Montreal is a city like no other. As we went out of the train station we were immediately hit by the vibrant city vibes. You finally get why everyone in Canada speaks with so much excitement about Montreal.

Follow us on this article to see why Montreal is one of the alive cities in Canada and why you should also consider putting this gem of a city on your Canada itinerary


Montreal, the vibrant heart of Quebec, is a city where European charm meets North American dynamism. With its rich history, diverse culture, and an enticing culinary scene, Montreal offers a unique blend of old-world allure and modern urban energy.

The largest city in Quebec, known for its rich history, diverse culture, and dynamic arts scene, Montreal is a city that captivates visitors with its unique character and energy.

Founded in 1642, Montreal boasts a wealth of historic architecture, particularly in Old Montreal, where cobblestone streets and centuries-old buildings transport you back in time. The city’s French heritage is palpable, from its language and festivals to its cuisine and cultural institutions.

Montreal is also renowned for its lively festivals, including the world-famous Montreal International Jazz Festival and Just for Laughs comedy festival, which draw crowds from around the globe. Its vibrant neighbourhoods, such as Plateau-Mont-Royal and Mile-End, are teeming with eclectic shops, trendy cafes, and bustling markets.

Travel to and Around Montreal

Getting to Montreal is quite straightforward, with numerous international flights arriving at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.

If you are looking for suitable flight options, make sure to check out this article with top tips on how to find cheap flights.

On this occasion we travelled from Ottawa to Montreal by train using the passenger service VIA Rail. We found the journey to be comfortable and enjoyable throughout. Tickets don’t cost too much and you will find offers released every Tuesday on VIA’s newsletter once you subscribe.

Travel Around Montreal

Once there, you will find that the city’s extensive public transportation system, including the metro and buses, makes it easy to navigate.

In terms of tickets, you can only buy travel cards, so unlike in Toronto and Ottawa, contactless bank cards don’t work here as a means to tap in or out of the system. Although it might present itself as a slight inconvenience, you will find that per journey if you get a 24h pass for each of the days you plan to stay, travel becomes way cheaper.

We bought our travel cards using our 0% fee cards throughout this trip to make sure we always got the better rates. Read more here about managing your finances when travelling.

Although a good system in itself we found the signage (at least in the metro) to be fairly confusing especially around exits. We would suggest you have a look carefully which direction you should be heading so not to take a wrong exit.

Alternatively, you can explore the city on foot or by bike, particularly during the warmer months when the city’s bike-sharing system, BIXI, is in full swing.

Where to Stay in Montreal?

Montreal offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. For a touch of luxury, consider staying in the downtown area, where high-end hotels provide stunning views and top-notch amenities.

If you’re after a more boutique experience, the Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood boasts charming B&Bs and stylish boutique hotels. For budget travellers, the Latin Quarter and Mile-End offer a variety of affordable hostels and guesthouses.

If you prefer to stay in a hotel, we would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as or Agoda to get the best rates. Use the widget below to find the best accommodation in Montreal for your specific dates.

We stood at Quality Inn Centre-Ville near the coach station in Montreal not far from Berri-UQAM Metro station. We found that this place is very well connected and is at the intersection of most of the metro lines which is great. The hotel was OK, the location was great!

We also wanted to stay next to a coach station as we had planned a day trip to Quebec City and having the station close to the hotel made it so much more convenient.

Best Time to Visit Montreal

Montreal is a city for all seasons.

  • Summer (June to August) is perfect for festivals, outdoor activities, and exploring the city’s vibrant neighbourhoods. We visited in early June and had 30 C which was pretty high for this time of year. Good thing we had our shorts and t-shirts with us.
  • Autumn (September to November) brings beautiful foliage and a crisp, comfortable climate.
  • Winter (December to February) is a magical time, with plenty of snow and winter sports opportunities, as well as the enchanting Christmas markets.
  • Spring (March to May) sees the city come to life with blooming flowers and milder temperatures.

Things to do in Montreal

Montreal is a great city full of cool things to do. It offers a plethora of place to visit, parks to explore and views to conquer. We suggest you allocate at least two full days in Montreal to make sure you experience the most this wonderful city has to offer.

If you are short on time, you can use the Montreal Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour to get easily around the city and explore the main sights.

To save money, we also used the Passeport MTL (5 Attractions Pass) which gives you access to attractions and some discounts around the city.

Below we list some of the best attractions in Montreal for you to consider:

1. Walk down Parc Jean-Drapeau

Parc Jean-Drapeau, located on two islands in the St. Lawrence River, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The park is an excellent retreat for those seeking to relax a bit. This was also definitely our case, as we arrived late from Ottawa the day before.

Walking through this park was an excellent way to relax a bit but also enjoy the made artistic spots the parc has as well as the wonderful terraces overlooking the city and the old Marina. You can also visit the Montreal Biosphere – a museum dedicated to the environment in Montreal.

