12 Best Things to Do in Montreal, Canada

Montreal, named after Mt. Royal, which is a hill at its center, is one of the best cities to visit in Canada. It's located on an island in the Saint Lawrence River in the Québec province. What's so engaging about the city is that it still holds its 18th-century charm. In the old town Vieux-Montréal, meandering down cobblestone streets. Due to its French influence, visitors say it feels very European.

Montreal, is overall ranked the most beautiful travel destination and perfect place due to it's unique architecture and designs full of european vibe. Montreal is home to world famous nightlife, parties and festivals with a taste of french style. However, although Montreal is large, dynamic, beautiful city with loads of hidden treasures (including a secret museum and a hidden excavation to the past) it’s also fairly compact and it’s fairly easy to get around.

If you are looking for a city to enjoy the good things in life in the best possible way, there would be no better place than Montreal. Montreal features an interesting art scene, an explosion of indie rock, as well as a combination of boutique hotels and elegant restaurants.

Apart from the second largest city in Canada, it is also the country's cultural capital. Part of the Quebec Province, Montreal can be called the French part of Canada. If you have ever been to France, you would surely recognize the cool, laid-back attitude reflected in the people and air of Montreal. There is a Parisian atmosphere on the terraces of its Quartier Latin.

Mount Royal, Old Montreal, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal Botanical Garden, La Fontaine Park, are some of the must-visit places in the city. However, while sightseeing in Montreal is truly a pleasure, what most people look forward to when visiting this city is its arts and cultural side.

With more than 250 theater and dance companies and around 100 festivals, there is no chance of getting bored in the city with so many things to do in Montreal with kids. There is the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, and an old port that has been converted into a park and recreational area.

One of the most popular festivals is the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. The Montreal Jazz Festival takes place during 11 days at the end of June. If Canada is on your bucket list, make sure you don't miss out on Montreal. With its breathtaking scenery, mouthwatering food, and inspiring arts, there's so much to see and do in Montreal.

Best Things to Do in Montreal

So what is there to do in Montreal? A whole lot! Here's a sample of what's on offer:

Nature in Montreal
Montreal spreads across 431.5 km². As such, there are some beautiful parks and gardens to visit:

1. Mount Royal

Get away from the “Anglos” for a while and explore this mostly French-Canadian neighbourhood with shops and restaurants, plus its right next to residential streets in the typical Montreal style of duplexes, triplexes and quadriplexes with exterior stairways.

Climb the hill (or at least take the bus to the observation area) and get the city’s best views in a park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (Who also did Central Park in New York). If you’re afraid of the slopes, no problem. Olmsted designed a long winding path that’s easy to walk or bike up if you don’t mind the distance.

Probably the most quintessentially French neighbourhood in Montreal with shops, tightly packed houses and places to eat. Maybe you should visit it on day 1 because, as the name implies, it’s right next to Mont Royal. Great place for lunch. Mind you, don’t expect anyone up here to speak much English.

It’s a hike to get to the top, but you can take a bus east from Mont-Royal Metro station which stops at one of the observation posts. The view is spectacular because Montreal forbids buildings taller than the “mountain” and the landscape to the south is fairly flat.

2. Mount Royal Park

Situated on a triple-peak hill that towers 761 m over the city, Mount Royal Park is how Montreal got its name. An excursion up the mountain will have you encountering picnickers, joggers, bicyclists, and dog walkers. During the months when it isn't iced over, you can rent a rowboat for a trip across Lac des Castors (Beaver Lake). For those feeling energetic, it's worth climbing the steep staircase for an incredible view of the city

3. Montreal Botanical Garden

Maybe not the best one in Canada (that would be Bouchart Gardens in Victoria), but a wonderful collection of plants in a surreal environment. This 190-acre botanical garden contains more than 22,000 different species of flowers. It has 10 large, specific-themed, greenhouses.

Visit a Japanese Bonsai garden, a tribute to the Ming Dynasty, an Alpine garden, and a Rose garden, to name a few. The Insectarium is home to over 250,000 types of insects. This is perfect for nature lovers. While in the neighbourhood, visit Olympic Stadium and the Biodome.

Eating in Montreal
Apart from all these things, Montreal is a haven for food lovers. It offers the best food scenes not just in Canada but in the whole of North America. There are late night eateries, hipster bars, English pubs, tempting patisseries, delis, enormous food markets and countless cafes.

Québec, especially Montréal, has a unique culinary history with influences from France, England, Kosher, New York specifically, Portugal, Eastern Europe, Italy and so on. It’s the most Internationalized city in North America, and the food culture reflects it. The one especially unique food dish in Québec (besides maple syrup), is Montréal Smoked Meat, especially from the classic Schwartz’s Deli.

While there’s all sorts of cousins to this sandwich, namely a Hot Pastrami from any NYC or Jewish Deli, the spicing and preparation of the Smoked meat has made this a phenomenon that is often attempted to be duplicated but just can’t get it exactly right.

