25/05/2024

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15 Unmissable Things To Do In Montreal, Canada

10 min read
15 Unmissable Things To Do In Montreal, Canada

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Montreal is a city that inspires anyone who visits. From marveling at its stunning architecture to diving into its vibrant culture, there are countless things to do in Montreal and places to visit.

Old town Montreal at famous Cobbled streets at twilight in Canada
Old town Montreal

What sets this city apart from others in Canada is that it boasts a rich history, with its charming Old Montreal district showcasing beautiful historic architecture and cobblestone streets, plus it has a renowned arts scene, with world-class museums and galleries showcasing a diverse range of exhibits.

If you’re looking to be entertained, then Montreal is also famous for its festival and live music culture. Needless to say, when you’re not sure what to do in Montreal, there is always a party happening somewhere.

If you’re planning a visit to this vibrant city, but you’re not sure what to do or what to see, then below are some of our favorite attractions in Montreal and places to visit so you can start mapping out an action-packed itinerary.

Is Montreal Worth Visiting?

skyline of montreal with water in the background

Montreal is definitely worth visiting because it’s got the best of everything: the modernity of North America, its fast-paced life, yet the romantic Old-World charm from Europe, along with almost 400 years of history.

Very few places on the globe can boast having such a contrasting, remarkable atmosphere, which is why I always recommend you add it your Canada bucket list.

Things To Do in Montreal

Montreal is packed full of amazing attractions and things to do, but no visit would be complete without checking out the following…

1. Walk Around Old Montreal

Old Montreal restaurant patio with flower boxes

Old-Montreal is the place to be because it holds more than a handful of icons, including; Bonsecours Market, Place Jacques Cartier (known for its street performers), Notre-Dame Basilica and Saint-Paul Street.

The district is made up of historic sites, with charming cobblestone streets and with a backdrop of towering skyscrapers.

The parks provide serene oases amidst the bustling city, and after the sun sets, Old Town Montreal’s thriving nightlife awaits, offering an array of clubs, bars, and live music venues for endless entertainment.

Being so close to the downtown area, it’s easy to get to the shops of Sainte-Catherine Street before going up Saint-Denis Street and its many restaurants.

2. Check out the Olympic Stadium

sculpture of Olympic rings Montreal

Also worth visiting is the Olympic Park Stadium and its inclined tower, the highest one in the world.

This architectural marvel, built for the 1976 Summer Olympics, offers more than just impressive architecture.

Take a guided tour of the stadium, where you can explore its history and learn fascinating facts about the games. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Observatory in Montreal Tower, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the city.

The stadium also has a public swimming pool, a snow park and skate park.

The area is also home to the world-famous Biodome and Botanical Gardens (Jardin Botanique) which has an amazing Chinese Garden, and is well worth a day trip from central Montreal.

3. Admire The Views from The Mont-Royal Belvedere

The Mont-Royal Belvedere views of montreal skyline

The best vantage point in Montreal? The Mont-Royal Belvedere has the best views in the city.

It sits right above the skyscrapers and overlooks the whole region, including the mountains of the Eastern Townships.

The moment you reach the Belvedere, you will be left in awe of the stunning panoramic views of downtown Montreal and the majestic St. Lawrence River.

Whether you’re seeking solace in nature or searching for the perfect backdrop for a memorable photograph, the Mont-Royal Belvedere promises an unforgettable experience.

4. Explore Montreal’s Culinary Scene

restaurants in Montreal

Montreal is home to thousands of amazing places to eat, and I couldn’t possibly just pick one.

I can suggest a handful of my personal favourites, starting with the Usine à Spaghetti on Saint-Paul Street in Old-Montreal. The décor is absolutely phenomenal and Charles Dickens wrote parts of its most famous novel in the backroom.

Of course you can also find some excellent pizzas and pasta dishes in the Little Italy district too.

I also love Poutine La Banquise for the best, cheap poutine in town, at any hour of the day.

