Your Trip to Montreal: The Complete Guide

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TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

Montreal is one of those multifaceted cities that offers something for everyone. From an incredible food scene and buzzing nightlife, to myriad museums and art galleries to vibrant greenspaces and unique architecture, there’s always something interesting to see and do in the city. Whether you want to shop, bar-hop, or simply explore Montreal’s diverse neighborhoods, it won’t be hard to figure out how to spend your visit. For anyone thinking of planning a trip, read on for tips and information on the best attractions and activities, how to get around, where to stay, and what to eat and drink.

Planning Your Trip

Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit Montreal is typically in the spring (mid-April and May) or during the fall (September to early November). At these times, you'll likely find fewer crowds, cheaper accommodations, and the best weather for sightseeing as it is neither too hot nor too cold. Do keep in mind that winters in Montreal can be very cold.

Language: Montreal has one of the largest French-speaking populations in the world. Nevertheless, visitors to Montreal can get by easily only speaking English. Although it is handy to have a few words in French such as greetings.

Currency: The currency used in Montreal is the Canadian dollar (CAD).

Getting Around: Montreal’s metro (subway) system makes for an efficient means of getting around. There are four lines connecting the downtown centre to major tourist sites, bus stops and train stations. The public transit network consists of 68 metro stops and 220 bus lines. The city is also very walkable (weather permitting), which makes getting around on foot another good option.

Travel Tip: Passport MTL comes in two-day and three-day versions and gives you access to close to 30 Montréal attractions and unlimited public transportation; it makes for a good way to save money on entrance fees.

Place Jacques-Cartier in Montreal
TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

Things to Do

Montreal’s world-renowned food scene will be a big draw for those looking to sample some of the city’s best dishes, whether from a tiny bistro tucked down a charming side street, a food truck, gastropub, or fine dining establishment. Anyone interested in spending time outdoors will enjoy the many parks and green spaces that abound in the city as well as the Montreal Botanical Garden. Or head below the streets into the “Underground City” to explore the vast network of pedestrian walkways beneath the city where you’ll find shops, eateries and access to transit.

Go back in time in Old Montreal: A visit to Old Montreal is a must for anyone visiting the city. Even if you don’t have an agenda, just meandering the scenic cobblestone streets is a worthwhile endeavor on its own. You’ll see centuries-old buildings blending seamlessly with trendy bistros and cute cafes and you can easily spend half a day exploring.

Do some shopping along Sainte-Catherine Street: From major department stores to funky boutiques, there is a lot to shop for on Sainte-Catherine Street. From west to east, it stretches 9 miles across the city. Spend an afternoon strolling, visiting shops, people-watching, and making stops at ay of the many cafes and restaurants in the area.

Explore the Old Port: Montreal’s Old Port features a range of things to see and do, making it a great area to spend an afternoon or even a whole day. During the warmer months, relax under a parasol at Clock Tower Beach, rent a paddleboat, or take a boat cruise along the St. Lawrence. You’ll also find plenty of options for food and drink at the various cafes, bars, and food trucks. Old Port is also where you’ll find the Montreal Science Centre and its IMAX theatre, and in the winter, take advantage of the outdoor skating rink.

Hang out in Parc du Mont-Royal: No matter what time of year you visit Montreal, you’ll find something to do at Parc du Mont-Royal. The park is popular among walkers, joggers, and bikers as well as picnickers in the spring and summer. While in the winter, you can enjoy the skating rink and sledding slope or do some snowshoeing. Also known as “the mountain” to locals, you can hike or bike to the summit for lovely views.

Check out our full length articles on the best things to do in downtown Montreal, the best attractions in Old Montreal, and where to go shopping in Montreal.

Where to Eat and Drink

Montreal’s culinary influences are wide ranging and go well beyond classic French fare. You can find almost anything you might be craving here, such as Middle Eastern, Thai, elevated Quebecois dishes, and nearly everything in between. Despite the exciting diversity, there are a few things to seek out in terms of food while you’re in the city. First up, poutine: that gooey, delicious mess of French fries, gravy and squeaky cheese curds. You can find poutine all over Canada, but you really don’t want to miss out in Montreal. Even if you’re vegan or vegetarian, you should be able to find an option to try. Next up is bagels. But not just any bagels—these are Montreal style. These are boiled in water sweetened with honey, and then cooked in a wood-fired oven for a satisfying chew and golden brown exterior. If you are a meat eater, you will also want to seek out a Montreal smoked meat sandwich, popular throughout the city.

Beer drinkers will also be happy to know that there are close to 30 microbreweries in the city, so finding a local brew won’t be difficult. In addition, make sure to stop by the iconic Jean-Talon Market in the heart of Montreal’s Little Italy neighborhoods, one of North America’s largest open-air public markets. Here you’ll find everything from fresh produce and flowers, to cheese, meats, specialty food items, and much more.

Learn more about the food scene in Montreal with our articles on the best brunch spots in Montreal, Montreal’s best late night food, vegetarian restaurants in Montreal, and Montreal’s best terraces and rooftop patios.

Where to Stay

In Montreal you have your pick of stylish boutique hotels, luxury properties, business-oriented hotels, family-friendly hotels, and more. There are more than 25,000 rooms in the city (with 16,000 located downtown). Downtown is a good option in terms of where to stay since many of the city’s hotels can be found here, as well as a wide variety of the city’s attractions, museums, restaurants, cafes, and bars. Another good option is Old Montreal, which has its own fair share of hotels. This gives you easy access to the area’s historic architecture, cobblestone streets, boutiques, and bistros. You’ll also be very close to the Old Port, with its own set of fun attractions and activities.

For more about where to stay in Montreal, take a look at our full length stories on the best boutique hotels in Montreal, the best luxury hotels in Montreal, and the best hotels in Old Montreal.

Getting There

You can get to Montreal in several ways. If you plan on flying, Montreal's Trudeau International Airport is about 20 minutes by car from downtown Montreal. The convenient 747 Express bus operates 24/7 year-round and will get you to one of nine downtown stops in 40 to 60 minutes.

In terms of driving, Montreal is about a three-hour drive west from the provincial capital, Quebec City, about a six-hour drive east from Toronto, and six hours north of New York City.

If you prefer to arrive by train, VIA Rail makes for a scenic and relaxing ride. Their rail network connects many major cities to Montréal, you can choose from 17 daily departures from Gare Centrale.

As for the bus, Greyhound Lines serves Montreal from numerous cities in the US and Canada. Buses arrive at Montreal Bus Central Station, which is connected to the Berri-UQAM metro station.

Money Saving Tips

  • Spend some time browsing both the Jean-Talon Market and Atwater Market for a free and fun way to get a sense of all the great food available in the city. While you may be tempted to buy, browsing doesn’t cost anything.
  • You can visit a few of the city’s museums for free on certain days of the month, including the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts where the permanent collection is free on the first Sunday of the month; or the Centre Canadien d'Architecture which is free on Thursdays after 5:30 p.m. and on the first Sunday of each month.
  • There is plenty to see and do in Jean-Drapeau park, which offers everything from a beach, gardens and picnic areas, to an aquatic centre, hiking trails, bike paths, and canoe and kayak rentals. You’ll also find public art here, as well as a rock climbing wall.

Find out more with our full length article on the 25 best free and cheap things to do in Montreal.

Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Montreal Transit. "Visitors."

  2. Montreal Tourism. "Where to Stay."

  3. Montreal Tourism. "Grab a Flight to Montreal."

  4. Montreal Tourism. "Take the Train to Montreal."

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