The last time I visited Montreal was a whopping 10 years ago. Sheesh, that’s bad (and worse when said out loud).
I’m from Toronto, but I don’t subscribe to the whole Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadians hockey rivalry. I cannot deny that a Montreal itinerary will have tons of history. It will be a foodie lovers paradise (this according to the awesome Anthony Bourdain) and a haven for jazz music.
After writing some Canadian itineraries for St. John’s, Quebec City, Ottawa, Kingston, and of course, Toronto, I couldn’t wait to return to La Belle Province and spend 2 days in Montreal. If you’re planning a weekend visit to this incredible city, this two-day itinerary will help make sure you see everything you absolutely can’t miss.
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- Archaeological evidence in the area shows that First Nations people have occupied the island of Montreal for as early as 4,000 years ago.
- Montreal was founded in 1642 on the southern shore of Montreal island as the City of Mary or Ville-Marie in French. Montreal was named after Mount Royal, which is the hill in the middle of the city. The name stems from mont Réal, (Mont Royal in modern French, but 16th-century French réal and royal were used interchangeably. The City of Montreal in the center of the Island of Montreal.
- Montreal has hosted both the 1976 Summer Olympics and the 1967 International and Universal Exposition.
Where To Stay In Montreal
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.
Hotel Le Germain Montreal
Built in 1967, the year of the Expo, in the heart of downtown, Le Germain Hotel is just steps away from many boutiques, museums, businesses and restaurants.
I’m a huge fan of Le Germain hotels ever since my stay in Le Germain Quebec CIty
Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth
Located in the heart of downtown, Fairmont Queen Elizabeth explores its history through a “for Montrealers, by Montrealers” concept with a restaurant, a bar, an urban market and a coffee shop where local products are sold
Getting To Montreal
YUL, Montréal-Trudeau International Airport is located about 20km and 20 minutes away from downtown Montreal, and it greets over 20 million travellers every year. Aside from Uber and Taxis, the 747 Shuttle Service provides 24-hour transportation between the airport and downtown Montreal available 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
I love trains. Its always been my preferred mode of travel. The VIA Rail – A Canadaian network connects several major cities to Montreal. If you are coming from the United States of America, the Amtrak trains offer daily departures to Montreal from many American cities.
Montréal is about 75 kilometres (46 miles) from the US Border and right on the Trans-Canada Highway – quick note for those coming from Toronto, it’s about a six-hour drive.
Montreal’s Grand Quay welcomes thousands of passengers every year who arrive by boat or by cruise ship. More info about cruises can be found HERE.
Getting Around Montreal
- Walking. For the most part, walking is the safest, healthiest and budget-friendly way to explore Montreal. In my opinion, it is also the perfect way to explore the city’s diverse neighbourhoods, whether it is day and night. Montreal also has its Montréal Underground Pedestrian Network, which includes 33 kilometres of walkways with 2,000 shops, restaurants and services. Plus, the underground can connect you to museums, attractions, performance venues, theatres, cinemas, and some hotels. View the Map HERE
- Bike. Montreal has 780 kilometres (480 miles) of bike paths with bike rental services and tours. Bring your own bike, rent a bike or use Montréal’s BIXI System. The Bixi system allows you to pick up a bike at one designated location and return it at another selected location.
- Public Transportation. Montréal’s Metro has four lines that connect its downtown to major tourist sites, bus stops and train stations. It runs daily from 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. (1:30 a.m. on Saturdays). View the map HERE.
- Boat. Montréal has water taxis that run between the Old Port of Montréal and Parc Jean-Drapeau, Longueuil, and other points of interest along the St. Lawrence River. Also, Several marinas host private vessels like Navark & Maritime along the St. Lawrence River.
- Car & Taxi. At times I found driving around relatively straightforward except when using the big tunnel that runs underneath the city. The GPS would cut out, causing me to miss my exit. This meant I needed to drive the duration of the tunnel to get out and turn around. Please keep in mind that Canada uses the metric system. Traffic speeds are indicated in kilometres (100 km/h = 62 mph), and gas is sold in litres (3 3/4 litres = 1 US gallon). Also, you can’t turn right on a red light in Montréal or use a hand-held cell phone while driving. All transportation, as well as official signs and pamphlets, are bilingual. Advertising and daily language are going to be in French. Taxis can be flagged down on the street, or you can find them at taxi stands and in front of most major hotels.
Tips, Tricks & Things to Know About Montreal Before You Get There
- Learn a bit of French. The predominant languages in Canada are English and French; however, in the province of Quebec, the dominant language is French. I’ve heard a lot of talk/debate around the quality of French being spoken outside of France, and quite honestly pretty much everyone can speak English. But as a visitor, take some time to learn some French, and it will add to your overall experience.
- Try Smoked Meat. There is something insanely delicious about Montreal smoked meat. It has the power to convert vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians into meat lovers.
