Whether you have a day or a long weekend Montreal makes for an amazing weekend trip.
I am a weekend warrior so I am always looking for cities to visit close to home. I cannot explain why it took me so long but I finally got a chance to spend a weekend in Montreal. It's always been on my places to visit and my friends talk about it all the time but for some reason, I never made any plans to visit. Well, that has changed. We decided to go on a road trip and it was awesome.
Getting to Montreal
If you live in New York City or anywhere in the North East, a weekend in Montreal is a great idea. The flight to Montreal is just over an hour and a half. However, it is also six-hour drive from New York City. When you add up the time it takes to fly (getting to the airport, security, the flight and then getting to your destination) it is almost the same thing.
Since we were going for a long weekend driving made the most sense for us. We had a plan to make a few stops on our way back. This included a trip into the mountains for wine and hiking as well which was a log of fun. We also loved having our car so we could explore outside of Montreal.
What is there to do in Montreal?
But you're probably wondering. What's there to do in Montreal. Well don't you worry. I got you. There is plenty to do. You like hiking. I got you. You like sightseeing. I got you. What about music? I got you. Oh wait and did someone say FOOD!!! Montreal is truly a foodie's paradise.
But before we get started on how to spend the perfect weekend in Montreal let's get the “Need to Know” stuff out of the way.
What do you need to know before visiting Montreal?
Is Montreal Expensive to Visit?
Montreal is relatively inexpensive. However, just like any city it really depends on what you are you looking to see and do. You can definitely splurge on hotels and restaurants. However, there are so many free things to do. And cheap eats galore.
Whatever your budget you are sure to find something that works for you. For example, our most expensive meal while visiting was $30 USD for two people. However, keep in mind that if you are near the touristy areas or are looking at higher-end dining options then you may spend more. You definitely do not have to though.
Is Montreal safe?
During our time in Montreal we felt very safe anywhere we went. Even at night, we didn't feel uncomfortable. However, it is always important to be aware at all times. Similar to any city you might visit it is important to be vigilant. Be mindful of your belongings. Don't leave things in a place that someone can easily grab it. Pay attention to what you're doing at all times. A distracted tourist is easy prey for someone that wants to do harm.
And always trust your instinct. If something doesn't feel right chances are that it is not. So you should do what you need to remove yourself from that place or situation.
What is the best time of year to visit Montreal?
The spring and the fall are the best times of year to visit Montreal. In the spring the temperatures start to warm up and everything comes to life. Bonus also. Hotel rooms are usually cheaper this time of year as it is just before the summer season so not as many people are visiting.
Fall is also an excellent time to visit Montreal. If for anything else other than the beautiful fall foliage. Taking a hike up Mont Royal is truly magical in the fall as you're surrounded by all the yellow, reds and oranges of the season.
Do you need Canadian dollars in Montreal?
Yes. You need Canadian Dollars when visiting Montreal. Most places take credit cards (just make sure to call your credit card company in advance to notify them that you will be traveling and also to double-check any potential international fees). We paid for almost everything with our cards. However, we kept a few Canadian dollars on hand just in case.
Things to do in a weekend in Montreal
Whether you have 1, 2 or 3 days in Montreal there is plenty to keep you busy. It is quite easy to spend a whole week in Montreal however you can really get a nice taste of the city even if you are only visiting for a day. And I promise. You will most likely want to go back.
I am just warning you.
Montreal Itinerary: 1 Day
Only have a day in Montreal. No problem. Here are some things to do if you only have a day in Montreal.
Try a Bagel
Being from New York City the idea of eating a bagel anywhere else is just crazy. But we were told we had to try the Bagels so we listened and we did.
Some of the most highly recommended places to get a bagel are St. Viateur Bagels and Fairmont Bagels.
Since we were hungry for a little bit more we opted to check out Bagel Etc. I would definitely recommend this place. It is very popular and you may have to wait but well worth it. They have a full menu so if you're looking for a little something more than just a bagel this is a great stop. I thought it was just a bagel place but it definitely isn't. It is definitely the place to go if you are looking for a filling breakfast.
And about the bagel. They are like nothing you ever had before. And this is coming from a die-hard New York bagel lover.
