The Very Best Things to do in Montreal, Canada

Written By: The Planet D

Looking for things to do in Montreal? Keep reading, because we’ve got you covered. Montreal is one of Canada’s most romantic and beautiful cities. This remarkable urban centre is home to the highest population of French-speaking people outside of France creating a certain European vibe that can only be found in French Canada. Now that border restrictions are starting to ease, we can all dream again about visiting our friends and neighbours.

Note: Some activities may be affected by Covid-19. Check with each attraction for opening hours and activities. Things are constantly changing as Quebec and Canada move into different stages of Covid so be sure to check the Government Website for rules and regulations before you go.

A long weekend in Montreal is the perfect getaway in Canada and now that Canadian provincial borders are opening up, here are a few things that will help you to occupy your time while visiting this relaxed French-speaking city this summer.

Best Things to do in Montreal, Canada

best things to do in montreal map
Get your map of the best things to do in Montreal

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 to explore the waterfront, and grand historic buildings have stood the test of time.

Mark Twain once called Montreal, “The City of a Hundred Steeples” and it’s clear to see why once you arrive. There are more than 650 churches in Montreal. The old cathedrals are the cornerstone of French culture and site seeing. With its European flare and old-world charm there are so many things to do in Montreal, you won’t want to leave.

1. Explore the History of Old Montreal 

Old Montreal at night

Exploring Old Montreal is about taking your time and enjoying the moment. We may not be able to fly to Europe yet this summer, so pretend you are in Europe while you peruse the streets of Old Montreal. Slow down and take in the vibes. All you have to worry about now is enjoying your café au lait with a soft croissant.

Le Bateau Mouche Day Cruise A good 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. 

Old Montreal Quebec Canada

Old Montreal feels as though you are in a little slice of 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 and watch street performers and musicians as you enjoy a coffee on the terrace of a fine café. Or check out the market and go shopping in one of the many boutiques in the old part of the city.

First time to Montreal? Check out Beyond the Basilica. This highly rated tour for those who want a good overview of the city, including history, architecture, art, and favourite local spots. It starts at the Basilica in Vieux-Montréal and ends in Plateau Mont-Royal. 

Looking for accommodation, check out complete guide of Where to Stay in Montreal for more information. Or check out try one of the hotels below our top three picks in the city.

  • Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Montreal – Loved staying in this historic Hotel where John Lennon and Yoko Ono had their bed in, Great location and full amenities. Our favorite places to stay in Montreal.
  • Place Bonaventure – We loved our stay here, rooftop swimming pool, excellent modern rooms, great lobby and location. One of the best hotels in Montreal.
  • Hotel Nelligan – A great stay in Old Montreal, one of the most popular hotels in Montreal for value and location.

2. Visit the underground city

Montreal can get mighty cold in the winter and very hot in the summer but that doesn’t keep people at home. Wander the halls of 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

Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal Quebec

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. See our complete of the events like Fetes de Neige in Montreal, Canada here at: Montreal Festivals – Celebrate Canada’s Coolest City

Many of Montreal’s festivals take place in the Quartier des Spectacles, the city’s main culture and entertainment district featuring outdoor events and installations year round. And a cool fact, Like Paris, France, Montreal has a Quartier Latin (Latin Quarrter) It is where you’ll find plenty of cinemas, theatres, restaurants and bars.

4. Marvel at Notre Dame Basilica

Where to stay in Montreal | Notre Dame Basilica

It may not be as famous as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, but Notre Dame Basilica it is a proud monument in Montreal. Make sure to go inside to witness its ornate displays of religious events.

Looking for some adventurous things to do in Montreal? Book a Zipline ride in the Old Port where you’ll soar over Bonsecours lagoon and zip down a 1200-foot steel cable. With your advance ticket in hand you’ll skip right to the front of the line of this popular Montreal attraction.

5. Hike up Mount Royal

Go for a hike for a gorgeous view of the city. Hike up the mountain to Mount 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. St Joseph’s Oratory

While you are up in the Mount Royal area, be sure to check out another great Montreal Basilica, St. Joseph’s Oratory. This Roman Catholic minor basilica is Canada’s largest church and is not to be missed. It has one of the largest church domes in the world and it a National Historic Site of Canada. It certainly reminds us of Sacre Couer in Paris, France and like Sacre Couer, it is one of Montreal’s most iconic landmarks.

7. Eat a Fix Prix Meal

Eating a Fix Prix Meal in Montreal

After you have explored a bit of Mount 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! One of the best things to do in Montreal is dining out. It has a passionate food culture just like they do in France.

You can find restaurants all over Montreal where diners can bring their own bottle of fine wine to enjoy while eating their Fix Prix (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.

8. Place Jacques Cartier

Place Jaques Cartier in Montreal Quebec

Gather at Place Jacques Cartier. This is the places to be in Montreal with outdoor terrasses and views of the old port it has a feel of the Montmartre area of Paris. Street performers and artists gather in the square to entertain around the Nelson Monument, a 35-metre column erected in 1809. The square was once a public market and it has kept the flower market going paying homage to the early days of the city.

9. Crescent Street

Crescent Street in Montreal Quebec

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. 

10. Take a Cruise on the St. Lawrence

From the Old Port in Vieux-Montréal, hop a riverboat to view Montreal from the St. Lawrence River to take in the views of lovely Montreal, Canada. 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. Book this St. Lawrence Sightseeing Cruise leaving from Jacques-Cartier Pier in the heart of Old Montreal as you enjoy panoramic views of the Clock Tower, Biosphère, Jacques Cartier Bridge, and Habitat 67.

11. Spend an Afternoon at the Waterfront

Montreal waterfront at night

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.

12. Rent a bicycle

Bicycle Rentals in Montreal Quebec

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. You can also book this highly rated cycling tour to see Montreal’s most popular attractions on two wheels including a ride on the Formula 1 track.