- Bagels. Montreal bagels tend to be boiled in water with honey then cooked in a wood-fired oven. So when compared to the delicious bagels from NYC, the bagels tend to be sweeter with a crunchier, richer crust.
- Poutine. Poutine is the supposed national dish of Quebec and Canada. Nothing says comfort food better than a rich combination of fries, gravy and cheese curds. Just beware of places that feel the need to advertise their poutine as authentic. I tell you the best place to get poutine later in this post.
- Maple Syrup. This golden elixir could be poured on a brick, and I will lose my teeth eating that brick. It’s that good. In fact, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers actually has a Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve. Interestingly enough, just like actual gold, back in 2011-2012, nearly 3,000 tons of Maple Syrup, valued at 18.7 million CAD, was stolen from a facility managed by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. I kid you not, the story was featured in Netflix’s Dirty Money – season 1, episode 5.
- Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. The Montreal International Jazz Festival) the world’s largest jazz festival with about 3,000 artists from around the globe and can exceed 200,000 people.
- Just for Laughs. Montreal is also home to the Just for Laughs (Juste pour rire) comedy festival and was founded in 1983. it is not only the most significant international comedy festival in the world, but its TV show is also a staple in most Canadian households.
- Canadian Grand Prix. If you like fast cars, this annual race has been part of the Formula One Championship since 1967
- Like most of Canada Montreal is LGBT friendly and very diverse.
The Crew Collective & Cafe
Located at 360 St Jacques Street in an old Bank Building, it’s definitely one of the best places to visit in Montreal (especially in minus zero temps). Crew Collective & Café is both a cafe and private, members-only workspace. If you’re simply stopping by for a drink or bite then The Crew Collective & Café offers, just that as well with an ever-changing menu.
The Illuminated Crowd
Commissioned by the late Raymond Mason in 1968 then later moved from Paris to Montreal in 1985, the Illuminated Crowd is a sculpture depicting a crowd of 65 polyurethane figures who “roll down the towards the spectator”. Despite the clumsiness of the figures, Mason’s spectacular sculpture captures a peculiar sort of gracefulness throughout the figures. The Illuminated Crowd is located on McGill College’s esplanade.
Place des Arts
As both the leading performing arts center and the largest cultural and artistic space in Montreal, Place des Arts is Montreal’s locus for facilitating major artistic activities. The team at Place Des Arts makes it their mission “to operate a business for the diffusion of the performing arts, to administer the Place des Arts de Montréal and the Amphithéâtre Fernand-Lindsay in Joliette, and to establish the artistic programming at the Maison Symphonique for organizations other than the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal”.
Saint Patrick’s Basilica
Opened on March 17, 1847, Saint Patrick’s Basilica has been a long-standing and esteemed institution in Montreal. The church was originally intended to serve the needs of the flux of Irish immigrants who emigrated to Montreal to escape the notorious feminine and political strife. Saint Patrick’s Basilica was built in Gothic Revival style and is located on a promontory that overlooks the city.
Monument à la mémoire de Paul de Chomedey | Place d’Armes
Located in the historic Place d’Armes, Monument à la mémoire de Paul de Chomedey monument that memorializes the founder of Montreal- Paul de Chomedey. The monument was sculpted by Canadian sculptor Louis-Phillipe Herbert in 1895.
Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal
No Montreal itinerary would be complete without a visit to Notre Dame.
Arguably Canada’s most highly decorated cathedral done in the Gothic Revival style, Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal is a stunning place of worship dedicated to Saint Mary- the mother of Jesus. The original foundations for the basilica were laid out in 1672; however, numerous renovations and further construction has been completed on the site of the original church since then.
Les Glaceurs – Vieux-Montréal
When it comes to specialty cupcakes and cakes, Les Glaceurs – Vieux-Montréal is in the ranks of the best of the best. Patrons can drop by for decadent cupcakes and cakes of all kinds and even have them customized based on holiday themes or original ideas! If you’re planning a wedding or an event that calls for delicious treats than Les Glaceurs is just the place.
Montreal Science Centre
The Montreal Science Center is conveniently located at the center of the Old Port of Montreal. The center is solely dedicated to both science and technology and boasts excellent quality facilities for both exhibitions and interactive devices.
Originally a trading post for fur traders in the early 17th century, Montreal’s Old Port is a recreational and historic venue that attracts over six million visitors a year. Old Port offers a variety of activities and attractions such as the Montréal Science Centre, the Montreal Clock Tower, a riverfront promenade, and an IMAX Theatre.
The Clock Tower of Old Port was constructed between 1919 and 1922. Montréal-based engineer Paul Leclaire drafted the blueprint for the 45 metre (147 feet) tall clock tower. The Montreal Clock Tower is significant because it “marks the entrance to the port and is a memorial to sailors lost at sea in wartime”.
Despite being a landmark in Canada, the clock was heavily influenced by the English influence; the accuracy of its clock mechanism is contributed to England-based clockmaking firm Gillett and Johnston, the clock tower is also a replica of Big Ben in London.
