Looking For Things To Do In Montreal? This City’s Got It All!
Oh, Montreal! Canada’s second-largest city is a sprawling wonder of alternative culture, food, and languages that offers visitors a wonderfully unique experience.
And whether you’re looking for things to do in Montreal during the day or at night – in the summer or even in winter months – we’ve got a detailed guide for you.
To help you explore Montreal like a pro, we have – once again – enlisted the help of Laura from She Who Wanders. Laura is a Montreal local – so writing a post on Montreal’s attractions, both popular and lesser-known, is fairly simple for her.
We (Eric & Lisa) have also been to Montreal many times, so we’ve combined our knowledge of the city to bring you this post. From historical spots to urban attractions, here are our top things to do in the beautiful city of Montreal!
Montreal Quick Guide
Best Time to Visit: Summer is beautiful but busy, fall allows for seeing colours of the area, and winter is cold but full of winter activities/festivities!
Getting Around: Montreal is walkable, but some areas are hilly – others are flat. STM (buses and Metro) is useful for greater distances and in cold weather.
Table of Contents
Top Things To Do In Montreal, QC
It’s time to check out our list full of amazing things to do in Montreal. We’ve combined some of the top attractions – like museums and Old Montreal – with a handful of local/hidden gems.
Montreal is also a great city for food lovers so we’ve also included a few “must-try” foods from the famous shops around the city.
One thing to keep in mind: Some activities or attractions in Montreal are quite seasonal. For example, river cruises only happen when the St. Lawrence River is not frozen! We will be sure to mention seasonal alternatives where applicable.
Explore Mont Royal Park + Beaver Lake
Address of Chalet & Lookout: 1196 Voie Camillien-Houde, Montréal, QC H3H 1A2
Mont Royal is where Montreal gets its name and is one of the quintessential Montreal places to visit.
Also known as “The Mountain” by Montrealers, this green space in the middle of the city is a large volcanic hill – one of many between the Laurentians and the Appalachian Mountains.
The summit can be reached on foot or by bike, but not by car. So while you can drive or take the bus up, you’ll be using your legs the rest of the way.
Don’t worry, the paths are paved and only with a slight incline so it’s suitable for visitors of different ages and fitness levels.
You can also find some stairs at the top of Peel Street by the McGill Campus. These lead to the “Grand Staircase of Mont Royal” which is a quicker – but more strenuous – way up to the viewing platform!
The views from the lookout are some of the most incredible in the city and change with the seasons so it never looks the same.
There’s also a great chalet at the top where you can warm up in the winter or relax with a drink in the summer!
Continue onwards and up to the Summit where you’ll find the infamous cross that sits atop Mont Royal, which lights up at night as a beacon for the city.
Want to try biking in the snow? Ride a “Fat Tire” Bike on a Snowy Tour of Mont Royal!
Enjoy the summit, the lookout, and the park – and don’t miss Beaver Lake.
Sadly no beavers live here, but it was given the name when built in the 1920s because of a beaver dam that was found here during the construction.
Bring a picnic in the summer or your skates come winter. New fountains and water features make it a lively place for all kinds of activities in the warmer months.
Discover Old Montreal
Location of Place Jacques-Cartier: 45°30’28.6″N 73°33’11.8″W
Without a doubt, Old Montreal is one of my all-time favourite places to visit in Montreal, and maybe one of the most touristy in the summer, but still worth it!
Dating back to the 17th century, Old Montreal’s narrow cobbled streets will make you feel like you’re in Europe.
Saint-Paul St W is the street to stick to. You can walk its length and enjoy the sights and shops along the way.
Charming storefronts and gorgeous apartment buildings line the streets, and the main concourse houses most of the cafes, pubs and restaurants which are also incredibly beautiful.
Popular Old Montreal Tours
Old Montreal is a very popular and beautiful part of the city. Not surprisingly, there are numerous tours that specifically cater to exploring this area:
Wander The Old Port w/ La Grande Roue de Montréal
Address: 362 Rue de la Commune E, Montréal, QC H2Y 0B4
Founded by French settlers in 1642 as Ville Marie, this part of the city runs along the St. Lawrence River giving you views of the La Ronde theme park (discussed below), and Habitat 67, built for Expo 67.
You can also explore the huge Bonsecours Market (shown above). This indoor market space is packed with vendors selling everything from jewelry to wine!
This part of the city comes alive in the summer months with food trucks, street performers, classic cars, and a fantastic zip line that soars you above the Old Port.
