The Very Best Things to do in Montreal

Written By: The Planet D

Montreal is one of Canada’s most beautiful and romantic cities. A mix of European old-world charm with a Canadian flare. There are so many things to do in Montreal, you won’t want to leave.

Montreal was once called “the city of a hundred steeples” by Mark Twain, and it’s clear to see why once you arrive. From having the highest number of restaurants per capita in North America, outside of New York, it also has a lively art scene.

The urban centre is home to the highest population of French speaking people outside of France, Montreal has a certain European vibe that can only be found in French Canada. But Francophone culture isn’t all you’ll find in the city, because Montreal is home to more than 200 ethnic groups. 

Located on the St. Lawrence River, Montreal is one of the best cities in Canada to visit. Cafés line the sidewalks of Old Montreal, bicycles are readily available for rent, grand historical buildings have stood the test of time, and old Cathedrals are the cornerstone of French culture and site seeing.

Best Things to do in Montreal

A long weekend in Montreal is the perfect getaway and here are a few things that will help you to occupy your time while visiting our relaxed French-speaking city this summer.

1. Explore the History of Old Montreal 

Take in Old Montreal for Something fun

Not to be missed. Old Montreal feels as though you are in Europe. Cobblestone streets, Victorian architecture and classic street lamps line the walkways. Visit Place d’Arms – One of the oldest and nicest public squares in the city. Watch street performers and musicians as you enjoy a coffee on the terrace of a fine café or shop in the market or one of the many boutiques in Old Montreal.

Exploring Old Montreal is about taking your time and enjoying the moment. Pretend you are in Europe and all you have to worry about is enjoying your café au lait with a soft croissant.

Check out Beyond the Basilica – A Montreal 101 tour for those who want a good overview of the city, including history, architecture, art, and favourite local spots. Starts in Old Montreal and ends in Plateau Mont-Royal. 

Le Bateau Mouche Day Cruise A way to experience Old Montreal from a different perspective. Le Bateau Mouche offers classic urban cruise experiences through day and evening tours that include dinner. 

Check out our Guide of Where to Stay in Montreal for even more information!

2. Visit the underground city

Montreal can get mighty cold in the winter but that doesn’t keep people at home.

Visit the worlds largest underground city. Many Canadian cities have underground malls and walkways due to the cold weather, but Montreal takes it to the next level with over 32 km of tunnels containing restaurants, bars, shopping malls, and even concert halls!

Summers can be very hot in Montreal. Just because it is located in Canada, doesn’t mean that temperatures don’t rise in the warm months.

Take a break from the heat in the cool underground and find some excellent deals in the shops.  Lose yourself and see where you end up in this massive complex.

3. Take in a Festival

things to do in montreal comedy festival mascot

Montreal is a city of festivals and there always seems to be something going on. Especially in the summertime.

From the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Just for Laughs Festival, and the Cirque Festival, there’s always a celebration going on.

4. Marvel at Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame a site not to be missed in Montreal

It may not be as famous as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, but it is a proud monument in Montreal.

Make sure to go inside to witness its ornate displays of religious events.

5. Hike up Mont Royal

Go for a hike for a gorgeous view of the city. Hike up the mountain to Mont Royal Park for a picnic above the city.

Mont-Royal isn’t only a park, it’s a trendy neighbourhood of Montreal offering great dining and shopping.

6. Eat a Fix Prix Meal

Montreal Summertime Prix Fixe
Don’t miss out on a Prix Fixe meal!

While you are up at Mont Royal head over to Rue Rachel and have a fantastic 5 course dinner at Apres Le Jour.

Make sure to bring your own bottle of wine! You can find restaurants all over Montreal where diners can bring their own bottle of fine wine to enjoy while eating their set meal.

Experience French Cuisine at its finest without having to think very hard about what you are going to eat. Just pick a selection off of each course and enjoy as the staff pours your wine and keeps the food coming.

7. Crescent Street

Head out for some Montreal nightlife on Crescent St.

Go out on the town for some dining and dancing on Montreal’s most vibrant street.

This is where the kids and party-goers hang out. Montreal is famous for its nightlife in Canada and here is where you will find it.

The drinking age in Montreal is 18 years old, so you will find a lot of Americans and youth from neighboring Ontario coming over to enjoy an early drink.

Village au Pied-du-Courant – A fun and colorful man-made beach and community spot near the water that pops up in the summer, only a short walk from the Village. Puts on events, concerts, and outdoor movies throughout the summer. 

Quartier Latin and Gay Village Self-Guided Tour – If you’re more of an independent traveler, this self-guided walking tour takes you around two important and diverse neighborhoods – the Latin Quarter and the Gay Village. 

8. Hire a Handsome Cab

A Handsome Cab is a fun way to see Montreal!

Montreal is the city of love.  Known as a calèche in Quebec, this horse and carriage ride is a must for couples in love.

Like Paris, Montreal is Canada’s city of romance.  There is nothing more romantic than hiring a horse and carriage to take you through the cobblestone streets to enjoy the cities historical buildings.

What I love about the horses in Montreal is how healthy and happy they are.  We have seen a driver stop in the middle of a tour to give his horse some water and a break to cool off on a hot day.

9. Take a Cruise on the St. Lawrence

Take a Cruise on the St Lawrence River

From the Old Port in Old Montreal, hop a riverboat to view Montreal from the St. Lawrence River.

