edge of Montreal’s Gay Village. You can walk through the neighborhood to get a feel for Montreal’s LGBQ scene. It’s also right next to Parc La Fontaine, which needs no excuse to visit. We’ve also had La Banquise and its worth writing home about.
Our Favorite Beer Bar/Brewery
The drinking age in Montreal is 18, but there’s no drinking in public there. You have to head into one of their many breweries and brewpubs. We enjoyed our visit to Le Cheval Blanc, but haven’t gotten a wide variety of breweries in yet. We also really loved Pub BreWskey. It’s in a basement in Old Montreal and absolutely fantastic. They have a dozen or so beers on tap. The bar is very small and you sit in the dark among kegs. They actually serve food, too!
Our Favorite Coffee
There isn’t anything particularly special about Montreal’s coffee, but there are great hipster-like cafes. Our favorite is Pikolo Espresso Bar. We always make a stop there when we’re in Montreal. They have delicious yogurt and really amazing baked goods. They are a little small, but we’ve never had a problem getting a seat. They have all types of milk for your lattes, too.
Our Favorite Crepe
There are a ton of great crepe places in Montreal due to their heavy French influence. You can really stop anywhere and get a good one. Our favorite is in Old Montreal at Creperie St. Paul. We mostly like it because it is very cute and rustic inside.
They have a lot old farm equipment on the walls. Their crepes are awesome! They also have this sign, and we’re still not sure what it means.
There are so many more in-depth culture activities to do in Montreal. They have beer and jazz festivals, as well as a lot more museums on the history of Montreal/Canada and various art genres. Also, protip: Uber works in Montreal, but make sure to remember that if you don’t have 4G in Canada, you have to rely on wifi to book your Uber. In other words, make sure wherever you’re going has wifi so you can leave!
Have fun in Montreal. I hope this guide helps steer you in the right direction!
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