Things to do in Montreal
Before we start – I’m well aware that 15 things is not a whole lot. I could list every single thing to do in the city, but trust me, you don’t have that much time on your hands.
Hell, even I don’t have enough time to see and do everything. And I live here!
But if you’re new to Montreal, if you want to hit up the main sights and tick these boxes off your bucket list, I’m your gal. These are what I feel will best represent Montreal, from a culinary, cultural, historical, and architectural point of view. Mandatory travel experiences, if you will, whether you have a day or a week in the city.
Bienvenue à Montréal!
1. Go up the Mont-Royal
That’s probably the best place to start off your journey, really. It’s a beautiful walk (or bus ride, if you’re lazy like me), it’s entirely free of charge, and the Belvedere observatory offers amazing views of downtown Montreal and the mountains over on the south bank. Great selfie spot, too.
Tip: if you’re brave enough to get up really early, try and catch the sunrise from atop Mont-Royal. Seeing the morning light slowly make its way over the skyscrapers is such a beautiful thing.
2. Take a food tour
Montreal is nothing if not a foodie city. Our culinary classics might be of the greasy kind, but that doesn’t make it’s all we’re good at! Montrealers love to treat themselves to a night out and have a good meal. In fact, Montreal technically has more restaurants per capita than New York City!
There are many food tours to choose from in Montreal, but my personal favourite is theMile End food tour with localmontrealtours.com.
Wear your eating pants!
3. Eat poutine
That’s a no-brainer, and probably on everybody’s list already. But it was worth noting nonetheless! Poutine doesn’t look very appetizing, but trust me – once you’ve had your first bite, you’ll never want to have fries any other way.
There are plenty of places where you can grab good poutine in Montreal, but here are a few of my favourites:
- La Banquise (994 Rachel Est)
- Poutineville (1365 Ontario)
- Montreal Pool Room (1217 St-Laurent)
- Frite Alors! (2 De La Commune Est)
- Patati Patata (4177 St-Laurent)
4. Eat a smoked meat sandwich
Another Montreal icon! There are very little things in life that are better than a good, 4 inches thick smoked meat sandwich. And although most guidebooks will tell you to go to Schwartz’s for smoked meat, frankly, I can’t be bothered with the permanent queues and the questionably sticky floors.
I much prefer Lester’s Deli in Outremont (1057 Bernard).
5. Walk on St-Paul Street
Old-Montreal has SO many things to see and do, but if you find yourself a bit short on time, a walk along Saint-Paul Street will be a great option to cram in as much of the famous European atmosphere of Montreal. There are tons of restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and art galleries along the way for your enjoyment, and since Montreal is a relatively cheap city to visit and live in, prices are quite fair even for a super touristy area.
If you’re new to Old Montreal, you might want to check out my itinerary for first-timers.
6. Visit one of the markets
Markets are a great way to interact with locals (mostly Instagrammers, as perfectly-symmetrical-photos-of-colourful-berries are hugely popular on the platform) and taste new things, especially in the summer when almost everything’s in season (if you haven’t tasted Quebec-made strawberries, you haven’t lived a full life).
I also like to tell people to keep their “souvenir money” for the markets and spend it on locally-made delicacies, like preserves, ice wines and ciders, and the seemingly infinite variety of maple products.
There are two main markets: Jean-Talon and Atwater. I have a preference for the latter because although smaller, it’s in such a lovely location, ideal for a riverside picnic afterwards.
7. Visit Basilique Notre-Dame
I’m not one to recommend visiting religious buildings unless it’s absolutely necessary – and in this case, it is. The Notre-Dame Basilica is one of the finest of its kind, with one of the most ornate gothic facades in the world, and a strikingly beautiful chapel at the back. That’s where you’ll find the impressive organ everyone talks about.
Also, that’s where Céline Dion got married. #fancy
8. Visit a coffee shop
Montreal is doing fairly well in terms of independent, hipster-approved, Instagram-friendly coffee shops. There are so many new ones opening up every month I can barely keep up! If you like to start you day with a cortado or a soy latte, these places should be on your list.
You may even see me there. Come and say hello!
- Café Myriade (1000 West Sainte‑Catherine Street, inside Club Monaco)
- Larue & fils (244 East De Castelnau Street)
- Réplika (252 East Rachel Street)
- Humble Lion (904 West Sherbrooke Street)
- Le moineau masqué (912 East Marie-Anne Street)
- Café Parvis (433 Mayor Street)
9. Eat a bagel
Move over New York City – we’ve got this.
