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You’re Spending One Day in Montreal? Here’s What To See, Eat, and Drink!

Heading for Montreal but short on time? It is still a great idea! Maybe you’re passing through from Quebec City or down from Mont Tremblant. Maybe you’re even coming from Ottawa or Kingston? In any case, there’s plenty to do in Montreal in a day – and we’ve got a whole itinerary for you to follow!

We really like Montreal and were able to visit the city together when we both lived in Canada. However, Eric has been countless times before to visit friends over the years. Local recommendations were always followed – and that’s basically how this one day itinerary came to be! Whatever the season – summer or winter – we tried to give indoor/outdoor options. If this is your first time to Canada, you should also read or “What to pack for Canada in any season” guide.

From exploring Old Montreal to hiking Mont Royal and eating poutine, here’s how you should spend one day in Montreal! Oh, and if you do end up staying a night, you can check here for accommodations in Montreal. Check out Ambrose Hôtel & Café for a hotel and Le Gîte du Plateau Mont-Royal for a great hostel (both in the city centre) close to all the best attractions.

We love exploring Canada (it helps that Eric is Canadian) so here are some other posts on Canada travel that you may find useful!

Wake Up Activity: Catch the Sunrise at Mont Royal Chalet

chalet with people sitting on stairs and blue sky mont royal montreal
The chalet area in the summer time – it’s nice in the winter, too!

Good morning! If you are already in the city, you might want an early morning activity to start your day off right. If this is the case, then getting up for sunrise is a good idea. Now, this is definitely easier to do in the summer since it’s going to be warmer but it’s totally doable in the winter, too.

If you are downtown, you can hike up behind McGill campus and follow the trails/signs to the lookout point at Mont Royal. The chalet at the top was built back in the 1920s and is a popular location for those looking to take in the views of the city below. The sun rising over the building with the river as a backdrop is beautiful.

That said, if you want to sleep in/don’t have the time, you can skip this section and head right to breakfast from wherever you are staying. You will still have a full day of activities – and you can always come here later!

Address: 1196 Voie Camillien-Houde, Montreal, QC H3H 1A1, Canada

Breakfast: Eggspectation

breakfast plates on table with water glasses one day in montreal
Breakfast at Eggspectation was AMAZING.

Now it’s breakfast time – and you are going to need a hearty meal to get your through the day until lunch time. For this, you should head to Eggspectation. There are a few locations across the city – but we went to the one by the Quartier des Spectacles. This location is huge but it was busy when we got there!

Once seated, we were overwhelmed by the menu – there were plenty of great options to suit all tastes and dietary restrictions. Lisa has a Greek omelette while Eric had this pancake, bacon, egg combination breakfast. Both were absolutely delicious. We were sufficiently stuffed – in fact, we were too full! With a coffee and juice, it wasn’t overly expensive either.

We highly recommend breakfast here – and it’s a good location for you to head to your next stop on this day itinerary. You can check out their website for more information/the menu!

Address: 190 Saint-Catherine St W, Montreal, QC H2X 2X3, Canada

Morning Activity: Explore Downtown / Old Montreal

old stone building with snow on ground old montreal one day
Montreal city hall is just one of the historic buildings in Old Montreal.

Once you are done breakfast, it’s time to head deeper into downtown/Old Montreal. This area is loaded with things to do and see (more so Old Montreal) so it’s best to start in one and work your way across. Don’t worry about other areas such as the Plateau – you will explore these in the afternoon.

Old Montreal has a ton of history to it – both on land as well as on the water. The area along the St. Lawrence river was super important for the development of settlements and explorers in the early days before Canada was a country. To take to the water, you could do a guided river cruise to snap some great photos and learn a bit of history (only available in the warmer months and in the afternoon, though).

colourful interior of church with organ montreal notre dame
Not to spoil it – but the inside of Notre-Dame Basilica is stunning…

As for getting around, this part of Montreal (close to the water) is fairly flat with a few hills. You certainly could walk everywhere but the metro is also an option. We outline how to get around in the transportation box below. As for the areas and attractions to check out in the morning, we’d recommend some of the following top areas and attractions if you only have one day:

Areas to check out:

  • Quartier des Spectacles
  • Old Port of Montreal
  • McGill University Campus
  • Place Jacques-Cartier (in Old Montreal)

Attractions:

  • Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal (pictured above)
  • Place Ville Marie Observatory 
  • MAC – Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal
  • Montreal City Hall
  • The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
  • Bonsecours Market
  • Redpath Museum (at McGill)
  • Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History

Pro Tip: Time depending if you wanted to learn about the history of Old Montreal and Old the Port, you should consider a guided history walking tour that takes you around and tells you about the fascinating history of the city and Canada in general!