Go on a Walking Tour of Old Montreal
After breakfast head to Old Montreal. We opted to do our own Self-Guided Tour. You can try this one from Frommers as we found it covered all the spots we wanted to see. You can do it at your own pace, and it is free (except for any admissions fees). I am a budget traveler so I am a huge fan of DIY tours. I usually will look for podcasts or self-guided tours like what is on Frommer's.
Feel free to pick and choose what you want to see. We followed the tour as is and ended in Old Port
Visit Old Port
Old Port is a destination within itself. And you can easily spend an entire day. In the summer you can go ziplining, ride the Ferris Wheel and even rent a pedal boat. In the winter you can go ice skating and even snow tubing.
If you're feeling a bit sore after you long walk then consider checking out Bota Bota. This floating spa is the perfect way to start or end your day. Get a bite to eat, enjoy a massage or take a dip in one of the outdoor whirlpools with amazing views of Montreal.
And for the most important thing you need to do before leaving Montreal….
Eat all the Poutine
One of our first stops in Montreal was Patati Patata for poutine. It was so yummy. We weren't even unpacked before we were ready to dig in. If you google places for poutine a million will come up. This is how I found this place (and it was right around the corner from our AirBnb). I would suggest checking in to your place and then doing a search “around me” in google. I have found it is usually better than blindly googling places to eat. Some other places that were recommended by friends for Poutine are Poutineville and La Banquise.
Montreal Itinerary: 2 Days
Today we are starting the day with a little hike. Don't worry. You can do it.
Mont-Royal is a mountain situated right in the city of Montreal. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. If the name sounds familiar it is because he is the same person that designed New York City's Central Park.
The park is roughly 692 acres and is a playground for residents and visitors of Montreal year-round. In the winter you can go sledding and tubing. In the summer you will see people hiking, walking, running and cycling.
If the weather is in your favor it is highly recommended to do that hike to the top of Mont-Royal. Here you will find some of the best views of Montreal.
The hike itself takes about 45 minutes. There are a lot of stairs though. So prepare to get a bit of a workout. It is well worth it though. When you get to the top the views are phenomenal.
Explore Plateau Mont-Royal
Once you're done with your hike it is time to explore one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Montreal. Plateau Mont-Royal. Here you will be treated to some of the most beautiful architecture this side of the world. Spend an hour a two wandering and taking it all in. You will not be disappointed.
Check out the Street Art in Mile End
Once you got your fill of the architecture it is time to head over to the Mile End where you will find some of the best street art in Montreal. The Mile End neighborhood is extremely trendy. After admiring the street art pop into one of the many cafes or bars in the area for a refreshment. You're going to need it after all that walking you have been doing.
Montreal Itinerary: 3 Days
If you have three days in Montreal it is time to check out some of the other things you may have missed or didn't have time to see during the last two days. If you still have some time to burn here are some other things to check out.
Montreal Botanical Gardens
Recognized as one of the greatest Botanical Gardens in the World and one of the largest in Canada you can easily spend an entire day exploring the Botanical Garden. There is so much to see and do. With hundreds of species of plants from around the world, you will be transported to another place. It is hard to believe the Botanical Gardens are just a few minutes away from downtown Montreal.
Montreal Tower Observatory
If the views from Mont-Royal were not enough then it's time to head over to the Montreal Tower Observatory. Towering over 400 feet at a 45-degree angle the Montreal Tower is a sight to be seen. Whether you visit the Observatory or just come to admire this amazing piece of architecture it is surely a win-win.
Jean Talon Market
Feeling a little hungry? Then it is time to head to Little Italy where you will find Jean Talon Market. One of the largest open-aired markets in North America this is a must-visit when visiting Montreal. This is a great place for lunch. If the weather is nice grab goodies for a picnic. Or stock up on goodies for a dinner back in your AirBnb.
Canal De Lachine
Once you had your fill it is time to work off that amazing lunch at Canal De Lachine. This oasis in the city is a great place to walk, jog or cycle. In the summer you can kayak in the canal as well.
If you are still hungry then check out one of the many restaurants nearby or head on over to Atwater Market, another great market in Montreal.
After spending a weekend in Montreal consider heading to the West Coast and spend a long weekend in Vancouver. With so much to see and do you will not be disappointed.
Where to Stay in Montreal
During our long weekend, we stayed at an AirBnb in Le Plateau-Mont Royal. It was mostly residential however there were a lot of bars and restaurants within walking distance. It was also within walking distance to Mont Royal which was excellent for early morning walks.