But when I want to treat myself, I go to Au Ped de Cochon for their foie gras poutine, which words can’t even begin to describe.

And well, any self-respecting Canadian will tell you that the best coffee to be had in Montreal is at Tim Hortons. And they would be right.

You should also look out for Sugar Shacks if you enjoy sweet treats.

5. Watch a show in The Show District (Quartier des Spectacles)

night views of montreal
Old-Montreal and downtown

Montreal has a very lively entertainment district (Quartier des spectacles) which presents dozens of shows every night, whether it’s music concerts, opera, stand-up comedians or theatre.

From avant-garde theater productions to mesmerizing musical performances, this district is a treasure trove of talent and innovation.

I strongly recommend hanging out there, especially during festival season!

6. Hit the Shopping Streets in Montreal

graffiti of robot on blue brick wall

The most famous shopping area is Sainte-Catherine Street, which is home to hundreds of high-street chains and high-end boutiques alike.

Saint-Denis Street and Mont-Royal Avenue also have their share of shops, but they’re more on the unique, original side.

As for the markets, Jean-Talon Market is popular with both the locals and the tourists, and offers the best local products available in the city, including French Canadian cuisine and maple syrup delicacies.

7. Attend a Festival in Montreal

st patricks day on Sainte-Catherine Street

If there’s one thing Montreal is recognized for, it’s the amazing festival scene.

Whether you opt for the music festivals (Jazz Fest, Francofolies, Osheaga), the arts festival (Film Festival, Fantasia, Museum Night) or another quirky one (Just For Laughs, Chinese Lanterns), you are guaranteed a good time.

If you happen to be in town for St Patrick’s Day, Montreal has a huge parade on Sainte-Catherine Street which is worth watching.

8. Hang Out at The Lachine Canal

The Lachine Canal with fall foliage

I really love hanging around the Canal Lachine, a national historic site near the Atwater metro.

It has a very cool, relaxed vibe to it, with people dining al fresco near the water and the converted factories.

A little bit hipster, a little bit foodie, a little bit retro. If you’re looking for a cool area to find a peaceful coffee shop to work in or you just want to escape the crowds for a while, then this is a great place to kick back.

9. See the Art Murals on Sainte-Catherine Street

murals on wall

There are two streets worth visiting for street art, Boulevard Saint Lauren and Sainte-Catherine Street, which is like an open-air gallery that showcases a myriad of stunning street art and murals throughout the street.

From towering full-wall murals to intricate pieces adorning building entrances, each piece tells a unique story.

These murals not only beautify the city but also serve as a testament to Montreal’s thriving street art culture.

10. Wander Around Montreal’s Neighborhoods

Plateau Mont-Royal with buildings on either side of street

I’m a Plateau Mont-Royal girl at heart, and I have a hard time recommending anything else. Le Plateau-Mont-Royal is a laid-back neighborhood filled with thrift stores and vintage shops.

It really represents Montreal with its international restaurant scene and the many unique shops scattered around.

And the architecture is quite lovely, with the unique spiral staircases that adorn the colourful apartment buildings.

Of course most people visit the city for Old-Montreal and it should be seen because of all its history, and the dozens of attractions it’s home to.

For visitors who want to take their visit even further, I recommend spending a few hours strolling in upscale Outremont, admiring the designer’s windows and the luxurious villas owned by the city’s VIP people.

11. Take the Kids to Insectarium

butterfly on flower

If you’re looking for more educational things to do in Montreal, then pay a visit tothe Insectarium.

This captivating museum, the largest of its kind in North America, invites families and curious visitors to explore the intriguing world of insects.

Step into a realm filled with buzzing butterflies, creepy crawlies, and intricate displays that showcase the beauty and diversity of these tiny creatures.

With 10 greenhouses and numerous interactive exhibits, as well as insect encounters, everyone in the family can learn about the vital role insects play in our ecosystem.