Of course, the jewel of the Old Port area is La Grande Roue (a Ferris wheel). The largest in Canada, this gem of an attraction is for everyone.
With lovely views from the ride, it’s the kind of unique experience that creates a magical scene for all those involved – especially when the sky turns dark.
In the winter, the waters down here freeze in the center and you’re able to rent skates.
You can also check out IglooFest in January and get your rave on with thousands of others dressed in old-school neon one-piece snowsuits.
(Side Note: Eric has been to IglooFest and it was absolutely freezing but super fun!)
When I’ve been away for a long time travelling this is always the first place I want to come back to when I get home.
Visit Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal
Address: 110 Notre-Dame St W, H2Y 1T2
Located in Old Montreal, the Notre-Dame Basilica is possibly one of the most visited monuments in North America, hosting nearly 11 million people per year!
Classed as a minor basilica, there is really nothing minor about it though, with its grandiose exterior.
It would be nice to just admire it from the outside, but trust me, the entrance fee (which goes towards the upkeep of the basilica) is well worth it.
The vaults of Notre Dame Basilica are painted a deep blue and covered in golden stars, while the rest of the sanctuary is decorated in multiple shades of blues, reds, purples, with silver and gold accents.
Filled to the brim with an ornate amount of wooden carvings and statues, some parts of the upper level look like they belong in Harry Potter.
And although a little unusual, the stunning stained glass doesn’t depict common scenes from the Bible, but scenes from Montreal’s religious history.
It’s open for mass or for visits, but there are also special events hosted throughout the year, especially over the holidays.
Experience the Montreal Botanical Garden
Address: 4101 Sherbrooke St East, H1X 2B2
Located in the same area as Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, Montreal’s Botanical Garden gives you the perfect combination of green and industrial. It really makes you wonder how a 190-acre garden could be hidden away in such an urban city.
Considered one of the most important gardens in the world, the Montreal Botanical Garden is home to several different gardens – The Chinese, Japanese, Alpine & First Nations Gardens.
One of the most popular and, in my opinion, most beautiful aspects of the gardens come in the fall when you can experience the Chinese lanterns.
Between September and October, the Gardens welcome you to experience a spectacular sight as the grounds are lined with magical handmade lanterns, accompanied by music to set the tone.
While you may not be able to see many plants as it can be dark in the evenings at this time of year, the lanterns being lit up is something so beautiful you may not even notice you’re in a garden at all.
Wander The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Address: 1380 Sherbrooke St Ouest, H3G 1J5
Spread across 5 different pavilions over 522,350 sq ft, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is the largest museum in Montreal and one of the most prominent in Canada.
The pavilions all house different types of art and exhibitions depending on the time of your visit. The museum welcomes touring exhibitions from artists and creatives from around the world.
The museum is located on the historic Golden Square mile of Sherbrooke Street.
Here, you’ll be able to feast your eyes on amazing works of art, including giant red hearts, incredible colourful blown glass sculptures and even a pedestrian street covered in tiles or paint, depending on the time of year, leading up to the museum itself.
It’s one of the only art galleries I’ve visited where you can see all this before you even walk through the doors!
Be Amazed at MuralFest
Address: Aim for St Laurent Blvd in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal
This annual International street art festival a decade ago in 2013 and has since exploded, leaving the city with some truly amazing pieces of art to enjoy.
Over 11 days in June, artists from all over the world and from Montreal gather together along with hundreds of retail and food stalls, street performers and musicians to celebrate the urban art movement.
Start from the metro station at St. Laurent and make your way up the hill, darting into side streets to capture the scenes on the sides of buildings – or start at the top and work your way down.
During the festival, there are plenty of signs pointing you in the direction of the work going on, so you don’t really need a map.
However, one can be downloaded from the website if you’re visiting after the festival to see all the finished pieces of art.
Head out on a guided Montreal mural tour if street art interests you.
Gorge on Poutine at La Banquise
Address: 994 Rue Rachel E, Montréal, QC H2J 2J3, Canada
When you’re in Montreal, you have to sample a classic Quebec dish that Canada is known for – poutine!
This mix of fries, cheese curds, and gravy can be found all over the city, but a great place to go is La Banquise. This popular spot for poutine and drinks is up in the Plateau!
What makes La Banquise great is their extensive menu of poutine combinations, as well as the fact that they have vegetarian and even vegan options.
Their beer menu also helps the poutine go down nicely. Eric’s been there and it’s really, really good – but expect a lineup if you go for poutine as a late-night snack!
