20 Things To Do in Montreal for the Ultimate Vacation
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More than ten million tourists visit Montreal each year, making it one of the most attractive cities in the world. The excitement in the region is mainly due to its diversity, four distinct seasons, and warm welcome and authentic food. Furthermore, Montreal is Canada's cultural capital with more than 250 theatres and concert halls, more than 90 festivals held throughout the year, and a fascinating medley of neighborhoods where artists, writers and musicians have contributed to the city's reputation. As a result, Montreal offers a touch of old-world European charm amidst its contemporary design. Here is the list of the best things to do in Montreal!
1. Climb Mount Royal and explore its surroundings
This tiny mountain, named after Montreal, is the largest point of land in the city and provides breathtaking views in all directions. Mount Royal covers 692 acres and offers a taste of the outdoors without leaving the city limits. Discovering its wooded trails, relaxing in the shade, or going cross-country skiing on its kilometer-long trails are some of the ways the mountain allows you to escape the city or enjoy its panoramic views. To cover more ground, you can take an electric bike tour with massive tires to conquer the snow!
2. Taste the authentic flavors of the Plateau Mont-Royal
This dynamic district is home to a variety of well-established Quebec and Montreal classics such as bagels, poutine, and smoked meat.
This blend of three distinct neighbourhoods - the Mile End, the Plateau, and the McGill Ghetto - is distinguished for having the best of the best; Fairmount and Saint-Viateur for their freshly baked bagels, Schwartz's for smoked meat served with cherry cola, and La Banquise for poutine served at any time of day.
3. Have some fun at Cabaret Mado
Mado Lamotte's drag cabaret is the ultimate destination for the Gay Village's majesty diva, Mado Lamotte. The cabaret is open seven days a week and has been running for more than three decades. The most fantastic drag performances can be found here for parties like none other. Each night, there is a festive parade featuring costumes, music, comedy, and dance featuring new queens, including stars from RuPaul's Drag Race. Generally, shows are in French, with Madame Mado being translated for English speakers if they request.
4. Take part in trade shows
There are a lot of street fairs up and down Main Street throughout the year. All year round, Montreal fairs offer all kinds of activities, market offers, musical performances, foods to taste, and beverages to enjoy. The most popular are in May, June, and July, when the Latin Quarter is closed to cars for the start of the terrace season at the end of May, when the Grand Prix takes place on the weekend of June 7, or when the Plateau transforms. In addition, a large section of boulevard Saint-Laurent has been designated as a pedestrian thoroughfare.
5. Participate in the sugar shack experience
A delicious source of maple syrup around Montreal, these rural treats are sometimes rustic, sometimes luxurious. Rich and sweet maple syrup is produced in the Montreal region from February to April, when the sap from maple trees is collected and boiled. Quebec is the world's largest maple syrup producer. So remember to bring some back with you as authentic Canadian maple syrup makes the best gift you can give when returning from Canada.
The underground tunnel network in the heart of the city is a veritable anthill of interconnected tunnels. In addition to direct metro access, the property is air-conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter. An entire circuit of the labyrinth is equivalent to 30 kilometres of walking, so paying just one visit is never enough. The passages connect you to restaurants, shopping centres, and tourist attractions. The underground city is one of the largest globally, owing to its about half a million daily visitors.
7. Wander the streets of Old Montreal
Its narrow cobblestone streets and foundations, established by the first settlers of New France in the 17th century, firmly tie Old Montreal to its European history. It is one of the most impressive areas in Montreal, overlooking the St. Lawrence River. It features some of Montreal's upscale restaurants, long window shopping opportunities, a few museums, historical monuments, and a host of cultural attractions.
8. Enjoy Quebec's terroir at the Jean-Talon market
The Jean-Talon Public Market, established in 1933, is home to various local producers, fishmongers, butchers, bakers, restaurateurs, and grocers.
The Jean-Talon market and other markets, such as the Atwater market, are real hubs of Montreal gastronomy. The summertime turns them into open-air spaces where one can discover and enjoy seasonal restaurant pop-ups, while wintertime brings regular merchants inside.
9. Visit the Biodôme
Reconstructions of four North American and sub-Antarctic ecosystems are found at this indoor zoo and aquarium. It was constructed originally to host the judo and bike events of the 1976 Summer Olympics and now houses thousands of animals from more than 200 species and more than 500 varieties of plants. Until the end of summer 2019, the Biodôme will be renovated, but a visit to the nearby Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium will also be delightful.
10. Watch the Habs play at the Bell Center
Take part in Montreal hockey by cheering on the local team, the Montreal Canadiens, or Inhabitants, from which "Habs" is derived, in a blue-white-red frenzy on the ice.
You can't visit Montreal without joining the thousands of fans chanting "Go Habs Go!" It's even more true when the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins come to town. Don't worry if you didn't make the ticket office on time: a dealer will always be nearby chanting slightly inflated prices for their tickets.
11. Take a stroll in the Botanical Garden
Over 190 acres of themed gardens, greenhouses, and Art Deco pavilions contain a vast collection of plants. The Botanical Garden features tens of thousands of varieties of plants. It is among the most popular attractions in the city, inviting both leisurely walks and educational tours. The space is also home to the Insectarium, a natural history museum with 95 different species of insects. It's a great place to bring the family, unlike our next spot on the list.
