Visiting Montreal should be on the top of every travellers bucket list. A mangifique love-child of England and France, with a dash of Americana for good measure – Montreal defies conventions and labels as it attempts to forge it’s own unique story. The undisputed centre of French culture in North America, with world-class dining, arts, museums and music scene to boot Montreal is waiting for you!
Magnifique Metropolis: 35 Top Things To Do In Montreal Canada!
1. Learn about how the city was formed at Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal’s Archaeology and History Complex
2. Discover the delicious flavour of the original Québécois Poutine
Fine fast food you are not going to want to miss. Poutine, a Canadian dish created in the province of Quebec is traditionally made with French fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy. Nowadays there are plenty of modern variants but the best place to try poutine in Montreal is Patati Patata Friterie De Luxe or Restaurant Chez Claudette.
3. Take a hike up To the Mount Royal Lookout for the best view of Montreal
Montreal doesn’t get much sexier than this. Take a deep breath and hike to the top of the Mount Royal Lookout for killer views of Montreal from above. Bonus points if you go at sunset for a romantic rendezvous.
4. Discover the wacky, bright and downright surreal world of Montreal street art.
In a city with this much creative energy you just know it’s going to be a paradise for street art. You can find plenty of jaw-dropping pieces just wandering around the streets of Montreal but if you really want to find the best new hotspots for street art in Montreal check out Wall 2 Wall. And if you still havn’t had enough you could extend your trip in Canada to include the Ottawa street art scene.
5. Get a 360° view of the city on the Montreal Observation Wheel.
At 60 metres high and running four seasons a year, what’s not to love about the largest observation wheel in Canada. Again bonus points for planning a sunset spin, and don’t worry….The Montreal Observation Wheel is climate-controlled for your comfort!
6. Relax in a roof-top hot tub with city views at M Hostel, the coolest accomodation in Montreal.
Newly-refurbished, the M Hostel in Montreal really offers it all. A pumping onsite bar, delicious breakfast including fresh Fairmont Bagels, helpful staff and an assortment of dorms and private rooms – Yes, the M Hostel really ticked all the boxes for me. As if the roof-top terrace with dual swimming hot tubs and city views was not enough, the also have custom designed dorms to allow for maximum privacy, huge 1-bedroom rooms with a full kitchen and tons of public spaces to hang. This is one flash-packing hostel you don’t want to miss in Montreal, and blows all of it’s competition straight out of the water. Throw in a super-hip local neighbourhood filled with bars, restaurant and shopping – and lower prices than the business-centric downtown and there really is no need to even consider staying anywhere else in Montreal (and please guys, can you expand quickly so the rest of North America can see how hostels should really be done!)
7. Admire the French Beaux Arts architecture of the Mount Royal Chalet
A make-work project from the Great Depression, be sure to pop into the Mount Royal Chalet when you’re at the summit to admire the beautiful wooden details and see the free exhibition talking about the areas history. Also a great place to stop for a coffee or escape the rain!
8. Admire the Baroque-Renaissance stylings of the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral
Inspired by the Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral is one of the most beautiful churches in Canada – and better yet is free to visit (unlike many other’s in town!). It’s actually pretty quiet so a nice place for a break and some solitude.
9. Decide which are the best bagels in Montreal for yourself
Move over New York, the Montreal bagels might just have you beat. Smaller, thinner, sweeter and denser, the Montreal bagel is always baked in a wood-fired oven and just tastes like heaven with some butter and jam. You can find Fairmont Bagels served daily for breakfast at M Hostel Montreal if you’re short on time, but you really should try visit either the St-Viateur Bagel Shop or Fairmont Bagels to see them baked fresh daily. Just don’t ask a local which is better, it’s a good way to start a fight.
10. Wander the diverse neighbourhoods of Montreal
In a city as varied and beautiful as Montreal, you know there are going to be more than a few neighbourhoods to explore. Just wandering around sight-seeing you’re sure to come across some gems but be sure not to miss the artsy, upscale and oh-so-hip Le Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood or Côte-des-Neiges which you can find over hundred different ethnic groups spanning all four corners of the globe!
11. Indulge your inner culture vulture at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
The largest museum in Quebec and one of the best museums in Canada, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is both bold and innovative with a vast collection that offers something for everyone. It’s on par with the best museums in Paris so you know your not going to regret this one!
