Montreal might have industrial roots, but the city's cultural scene is what shines today. This is a city that celebrates good food, community, and art in any form and is full of neighborhoods loaded with unique histories and endearing personalities. Just 48 hours in the City of Saints will show you exactly why the locals love it here—harsh winters and all. Here's what to do, eat, and see.
Day 1: Morning
10 a.m.: As soon as you arrive in Montreal, drop your bags at the W Montreal. With luxurious rooms, a bar that makes killer cocktails, and a central downtown location, just a few subway stops of all the major attractions, you’ll love your time here. (The direct subway access is a massive bonus if you visit during a particularly blustery winter day.) Once you’ve checked in and are ready to go, head to Old Montreal. This area includes a picturesque port, cobblestone streets, and galleries galore. For your early morning fuel, stop by Maison Christian Faure. This quaint cafe located in a 300-year-old historic building offers up everything from fresh croissants to gourmet to-go lunch boxes.
11 a.m.: On warm sunny days, you can wander around Old Port, which has zip lines, an abandoned railway that’s now a public garden, and the famous observation wheel that provides a great view of the city. During winter you can gallery-hop on Rue Saint-Paul. Make sure you check out the Phi Center, a gallery that’s quickly gaining attention for using entirely green energy. You can also visit the Pointe-à-Callière Museum, whose interactive exhibits showcase how Montreal was built. The city's first-ever sewer has been turned into an underground walkway with a fantastical video projection art piece.
Day 1: Afternoon
1 p.m.: It’s time to really learn why Montreal is a foodie destination, beyond its bagels and poutine. Rue Saint-Paul is filled with great eateries, including LOV, a vegan restaurant with a list of organic wine, and Olive & Gourmando, a local favorite. There’s always a busy lunch rush, but you’ll see that the food is well worth the wait.
2 p.m.: Take a walk through Chinatown and grab some dragon beard candy, a unique cross between halva and cotton candy. Keep walking until you reach the Quartier des Spectacles neighborhood. This is the entertainment district home of Just For Laughs Comedy Festival, the Montreal Jazz Festival, and several other open-air venues including Place des Festivals where you can view public art installations during the day and light projections at night, as well as Jardin Gamelin that hosts a full roster of free programming that’s open to everyone. If you’re looking to warm up a bit, make a stop inside the Museum of Contemporary Art that highlights Quebec based artists alongside some internationally-known names.
4 p.m.: Hop on the metro for just a few stops and arrive at Montreal’s Olympic Park, home of 1976 summer Olympics. This green space is packed with activities including the Montreal Tower, Olympic Stadium (which still hosts events), and the former Olympic pool, which has been adopted into a makeshift skate park. The grounds also include the Biodome, Insectarium, Botanical Garden, and Planetarium.
Day 1: Evening
7 p.m.: Head back towards Old Montreal for dinner. Maison St Paul specializes in champagne and will even let you saber your own bottle! There is also the famous Toqué, among the first to put Montreal on the culinary map. Its menu features Canadian twists on traditionally French dishes. After dinner, take a walk around Old Montreal and experience Cité Mémoire. Larger than life video projections on surrounding buildings tell dramatized stories loosely based on Montreal’s history. You can wander and find them on your own or download the free app, which can lead you to a connecting story.
9 p.m.: Next head to the Notre-Dame Basilica for Aura, a one-of-a-kind multimedia show in the Notre-Dame basilica. It uses light, orchestral music, and the detailed architecture of the cathedral to create an experience like no other. Before and after the show, you’ll get a chance to walk around the cathedral and see smaller video and light installations.
10 p.m.: If you’re up for a nightcap, make a stop by The Coldroom, a speakeasy where friendly bartenders craft bespoke drinks—if you can pass the “find the door” test. Wolf & Workman, a beautiful, spacious, upscale pub, or La Voûte, a cocktail bar located in an old bank vault, are also worth checking out. Still up? Head to FlyJin, an underground dinner club that turns into a raucous dance club.
Day 2: Morning
10 a.m.: The best way to recover from a big night out is a hearty breakfast. Start day two by experiencing more of Montreal’s celebrated cuisine. Réservoir is a microbrewery with a serious kitchen that is perfect for brunch or try Café Parvis for more decadent options, like breakfast pizza and a duck omelet.
11 a.m.: Once you’ve refueled and re-energized head to Mount Royal. This large park is a major hangout space for locals and students. On Sundays, you can see the tam-tams, which are drum circles scattered near the George Étienne Cartier monument. In general, the park’s laid back atmosphere is great to relax and hang out for a while—or hike to the top for a great view of downtown Montreal. If you’re short on time, there is a parking lot at the top, so you can skip the hike and still enjoy the view. If the weather doesn’t suit an outdoor activity, then check out Observatoire Place Ville Marie. This view is from the tallest building and offers you a 360-degree view of Montreal.
Day 2: Afternoon
2 p.m.: Take some time to learn more about Montreal on a tour. Dyad offers a fun scooter tour where you drive a motorized scooter around the entire city, seeing its best spots and learning about contemporary Montreal along the way. A serious favorite would be Spade & Palacio’s Beyond The Market Tour, which takes you to local vendors in the famed Jean-Talon Market as well as local eateries nearby that source from the market. You’ll get to try everything from locally brewed beer to freshly made cheese and oysters.
5 p.m.: For dinner, head to Joséphine for dinner. This restaurant boasts a cozy patio and an incredibly delicious menu of fresh seafood. Or make a more casual stop at Ma Poule Mouillée, where guests line up out the door for elevated poutines that include chicken and chorizo.
Day 2: Evening
9 p.m.: No visit to Montreal is complete without experiencing Rue St. Catherine. This street includes open-air art galleries and the "Gay Village," lined with 18,000 colorful balls. The general vibe of this neighborhood and St. Catherine is fun and lively as it’s lined with bars and terraces, making it a great spot to grab a drink and people watch. Some great options are Bar Renard, a stylish “open to all” bar that includes a tasty menu. Also, Vices & Versa boasts 40 beer taps, so no matter your preference, they’ll have a brew for you.
11 p.m.: For some late-night high jinks, head to Complexe Sky, a staple in the Gay Village. Offering everything from a sports bar to dance halls, plus jacuzzis and saunas, Complexe Sky is a definite crowd-pleaser. Last-call in Montreal is 3 a.m., but if you want to keep the party going, then make a beeline to Stereo's after hours. This dance club that focuses on techno and house music is the only establishment open past closing hours.