Everyone who has been there adores Montreal. Canada’s second largest city, Montreal offers a unique mixture of French and English culture, along with great nightlife, food, and outdoor attractions.
Where else in North America can you wander around Parisian-style boulevards and winding 17th-century streets? Visiting Montreal is a history-lovers paradise – with beautiful sights like the Notre-Dame Basilica, elegant squares, and a host of museums.
Montreal has more up-to-date charms as well. Try the Poutine (fries and cheese curds topped with gravy) at La Banquise, catch an up and coming band at Divan Orange or an art show at Station 16, and dance until dawn at Muzique.
Whether you want a restful sight-seeing tour or a hectic week of partying, Montreal has it all.
The dazzling blue interior of the Notre-Dame Basilica is Montreal’s most famous architectural sight, but there’s much more to explore, from the 18th century Chateau Ramezay to the elegant city hall.
Montreal’s signature dish, Poutine is classic fast-food. Made from cheese curds and potato fries with a rich gravy on top, the best Poutine in Canada can be found at Montreal eateries like La Banquise and Poutine Centrale.
Montreal has given birth to some major acts, including indie band Arcade Fire and the post-rock orchestra Godspeed You Black Emperor. Check out the current crop of artists at venues like Divan Orange and Olympia.
The people of Montreal love to shop at markets, and you can join them at Jean Talon in Little Italy (the best food market) or Bonsecours, which is full of craft stalls and fashion boutiques.
Montreal is Canada’s most creative city. Check out the street art on St-Laurent, and St-Dominique streets or head indoors at the Museum of Fine Arts or smaller attractions like the sculpture exhibits at Arsenal Montreal.
The Parc du Mont-Royal also offers some of the highest elevation in Montreal for some truly spectacular city-center views. In the winter months, the park sees a huge influx of locals who come to ski and ice skate in the park's facilities without heading out into the nearby mountains. However, the Spring and Summer months are also a great time to visit as the curated gardens erupt in different colored blooms, making the park a perfect place for picnics, leisurely walks and several community events.
When walking around Old Montreal, it's hard not to feel like you've been teleport-ed back into Europe's golden age. The intricate 17th-century architecture has a very French feel, and it even has its own Notre Dame Basilica to boot! It's easy to organize your own walking tour; much of the allure of being in Old Montreal is simply walking along its quaint historic lanes. While here, you should also take the time to check out the Point-a-Calliere Museum, the Old Port, and the Château Ramezay Museum. In the summer months you can buy postcards and other trinkets from local artists and vendors who display their wares at Place Jacques-Cartier.
This unique greenspace is located smack dab in the middle of St. Helen Island and the artificial Notre Dame Island. The park is most commonly used as a center for community classes, sports and cultural events and even has its own amusement park operated by Six Flags named "La Ronde". At any given time in the year there are dozens of concerts, art galleries and movie screenings as well as sports competitions such as kayaking and swimming in the nearby waterways and pools. With so much to do, you can easily spend a day bouncing between activities and enjoying the relaxing calm of the park's 520 acres.
The Museum of Fine Arts is Montreal's largest museum with collections divided up among six different sections. Some of these sections include archaeology and world cultures, photography, graphic arts and a sculpture garden. Displays are provided in both English and French. The museum offers art therapy classes for those looking to better express themselves and heal through artistic platforms. Aside from the permanent exhibition halls, the Museum of Fine Arts also hosts many concerts and performances in their Bourgie Hall.
Montreal features four different nature-themed attractions including the Biodome, Insectarium and the Olympic Park -- the Botanical Gardens, however, remain the most popular. Here you can learn about native plant species, conservation efforts and even do a bit of studying yourself at the botanical research institute. There are several green houses on the grounds and plenty of places to spread out and spend a quiet afternoon in the heart of the city. Make sure to visit the themed Chinese, Japanese, Alpine and First Nations gardens, which feature flowers and displays indigenous to their respective regions.
Visitors to Montreal need to remember that the city gets very cold during the winter months, so dress for the weather between November and March. The best time to visit is probably summer. It’s warm (usually around 77 Fahrenheit) and the city hosts major events, including the International Fireworks Competition and the Canadian Grand Prix. Spring is a good alternative (March to June) when the blossom comes out, and the city awakes after its hibernation.