12. Discover the best views of Montreal for yourself
Montreal has many faces, so take the time to discover each for yourself. It’s a great place to take your camera out and just wander, never knowing what you will find. Finding your own unique shot is always the best – but you can of course cheat and take some tips from these 17 most Instagram-worthy spots in Montreal!
13. Check out the latest exhibition at MAC (Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal)
Canada’s first museum devoted to contemporary art, MAC Montreal has a world-class rotating selection of cutting edge exhibitions. Check out their website and see if anything takes your fancy, but if thoroughly modern and bizarre with hidden subtext is your jam, you will fit right in here!
14. Potter around the historic Old Port of Montréal.
The historic ports of Montreal stretch for over two kilometres along the beautiful St-Lawrence River. A beautiful place to people-watch, especially on a nice day when it seems like the entire city heads down here to relax and unwind.
15. Get a taste of the concrete jungle in Montreal Downtown
Home to a large number of corporate headquarters, most of Montreal’s skyscrapers and not much else – It’s no secret that Montreal’s downtown is not the most lively place in the city but it still shouldn’t be skipped as there are plenty of quirky & intriguing things to draw your attention. Don’t miss heading below ground at Place Ville-Marie to see Montreal’s underground city, the world’s largest with over 1,600 shops and restaurants!
16. Have a night of gender-bending fun at Cabaret Mado
The perfect night out for anyone with a funny bone starts at Cabaret Mado. Grab a drink and get ready for a side-splitting routine with plenty of surprises, these ladies know how to entertain with thie1920’s inspired diva performances. What better way to experience Montreal’s famed Gay Village or start a big night out with a bang!
17. Admire the Parisian stylising of the Ville de Montréal (Montreal Town Hall)
The beautiful 5-story seat of local government in Montreal, who knew a city council could be so sexy. You’re going to want to get in here to truly appreciate just how beautiful this building is, and luckily you can visit the Montreal Town Hall anytime Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
18. Sample craft beers at Benelux Montreal
A funky-cool artisanal brewery serving 19 craft beers at pretty reasonable prices. The Benelux Brew Bar has a interesting mix of students and suits, expect plenty of global beers, European hotdogs served with sauerkraut and a contemporary fit-out that screams Montreal chic.
19. Browse exhibitions, boutiques and galleries at the restored Bonsecours Market.
A beautiful two-story domed public market that has been the main public market in Montreal for over 100 years. Recently renovated and in the historic old town, expect to find plenty of exhibitions, boutiques and galleries galore!
20. Walk the iconic Jacques Cartier Bridge for panoramic views of Montreal.
A steel truss bridge that crosses the Saint Lawrence River from Montreal Island, Not only is the bridge itself an architectural gem but here is the money shot for panoramic views back over the city. A symbol of the city, you also shouldn’t miss the nightly illumination of Jacques Cartier Bridge which was recently installed to celebrate the 150th Birthday of the Canadian Nation!
21. Reconnect with nature on Saint Helen’s Island
Île Sainte-Hélène, the baby sister to Montreal Island on the St-Laurence River is a great place to escape the busy city and retreat into nature, absorb obscure history and enjoy whichever season you are visiting in. With plenty of quiet trails and bike paths, you can finally have all the solitude you have been dreaming of.
22. Understand more about the world around us at the Montréal Science Centre
No matter what the Trump Administration says, Science is the future – and what better place to explore science (or get little ones interested in it’s vast possibilities) than the cutting-edge Montréal Science Centre with it’s modern interactive exhibitions on science and technology as well as a huge IMAX theatre to really get you immersed in whatever you choose to see.
23. Pamper yourself at the Montreal floating spa, Bota Bota, spa-sur-l’eau
The name says it all really – Bota Bota, spa-sur-l’eau is a historic river ferry now repurposed an luxury floating spa complete with hot tub, yoga and on-site restaurant. Really what better way to fuse Parisian charm with Montreal cool… I’m on a Boat!
24. Get your caffeine and sugar hit like a local at Tim Hortons.
I’m not even embarrassed to include this here, Tim Hortons (locally known as Timmies or Tim’s) aka the world-famous Canadian chain famed for its coffee and donuts is a must-do on any trip to Canada – I mean, have you even been to Canada if you havn’t visited Tim Hortons? You can find them all over Montreal, and there are over 4,613 worldwide, so you won’t have to look hard to find one.