You can reach the park via Metro, walk down to the south part of the island and then take a boat to the old Marina which is what we also did and was an enjoyable experience.

2. Take a boat trip on St. Lawrence River

If you visit Parc Jean-Drapeau, you can easily go to downtown Montreal by boat. For the boat service, do note that the 24h travel card won’t be valid and a separate ticket must be bought from the ticket office on site.

Alternatively, you can enjoy a cruise on St. Lawrence River and sightsee the city from a different perspective.

3. Check out the Old Port of Montreal

The Old Port of Montreal is a historic area that’s perfect for a leisurely stroll. Explore the boutiques, cafes, and restaurants, take a boat tour, or visit the Montreal Science Centre for some family fun.

The area is a great place for families to hang around and enjoy the nearby amenities. We had an ice cream as we thought it was the most decent thing to do in the heatwave we had during our stay. It was well worth it!

4. See the Views from La Grande Roue de Montréal

For a breath-taking view of the city, take a ride on La Grande Roue de Montréal, the largest observation wheel in Canada. It’s a fantastic way to see Montreal from a new perspective, especially during sunset.

Whilst there is another observation tower not far from the wheel called “Port of Montreal Tower“, we think the wheel is a better choice as it is higher and is in the middle of the Old Port, whilst the tower’s views may be obstructed by nearby cruise liners. Both of these are included in the Passeport MTL (5 Attractions Pass).

We enjoyed the experience and found that the ticket offers 3 revolutions which is always great should you want to get that perfect shot for Instagram.

5. Walk down (Old Montreal) Le Vieux Montréal

Le Vieux Montréal is a must-visit for history buffs. Wander through its cobblestone streets, visit historic landmarks like the Notre-Dame Basilica, and soak up the old-world charm that defines this neighbourhood.

This area is simply charming where the main square is called Place Jacques-Cartier it offers a great European/Rural France like experience. We really enjoyed sitting at one of the local bristos and trying out a coffee and some (Quebecoise) maple syrup pancakes. A wonderful treat.

6. Pay your Respects at Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal

The Notre-Dame Basilica is an architectural masterpiece. This is definitely a must do in Montreal attraction, and although it may be built in a Catholic, French style, we found the basilica to be very unique and imposing from the moment you walk in.

Its stunning interior, complete with intricate wood carvings, vibrant stained glass windows, and a breath-taking altar, is sure to leave you in awe.

7. Try out some Quebecoise Cheeses at Marché Atwater

Marché Atwater is a food lover’s paradise. This bustling market offers a wide array of fresh produce, gourmet cheeses, and baked goods. It’s the perfect place to sample local delicacies and pick up a picnic for a day out.

We found it to be more authentic than the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. The produce on display all looked to be quality and locally sourced in Quebec.

You can even get a few treats and cross over the Lachine Canal and sit down and have a gourmet picnic.

8. Visit Maison Saint-Gabriel

Step back in time at Maison Saint-Gabriel, a historic house museum that showcases Montreal’s colonial past. The beautifully preserved buildings and gardens offer a fascinating glimpse into 17th-century life.

However, if you’re visiting from Europe, especially from a Francophone country, you might find it reminiscent of historical houses in France. This place is included in the Passeport MTL (5 Attractions Pass).

9. Admire the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral

This stunning cathedral, modelled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, is a testament to Montreal’s rich religious heritage. Its grand architecture and serene atmosphere make it a must-see.

You will really feel that you can get lost in this cathedral, it truly is a must see when in Montreal.

10. Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal

Saint Joseph’s Oratory, perched atop Mount Royal, is a major pilgrimage site and offers panoramic views of the city. We actually found this church, by chance simply seeing it from a bus on the way to Mount Royal Park.

Once you arrive at the parking space there is a free bus which takes you to the top every 15 minutes. The climb isn’t too hard either but some fitness is necessary. On the way down you can definitely head on foot as it’s a very mild descent.

Once in the Church, you fill find that it’s a very modern one with contemporary representations of Biblical moments and characters.

Its impressive dome and serene gardens make it a perfect spot for reflection and photography with the wonderful residential side of Montreal from atop.

11. Mount Royal Park & Kondiaronk Belvedere

Mount Royal Park is an urban oasis designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same landscape architect behind New York’s Central Park.

This is a absolutely the best of Montreal and one spot I’d suggest you don’t miss. Buses leave you just at the parking spot and from there you simply have a 10 minute walk to the panoramic view.

The Kondiaronk Belvedere offers a spectacular view of the city skyline, especially stunning at sunrise or sunset. You can simply sit there and get lost in the view seeing the whole of the Montreal Island with its tall skyscrapers.

12. Go on a day trip to Quebec City

If you are in Montreal, you might as well treat yourself to a day trip to Quebec City. In all fairness, Quebec City deserves more than just one day but that’s all we had.

We looked at this organised trip from Montreal to Quebec City but in the end decided to plan our own day trip leaving Montreal very early in the morning and coming back after midnight. We travelled by coach (it wasn’t cheap!), hence why we chose a hotel next to the coach station.