Discover the Food Scene on a Montreal Food Tour with a Local!
Take in the Views from St. Joseph’s Oratory
Address: 3800 Queen Mary Rd H3V 1H6
Claiming the title of Canada’s largest church, St. Joseph’s Oratory is a minor Roman Catholic Basilica that claims to have one of the largest domes in the World and can’t be missed with its gorgeous green colour.
Construction on the basilica began in the early 1900s and was not completed until 1967. In more recent years, updates and renovations have been completed on the monument as well.
Depending on which side you enter from, you might be greeted with an immense (283 to be exact) number of step that some choose to climb on their knees in prayer, which is quite a sight to behold.
St Joseph’s has several levels, including a crypt that houses the remains of Brother Andre, who was the one who established the oratory.
On the top level, you’ll find his heart – okay well, his heart in a box but still.
Take in the views from the different levels, stroll through the gardens or light a candle for a loved one. Whether you’re religious or not, this is a piece of Montreal history not to be missed.
Enjoy a St. Viateur Bagel
Address: 263 St. Viateur Ouest, H2V 1Y1
If you come here with an empty stomach, there is a good chance you’ll leave with several dozen freshly made bagels, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!
With several locations dotted around Montreal, this location on St. Viateur Ouest is the original storefront where a clueless non-baker from Poland first set up shop and created what is now a famous Montreal tradition.
There are a few cities out there that claim to have the best bagels, but trust me as a Montrealer, these are the best!
Made fresh throughout the day, you can smell them a block away. As soon as you walk into the shop, you can see just how passionate the team there is about bagels.
Love bagels? A fun Bagel-Making Workshop might be for you!
Piles and piles of all different kinds – from plain to sesame or poppy seed – are waiting for you. You can buy a one-off, but trust me, you can’t just have one – so pick up a dozen or two, or three, and you won’t be disappointed!
Relax at Lachine Canal
Address: 1255 Boulevard Saint-Joseph, Lachine, H8S 2M2
Located in the Borough of Lachine, you can actually access part of the canal by bike from Old Montreal, or by bus from downtown.
This National Historic Site of Canada is the home of the Fur Trade in Quebec and there is now a Fur Trade History Museum open to visitors in the summer.
Back in the 17th century, the French Canadian voyageurs used this site to launch their canoes and transport trade goods thousands of miles across North America.
Today, this part of Montreal is the perfect place for a bike ride following over 13 km of trails that run along the canal and into the Old Port downtown. You can also have a picnic with friends on the bank of the canal.
If you’re lucky enough to have a boat, you can sail down into the locks.
There are also lots of restaurants and cafes along the roadside overlooking the canal if you fancy a night out and a stroll to the locks.
Explore The Village
Location: Along Rue Sainte-Catherine
The Village is mainly located on St. Catherine Street East extending along Amherst, making it the largest Gay Village in North America.
With mainly a pedestrian-only section of St. Catherine street, you’ll find – for lack of a better term – a happy-go-lucky atmosphere here with tons of street art lining the walls, club music coming out of the shops, and smiling faces.
And when parts of the city go to sleep, this part of Montreal comes alive. With an incredible amount of nightclubs, drag bars and everything in between, you might just meet your Mr. or Mrs. Right or even Madonna herself here on any given night.
If your visit falls over the first half of August, you’ll find the Village hosting Montreal’s Pride Festival which is a sight to behold.
Be sure to look for the sky full of rainbow balls to know that you’ve arrived at the village – they extend for blocks.
Now there is even a brand new walkway to take you up to roof level so you can see all the way down – it’s something pretty incredible.
Visit the Biodome
Address: 4777 Pierre de-Coubertin Ave H1V 1B3
The Biodome is located at Montreal’s Olympic Park, where its exhibits are housed inside the former velodrome which was used for the cycling and judo events at the 1976 Summer Olympics.
The Biodome allows visitors to experience the 5 ecosystems all under one giant roof.
The Tropical Forest is a recreation of the South American rainforest where you can get a real feel for the rainforest. Don’t forget to look out for tropical birds and animals!
The Laurentian Forest is a replica of the North American wilderness where you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for the infamous Lynx.
This continues on into the St. Lawrence Marine Eco System, modelled after St. Lawrence Gulf where you’ll find lots of different fish and birds. The Labrador Coast region lets you see birds like puffins.
And then one of my favourite sections, the Sub-Antarctic Region is where you’ll experience Arctic & Antarctic visuals and animals. Time it right and you might see a penguin feeding!
