If you’ve planned to spend some time in Canada, you’re in for a treat. Montreal, a wonderfully vibrant and diverse city in Quebec, has lots to offer. Here is a local’s list of what to do in Montreal, no matter the season.
What to do in Montreal: Visit popular areas
Joseph’s Oratory of Mount-Royal
Whether you fly, drive, or train into Montreal, St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal is the first thing you’ll notice. It’s at the top of the mountain in the centre of the island of Montreal and marks the highest point in the city. It’s a definite must-see because it is breathtakingly beautiful, gives you a good workout (because of the 283 stairs to climb) and best of all – IT’S FREE! While you’re there, be sure to find a guide at the information booth who can tell you volumes about the unique history of the Oratory. You can also book a tour in advance. To get there, Metro to Snowdon and then take the 51 bus, which will stop right in front of the Oratory.
Saint Catherine Street
Saint Catherine Street in Montreal offers the best outdoor shopping in Canada. Here you’ll find everything from Forever 21 to Marciano to Louis Vuitton, providing plenty of stores at any budget. So whether you’re a shopping diva or just enjoy seeing the craziness of Montreal, Saint Catherine Street has it all. Go to the cinema, watch a game at a sports bar (Peel Pub is the best for drink specials in Montreal), or spend a day shopping, and make sure a visit to Saint Catherine Street is on your list.
The Old Port
The streets of the Old Port in Montreal are cobblestones laid centuries ago. As you walk down the timeless streets you’ll find shops, restaurants, and bars. Have a drink on a beautiful outdoor terrace or just shop around for a couple of hours without ever getting bored. In the warmer months, street performers are offering a free show while you sip your mojito. There’s also a beach at the Quai de l’Horloge (free). You could hop in a horse-drawn carriage for a ride (if you’re into that) or rent a Bixi bike for as little as 7$ a day. If you’re up for it, ride your Bixi down the bike path along with the locks of the Lachine River, and you might see Dragon Boats and possibly even surfers on the river. To get to the Old Port, take the Metro to Square Victoria or Place d’Armes stations and walk toward the river (about 5 minutes).
What to do in Montreal: Bars
It’s new, it’s hip, and it’s trendy for the younger crowd. Furco seems to be full every single day of the week, probably because of the delicious food and beers they serve. The ambience is relaxed and fun, and the music matches this theme. You’ll find Furco on Mayor Street in a quieter pocket of downtown Montreal. It’s about a 5-minute walk from the Place-des-Arts metro stop.
Bar Bistro Bily Kun
Bar Bistro Bily Kun is located in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood of Montreal (known as “the plateau”). The Plateau is Montreal’s “hipster” and “edgy” area. Any visit to Montreal wouldn’t be complete without going out in the Plateau. Billy Kun offers cold drinks, good food, and an amusing scene. Surrounding the restaurant are mounted ostrich heads… quite the statement! To get there, Metro to the Mont-Royal station. It’s a 3-minute walk from there. If you want to play some pool first, the Boul Noire next door is a great place to start.
La Distillerie is a fun casual bar with an old “western” style, where drinks are served in Mason jars and exposed-beam ceilings overhead. Their mojitos are world-famous (and huge!). Around happy hour time, you’ll find plenty of students hanging out and having fun. Don’t arrive late; the seats fill quickly!
What to do in Montreal: Treat your taste buds
This little fun Japanese restaurant offers plates that are meant to be shared. In addition to delicious food, you can order a Sake Bomb which everyone at the table will be sure to enjoy! If possible, try to get a reservation – we showed up without one on a Friday night and were told it would be a three-hour wait! To get there, Metro to Atwater. The restaurant is next to the Metro.
Poutine at Gibeau Orange Julep
It’s hard to miss the “big orange” while you’re in Montreal. It’s big, it’s orange, and it is home to the BEST POUTINE IN MONTREAL. I’m quite the avid poutine connoisseur, and I have literally tried over 10 poutines at various restaurants in Montreal. Gibeau Orange Julep has the best, done in the true Quebec style, chock-full-of squeaky cheese, double-fried fries, and savoury gravy. There’s really nothing like it. You should also taste the trademark orange drink that gives the restaurant its name. There’s really no excuse for missing this place, especially since it’s open almost 24/7. To get there. Metro to Namur station. From there, head to the big orange!
For some reason, beyond my knowledge, smoked meat is insanely popular in Quebec and especially in Montreal. Of all of the restaurants pitching their smoked meat sandwiches, Schwartz’s is the only one that can actually say they invented Montreal Steak Seasoning (seriously). This is THE smoked meat place in Montreal. You’ll often have to wait in line outside to get a table. Inside, the restaurant walls are covered with photos of famous people who have enjoyed their smoked meat. Don’t leave Montreal without trying it, especially if you love being a non-vegetarian as much as I do. It’s a 10-minute walk from the Sherbrooke Metro station.
As a final tip of what to do in Montreal, I would say to make the most of your time there by talking to the locals, trying new things, and enjoying the poutine!