Quebec City is a real gem in Canada and you should at least do a day trip to see it with your own eyes especially if you want to get that European vibe.

Top Restaurants in Montreal

Montreal’s culinary landscape is a tantalising tapestry that reflects its rich cultural diversity and historical influences. Renowned for its unique blend of French, British, and immigrant culinary traditions, the city offers an array of dining experiences that cater to every palate.

From the iconic Montreal-style bagels and poutine to fine dining establishments and vibrant food markets, the city’s food scene is both dynamic and deeply rooted in its heritage.

Visitors can indulge in a variety of local specialities, such as smoked meat sandwiches from legendary delis, fresh pastries from artisanal bakeries, and gourmet dishes crafted by innovative chefs who put a modern twist on classic recipes.

Montreal’s food culture is also heavily influenced by its multicultural population, with an abundance of international cuisines available throughout the city. Below is a list of our top favourite spots for eating in Montreal:

Chez Potier – Épicerie gourmande

Chez Potier is a delightful gourmet grocery that offers a variety of artisanal products and freshly prepared meals. It’s an excellent spot for a quick bite or to pick up unique culinary souvenirs.

We really enjoyed their cakes and pastries. I had a chocolate delice with a nutty candied base and Hristina had a mille-feuille with cream and mango. Both were amazing, fresh and crisp. To top it off, we tried one of their pan-au-chocolat which was simply outstanding. The buttery taste and the layerations were simply textbook perfect.

We absolutely recommend coming here to satisfy your sweet tooth cravings. A coffee and pastry are included in the Passeport MTL (5 Attractions Pass).

Memento! – Brasserie Artisanale

Memento! is a charming artisanal brewery that serves a range of craft beers and hearty pub fare. It’s a great place to unwind with friends and sample some of Montreal’s finest brews.

The beer and a meal is included in the Passeport MTL (5 Attractions Pass), so this was our lunch with some refreshing adult beverages. We had a cheese board and a charcuterie board with local beers. We were also given a can of their own branded beer to take away.

Fairmount Bagel

No visit to Montreal is complete without trying a bagel from Fairmount Bagel. These iconic bagels are baked in a wood-fired oven, giving them a unique flavour and texture that sets them apart from the rest.

You can only buy packs of 6 however, you can also ask for that pack to have several different types of their bagels. We tried their sesame one (which was the best), garlic and all seeds one. They were all good, and the sesame ones were taken out of the oven minutes before we ordered them.

One thing to note is that they only accept Interac cards or cash. This was a problem as we had to count to the last loonie coins we still had! Oh, and this place is opened 24/7.

Patati Patata Friterie de Luxe

Patati Patata is a beloved local diner known for its delicious poutine and affordable comfort food. It’s the perfect place to experience a quintessential Quebecois dish in a laid-back setting. This was actually recommended by one of the waitresses at RIVA in Gananoque as she used to be a local.

We had the poutine with salad and a cheese toastie. Everyone told us to wait till we get to Montreal before getting poutine. We understood why. The fries are made to order and the cheese curds feel super fresh. Ultimately it’s a portion of fries with cheddar (fresh) curds topped with a healthy amount of light gravy.

Imagine eating that on a cold winter’s day – a delight for sure!

Try the Iconic Smoked Meat Sandwich at Schwartz’s

A Montreal landmark that has welcomed countless celebrities and visitors from all over the world for almost a century, Schwartz’s has been serving the world’s best smoked meat* since 1928.

Still in its original location and using its original recipe and old-world standard of excellence, Schwartz’s was founded in 1928 by Reuben Schwartzs, a Jewish immigrant from Romania.

Believe us, when you walk in, you feel that you are in the company of all the celebraties that have ever tried one of the world’s best smoked beef sandwiches.

We tried their house staple which is the enourmous smoked beef sanwich with a side of pickles. You only need to try one bite and you will be convinced that you came to the right place. Imagine, holding a piece of grass in your hands, that is how the meat also feels when you pick it up.

The flavour come accross very nicely, strong hints of pepper and smoked bark are equally present. Rub it on top with some extra mustard and you’re golden! I liked it so much that we visited this place twice!

Final Thoughts

Montreal is a city that effortlessly blends history, culture, and modernity. Its diverse attractions, vibrant neighbourhoods, and welcoming atmosphere make it a perfect destination for travellers of all kinds.

Whether you’re exploring its historic sites, savouring its culinary delights, or simply soaking in its unique charm, Montreal is a city that will leave you with unforgettable memories.

Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:

  • Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.

  • Transport – consider for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.

  • Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide, Klook or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.

  • Travel money – we have Starling Bank accounts (UK residents only) with 0% fees on FX and a good Mastercard exchange rate. Revolut is another good option.

  • Internet abroad – with Airalo or Nomad you can access a wide range of eSIMs (digital SIM cards) available for different countries and regions.

  • Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.

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