12 must-do things to do in Montreal

Are you planning to visit Montreal on your trip to Canada? Here’s a list of must-sees and must-dos in this symbolic city!

Montreal is one of the world’s most attractive cities, attracting over ten million tourists every year. The city’s diversity, its four distinct seasons, its warm welcome and its authentic gastronomy are all reasons why it attracts so much interest.

Montreal is also Canada’s cultural capital, with some 250 theaters and concert halls, over 90 festivals a year and a fascinating medley of neighbourhoods where artists, writers and musicians have helped seal the city’s reputation. Last but not least, Montreal has its share of old Europe amidst its contemporary design.

So what can you do in Montreal while you’re here? From parks and symbolic streets to landmark monuments, discover the must-sees in Montreal, the city of a hundred steeples!

1. Old Montreal

Vieux Montréal

Photo credit: De ProDesign studio / Shutterstock.com

One of the first things you’ll want to do if you visit Montreal is visit Old Montreal. This part of the city, so different from the rest, has retained all its authentic charm. Its narrow cobblestone streets reflect the stone fortifications erected around Montreal in the 18th century. The atmosphere is relaxed, with typical restaurants and horse-drawn carriage rides (which will be discontinued as of January 2020).

Step inside Notre-Dame Basilica, and you’ll discover a masterpiece of the Gothic Revival style in America. Simply magnificent!

2. Mount Royal Park

Mont Royal, Montréal

Photo Credit: De Cagkan Sayin / Shutterstock.com

Mount Royal, also known as the Mountain, is the city’s highest point. At 233 meters high, this 190-hectare park is the city’s green lung. This natural site was first spotted by Jacques Cartier in 1535, then landscaped in 1876 by the same man who designed New York’s Central Park.

Climb to the lookout on foot or by bike – it’s well worth the effort. The view is splendid, with all the buildings looking so small. Below you’ll find the Lac aux Castors, which turns into a skating rink in winter.

3. The entertainment district

Quartier des spectacles, Place des Arts, Montréal

Photo credit: De Benoit Daoust / Shutterstock.com

This is one of Montreal’s liveliest neighborhoods, where most concerts and festivals are held.

Get off at the Place des Arts metro station before discovering a rich cultural complex. With theOpéra de Montréal, the Musée d’art contemporain, the Maison symphonique, numerous theaters and more, it’s impossible not to know what to do in Montreal.

In summer, this district is packed with people for the Just for Laughs festival, the Francofolies,Montréal en Lumière and many others.

4. Saint Joseph’s Oratory

Oratoire Saint-Joseph, Montréal

Photo Credit: From Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

It’s one of the most prestigious buildings to visit in Montreal, located in the multicultural neighborhood of Côte-des Neiges.Saint Joseph’s Oratory welcomes nearly two million visitors every year, who come to see its basilica, chapel, Way of the Cross and copper dome. The latter is the second largest in the world, after St. Peter’s in Rome. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to see it from afar. Admission is free.

5. The Olympic Stadium

Stade Olympique de Montréal

Photo Credit: Flickr – abdallahh

Another must-see in Montreal is the Olympic Stadium. In addition to its sports fields and halls, seven swimming pools and cinema, it continues to amaze tourists with its oval-shaped concrete structure.

Its leaning tower is also a symbol of the city of Quebec, as it is the world’s tallest leaning tower (165 metres). You can take a funicular up to the observatory.

6. The underground city

Centre commercial, ville souterraine de Montréal

Photo Credit: From Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

What to do in Montreal in winter, when it’s snowing and -30°C outside? Most of the time, Montrealers take the opportunity to stroll through the underground city. These are shopping malls stretching over 30 km, with over 2,000 stores and restaurants, offices, cinemas and all manner of activity.

Everything is connected to the metro stations, so you can spend the whole day in these galleries without having to face the cold.

7. Plateau Mont-Royal

Plateau Mont-Royal, Montréal

Photo credit: De Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock.com

Have you ever heard of Montreal’s famous staircases? They’re a feature of the Canadian metropolis that you won’t find anywhere else. All the houses on either side of the street are accessed by external wrought-iron staircases in strange shapes.

The question on everyone’s mind is: why put staircases outside when they’re covered in snow in winter? Well, here’s the answer: in the 19th century, the city’s mayor required residents of duplexes and triplexes to have a garden in front of their house, for fear of deteriorating air quality. To save space, buildings were built higher up, and staircases in common areas were moved outside, thus saving on heating costs.

Visiting Montreal also means understanding its history!

