Are you planning a weekend trip to visit Montréal? If so, we have you covered! After enjoying a trip to the city for the first time in over ten years, we wanted to make it possible for every travel lover to experience all this beautiful city has to offer. From world-class museums and stunning architecture to delicious eats and a thriving arts scene, there is truly something for everyone.
In this guide, we’ll share everything you need to know for a beautiful weekend in the “Paris of North America,” including accommodations, restaurants, local attractions and more. We’re positive you will love the city as much as we do!
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History of Montréal
- According to archaeological evidence, the land upon which Montréal would be developed was occupied as early as 4,000 years ago.
- Unlike most colonies during that time, Montréal was not established for the sole purpose of supporting the fur trade. Instead, it began as a missionary colony named Ville-Marie under the direction of Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve.
- The city was named after Mount Royal (or Mont Réal), the hill located in the city’s core.
- Montréal was a popular Canadian banking centre in the early 1900s, a competitor to Toronto, with many Canadian banks setting up offices in the older neighbourhoods.
- Montreal hosted the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, better known as Expo 67, and the 1976 Summer Olympics.
How to Get to Montréal
There are several ways you can make the trip to Montréal, depending on your available timeframe, your budget, and your preferred form of travel. Here are a few for you to consider, including estimated costs and timeframes if travelling from Toronto:
If you have access to a vehicle, the drive to Montréal will take approximately six hours. Most of this trip will be on Highway 401, so be prepared for a lot of highway driving. The greatest benefit to driving is that you will have a vehicle to easily get around the city during your trip.
If you would rather avoid driving, Megabus offers a one-way route that travels between Toronto and Montréal at $49.99 per person. This will take approximately 6 ½ to 7 hours, depending on the time of day you are travelling.
Another option for travel is to take the train. VIA Rail tickets start at $76 per person, one-way. The time you can expect your trip to take will vary depending on the time of day you are travelling and the number of stops scheduled on the way. I recommend paying careful attention to the planned route when booking if you are trying to keep your travel time down, as the trip can range from 5 to 9 hours.
Flying is the fastest form of travel, taking only 1 hour and 15 minutes for a direct flight from Toronto to Montréal. But it also comes with the highest price tag, with flights starting at $383 per person roundtrip. The airport is located approximately 20 minutes from downtown Montréal.
Several cruise lines regularly run to and from Montréal, passing through the Grand Quay Cruise Terminal at the Port of Montréal. While this likely isn’t your preferred means of travel from Toronto for a weekend, it is an excellent opportunity to incorporate Montréal as a stop in your larger travel plans.
Hotels in Montréal
There are many great accommodations available in Montréal and the surrounding area. However, with so many options, you may find it challenging to choose the “right” one. To help with this process, here are three excellent options, all conveniently located near the city’s popular attractions:
2050 Mansfield Street
Located in the heart of Montréal, Hotel Le Germain Montréal is the perfect place for those who plan on exploring the city, visiting local museums, attending the many festivals, and more. This was where we stayed during our time here, and we would definitely recommend it. The hotel has a unique aesthetic, blending modern and sixties-inspired design. It is a short walk from many of the things to visit in Montréal that we share in this post.
900 Rene Levesque Blvd
If you want to stay in the heart of downtown Montréal, the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth is a great option. More than just a hotel, you will find a restaurant, bar, café, and urban market. They pride themselves in showcasing local talent and products. The décor is fun, quirky, and full of personality. They even offer a Barbie Dream Suite if that suits your taste.
For those who would prefer to stay in Old Montréal, with its cobblestone streets and beautiful architecture, check out Le Saint-Suplice Hotel Montréal. This luxury hotel features an upscale restaurant, a beautiful terrace, and a décor reminiscent of a European getaway. If you plan on spending some time at the end of the day relaxing in your hotel room, some suites offer an electric fireplace, balcony, or terrace for you to enjoy.
Best Places to Eat and Drink in Montréal
994 Rue Rachel E
There are few things as widely known and attributed to Montréal and Quebec as the delicious taste of poutine. Of course, that means we must include a poutinerie in our list of the best places to eat. The serving sizes here were impressive, and the food was delicious. When writing this, their menu listed over 30 types of poutine! In addition to serving up good poutine, the location is also a microbrewery with a variety of beers to choose from.
93 Ave du Mont-Royal Ouest
Not only does this diner offer a delicious menu, but it’s also a unique piece of Montréal’s history. The diner was initially founded by Hymie and Freda Sckolnick in 1942, at which time it was called the “Bancroft Snack Bar.” It later became known as Beauty’s as a nod to Hymie’s bowling nickname. The location still maintains a retro 1940s atmosphere, making it a fun step back in time for visitors.
360 Rue Saint-Jacque
This unique location is both a café and a coworking space. If you are planning a “workcation,” splitting your time between work and pleasure, this is a great location to be familiar with. A day pass to access the comfortable workstations and high-speed WIFI costs $20. The café is available to the public, with signature beverages, custom coffee blends, and an ever-changing menu.