When it comes to fine wine, “old-time jazz vibes”, and an extensive menu, Modavie is one of Montreal’s more renowned restaurants. Frequent patrons often cite the restaurant as being both “cozy and excellent” with an exquisite menu/eating experience that’s ideally paired with an upbeat yet relaxing live performances.
2 Days In Montreal
Beauty’s Luncheonette’s legacy in Montreal dates to 1942 and is the perfect place to start day 2 of 2 days in Montreal itinerary. After getting married, Hymie & Freda Sckonick purchased what used to be in Montreal‘s Jewish garment district. After renovating the place and revamping the menu, the Sckonick’s began to dish out quick and delicious bites. Soon enough, Beauty’s Luncheonette won over the hearts and stomachs of Montreal’s locals. Since then, Beauty’s has been Montreal’s go-to dine-in for delicious dinner meals with food made from scratch and a retro 1940s atmosphere. Beauty’s Luncheonette was given its name by the locals who referred to Hymie by his bowling nickname, “Hymie”.
Mount Royal Park
Located West of Downtown Montreal, Mount Royal Park is a small mountain that has been transformed into one of the city’s best kept and most valued landscapes. Mount Royal Park stands 233 meters tall and is on 692 acres of land. Mount Royal Park facilitates various gatherings and festivals throughout the year, as well as being home to the Mount Royal Cross, two cemeteries, and a transmission tower.
Mount Royal Chalet
The Mount Royal Chalet was completed and opened in 1932. Built with the blessing of Quebec politician Camille Houde, Mount Royal Chalet originally functioned as a decadent display of wealth and extravagance during the Great Depression. Today, the renowned villa functions as an event space, as well as a tourist attraction open to the public. The chalet’s stunning interior is decorated with pictures “tracing the history of Montréal, including many painted by famous artists”. Mount Royal Chalet also offers patrons an amazing view of Downtown Montreal via the Kondiaronk.
St. Joseph’s Oratory
Despite being a minor Roman Catholic Basilica, Saint Joseph’s Oratory is Canada’s largest church. The church’s rich historical, cultural, and spiritual history resonates throughout Canada. Saint Joseph’s Oratory is located on Mount Royal, was founded by Saint Brother André, and is also a Catholic shrine dedicated to Saint Joseph- the father of Jesus.
Stroll Through Old Montreal
As the oldest city of Montreal, Quebec, Old Montreal offers the perfect blend of European and North American culture and history. Dating back to the 17th century, Old Montreal continues to be one of Montreal’s main tourist attractions. It is situated on the south end of the St. Lawrence River.
Bonsecours Market, also known as Marche Bonsecours, is “acknowledged as one of Canada’s ten finest heritage buildings and has become an essential stop on any visit to Old Montréal.” The building opened in 1847 and originally functioned as the central public market in Montreal. In 1849, the market once accommodated the Parliament of United Canada for one session. Today, Bonsecours Market functions as a multi-purpose facility: an up-scale mall, banquet hall, and municipal office space.
Built-in the 18th century, Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel is one of the oldest churches in Montreal. The church’s rich history has made it one of Montreal’s more esteemed institutions. The Chapel houses the Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum.
Officially constructed in the 19th century, Jacques- Cartier Plaza captures the sentiment of a Montreal that once was. This open-air square is located in Old Montreal and also serves as the entrance to the Old Port of Montreal. The Plaza teems with restaurants on each side of its wide streets. The plaza is often packed during the summertime with street artists and local vendors.
Montreal City Hall
Like a handful of city halls Montreal’s City Hall is a place of grandeur, pomp, and local government. The city hall was constructed in 1878 and is located in the heart of Old Montreal. Montreal City Hall is well known for its Hall of Honour, which displays a “particularly striking and offers portraits of every mayor whoever held this office in Montréal”.
Located between Quartier des Spectacles and Old Montreal, Montreal’s Chinatown is an upbeat and lively district that attracts locals and tourists of all kinds. The district serves as a home to one of the densest Asian populations in Montreal containing various Asian restaurants, convenience stores, novelty stores, and food markets. At night, Chinatown becomes a hub for Montreal’s nightlife.
There’s almost no better way to wrap up a trip to Montreal than by eating proper Canadian eats- poutine! La Banquise is legendary for dishing out large world-class and hearty servings of poutine. La Banquise also serves as a microbrewery with a diverse beer menu.
I promise not to wait another 10 years to return back to Montreal. I will, however, return when it is warmer outside. There is plenty of food and plenty of jazz music to sink my teeth into.
And just for the record, the Toronto Maple Leafs is a better hockey team 😉
Oh one more thing, Do you remember that 1999 American horror movie Lake Placid? It was about this giant nine-metre long, man-eating crocodile going around eating people. Well, the actual Lake Placid is about two hours away from Montreal.
Last I heard the crocodile was taken care of…