Despite its location on an island in the Canadian province of Quebec, Montreal is the second largest French-speaking city in the world (behind Paris). A lively and contemporary metropolis, Montreal is known and loved for its European flair and old-world elegance.
Home to a vibrant mix of cultures, it’s not surprising that Montreal has an irresistible dining scene that foodies will relish. History buffs, creative folk, shopaholics and night owls will all be left more than satisfied, too. Montrealers know how to show visitors a good time – their city hosts more than 90 food, music and cultural festivals every year.
History, culture and natural beauty abound in Montreal. Begin your journey through Montreal’s architectural past with a trip to Notre-Dame Basilica. Set in historic Old Montreal and dating back to 1823, this grand basilica is a city landmark. Admire the dramatic Gothic Revival architecture before stepping inside to discover intricate woodcarvings, stunning displays of stained glass, a shining bronze altar and a commanding pipe organ. Don’t forget to cast your eyes up to take in the ceiling – a deep blue masterpiece decorated with stars.
Pack a picnic and set aside a whole day to explore the stunning natural wonderland that is Montreal Botanical Garden. Take a stroll through the Japanese and Chinese gardens before stepping inside the Insectarium, which will fascinate kids and adults alike. Be sure to visit the Biodome, which houses 4 magnificent recreated ecosystems under 1 roof, complete with resident animals.
Feast your eyes on the works of Picasso, Rembrandt and Monet – as well an excellent collection of works from celebrated Canadian artists including Jean-Baptiste – at Montreal’s largest museum, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Spread out over 4 buildings, this impressive museum will take some time to explore. Enjoy lunch at the on-site bistro to re-fuel for the afternoon.
Eat and Drink
You’ll find world-class cuisine, trendy eateries, top-notch cafés and chic bars all over Montreal. Home to the city’s main drag, Boulevard Saint-Laurent, the borough of Plateau Mont-Royal has a lot to offer, as do Chinatown and trendy Mile End. Montreal’s local must-eats include the much-loved poutine (French fries drenched in gravy and topped with cheese curds), and the Montreal-style bagel, which is handmade and baked in a wood-fired oven. You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to dabbling in the local nightlife. Old Montreal is well known for its live music venues, while Boulevard Saint-Laurent is the place to be and be seen.
If you want to be close to the main attractions stay in downtown Montreal where big name hotel chains are located close to restaurants, bars and the main tourist hub. For a more chic and stylish experience try one of the city’s trendy boutique hotels. Taking up residence in atmospheric Old Montreal, these places are perfect if you’re looking for a bit of old-world romance.
Montrealers love shopping, and there’s no doubt you’ll get caught up in the whirlwind too when you see the dizzying amount of shops, markets, department stores and boutiques on offer. In downtown, Rue Sherbrooke delivers high-end designer fashion and luxury boutiques.
For a more unique experience head to Underground City, which was designed to help locals shop and get from A to B without freezing during the cold Montreal winters. Set below the city’s streets, this network of interconnected pedestrian malls is the largest underground complex in the world.
Montreal Like a Local
Head to the Jean-Talon Market in Little Italy and take your pick from the fresh produce before stocking up on gourmet cheeses, meats and baked goods in the surrounding area. Then take your bounty to Mount Royal Park and chill out among the locals who jog, walk, cycle and picnic in this gorgeous nature haven, which was landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted of New York Central Park fame. When you’ve eaten your fill, hike to the top of Mount Royal for gorgeous views and great photo opportunities.