If you are looking for something quieter and relatively inexpensive then I would definitely recommend checking out this neighborhood.
Where to Stay in Le Plateau-Mont Royal
Hotels in the Pleateau neighborhood seem to be cheaper and most include breakfast which is a great money saver. Here are some Places to consider:
Hotel de l'ITHQ-rates include breakfast
Armor Manoir Sherbrooke-rates include breakfast
Where to Stay in Old Port/Old Montreal
For most visiting Montreal for the first time the area near the Old Port and Old Montreal is ideal as it is close to most of the must-visits. Hotels in this area are a bit pricier however I tried to keep options on the budget-friendly. Here are some options in this area.
Where to Eat in Montreal
It would be way shorter to just list what not to eat. Montreal is truly a foodies paradise and because of this, I have highlighted some of our faves as well as some places that have come recommended by friends. I've also snuck in a few drink spots as well.
Le Red Tiger-Vietnamese. Located in Gay Village
Le Bon Vivant-Can be a bit pricey but excellent eats
Escondite-Great Mexican, Reservations Recommended
Getting Around Montreal
There is no need to rent a car when visiting Montreal. It actually would be a bit of a pain as parking can be expensive.
Depending on where you choose to be your home base, Montreal is very walkable. You will most likely want to explore on foot to admire the architecture, discover cafe's and restaurants and really just immerse yourself in the Montreal culture.
For those that want another option, Montreal has a bike share which makes it very convenient to get around.
Finally the Montreal's Public Transit system called SMT is an excellent way to get from multiple destinations in and around Montreal. Rides are $3.50 however a day pass is $10 for unlimited rides.
If you are there for the day and expect to take at least 3 rides I would recommend the day pass.
If you are going to there for a few days the 3 day pass is $19.50 and is a great deal if expect to take at least 2 rides a day.
There is even a shuttle for the airport. The 747 shuttle runs 24/7 and it is a quick, easy and inexpensive way to get into Montreal from the airport. Rides are only $10 which is perfect for solo travels that do not want to spend on a taxi.
What is there to do in Montreal at night?
As the sun starts to set the party is just starting in Montreal. There is plenty to keep you occupied into the wee hours of the night.
In the spring and summer there are a number of festivals to attend. You will find that most people visiting during this time is very well there for a festival. One of the best is the Jazz Festival.
Going to Jazz Fest
If you ever get an opportunity to visit Montreal during Jazz Fest you MUST go. It is soo much fun. They have a ton of free concerts all over and it makes for an amazing night. The first time we went it was so amazing we forgot to eat dinner oops!!.
There are a number of stages where you can hear live acts. There are also paid performances as well but if you are on a budget there are plenty of free shows to keep you occupied.
In addition to the music you will find vendors where you can grab yummy eats and even beer and wine.
My tip for you is t0 plan ahead. Get there early and grab a seat at one of the cafe's. I would highly recommend checking out one of the many SAQ Bistros that are available throughout. We found one near the main stage, ordered a bottle of wine or two or three, cheese and had the perfect view once the concerts started. It was really one big party.
Visit a Jazz Club
If you don't get to visit Montreal during Jazz Fest there are still plenty of venues where you can enjoy amazing live jazz acts. One that comes highly recommended, Upstairs Jazz Club
The Upstairs Jazz Club is a fave so make sure to get there early. There is a cover that is relatively reasonable. You can visit their website to see their schedule. They serve drinks as well as bites which makes it a great spot to listen to live Jazz music.
Check Out a Comedy Club
You will be surprised by the number of comedy clubs there are in Montreal. Here are a few to consider:
Just for Laughs-Comedy Festival in the summer. A must visit with both free and paid performances.
Have drinks on a Terrasse
When the weather is nice there is no better place to hang than an outdoor Terrace. Here are some favorites by locals and visitors alike.
Terrasse St-Ambroise-Only Open in the Summer
Go to the Spa
If you are looking for a more chill evening then check out Bota Bota. Located in Old Port and boasting amazing views of Montreal this is a great way to spend the evening. The Spa is open until 10pm so you can go around sunset and have a couple of hours to enjoy.
Is 3 days enough in Montreal?
I love Montreal and cannot wait to visit again. I am actually dreaming of Poutine right now. Have you been to Montreal? What did you love about it? Tell me about your experience because I am planning on going again and would love some recommendations.
See you in Montreal.
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