Getting Around Montreal Options:

If you want to use public transportation, you have good options in Montreal. The Montreal transit system is pretty good – with bus and metro connections to get you to where you need to go without walking a lot. Here is the main transit website and here is a link to a one-day metro pass that we have used multiple times in the past. It’s a paper tap card that works great and you can buy it at a machine.

You could also buy a hop-on hop-off red bus ticket and use it as a way to get between top attractions or areas around Montreal.

Another way to get around Montreal is by bike since the downtown core can be pretty congested at times. If you like biking/exercise, you might consider a Montreal bike tour that will allow you to see and learn more about the top sights.

Lunch: Schwartz’s Deli

smoked meat sandwiches on table with pickle schwartz deli montreal
The legendary Montreal smoked meat sandwich – you must get a pickle, too!

So it’s lunchtime. You’ll leave the downtown area and head north towards the hip and cool area called the Plateau. You can get there by taking the metro to the Mont Royal metro station.  Once here, we think you should eat at one of the most famous places in the whole city: Schwartz’s Deli. Founded back in 1928 as Charcuterie Hebraique de Montréal, it’s said that the deli is the oldest in Canada! Their signature dish is a Montreal smoked meat sandwich on rye. We got it with a pickle which was delicious, too!

Because of the popularity (especially in the summertime) don’t be surprised if there is a line up to get food. They have a sit-down deli and a takeaway side right next door which you can also order from – you can even take some packaged up smoked meat home with you! If you want to visit, check out the website for all the information!

Address: 3895 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, QC H2W 1X9, Canada

Alternative Suggestion: If you don’t eat meat and are looking for an alternative, you could head to Chez José Café which is close by at 173 Avenue Duluth E, Montréal, QC H2W 1H4. They offer quite a few different vegetarian and vegan options. You can have a look at the menu on their website linked above. 

Afternoon Activity: Explore The Plateau/Mont Royal

Alright, so it’s the afternoon now and you are already up in the Plateau area – perfect! You can take the time in the afternoon to explore the area and feel more like a local. The Plateau is full of cool cafes, bars, shops, and green spaces – all great for hanging out and feeling like you live there. It’ll be a different vibe compared to Downtown – and that’s what we want you to discover! The area has a few streets that you should gravitate towards:

  • St. Denis
  • Mile End
  • Rue Rachael
  • St Laurent Blvd
  • Jeanne-Mance Park
  • Parc La Fontaine

The Plateau is great because there are lots of places to pop inside to warm up if you need to do so. If you want to stay outside in the sunshine (if it’s warm) you can also very easily do that, too!

If you didn’t already, you could use this as the opportunity to hike up to the top of Mont Royal for those great views and photo opportunities. The whole Mont Royal park area is full of hiking trails and things to discover as you go.

Afternoon Break: La Finca Café & Bureau OR Café Chat L’Heureux

Now that you have had a chance to explore the Plateau or Mont Royal, you might want to get off your feet for a little bit before the evening and dinner time. For this, we have two cafe options that we really like: La Finca OR Café Chat L’Heureux.

coffee mugs on wooden table on cafe la finca montreal
The vibe of La Finca was SO cozy!

If you head back down towards the city centre/downtown, then La Finca is for you. This trendy and bright cafe is really popular and actually a place where people come to get work done. We stumbled in when we visited the city and we loved our drinks.

The vibe was very cozy and it was warm which was nice since it was FREEZING outside. It was sandwiched between Old Montreal and where we were staying so it made sense to check it out. You can see their hours and menu here.

Address: 1067 Rue de Bleury, Montréal, QC H2Z 1N1, Canada

cats on wooden tale in cat cafe montreal in a day
Two out of like 10 cats just roaming around, saying “hey”.