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. 

13. Hire a Handsome Cab

Handsome Cab in Montreal Quebec

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.

14. Jean Talon Market

Jean Talon Market in Montreal Canada

Follow the lead of the French and shop at the market. When in France, we love going to the market for bread and cheese, and when in Montreal, Canada, we love doing the same. Jean Talon Market dates back to 1933 and is one of the oldest markets in Montreal. Located in Little Italy it is a lovely open-air market where you can buy locally grown fruits and vegetables, Montreal smoked meats, and regional cheeses. Don’t let winter slow you down, when the weather drops, the walls go up so you can shop in warmth and comfort.

15. La Grande Roue

What city doesn’t have a giant observation wheel these days? And Montreal is no exception. Hop aboard Canada’s largest observation wheel, as you admire the city views from 60 meters in the air. The climate controlled gondolas can be ridden year round. Located in the Old Port on the St. Lawrence River, this offers beautiful views of the historic buildings and cityscapes. Get your entry ticket in advance here. It can be cancelled at anytime for full refund.

Visit Montreal’s Museums

Museums in Montreal Quebec

16. 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. 

17. Pointe-à-Callière – Montreal’s archeology and history museum

Pointe-à-Callière (aka: Montreal’s archeology and history museum) is 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. 

18. Montreal Science Centre 

Located in the Old Port, The Montreal Science Centre is an interactive science and technology museum for kids and adults. It also houses an IMAX theatre. If you have kids, this is one of the best things to do in Montreal.

19. Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal (MAC)

Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) ia Located on the Quartier des Spectacles which is the art and cultural centre of Montreal, MAC was Canada’s first contemporary art museum. 

20. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

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

St. Helen’s and Notre Dame Islands

Olympic Park’s Montreal Tower from Botanical Gardens

21. Parc Jean Drapeau

Spend a day at Parc Jean Drapeau just five minutes from downtown Montreal. It is made up of two islands Saint Helen’s Island, Notre Dame Island. The islands were the site of the Expo 67 World’s Fair and it continues to attract visitors with Six Flags La Ronde Amusement Park operating here as well as the Montreal Biosphere, Montreal Casino and the Victorian Era fortifications at Saint Helen Island Fort.

One of the most unique things to do in here is to get your bike and hop on the Circuit Gilles-Villeneauve, a 4,361-metre long car-racing track that hosts the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada. Cyclists and inline skaters take advantage of its smooth surface to do some training. There’s a great water complex and 25 km of hiking trails. Be sure to catch the Week-ends du monde which is a festival that happens every Sunday celebrating French culture and traditions through music and art.

22. Olympic Park

I love visiting Olympic parks around the world. Montreal hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics and it is still attracting visitors. Here you’ll find Olympic Stadium and the Montreal Tower, the Biodome and Olympic Pool.

Here’s a cool fact, the Biodome plus three other buildings – The Montreal Botanical Garden, Montreal Insectarium and the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium make up the largest natural science museum complex in Canada.

23. Montreal Botanical Garden (Jardin Botanique)

One of Montreal’s top attractions is the Jardin Botanique (Botanical Garden). Even if you are not a horticulture lover, this impressive garden has a beautiful Chinese garden reminiscent of the gardens in Suzhou, China complete with pagodas and rock gardens. Sprawling among 185 acres, there are an impressive  20,000 plant species on display plus 10 greenhouses to explore. Located in northern Plateau Mont-Royal in Parc Maisonneuve, Jardin Botanique is at the top of many people’s things to see in Montreal list.

Enjoy Montreal’s Urban Spaces

Relaxing at Lafontaine Park in Montreal

Montreal has many parks and quiet urban spaces. It is a big city with that small town feel where you can easily get away from it all. Sneak away and enjoy some solitude at one of the below places.

21. 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. Whenever we’re in a beautiful French city, our favourite thing to do is to slip away with a bottle of wine and have a picnic with cheese and bread to soak in the atmosphere.

22. 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. One of the best things to do in Montreal is to get outdoors and this is a great place to do it. Plenty of festivals take place here, there are outdoor concerts and it’s a great place for cycling.

23. Lachine Canal

The Lachine Canada is a 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. This National Historic Site runs between the Old Port of Montreal and Lake Saint-Louis. If you are looking for romantic things to do in Montreal, consider packing a picnic and enjoying some quiet time at one of the picnic tables along the canal.

Best Day Trips from Montreal

Day trips from Montreal Quebec

Montreal is a great central location. While visiting the city, make sure to check out some of the more popular day trips from Montreal. While I would recommend spending the night in each of the below they can be done in a day as they are only a couple of hours from the city. These are a few of our top recommendations.

Mont Tremblant

Mont Tremblant is 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 visiting 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. Ottawa is one of our favourite cities in Canada. While it can definitely be more than just a day trip, seeing its highlights can be done if you are short on time.

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 it can be done as a day trip if you want to see the highlights. Enjoy reading more about all the things to do in Quebec City.

Check out this Eastern Townships Day trip from Montreal – One of the most beautiful day trips from Montreal is to the Eastern Townships. Not many people think of this destination but this area is a popular retreat for Montreal residents. Step back in time to explore its picturesque towns in the French countryside.

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.

And these are the best things to do in Montreal, Quebec. Have you been to Montreal? What are your favourite attraction and day trips from Montreal?

Travel Planning Resources

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Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

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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6 thoughts on “The Very Best Things to do in Montreal, Canada”

  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 =-.

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  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.

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  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 =-.

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  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 =-.

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  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:

    http://www.baconismagic.ca/travel-tips/my-trio-of-travel-secrets/
    .-= ayngelina´s last blog ..Nicaragua’s take on tamales =-.

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