12. Have Fun at La Ronde Amusement Park

La Ronde Amusement Park wooden roller coaster

If you’re looking for things to do in Montreal with kids, then La Ronde is one of the best places to take the little ones!

The amusement park is a mix of rides, rollercoasters and arcade games, and is fun for all the ages. It was originally built in 1967 for a world fair and very little about the decor has changed.

It has a vintage vibe that offers the perfect backdrop for photographers.

13. Visit Museum Redpath

 The Redpath museum in Autumn
Redpath Museum

Nestled in the heart of McGill University’s campus, this museum offers a captivating journey through natural history.

Built in 1882, as you wander the exhibits, be sure to take in the beautifully preserved Victorian interiors and decor which enhance three floors filled with intriguing exhibits.

From majestic dinosaur skeletons to ancient Egyptian artifacts, the museum boasts an impressive collection that will transport you back in time.

14. Ice Skate on Beaver Lake (Seasonal), Mount Royal Park

beaver lake frozen in winter
Frozen Beaver Lake Skate rink

Mount Royal Park is the perfect place to try your hand at some winter activities, such as cross country skiing, or our personal favorite, ice skating on Beaver Lake.

Nestled atop Mount Royal, Beaver Lake is the perfect place to enjoy being in nature whilst also taking part in a fun winter activity.

With free access and skate rentals available, it’s the perfect activity to enjoy with family and friends.

15. Get Cultured at Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts building

This innovative museum is a haven for art enthusiasts, history buffs, and curious minds alike.

Showcasing a vast collection of works spanning various disciplines and eras, The Montreal Museum of Fine Art features everything from breathtaking paintings to awe-inspiring sculptures.

With its rich history and dedication to fostering appreciation for the arts, a visit to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is a must.

Getting To And Around Montréal

montreal metro sign

While Air Canada offers really great service on board, it’s not the cheapest solution to get to Montreal.

Air Transat is a budget-friendly airline that offers no-frills flights, but also very low prices, which can be a very interesting option to look into as Montreal is quite expensive to fly in when compared to the nearby US airports.

Montreal is a big transport hub for all of the East Coast, with buses to Quebec City, Toronto, Ottawa, New York City or Boston. For cities closer to Montreal, a car rental is probably the best option.

When it comes to getting around, the metro system is extremely easy to use and pretty cheap. Although visitors can walk just about anywhere central, giving your feet a break or escaping the harsh winters is the ideal solution, and every attraction is just a short tide away.

Best Time To Visit Montreal

brick townhomes of montreal

Montreal is amazing and interesting year-round, thanks to well-defined seasons and a lively cultural calendar.

I couldn’t possibly pick one month to visit, but I would say that winter is ideal for most travellers, as long as the rigorous weather isn’t too much of a deal-breaker. Montreal in winter is a sight to behold.

Where to Stay in Montreal

Panorama of Montreal at sunset.

Most of Montreal hotels are either in Old-Montreal or downtown, and choosing between the two really depends on the kind of stay you want to have: a relaxing hotel tucked away in a 350-year-old street, or a generic room in the heart of the action?

For the first scenario, I recommend the Auberge du Vieux-Port, which has tastefully decorated rooms and nice views over the Old-Port. Unfortunately, there isn’t really such a thing as budget accommodation in Old-Montreal.

For those on a budget, the Travelodge on René-Lévesque boasts an exceptional location and friendly prices.

For more places to stay in Montreal choose from the largest range of hotels, apartments, and guesthouses using the map below. You get free cancellation on most rooms, and in most cases you only pay when you stay.

Final Thoughts

Woman in red dress looking at Montreal downtown skyline cityscape

I love Montreal because it’s a city that offers everything someone would want in a city, minus the overwhelming feeling of large metropolises.

It’s vibrant enough to be cosmopolitan, but homey enough to make everyone feel welcome. What more can you want?

We hope this guide helped you plan what to do in Montreal and gave you some inspiration for when you visit.

Other Canadian cities to visit:

Do you have tips on what to do in Montreal? Share in the comments below.

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