The Biodome recently underwent extensive renovations so it’s back and better than ever.
Experience Montreal Olympic Park + Olympic Stadium
Address: 4141 Pierre-de Coubertin Ave, Montreal, QC H1V 3N7, Canada
If you’re in Montreal, you might want to visit one of the city’s most iconic areas/structures – Montreal’s Olympic Stadium in Olympic Park.
It was built in 1973 and opened in 1976 for the Summer Olympics, which was a huge deal for the city of Montreal. It was also a huge deal for Canada as this was our first time hosting!
Currently, you can do tours of the Olympic Stadium but going up the tower is closed indefinitely.
You can still take pictures of the tower, though – it’s a feat of engineering. Outside the stadium, there is always something going on at The Esplanade – a very unique outdoor event space.
In addition to the Olympic buildings, the Botanical Gardens (mentioned above) and the Biodome (also mentioned above) are located in the larger surrounding green area.
There’s even a “normal” park called Parc Maisonneuve, which has many trails in the summer with cross-country skiing and an ice rink in the winter!
In short, there’s plenty to keep you busy if you head up there to the Olympic Park. To get there, just take the metro to Pie-IX or Viau Station. Oh, and there is lots of parking should you be bringing a car.
Enjoy Some Montreal Smoked Meat at Schwartz’s Deli
Address: 3895 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, QC H2W 1X9, Canada
As we’ve mentioned before, Montreal is known for its food. So you might want to check out one of the most famous spots in the whole city (and in all of Canada): Schwartz’s Deli.
The famous deli was founded back in 1928 as Charcuterie Hebraique de Montréal and their classic dish is, of course, a Montreal smoked meat sandwich on rye. Be sure to get a dill pickle, too!
If you’re heading to Schwartz’s, don’t be surprised if there’s a long line up down the sidewalk (especially in the summer). It’s worth the wait!
There are actually two options: a sit-down deli and a takeaway shop which is right next to the sit-down. Give Schwartz’s Deli a try if you like meat.
Local Pro Tip: If Schwartz’s is too busy, Lesters Deli over in Mile End is also very good!
Explore the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History
Address: 350 Place Royale, Montreal, QC H2Y 3Y5, Canada
If “digging” into history is more your thing, then head to the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History.
Known as Pointe-à-Callière in French, this museum is dedicated to retelling Montreal’s over 370-year-old history!
Eric has actually been to the museum before – but years and years ago when he was in grade school.
These days, the museum is spread out over a number of historic buildings and important archaeological sites, such as the old Fort Ville-Marie.
They have over 1 million artefacts in the collection, so there’s a lot to learn if you decide to go. The museum complex is right in the heart of Old Montreal and close to the water, so you might end up walking by it anyway!
Get Lost in Jean Talon Market
Address: 7070 Henri Julien Ave, Montreal, QC H2S 3S3, Canada
This farmers’ market is one of a kind. First opened in 1933, Jean Talon Market has grown to become the largest in Montreal and one of the largest open-air markets in North America!
Today, the market is one of the most popular attractions/places to visit in the whole city – with crowds swelling in the warm summer months.
If you want to make the trip up to the Little Italy area, you’ll find stall after stall offering everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to flowers, honey, coffee, and more.
It’s easy to see why the market is so popular – and you can explore the Market with a local guide to discover food stalls and the neighbourhood around (Little Italy).
To get there, take the metro to Jean-Talon or De Castelnau stations.
There are loads of other markets scattered around the city. If you are interested in exploring other markets, be sure to check out Bonsecours Market in its massive building with an iconic dome right down at the old port/waterfront.
Be Amused at La Ronde Amusement Park
Address: 22 Chemin Macdonald, Montréal, QC H3C 6A3, Canada
Up for a bit of amusement? Then head to Montreal’s own tiny amusement park – La Ronde. Located on St. Helen’s Island (the same island where Expo ’67 was held), La Ronde has something for everyone – from kids to adults.
Eric has been there and had a blast – there are a few rides, smaller roller coasters, and plenty of games and carnival-themed food and treats.
While you’re on St. Helen’s Island, be sure to wander around Parc Jean-Drapeau. This southern end of the island is a lovely green space with walking paths and great views of the city from the middle of the river.
The island is also home to the Biosphere Environmental Museum (in the old geometric dome from Expo ’67), which is lovely.
To get to La Ronde, take the metro to Jean-Drapeau station. You can then hop on a bus to take you to the entrance of La Ronde.