The other option (if you stay up in the Plateau area) is to head to Café Chat L’Heureux. Located on Duluth close to the park/Mont Royal, yes – it’s a cat cafe. We had never been to one before and we love animals so we just had to try it out. It did not disappoint! There were around 10 cats roaming the cafe and they were all super cute.

Their names and faces are on the menu so you can say hi if they pay you a visit to your table. We had a slice of cake and some hot drinks but others had full on meals. You can learn more about the cafe on their website.

Address: 172 Duluth Est, Montreal H2W 1H3

Early Evening Activity: Mont Royal for Sunset or Dinner Cruise

girl with city behind from lookout point montreal chalet
We ran up there to catch the sun go down…

Now that you’ve had a coffee and a sit-down, it’s time to get ready for dinner and your evening activity. For this, (if you haven’t already) we’d strongly suggest heading up to Mont Royal for sunset. If you have avoided it up until this point, just look at how bundles Lisa was – and we had a great time watching the sun go down in December. There were TONS of people up there. Just saying!

If it’s the summertime, the sun won’t go down until a bit later, so you can still do the hike if you haven’t already worked up an appetite for dinner. You can also go and rest up/get ready for dinner a little bit later.

Having said that, if you wanted to merge an evening activity with your dinner experience, then you can consider an evening dinner cruise on the St. Lawrence river. There’s a great 5-course dinner cruise that might be the perfect way to end off your day in Montreal.

Dinner: Barcola Bistro

bowl of risotto on table with wine glasses barcola montreal
We went to Barcola as a recommendation – and it was really good.

For this itinerary, we’d suggest heading to Barcola Bistro for a nice sit-down dinner. There are obviously SO many places to eat in the city (and we’ve been to a number of them) but we wanted to give you a nice option. Located on Park Avenue closer to Mile End (in the Plateau area), Barcola was a recommendation from a friend. This place is small, intimate, and serves up a good house wine with Northern Italian dishes.

Lisa had risotto while Eric had something that we honestly cannot remember – all we know is that both were great! It was technically Lisa’s birthday dinner so overall we had a great time eating at Barcola. You can check out their website here.

Address: 5607 Park Ave, Montreal, QC H2V 4H2, Canada

Evening: Drinks/Eats at Brutopia or La Banquise!

Montreal is known for its nightlife so to end off your day, there is no better place to go out than Montreal! We wanted to give you a few options and ideas depending on the area you go for dinner and where you might be staying. So, there are two classic places that you might want to check out: Brutopia or La Banquise!

If you are downtown (or heading back there after dinner), then you might want to go to Brutopia. This is a place that Eric has been taken to multiple times by a friend in the city – and each time has been great. The place has lots going on – from loads of beer on tap to live music and more.

It’s old, rustic, and more of a local watering hole where people meet for drinks. The vibe is lively but definitely more chill. If that’s what you are looking for, you can check out the Brutopia website here.

Address: 1219 Crescent St, Montreal, QC H3G 2B1, Canada

We couldn’t let you leave Montreal without trying a classic Quebec/Canadian dish – poutine! So if you just want food, a beer, and bed, the best place to try poutine in the city (arguably) is La Banquise. Located up in the Plateau area (and not downtown) the place gets packed as a late night eatery.

That said, their menu is massive with different poutine combinations. They have an extensive beer menu which goes well with the poutine. Also, they have vegetarian and vegan-friendly poutine so poutine for everyone! If you want great food before calling it a night, here is their website.

Address: 994 Rue Rachel E, Montréal, QC H2J 2J3, Canada

And there you have it, our sample itinerary for one day in Montreal. This is based on places that we have loved over the years – so we hope that you find enjoyment in these attractions, sights, and food places, too! Have a blast in the city and let us know what you get up to if you visit Montreal!

As always, Happy Montreal Day Waddlin’,
– L&E

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Tips for one day in Montreal Canada

Author

Eric is a Canadian & Hungarian content writer with over 45 countries under his belt. From volunteering in Australia to studying his Master's degree abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, his travel experiences have taken him across the globe. Next to writing on Penguin and Pia, he has also contributed to companies in the travel space such as Matador, GoOverseas, and Spot.

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