12. Have a party in the downtown clubs
Montreal is known for its nightlife, with DJ nights and frenzied dance floors on both sides of this central neighborhood.
Montreal boasts a reputation for being a place to go mainly due to its legal drinking age of 18, its prominent presence of college campuses within its boundaries, and its nightlife that closes at 3 a.m. almost every day of the week. It's popular to spend the evenings at clubs such as the forest restaurant and underground club Soubois, then visit Stereo after-hours to dance until the wee hours. If you are a party animal, then this is an experience you can't miss!
13. Enjoy the view from the Olympic Stadium
A multipurpose stadium built for the 1976 Summer Olympics, it is now a popular venue for sporting and sightseeing events in the city. So it's never a bad time to take the elevator up the 574-foot tilted tower and see the city from a different perspective. There are also a number of other events held at the stadium throughout the year, from diesel rallying monster trucks to soccer and baseball games on the lush green grass.
14. Cirque du Soleil performance
Montreal's internationally renowned circus company fuses traditions from across the globe. A small group of street artists started in the late 1970s but soon grew into an imposing traveling circus. In addition to its impressive costumes and its harmony between comedy, acrobatics, and storytelling, the Circus never fails to amaze. World-renowned, Cirque du Soleil tours internationally, and you can find shows in Montreal here.
15. Explore all forms of art at the Phi Center
You'll find works created by local and international artists at this multidisciplinary arts center. A variety of impressive post-modernist works are praised for their accomplished technique. A program that includes all forms of art, analogous and technological, is offered by the Phi Center in Montreal, which was founded by the same group as the DHC / ART foundation. The building features a green roof, an urban garden, and a beehive as part of the sustainability design. It doesn't matter if it appeals to your auditory, visual, tactile, olfactory or taste senses; there's always something to amaze you.
16. Finding your way around Parc Jean-Drapeau
There are 662 acres of green spaces, attractions, a Formula 1 race track, and an amusement park on these two islands. This park hosts the Canadian Grand Prix on the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit annually, which is often regarded as the starting point for some of Montreal's most imposing festivals - we think of Osheaga, Heavy MTL, and '77 Montreal. The Biosphere Environmental Museum and the La Ronde amusement park are also remnants of Expo 67. So take a walk around and see what more exciting you can discover.
17. A lighting display at the Jacques-Cartier Bridge
The bridge connecting the island of Montreal to Longueuil is illuminated by a chromatic calendar of 365 colours. When admiring the decorative lighting of the bridge, which is attached to it at the 150th anniversary of Confederation and the 375th anniversary of Montreal, you get a better sense of the distance. Regardless of whether you are on the bridge or near it, it is an excellent place to watch the International des Feux de Loto-Québec, which originated in 1985 and is one of the most prestigious things to do in Montreal.
18. Film and dinner at the Modern Cinema
Located in the Mile End, this independent cinema offers a cafe and bar to enjoy snacks and drinks while watching a movie. Thanks to a team of veterans in the cinema industry, Montreal has joined the cinematographic revolution with a cinema equipped with the best sound system and a projector. Before settling in for a carefully selected movie, you can enjoy a daytime coffee and pastries or an evening alcoholic beverage. The weekday lineup remains fresh by changing every day, and the kids' movie lineup changes on weekends, so it's one of the best things to do with the family in town.
19. Take a street art trip to Saint-Laurent
Take a stroll along Main Street or its alleys and admire the graffiti of well-known and little-known artists. As summer begins, the heart of boulevard Saint-Laurent, between boulevard de Maisonneuve, to the south, and Rue Saint-Viateur, to the north, see a lot of artists letting loose with their paintbrushes. Their spectators fill up at their food markets and on their enlarged terraces during street festivals. They create impressive pieces of art that remain for the rest of the year.
Every Sunday in summer, this outdoor festival takes place around the Georges-Étienne Cartier monument at Mount Royal's base. From May to September, a vast circle of drums sifted through pot smoke surrounds the Winged Fame Statue. The lawn is filled with slackliners, role-playing battles, diverse individuals, and positive vibes, along with a lot of fun and laughter. It is open to everyone and is quite an entertaining thing to do in Montreal.
Most likely, you will arrive at the Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, about 20 km from the city centre, unless you're driving into the city. The following options are available for reaching the centre:
The Lionel Groulx metro station is 25-35 minutes (one-stop) away by bus or shuttle. There are two metro lines in the downtown area. The service is available from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. You can reach the city centre by shuttle bus (747) or 747 bus (11 stops) in 45 to 70 minutes for a night landing. Continuous service is available.
Though it is the easiest solution, it is not likely to be the most cost-effective. You will be directed to the taxi corresponding to your destination once you exit the airport.
The car rental services are ideal if you plan to travel independently through Montreal (and its surroundings).
Where to stay in Montreal?
Montreal has an excellent public transportation system, so there are plenty of accommodations to choose from. You can choose between hotels, vacation apartments, hostels, and Airbnbs. Those who want to be close to tourist attractions will enjoy Old Montreal and the Village. You can get closer to the Mont-Royal, Sherbrooke, and Berri-Uquam metro stations if you like to go out at night. A stay in Little Italy or Côte-des-Neiges is the best way to experience Montreal to the fullest.
We hope this helps you find things to do in Montreal, and we wish you a great and safe holiday in the heritage-filled city!