453 Rue Saint-Sulpice
Do you have a sweet tooth? If so, you will surely love everything this adorable bakery offers. One could argue that they have the best cakes and cupcakes in Montréal, and they would be right (in our opinion). You can stop by to pick up one of their ready-made treats, or if you’re planning a special event in the city, contact them to order a custom specialty cake or cupcake display.
1 Saint-Paul St W
Many visitors describe this popular French bistro as the perfect blend of “cozy and excellent.” It boasts an extensive menu with brunch, lunch, and dinner options, as well as a well-rounded wine bar with options to suit any meal. If you have the opportunity, we recommend visiting in the evening or during weekend brunch, as these times also feature live jazz and blues music from talented local performers.
Things to Do and Places to Visit in Montréal
During our visit to Montréal, we had the opportunity to explore many of the area’s attractions, including embracing the European aesthetic of Old Montréal, enjoying the vibrant arts scene, and learning about the incredible history of the city. Here are a few things we recommend you consider when planning your itinerary:
350 Saint-Paul Street
Recognized as one of the ten finest heritage buildings our country has to offer, Marché Bonsecours is currently home to 15 boutique shops, restaurants, and a rental hall. The building has served many purposes since it opened its doors in 1847, functioning as a central public market, a “Parliament of United Canada” building, housing Montreal City Hall, and more. It’s a great place to visit, grab a bite, and take in the history of the area.
For those who love Formula 1 racing, this is one weekend you may want to mark on the calendar. The Canadian Grand Prix is an annual race held yearly since 1961, but it officially moved to its current location at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montréal, in 1978. Outside of that infamous weekend, the public is welcome to use the track free of charge for walking, biking, or rollerblading.
This busy, high-energy neighbourhood was first established in the early 1890s. Since then, it has gone through many phases as it struggled against redevelopment and expropriation. But each time, it bounced back with an incredible charm and personality. By day, the lively streets are home to novelty stores, Asian restaurants, food markets, convenience stores, and more. At night, it boasts a vibrant nightlife. It includes several noteworthy historical sites, including the Wings Building, Tongs, and the Place Sun Yat Sen.
1 Clock Tower Quay Street
A memorial to the men of the Canadian Merchant Marine and the British Merchant Navy who were killed in combat during World War One, the Clock Tower of Old Port (also known as the Montréal Clock Tower) stands an impressive 45 meters or 147 feet tall. Construction began in 1919 and concluded in the summer of 1922 when the final pieces of the clockwork were installed. Strongly influenced by the English, the tower is a replica of Big Ben in London.
Recognized by Guinness World Records as one of the largest jazz festivals in the world, the festival brings musicians and nearly 2 million music lovers to celebrate for ten days, including 150 paid indoor concerts, more than 350 free open-air shows, and more. It’s an opportunity for the public to be introduced to incredible up-and-coming talents as well as to appreciate some of the greatest jazz musicians from around the globe.
This open-air square is often viewed as a connecting point, bringing Old Montreal, City Hall, Old Port, and the waterfront together. A flower stall sits in the middle of the square, a nod to its origin as a public outdoor market. Today, it’s often occupied by a wide assortment of artists and performers, including musicians, portrait painters, artisans, and more. If you travel during the holiday season, Place Jacque-Cartier is the place to be for Christmas magic.
If a hilarious comedy show is your idea of a great night out, you may be excited to learn that Montréal is also home to the world’s biggest comedy festival – Just For Laughs. The festival features 250 shows in 25 different venues throughout downtown, as well as free outdoor activities. The festival attracts nearly 2 million visitors and has welcomed some big-name artists over the years, including Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, Jerry Seinfeld, and Seth Rogen.
275 Rue Notre-Dame Est
Like many historic government buildings, Montréal City Hall offers an impressive architectural display. It was designated a historic site in 1984. The location has been closed to the public since May 2019 as it undergoes a heritage restoration, but the exterior view is still well worth the trip. Inspired by the city hall of the French city of Tours, this was the first city hall in Canada to be constructed solely for municipal politics.
2 Rue de la Commune Ouest
Dedicated to the world of science and technology, the Montréal Science Centre is definitely one of the places to visit in Montréal if you’re bringing the family. Their many incredible exhibits are both fun and educational, with displays geared to all ages. Mini Mondo is a child-friendly exhibit for children under the age of 7, immersing them in their exploration of science with opportunities to touch, smell, and listen. There is also a café and snack bar if you are hungry during your visit.
Standing in the center of Place d’Armes, this monument pays tribute to the founder of Ville-Marie (Montréal as we know it today). It is an impressive monument with water in four semi-circles, surrounding a square column upon which the figure of Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve (the founder) stands, proudly holding a flag of the King of France. It was sculpted in 1895 by Canadian sculptor Louis-Phillipe Herbert.
2000 Chemin Remembrance
If you would prefer to enjoy some natural beauty during your trip, Mount Royal Park, often called “the mountain,” is a beautiful place to spend the afternoon. It offers wooded trails, a small artificial lake, an interpretive centre, a sculpture garden, a splash pad, and a bandstand. During the winter, visitors can enjoy cross-country skiing trails, tobogganing, a refrigerated rink, and a snow tube run. Located on the 692 acres, you will also find a transmission tower, two cemeteries, the Mount Royal Cross, and Mount Royal Chalet.
