What to do in Montreal? Let us count the ways! As one of the most incredible cities in Quebec and all of Canada, you can’t miss seeing the city’s gorgeous architecture, vibrant streets, wonderful parks and superb eateries, including those sweet sugar shacks. Read on to discover where to stay, what to eat, plus all the best things to do in Montreal.
What to do in Montreal
Wander the streets of Old Montreal
You can’t miss exploring Old Montreal. This beautiful neighbourhood was originally established in the 17th century by the first settlers of New France. Today, the city’s European roots live on in its narrow cobblestone streets and alleyways, old bricked walls, charming boutique stores, and historic buildings dating back to the 17th century.
There’s never a shortage of things to do in this part of town, and when you travel with Trafalgar, you’ll get to explore all the historic highlights including the street performers at Place-Jacques Cartier and the stunning Notre-Dame Basilica, located in Place D’Armes Square.
Built in 1824, this Gothic revival church features ornate stained glass windows and an impressive grand hall inside. The church also famously hosted Celine Dion’s 1994 wedding and the state funeral of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 2000.
When in Old Montreal, you also can’t miss seeing the Inuit art at Galerie d’art Images Boréales, or going shopping at Marché Bonsecours. This beautiful two-storey domed public market has been running for over 100 years and is filled with all kinds of treasures.
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Discover the Old Port of Montreal
When you visit Montreal with Trafalgar, you’ll visit the colourful Old Port of Montreal. The first thing you’ll probably see is the striking Clock Tower, standing at the harbour’s entrance.
The Clock Tower was built in the 1920s as a monument to the sailors lost at sea, and if you’re feeling up for it, you can climb the 192 steps to the top and take in the panoramic views of both the St. Lawrence River and Jacques-Cartier Bridge.
While you’re there, you might like to relax at the sandy Clock Tower Beach, or take a spin on La Grande Roue de Montréal. As Canada’s tallest Ferris wheel standing at 60-metres high, you’ll get the most thrilling vantage point over the city.
Admire the views from Mount Royal Park
One of the very best things to do in Montreal is to explore Mount Royal Park. Located in the centre of the city, this massive park spans 692 acres full of leafy trails, lush woodlands and Beaver Lake. There are grassy picnic spots for the summer and ski slopes for the winter. We especially love it in spring when it’s lit up with blossoming trees and flowers.
When you’re there, be sure to head to the top of Mount Royal, the small mountain that gives Montreal its name. You’ll reach the Belvédère Camillien-Houde Lookout, where you can take in one of the best views over the whole city, including the Downtown area and the St. Lawrence River.
St. Joseph’s Oratory
Another great spot is the sacred L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph (St. Joseph’s Oratory), a famous shrine and lookout point over the city. It’s located on the Westmount Summit of Mont Royal and is the largest church in Canada, with one of the world’s largest domes.
It’s also home to the grand Beckerath Organ, with pipes reaching almost 10 metres in length. You might like to listen to one of the Oratory’s public organ performances, or head outside to marvel at the stunning trees and flowers and the panoramic views over the city.
Soak up the beauty of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal
This artistic and historic neighbourhood is one of the most gorgeous in all of Canada. It’s famed as a laidback area full of colourful Victorian-style townhouses, tree-lined streets, cafes, bars, galleries and theatres. Be sure to walk through Saint Louis Square, where you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back to 19th-century Europe.
After you’ve filled up your camera with architectural snaps, head to Parc La Fontaine. This sprawling 34-hectare urban park is full of lush greenery, lakes, idyllic picnic spots, and plenty of sports and events.
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Stroll through the Montreal Botanical Gardens
With over 190 acres of greenery, the Montreal Botanical Gardens is considered to be one of the world’s most prestigious collections of plant life. There are tens of thousands of different species and it’s absolutely beautiful with all kinds of themed gardens, greenhouses and pavilions.
There’s even the Insectarium, a natural history museum with 95 insect species. Be sure to check if there are any events before you go, like the magical Lantern Festival in the Chinese Garden and the Butterflies Go Free event in the Main Exhibition Greenhouse.