It is a romantic and relaxing way to enjoy the city.  Different companies offer brunch, dinner, and site seeing cruises daily.

There is even a tour that offers an exciting ride through a Jet boat tour through the Lachine rapids.

The St. Lawrence River is Canada’s main waterway shared with the United States, you will be sailing on one of the most important trade routes in the world.

10. Spend an afternoon at the waterfront

Montreal is the birth place of Cirque de Soliel!

Pathways and parks line the waterfront.  Rent yourself a quadracycle to explore the area or bring your inline skates.

You can bring a picnic lunch or enjoy a famous Montreal bagel.  Catch an afternoon performance of Cirque de Soleil (Montreal is where it was founded) or enjoy the most recent Imax movie before heading for dinner at one of the many restaurants.

Montreal is filled with exciting and interesting things to do.

Head out of the city for excellent hiking, mountain biking and paddling.  The Laurentian Mountains are a hop skip and a jump from Montreal and are an adventure seekers dream destination.

11. Rent a bicycle

Rent a bicycle, A Great way to see the Montreal

Montreal is a very bike friendly city. Like many European cities, you can rent a bike with the swipe of a credit card and start exploring.

You can then drop your bike off at any other rental location with are many and easy to find.

Make sure to ride along the Lachine Canal a 14 km cycling, inline skating and walking route starting just west of the Old Port.  There are bike lanes and bike paths everywhere and cyclists are a plenty in the active city of Montreal.

Enjoy Montreal’s Urban Spaces

Laurier Park – Another expansive urban park in the neighborhood that is the perfect spot for a picnic, or a stroll under the shady trees. There are plenty of take-away restaurants and beautiful architecture on the streets nearby.

Parc Lafontaine – An 84-acre urban park with ponds, leafy paths, outdoor swimming pools in the summer, and an outdoor ice skating rink in the winter. 

Lachine Canal – 14.5 kilometer canal that runs from the Old Port to Lake Saint-Louis. Rent a bike from one of the local bike stands and have a beautiful ride along the canal. 

Visit Montreal’s Museums

Château Ramezay- Located in a former governor’s residence, this museum explores 500 years of history in Quebec and Montreal through various exhibits, artifacts, and artwork. 

Pointe-à-Callière – Montreal’s archeology and history museum – Thought of as one of the best museums in the city, and a good place to get an in-depth overview of the lengthy history of Montreal. 

Montreal Science Centre – Located in the Old Port, an interactive science and technology museum for kids and adults. It also houses an IMAX theatre. 

Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) – Located on the Place des Festival, MAC was Canada’s first contemporary art museum. 

Montreal Museum of Fine Art – The largest museum in Montreal, showcasing 41,000 works of art that spans centuries and a variety of different cultures, from ancient to modern. 

Beyond the Bike Lanes – This tour shows you why Montreal is one of the best biking cities in North America through local hangouts and sights that span different neighborhoods, starting from the Plateau. 

Best Day Trips from Montreal

Places to Visit in Ottawa

Montreal is s located near some excellent day trip locations. While I would recommend spending a day or two in each of the below, if you have limited time, you can get to them in a couple of hours and see the highlights.

Mont Tremblant – It’s Montreal’s outdoor playground. With world class skiing, endless hiking trails and fantastic cuisine, there is plenty to do in Mont Tremblant for the outdoor Lover. Read all about our tips for visiint Mont Tremblant.

Ottawa – Only two hours from Montreal, pop into to Canada’s Capital City to see the parliament buildings, the views of Gatineau and take a cruise on the Rideau Canal.

Îles-de-Boucherville National Park is closer to home and is a great place to get out and see nature. This chain of islands is great for outdoor adventures like hiking and canoeing in the summer or snowshoeing and cross country skiing in the winter.

Quebec City – Just two and a half hours from Montreal, Quebec City is Canada’s most European city. It is Montreal to the nth degree. While I recommend staying overnight,

Read More Montreal Travel Tips

For more information on other Canadian Cities, read our other city guides

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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7 thoughts on “The Very Best Things to do in Montreal”

  1. Summer looks like an beautiful time in Montreal. I’m still waiting to sample the authentic Poutine in Montreal!
    .-= Migration Mark´s last blog ..Kota Kinabalu’s Phenomenal Market =-.

  2. Montreal is one of the most fun cities in North America. I love Old Montreal. It’s been way too long since I have been there. Thanks for the post it brought back great memories.

  3. I adore Montreal – one of my favorite cities! I’ve only ever been there in the winter time though, and it was SO cold I spent most of the time shopping in the underground mall. I’ll definitely have to get up there in the summer one of these years…..sooner I hope rather than later!
    .-= Trisha Miller´s last blog ..TBEX10 Conference Recap =-.

  4. it’s been a looooong time since I visited Montreal…miss it. Should try to go this summer!
    .-= jen laceda´s last blog ..The Slow Road to Home =-.

  5. I love Montreal and visit every summer for the Jazz Festival, I’m actually sad I’m missing it this weekend because I’m in Central America – I know boo hoo for me.

    One other thing I’d recommend if you’re there on a Sunday is the drumfest the locals go to. I wrote about it a while back and you can find the info here:
    .-= ayngelina´s last blog ..Nicaragua’s take on tamales =-.