110 Notre-Dame Street West
One of North America’s most visited religious monuments, Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal is a stunning sight that every visitor to the city should experience. It is masterfully decorated in the Gothic Revival style and is often credited as being the most dramatic of its kind in the world. One fascinating element that makes it stand out is the stained-glass windows along the sanctuary’s walls. Rather than depicting the scenes from the bible like most religious buildings, it features scenes from the area’s religious history.
We can’t create a list of Montréal’s places to visit without including the classic beauty of Old Montréal. This district has many of the area’s oldest buildings, including Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel. Built in 1771, it is one of the oldest churches in Montréal. The main cobblestone street, Rue St-Paul, is lined with shops, bars, and cafés, making you feel like you’re strolling through a traditional European neighbourhood.
A fun-filled neighbourhood in Montreal, it’s almost hard to believe that Old Port was originally a trading post for fur traders in the early 17th century. Today, it is home to many fascinating attractions, including some already mentioned (Montréal Science Centre). Outdoors, the location offers food and drink vendors, a giant Ferris wheel with panoramic views of the city, Canada’s biggest urban zipline, and a local market. It’s a busy location at any time, but the summer is when Old Port really shines with over 70 activities and events.
175 Sainte-Catherine Street West/1600 Saint-Urbain Street
The largest cultural and artistic space in Montréal, Place des Arts is a must-see location for anyone who truly loves the performing arts. The location features six indoor venues, an outdoor amphitheatre, restaurants, cafés, bars, and boutiques. Consider blocking off an afternoon or evening to take in a show, enjoy a meal, or participate in the free activities, workshops, and programming they host throughout the year.
3800 Queen Mary Road
Founded in 1904, this Roman Catholic minor basilica was designated a National Historic Site in 2004. It is an impressive structure, earning it the title of Canada’s largest church. Its prominent church dome is one of the largest in the world. The building sits over 30 meters above the summit of Mount Royal, making it the highest building in Montréal. This also allows it to be seen from an incredible distance.
460 René Lévesque Blvd
A beautiful piece of Montréal’s history, Saint Patrick’s Basilica first opened its doors on March 17, 1847. At the time, it was built to accommodate the growing number of Irish immigrants in the area, offering both spiritual and physical support as they arrived. The church is an incredible example of Gothic Revival architecture with its tall central tower, faux-marble piers, and traditional rose window. It was officially designated as a national history site in 1990.
Places to Visit Near Montreal
There is no shortage of things to explore within Montréal’s city limits. But we can’t overlook the fact there are also some fantastic locations just a short drive away. If you don’t have a car, you will have to arrange transportation to get to these attractions, but they are worth the effort.
Mont-Tremblant National Park
Located in the Lanaudière region of Québec, Mont-Tremblant National Park is a well-known destination among outdoor travel lovers. This National Park features 400 lakes, 6 rivers, and a variety of streams and waterfalls. Visit for the day to enjoy hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing during the summer or skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling in the winter. If you want to extend your time in the park, they offer camping, cottage rentals, and yurt rentals.
If Montréal’s history is what attracted you to the area, you can’t miss the opportunity to also explore the city of Trois-Rivières. Playing a valuable role in the history of the province, Trois-Rivières is Canada’s oldest industrial city and home to the first foundry in the country. Like Montréal, it offers activities and attractions for everyone, including historical sites, a beach resort, and a strong performing arts scene.
What is the Best Month to Visit Montréal?
The truth is that there is no best time to visit Montréal. Instead, there are times that may be better suited to your favourite activities and personal preferences. For example, if you love jazz music, you may want to plan a summer visit during the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. However, if your favourite time of year is Christmas, a December trip to walk through Place Jacques-Cartier may sound like a dream come true. The bottom line is that there are activities to enjoy all year long.
Is Montréal Expensive to Visit?
Like most urban destinations, your trip to Montréal could be a luxury getaway (with a luxury price tag) or a budget-friendly vacation. Most restaurants or attractions in the city run a little higher than many other major cities, but not enough that you couldn’t keep the cost down with a bit of planning and organization. There are many free or low-cost events throughout the city.
Do I Need to Speak French to Visit Montréal?
While you can visit and enjoy the city without learning to speak French, we highly recommend you take some time to learn a little before you go. With French being the dominant language in the area, there is a good chance you will experience people having conversations in French without a second thought. Plus, it will make it easier to understand signage, packaging, menus, and other elements you will encounter during your stay. If you get confused, rest assured most people in Montréal can speak English.
Check Out the Many Places to Visit in Montréal
Is Montréal worth visiting? The short answer is: Yes! Most definitely! The city offers something for everyone, from the delicious eats for the foodie among us to the talented musicians at the area’s Jazz festival. This is the perfect getaway for anyone who wants to walk the streets of Europe without the international price tag.
Whether you are planning a quick weekend or staying for a week, this is one location we believe you can visit time and time again and still discover new secrets!
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