8. Jean Talon market

What better way to soak up the peaceful life of Montreal than with a visit to the Jean Talon market in the Little Italy district? This colorful indoor market is brimming with local specialties and other more classic fare. You can also eat on site for a more convivial atmosphere.

The market is open all day, every day.

9. Rue Sainte Catherine

Rue Sainte Catherine, Montréal

Photo Credit: From Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

What’s there to do in Montreal besides discover the charm of the City of a Hundred Spires? Shopping, of course! To do so, head for Rue Sainte-Catherine, the main shopping street. That way, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for and bring back some souvenirs from Montreal.

10. Le Vieux Port

Vieux Port de Montréal

Photo credit: De Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock.com

The Old Port, not far from downtown, is the ideal place to spend a pleasant moment with family, friends or loved ones. Stroll along the quays and admire the view of the St. Lawrence River.

Climb to the top of the Tour de l’Horloge, built in memory of merchant navy sailors, and relax on the deckchairs on the urban beach. Hundreds of events and activities are on offer all year round.

11. The botanical garden

For nature lovers, the Botanical Garden is a must-see in Montreal. This 75-hectare living museum boasts over 22,000 plant species and some 30 thematic gardens. It’s not for nothing that it’s one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world!

No matter what time of year you arrive in Montreal, there’s always incredible entertainment to check out. Between the Maison de l’Arbre, the China Garden, the Insectarium and more, visiting Montreal can take a while.

12. Parc Jean-Drapeau

Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montréal

Photo Credit: De R.M. Nunes / Shutterstock.com

What can you do in Montreal if you want to get away from it all? Just take the metro and you’re soon on Île Sainte-Hélène and Île Notre-Dame. Here, a different setting awaits you, notably Parc Jean-Drapeau. It’s been specially laid out for residents to enjoy themselves.

It consists of :

  • The Biosphère (environmental museum) ;
  • La Ronde (large amusement park);
  • Le casino de Montréal ;
  • The sandy beach;
  • The racetrack (Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix) ;
  • Three Olympic-sized pools.

All year round, enjoy free outdoor shows and Piknic Electronik Sundays.

13. Also in Montreal

Manger une poutine à Montréal

Photo Credit: De Foodio / Shutterstock.com

During your vacation in Montreal, don’t hesitate to :

  • Eat poutine at La Banquise, a typical Plateau Mont Royal restaurant

    open 24 hours a day;
  • Watch an ice hockey game at the Bell Centre or in one of the city’s trendy bars

    trendy bars;
  • Enjoy a beer at a microbrewery;
  • Go ice skating, tobogganing or cross-country skiing in Mount Royal Park during the winter season.

  • See the tam-tams in summer at the foot of Mount Royal;
  • Leapfrog on the St. Lawrence River (thrill boat) ;
  • Marvel at Loto-Québec fireworks displays all summer long.

How to get to Montreal

From Paris or other French cities, the average flight time to Montreal is seven hours. To choose a plane ticket at the best price, it is advisable to compare offers, the best known and easiest to use being Ulysse.

You’ll then arrive at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, some 20 km from downtown.

There are several ways to reach the center:

  • Public transport

– Take the 747 bus or shuttle to Lionel Groulx metro station in 25-35 minutes (one stop). The green and orange lines take you downtown. Service from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

– For a night landing, take the 747 bus or shuttle to downtown in 45-70 minutes (11 stops). Continuous service.

  • The cab

The easiest solution, but probably not the most economical. When you leave the airport, someone will direct you to the right cab.

  • Car rental

Car rental is the ideal solution if you intend to visit Montreal (and the surrounding area) on your own.

Where to stay in Montreal?

When it comes to accommodation in Montreal, you’re spoilt for choice, as the city is very well served by public transport. You can stay in hotels, vacation apartments, youth hostels or use Airbnb. In fact, if you’re looking for value-for-money accommodation, we recommend this hotel comparator, which, whatever your criteria, has the best offers according to your dates of stay. The great thing about Montreal is that every neighborhood is different, with its own unique atmosphere and, of course, prices ranging from single to double.

For close proximity to tourist attractions, Old Montreal and the Village are ideal. If you like to go out in the evenings, you’ll want to get close to the Mont Royal, Sherbrooke or Berri-Uquam metro stations. If you want to escape the hordes of tourists and soak up the best of Montreal life, lodging in Little Italy or Côte-des-Neiges is more appropriate. To help you make the right choice, take a look at our article « Where to stay in Montreal « !

Map of hotels and accommodations – Montreal,ca