Pierre Trudeau Airport is around 15 miles west of the city. The best way to reach the center of town is via the 747 Airport Bus, which costs C$15 and runs 24 hours a day. Otherwise, taxis cost around C$50.
Montreal’s Gare Centrale is on the Metro, so getting into town isn’t difficult. Montreal is connected to New York via Amtrak’s Adirondack service. You can also travel from western cities by changing onto a VIA Rail service in Toronto.
Drivers tend to approach Montreal via Highway 401 and then Expressway 20 (from Toronto) or I-87 and then Expressway 15 (from New York and other cities in New England). It takes around 6 hours in total to reach Montreal from New York.
Greyhound provides a direct bus connection between New York and Montreal and stops at the bus station at 505 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est. Greyhound Canada also connects the city to Ottawa, Toronto, and American destinations to the west.
Montreal is also served by Megabus, Adirondack Tramways, Voyageur and Orleans Express, so there should be plenty of choices.
Montreal has a broad range of excellent hotels. In the Downtown area, Hotel Le Germain is a good boutique option, and the conveniently located Gouverneur Hotel offers a cheaper alternative. Good places to stay in Old Montreal include Le Petit Hotel and Hotel Nelligan, while in the Plateau area check out Auberge Chez Jean for cheap dorm beds and filling breakfasts.
Downtown – The center of Montreal isn’t dominated by traffic and is easy to walk around, unlike many other North American cities. It’s home to McGill University, so it’s handy for students, and it’s also home to major tourist attractions like the Museum of Fine Arts. Check out the small but lively Chinatown area, and don’t miss the bubble tea at L2 Lounge.
Plateau – Plateau is where the hipsters, artists, and bohemians congregate. In the summer, it’s a fantastic place to walk around, with green space and open air performances at the Théâtre de Verdure. In July, it’s also festival central, with events like Main Madness on St-Laurent street taking over the district.
Rosemont – One of Montreal’s most ethnically diverse areas, Rosemont is where you’ll find Little Italy. Snack on pastries at Pasticceria Alati-Caserta or mains at Ristorante Lucca or dive into the Jean Talon market, Montreal’s best place to buy fruit and vegetables, meat, wine, and cheese.
Montreal’s metro is run by STM and offers an efficient way to get around town. Passengers need to purchase tickets (which cost C$4 and are valid for one journey). You can also purchase day passes for C$15 or three day passes for C$24 which cover both buses and metro trains.
In Montreal, it’s normal to hail taxis, so don’t hesitate to do so. Taxi rates are C$3.50 for the meter drop, then C$1.70 for every kilometer (around C$2.50 per mile) after that. There’s also a customary 15 percent tip, so don’t forget to tip.
Drivers should be fine in Montreal, but be aware that right turns on red lights are generally not permitted. Also be aware that parking is scarce in the center of town and is quite expensive (around C$4 per hour). In winter look out for bright orange “no parking” signs. This means that heavy snow plows will clear the area after snow falls and any vehicles parked there will be towed.
Montreal is a cheap city to live in and is around a third cheaper than New York City. It’s also a good city to in which to head out for some window shopping. Some of the best fashion stores can be found on Rue Ste-Catherine, including well-known brands like Urban Outfitters and local designers like Boutique 1861. Rue Sherbrooke is home to Holt Renfrew, the city’s major luxury department store, while the Rue St-Laurent is also packed with stores.
The best place to buy groceries in Montreal is Jean Talon market, where you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables at reasonable prices. However, there are plenty of supermarkets in town as well, including the organic store Segal’s Market and chain supermarkets like Supermarché P.A. Expect to pay around C$3.30 for 12 eggs and C$15 for a bottle of wine.
Try local specialities like smoked meat sandwiches at Schwartz’s Deli, poutine at La Banquise, or “all-dressed” pizza (with green peppers, mushroom and pepperoni) at D'Agostino. Plateau is a great district to visit for restaurants. Check out the high-value and high-quality meals at La Binerie, the empanadas at Chez José and the Afghan biryanis and curries at Khyber Pass (bring your own wine). Expect to pay around C$15 for a cheaper meal and anything up to C$100 at an up-market restaurant.