To be completely objective here, I really do think our bagels are best. Ours are boiled in honey-infused water before they are baked, making them much sweeter than their NYC counterparts. To taste Montreal bagels, you basically have two options:
- St-Viateur (263 Saint Viateur Ouest)
- Fairmount (74 Fairmount Ouest)
Whatever you do, ask for a bagel fresh out of the oven – this is when the flavours are the most intense!
10. Browse the boutiques of the Mile End
Think of the Mile End as Montreal’s Soho; this is where fashion’s at. There are plenty of boutiques in the area to keep shoppers busy for an entire day, but if you only have time for a handful, here are my recommendations:
- Boucle & Papier (stationery)
- Frank & Oak (menswear)
- Vestibule (womenswear and home decor)
- Unicorn (womenswear)
- Clark Mercantile (menswear)
- Annex Vintage (womenswear)
11. Learn more about animal life at Biodome
I’ve written about this before – the super interesting Space for Life in East Montreal. If you have a bit of time on your hands, I strongly recommend going there. It’s a great way to learn more about the different Canadian ecosystems, but most importantly, to hang out with adorable animals, including penguins.
12. Stroll in Plateau Mont-Royal
I couldn’t leave my favourite neighborhood out, now could I? You’ve probably guessed that I am extremely impartial when it comes to the Plateau, simply because I love it so much. And the best way to discover it is to simply walk around, marvel at the beautiful architecture, browse the local shops, sit at one of the many cafés and indulge in some people-watching.
13. Taste the local craft beers
Montrealers like themselves a beer in the evening, and not just any beer. GOOD, craft beer. They take the art of microbrewing very seriously, and it’s not a coincidence most brewpubs are continuously packed. If you’d rather have an expert show you around, there’s even a Montreal craft beer guided tour.
14. Catch the newest exhibit at Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
While the museum’s permanent collection is a fascinating glimpse into the Canadian history of arts, what really steals the show is the temporary exhibitions. Grand scale, big-ticket items, famous names, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has welcomed the works of artists like Chihuly, Rodin, Warhol, Gaultier and many more. Exhibitions are always worth the entry fee.
15. Get the book
For even more things to do in Montreal as well as restaurant suggestions, local photography tips, pre-set itineraries, and exclusive discounts, get the Montreal city guide for just $9. It contains everything I know and love about Montreal!
- La Ronde
101 Things To Do In Montreal Before You Die
As we show you on a daily basis, Montreal is an incredible city. You could spend an entire lifetime here and never run out of awesome things to do. However, since you don’t quite have an infinite amount of time to roam the city, we wanted to show you what should be at the top of your Montreal bucket list.
1. Take a walk up & down Ste-Catherine street!
2. Join the debate on which Montreal smoked meat sandwich is the best.
3. Try to pick one of these AMAZING poutines to mow down on.
4. Attend a Canadiens hockey match at Le Centre Bell.
5. Get a four litre pitcher of beer from Cock and Bull.
6. Walk along the cobblestone allies in the Old Port.
7. Spend a night drinking sangria and listening to jazz at The Upstairs.
8. Spend the day at La Ronde and try every ride at least once.
9. Go to Ile Saint Helene and attend Piknic Electronik.
10. Rent a BIXI and explore the city.
11. Explore Montreal’s Underground City.
12. Buy a small bottle of real Canadian maple syrup.
13. Spend $20 in one of Montreal’s many friperies (aka”thrift stores”)
14. Visit the Musee des Beaux Arts!
15. Visit the Biodome!
16. Visit the Cosmodome!
18. Attend the Just for Laughs Festival.
19. Attend the Montreal Jazz Festival
20. Take a ride along the St. Lawrence River in a Bateau Mouche.
21. Go to the Old Port to attend Cirques du Soleil.
22. Go to Cinema du Parc and mow down on some popcorn while watching a good flick.
23. Find the perfect tanning spot to catch some summer rays.
24. Watch a Shakespeare in the Park production.
25. Attend Montreal’s International Fireworks Competition and prepare to have your mind blown.
26. Party at one of Montreal’s after hours clubs until the wee hours of the morning.
27. Go to the McGill Music Library and listen to ALL the records.
28.Visit Rocket Richard’s grave on Mont Royal.