Otherwise, you’re right in the middle of the green park when you exit the metro!
Relax at La Fontaine Park
Address: 3819 Avenue Calixa-Lavallée, Montréal, QC H2L 3A7, Canada
Last, but certainly not least – we have La Fontaine Park. This green space is a gem located over in the Plateau/Mont Royal area.
For an urban park, there are 34 hectares of green space to explore. There are winding walking paths, a small pond/lake, a theatre, and even a restaurant/cafe in the park!
If you’ve got a dog with you, there’s even a section that serves as a dog park. Oh yeah, and La Banquise (the really good poutine place) is just around the corner from one end of the park – so maybe you’ll want to walk off that poutine meal here?
If you are looking for other green spaces to hang out in, Montreal is full of great parks.
We’ve mentioned some in this post already (like the green spaces around Olympic Park), but you could also check out Jeanne-Mance Park, which is just to the north of the base of Mont Royal.
Eric has hung out here many times with friends and it’s always a good time!
Things to Consider When Visiting Montreal
If you’re planning a visit to Montreal, there are a few things you should know about before exploring the city.
From getting around to the best time to visit Montreal, and finding a place to stay, we’ve got you covered with the following facts and tips about Montreal!
General Information About Montreal
For those of you who are new to exploring Canada, Montreal is the largest city in the province of Quebec. However, it’s not the capital – that title goes to Quebec City!
Montreal is a city made up of different areas or “boroughs” – each with its own unique vibes. Geographically speaking, Montreal is located along the St Lawrence River, about a 6 hours drive from Toronto.
Montreal is a very bilingual city – meaning French is the primary language, but you can certainly get by with English more than “just fine”.
However, don’t be afraid to learn a few words in French – there aren’t too many places in North America where French is the common language!
Best Time to Visit Montreal
When asked what the best time to visit Montreal is, I ask what people are hoping to do here.
If you want snow globe-worthy north pole vibes to duck into cafes, go skating and drink hot chocolate or visit all the museums, then winter is for you!
For all the outdoor activities, festivals, and general warmth and sunshine, summer is for you!
And for those who aren’t quite sure what they want to do, spring and fall usually have decent enough weather to spend time outside.
The gardens are lush and the trees are golden and amber, but rain could prove a little annoying and send you indoors to shop or visit museums.
Getting Around Montreal
If you’re staying in the heart of Downtown Montreal then you have quite a few options. You can walk to a lot of places first and foremost which is great!
You can use the Metro system, which connects the city in so many directions, or take the bus. There are single fares and day or multi-day passes. All maps can be found using the STM website.
If you’re visiting outside of the snowy months, you might want to use the public bike-sharing program called BIXI, which even has a free ride day on certain Sundays in the month.
In case you’re staying a little further out – maybe closer to the airport – you’ll still be connected to the downtown core by bus or by train, but the traffic can prove to be a little bit frustrating.
If you’re planning to use the metro – which you should, it’s great – then you might consider a multi-day pass. Here’s one from the official website that’s good for 3 days of unlimited travel, as one such example.
Popular Montreal Tours
Aise from the transit system, there are other modes of transportation – bus, bike, boat, helicopter – which double as great ways to see the city from different perspectives!
Where to Stay in Montreal
Being the second-largest city in Canada, Montreal is a hot spot for business travellers, tourists, and everyone in between.
There are lots of different accommodation options – from charming hotels to smaller bed and breakfasts – in many great areas all across the city including Le Plateau, Old Montreal, or right Downtown!
We have written a whole article on the best places to stay in Montreal, including recommendations for hotel and other accommodations, as well as neighbourhoods to look into.
If you just want to get started looking, check out the very popular Hotel Bonaventure Montreal located right in the city centre.
Le Gîte du Plateau Mont-Royal is a great hostel that Eric has stayed at and really liked.
If you are planning a larger trip around Ontario and Quebec and/or are heading to Canada for the first time, here are a few more helpful articles to check out:
- Here’s What to Do During One Day in Montreal
- Where to Stay in Montreal: Accommodations & Areas
- One Day in Québec City & Accommodations in Québec City
- Top Toronto Attractions + One Day in Toronto, Too!
- Discover All of Canada – Canada’s Best Attractions
And there you have it – some of the greatest things to do in Montreal! Another well-deserved shout-out to our friend Laura for helping us put this together!
Two sets of city knowledge are always better than one, right?! Check her out over at She Who Wanders for the latest trips, photos, and more!
As always, Happy Waddlin’,