4. Sugar Shacks in Parc Jean-Drapeau

The province of Quebec is the largest producer of maple syrup in the world. From February to April, the sap from maple trees is boiled down to become the sweetest topping for pancakes and ice cream imaginable. During these months, restaurants that are known as 'Sugar Shacks' feature the best ways to consume this delicacy. Don't leave without trying one out.

5. Marché Atwater

An indoor/outdoor market with fresh produce and fine foods. A great indoor outdoor market in a wonderful piece of architecture. The nice thing is there are several similar markets in the city. As an alternative, you might also check out Jean Talon which is more central. However, Atwater has unique architecture. After the market, walk a little towards the Lachine Canal for a nice walk.

6. Jean-Talon Market

Serving Montreal since 1933, this farmer's market is famous for charcuterie and cheeses of Quebec. During the summer months, pop-up restaurants appear offering that season's best local produce. These stalls are perfect places to try the delicacies produced in the state.

Museums in Montreal
Like most major cities, Montreal has some incredible museums. From classic buildings showcasing famous works of art to locations with a more modern concept, there's something for everyone.

7. McCord Museum

Don’t overlook this tiny little place. Inside, there are permanent exhibits of First Nations artifacts as well as temporary exhibits that change every few months. When I was there they had a unique collection of magic show posters, an exhibit on fashion at Expo ‘67, and a retrospective of the Montreal political cartoonist Aislin.

8. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Montreal’s nicest museum. Before dropping in, Chinatown is nearby for lunch, and the stretch of St. Catherine in front of it is pedestrian only. In the alternative, there are some other museums in the city if fine art isn’t your thing.

The Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal is home to works by some of the most famous international artists like Picasso, Renoir, Rembrandt, Cézanne, and El Greco. There's even a permanent exhibition of furniture designed by Frank Gehry. The cost to enter is less than $20 per adult.

Saint-Catherine Street is Montreal’s main street with shopping, plus a lot of magnificent church architecture thrown in at no extra charge. Lots to do along its entire length with English being dominant at the west end and French at the east end. Spend the rest of the day here - it’s generally open late. It’s also entirely within both main subway lines. St. Catherine is also the heart of Montreal’s Underground City, the RESO, which stretches for miles.

That’s not to say there aren’t other attractions in the city - specialty museums, a casino, a giant ferris wheel, live music, festivals, you name it. Best in summer but there are things to do all year round. During nice weather, Montrealers are outdoors in force so you just have to follow the crowds. The neighbourhood around the museum is a car free zone with frequent performances and massive chess boards. It’s close to Chinatown too.

9. Barbie Expo

For Barbie doll enthusiasts, this free exhibit at the Les Cours Mont-Royal shopping center claims to have the world's most extensive collection of over 1000 Barbies. Many of the dolls have had dresses designed for them by world-renowned fashionistas, such as Vera Wang, Christian Dior, Oscar de la Renta, Armani, and Bill Blass.

Walking Tours in Montreal

10. Notre-Dame Basilica

Avoid the more touristy parts with shops and restaurants and feel free to explore the buildings and the waterfront. While nearby, check out Notre Dame Basilica the Place des Armes and the Old Port. Wandering around a city is one of the best ways to really experience all that it has to offer.

You could meander around on your own, but if you want some education and a little history, consider a walking tour. Tours are themed. If art and culture are what you seek, take a museum or art gallery tour. Food lovers can enjoy guided gastronomic adventures. For those of you who like to be scared, don’t miss out on the ghost tour.

One of the greatest ways to explore a city is to do it on your own. Tours are great, but for total independence, self-driving is the way to go. Renting a car is easy, provided you have a valid driver's license. A handy tip from the team at Globe car and truck rental is that hiring a vehicle during the week is cheaper than on weekends. Don't forget to rent yourself a car and explore the areas that the guidebooks don't tell you about.

11. Lachine Canal

In the past few years it’s been made a national historical site and has been re-opened to recreational traffic for the first time since it was closed in 1959. The Old Port is at one end too and it’s worth visiting, as is the Atwater Market which is quite close to it. It’s a lovely walk and an excellent bike ride, and there are several places showing it’s history as the main industrial heart of the city up to the 1950s.

Party in Montreal

12. Saint Laurent Boulevard

Montreal is a very cosmopolitan city and has some of the top nightlife experiences in all of Canada, so you won’t be short of things to do once the sun goes down. If you want to party, Montreal is your best choice, and you can brush up on your French. Created and hosted by Montreal diva Mado Lamotte, Cabaret Mado has been entertaining locals and visitors alike for over thirty years. Fans of Ru Paul’s Drag race will be thrilled to see some of their favorite contestants making surprise visits on occasion.

If drinking and dancing is your poison, you must visit L’Axe du Mal, the Axis of Evil. The intersection of Saint-Denis Street and Mont-Royal Avenue has four clubs that provide the ultimate bar-hopping experience. Each club has a different musical offering; live indie, techno, disco, and live rock can all be found here.
Kalyan Panja