29. Visit Cafe Cleopatra and really get the Montreal strip club experience.
30. Blow all your money at one of Montreal’s many casinos.
31. Go to FROSH week and prepare to be hungover for days.
32. Experience the pampered life in Montreal at the incredible spa Bota Bota.
33. Get a tattoo from one of Montreal’s many talented artists!
34. Go out to celebrate with your friends at one of Montreal’s Shisha Bars.
35. Take a swim in Royal Vics’ secret pool.
36. Drink the night away at Buonanotte on Saint-Laurent Street.
37. Take a bike to ride along Lachine Canal.
38. Take a date to visit the Mont Royal observatory deck.
39. Spend a Sunday getting high at TamTams!
40. Go clubbing on Crescent Street!
41. Go clubbing on Saint-Laurent Street!
42. Sing your heart out at Les Trois Minots.
43. Eat a poutine at La Belle Province while super drunk.
44. Try to survive a Montreal cab ride.
45. Attend Montreal’s Grand Prix weekend.
46. Visit the Olympic Stadium and get some food truck grub.
47. Get a drink at the famous Orange Julep.
48. Catch a play at Centaur Theater.
49. See the “Boule de Roses’ on Saint Catherine’s Street.
50. Grab a fresh bagel in the morning off the conveyor belt at St. Viateur Bagels.
51. Spend a Saturday and grab some fresh fruit, vegetables at Atwater Market,
52. Go to Cabaret Mado to see the best drag show in town.
53. Dress up for Halloween and scare the crap out of yourself at Peur Depot.
54. Schedule a trip to a play at Place des Arts for a cultural evening.
55. Go to Club Soda for a small intimate concert.
56. Stand outside Musique for an hour, purely to get your dance on.
57. Eat an authentic meal in the heart of Montreal’s Chinatown.
58. Get a flaming drink at La Distillerie.
59. Take a horse drawn carriage buggy ride down the historical streets of the Old Port.
60. Throw a penny behind you at the Oratory’s secret fountain.
61. Swim at the Clock Tower Beach
62. Climb stairs to the top of the ClockTower
63. Spend a Sunday shopping around Jean Talon Market.
64. Kiss your significant other during summer on the rooftop of Tokyo Bar.
65. Eat a Queue de Castor.
66. Get a massage at Studio Bliss.
67. Actually give someone a cigarette when they ask for it.
68. Bask in the beauty of McGill campus.
69. Attend a convention of any kind at Palais des Congres.
70. Try out once for “Le Voix”!
71. Eat a lobster burger at Deville Dinerbar.
72. Skate indoors at Place Bonaventure.
73. Skate outdoors at Bonsecours basin skating rink.
74. J-walk across Sherbrooke street, and fear for your life.
75. Frolic in the pool showers at Parc Laurier.
76. Pretend it’s your birthday at the Three Amigos and get a (1) free Sombrero and a margarita.
77. Play a game of laser tag at Ste-Catherine’s Lazer Quest.
78. Dress up in drag and watch Rocky Horror Picture Show at The Imperial on Halloween.
79. Spend 20$ in quarters at Amusement 2000 Plus.
80. Go celebrity spotting!
81. Go to Kitsune and chill on the long shareable tables with some friends or a book.
82. Test your luck on a horse at Montreal’s Blue Bonnets.
83. Take a selfie in front of Montreal’s many graffiti walls.
84. Explain to a friend what exactly a “dépanneur” is.
85. Join and march in a Montreal MANY street protests.
86. Hand out food on Christmas for the homeless at Dans la Rue.
87. Spend a couple of hours and try to find your way out of the Labyrinth.
88. Wake up Sunday morning and have a power breakfast at Chez Cora.
89. Experience all things brunch at L’Avenue.
90. Play Bingo & go Go-Carting at Action 500.
91. Have a strong Canadian beer at Dieu du Ciel.
92. Go terrase hopping on Saint Denis street.
93. Save up your money so you can stay at the Ritz Carlton.
94. Browse vintage shops on Saint-Laurent.
95. Go ice fishing during winter on top of the St.Lawrence River.
96. Take a moment to enjoy the hidden waterfall inside Bonsecours Market.
97. Go for a water ride in Lachine Rapids.
98. Check out Habitat 67 and the glorious box method apartments in the sky.
99. Take a moment to enjoy all that is at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.
100. People watch on Saint Catherine street.
101. Lastly, drive or walk up to Mount Royal to watch the sunrise to experience the city at its finest.