26. Learn more about the environment at the Montreal Biosphère
The Biosphere museum in Montreal is completely dedicated to the environment and housed on Saint Helen’s Island in the former pavilion of the United States from the 1967 World Fair. While the geodesic dome looks spectacular from the outside, you really should head in to see the exhibitions on major environmental issues in Canada around water, climate change, air, eco-technologies and sustainable development.
27. Go see a gig in a living-room at L’Escalier
Want a night out without ever leaving the comfort of your own home? Then L’Escalier is the perfect place for you with buzzy live music in a homely multi-room venue, complete with hearty vegetarian cooking and vegan desserts. It’s one-of-a-kind and perfect for dinner or quiet drinks…and the best part is that it is only one block from M Montreal Hostel!
28. Admire the Notre-Dame Basilica, one of the world’s most beautiful churches
While I am not at all a fan of the hefty entrance fee, Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal is undoubtedly the crown jewel of Quebec’s rich religious heritage and is actually worth paying to see. Expect stunning stained glass windows, ornate Gothic Revival style decorations and to take plenty of pictures of this stunning building.
29. Have a fun night out in the Gay Village Montreal
One of Montreals most famous neighbourhoods, you can’t miss the opportunity to visit the Gay Village (creative name right?). Expect to find an upbeat vibe and a pumping club scene, but even better – visit during the summer to find the main pedestrian-only street Sainte-Catherine decked out with vibrant pink decorations and plenty of street-side dining straight out of a Paris postcard. Also home to Montreal Pride which is the largest LGBTQ event in the francophone world and not to be missed!
30. Step back in time with a visit to the historic Château Ramezay
Brimming with history dating back to colonial times – and weirdly enough Benjamin Franklin stayed here – Château Ramezay was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1949 and was the first historical building in Quebec. See the colourful history of Canada play out all inside one building.
31. See yesterday’s vision of the future at the Habitat 67 apartment complex
A icon of Montreal, this model community and housing complex designed by Moshe Safdie was originally conceived as part of his master’s thesis in architecture and was built as a pavilion for the Expo 67 World Fair. An architectural landmark, it would seem the futuristic style did not catch on but you can still wander around and admire the fancy apartments and spaces between spaces. There really is no other building quite like it in the world.
32. Have a meal at Schwartz, the oldest deli in Canada
A visit to Montreal would not be complete without stopping in at the world famous Schwartz’s, one of the original Montreal delicatessen restaurants serving traditional smoked meats and food the same way it was when it opened in 1928. Famous or not, everybody – and they mean everybody – has to wait their turn to get in, but for the most delicious food in town you can bet it’s worth it. The signature dish? A smoked meat sandwich on rye bread complete with yellow mustard, coleslaw, poutine and a black cherry soda.
33. Throw away your hard earned money at the Montreal Casino
The biggest Casino in Canada and open 24/7 here you can find plenty of games, shows, restaurants, cabaret
34. Enjoy a night out on the town, with something for everyone!
Montréal is a city that never sleeps, and no matter what night of the year it is you can always find somewhere for a romantic night of dancing, subdued cocktails or an all-night techno danceathon. The most happening places here change quick and fast, so be sure to ask your accomodation for advice – M Hostel staff were great here and had a prepared guide for events every night – but you can also check out this guide to Montreal Nightlife.
35. Hop On The Train and Check Out Quebec City On A Day Trip
While there is no doubt Quebec City deserves more than a day, if that’s all you’ve got (or the option is to not see it otherwise) you can easily hop on a train from Montreal and make a day trip to Quebec City. With a perfectly preserved old town, plenty of cute shops and places for a snug hot chocolate you would be crazy to miss Quebec. Check out these Ten Top Things To See in Quebec City and if you’re going to stay overnight (or longer….) why not take a peak at the best rates of the iconic Château Frontenac.
So there you have it! 35 Top Things To Do In Montreal Canada…. I truly fell head-over-heels in love with Montreal and found it had something to offer for everyone. Food, culture, nightlife – and an eclectic mix of Euro and American style not seen anywhere else in the world – I just wish I had more than four nights to explore it further! A trip to Montreal is guaranteed to be an unforgettable visit filled with historic charm and cosmopolitan vibes that will have you begging to stay longer! Go on, book your holiday now, you won’t regret it!
A special thanks to Montreal Tourism for helping me with my stay, including plenty of great local hints and tips that you can find included above and the unique M Montreal for hosting me. As always all opinions are my own and I would have loved Montreal regardless!