Marvel at the Jacques Cartier Bridge
This iconic bridge connects the island of Montreal to the city of Longueuil over the St. Lawrence River. There’s a fantastic promenade next to the road that’s accessible on foot and bicycle so you can soak up the views and get some stunning shots of Montreal and the river. The bridge itself is best seen at night when it’s illuminated in its decorative lighting.
The elaborate display of lights was attached to the bridge to mark the 150th anniversary of Canada and the 375th anniversary of Montreal. It’s also one of the best spots to see the Montreal Fireworks Festival, the largest fireworks competition in the world.
See the unique architecture of Habitat 67
Whether you’re fascinated by groundbreaking architecture or just curious about Montreal’s unique buildings, you have to visit Habitat67. This radical housing complex was designed by Moshe Safdie in 1967.
The building is made of 354 identical concrete apartments stacked like cubes 12 storeys high, and houses over 100 apartments. It looks something like a Lego tower and it’s one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city.
Explore the incredible Biosphere & Jean Drapeau Park
If you’ve stopped by Habitat67, the next thing to do in Montreal is visit the Biosphere. You can see this imposing steel dome from Habitat67, but it’s even more incredible up close. Built in 1967 and designed by Buckminster Fuller, the Biosphere is a fantastic museum dedicated to the environment.
It’s set right in the middle of Jean Drapeau Park, surrounded by lush green trees. It’s most beautiful in summer when the bright blue sky mixed with the greenery makes the dome look incredible.
Stroll around the gorgeous streets and neighbourhoods
From Old Montreal to Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, there is no shortage of beautiful streets and boroughs to explore in Montreal. Some of our favourites are the elegant Westmount neighbourhood and the artistic Mile End, filled with laidback cafes and vintage shops.
We also love strolling along Promenade Fleuve-Montagne in the city centre or walking down creative Crescent Street in Downtown Montreal. Famed as the street where Leonard Cohen had his art gallery, you’ll spot the 8,500-square-metre portrait of Cohen rising above the skyline.
Whether you’re looking for fine art, great restaurants or even stunning buildings like the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, Crescent Street is the place to be.
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Where to stay in Montreal
Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth
One of our favourite places to stay in Montreal is Hotel Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, the largest hotel in the city. It’s famed for both its legendary design and prestigious guests, including Queen Elizabeth. It’s also the hotel where John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their famous “Beds-In for Peace” in 1969, a two-week, non-violent protest against wars.
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This iconic hotel was completed in 1958 and built by the Canadian National Railway. The 21-storey property was built above Central Station, meaning it required an innovative solution to stop the vibrations caused by trains passing underneath. Their design certainly worked as you won’t feel a single tremor when you stay here. In fact, we’re sure it will be one of your most peaceful nights yet! You can stay at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth on our new trip, Enchanting Châteaux of Ontario and Quebec.
Where to eat in Montreal
Enjoy dinner in a classic French bistro
You can’t visit Montreal without dining at a French bistro. We’ll take you to a classic French bistro in the heart of Old Montreal, where you’ll find a menu that takes a creative twist on French cuisine. Even better, it’s all made with local ingredients.
Jean Talon Market
This charming neighbourhood is stacked with traditional cafes and Italian stores. The highlight of the area is the Jean-Talon Market, which has been supplying Montreal with fresh produce and speciality items since 1933.
You’ll find everything from fish to flowers to desserts. You have to try some treats from the bakeries and grocers, plus don’t miss the charcuterie and cheese of Quebec. There’s also plenty of seasonal pop-up restaurants and other beloved year-round restaurants like Le Petit Alep Bistro and El Rey Del Taco.
Enjoy the essential sugar shack experience
Nothing says Quebec like maple syrup. The province is the world’s largest producer of the sweet stuff, and you can learn about the traditions of maple syrup at a local cabane a sucre (sugar shack). Every year when the spring thaw starts, from February to the end of April, the sugar shacks around Montreal take the maple tree sap. Then they boil it down into sweet, sticky maple syrup.
Most sugar shacks also put on feasts along with live folk music and other entertainment. When you travel to Montreal with Trafalgar, we’ll take you out for lunch for a classic sugar shack experience.
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What are your favourite things to do in Montreal? Let us know in the comments below!