Montreal is a great weekend getaway with lively streets and a cheerful atmosphere. Spend two days experiencing the European charm of one of North America’s few French cities. With an array of festivals, this city is hopping all year long.
Let’s explore Montreal!
Table of Contents
Recommended Montreal Itinerary
A 2-day visit provides the perfect amount of time to hit all the must-see places in the Montreal. Add a 3rd day and explore areas away from the main tourist stops. Most of Montreal’s many neighbourhoods are very walkable.
One Day in Montreal
- Walk the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal, visiting Notre-Dame Basilica and the area’s museums.
- Stroll by the Old Port’s sights and attractions.
- Enjoy a relaxing dinner at a restaurant in Place Jacques-Cartier.
2 Days in Montreal
On a second day, it’s time to head up the mountain.
- Enjoy a morning hike up Mount Royal. Admire the city from Kondiaronk Lookout.
- For lunch and an afternoon stroll, walk through and sample the cuisines of Little Italy, Mile End, and the Plateau; OR
- Walk Downtown enjoying the city squares and the Fine Arts Museum.
3 Days in Montreal (An Additional Day)
With more time, add a third day and see more of Montreal.
- Rent a bike to explore areas further from the city centre. Cycle along the Lachine Canal in Southwest Montreal.
- Parc Jean-Drapeau and the Islands are another perfect area to visit by bicycle.
- Olympic Park has a large number of gardens and museums to visit and perfect for families.
- End the day trying your luck at the Montreal Casino.
Tourist Map of Montreal
Old Montreal Walking Tour
The best way to start a first-time visit to Montreal is with a walk through Vieux Montréal or Historic Old Montreal. Walk cobblestone streets with beautiful 18th– and 19th-century buildings. Explore the many great boutique shops. Enjoy dinner at a restaurant along Place Jacques-Cartier. An evening walk among the many illuminated buildings of Old Montreal is the perfect end to the day.
Our self-guided walking tour begins at Place d’Armes.
This square is the heart of Old Montreal. The statue of Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, the founder of Montreal is in the centre. He and his settlers battled the Iroquois on this site in 1644. The monument was erected in 1895 as part of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the city. Notre-Dame Basilica, on the square’s easterly side, dominates the square.
The basilica is Montreal’s most famous landmark and visually stunning. Notre-Dame, built on top of an older church, was completed in 1829. While the exterior with its 70-metre, twin steeples is impressive, its interior is magnificent. See the multitude of 24-carat gold stars on the ceiling, the amazing stained-glass windows from Limoges, sculptures and the Casavant organ with 7000 pipes. Its 12-ton, brass “Gros Bourdon” is the one of the biggest bells in North America.
The small chapel, Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Cœur, behind the basilica’s main altar, is very popular for weddings. The amazing bronze sculpture reaching from the floor to the ceiling is both loved and hated.
The Aura Experience at Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica is a 45-minute, evening, multi-media performance highlighting the basilica’s heritage. Tickets must be purchased online.
Next to the basilica, on its south side, is the oldest building in the area, the Old Seminary of Saint-Sulpice, an active Catholic seminary.
The Bank of Montreal building is on the northwest side of the Place d’Armes.
Bank of Montreal Museum
This small museum, worth a quick visit, is housed in the 1847 Bank of Montreal building which resembles a Greek temple with its 6 massive columns. Inside, note both the marble decoration and marble counter tops. The Bank of Montreal is Canada’s oldest bank, founded in 1817.
Walk north on Notre-Dame Street to St. Laurent Boulevard and the courthouse on the northwest corner.
The current Palais de Justice de Montréal, built in 1971, is a contemporary, stone-and-steel building with walls of glass windows.
Continue down the street to the city’s first courthouse. The beautiful “Old” Courthouse, built in 1856, is a municipal administration building.
Across the street is the Ernest-Cormier Building with a beautiful, columned facade. Built in the 1920’s, as the city’s second courthouse, it now houses the Court of Appeal.
Continue east on Notre-Dame Street to the monument at the top of Place Jacques-Cartier.
Nelson’s Column sits at the top of the hill, honouring British General Nelson’s defeat of Napoléan Bonaparte’s French navy at Trafalgar. Local French Sulpician priests erected it in the early 19th century in hopes of currying favour in land negotiations with the British.
Continuing on Notre-Dame Street, Montreal City Hall is on the left.
Hôtel de Ville de Montréal
Enjoy a guided tour of this 17th-century building. In 1967, then French president Charles de Gaulle made his famous speech, ‘Vive le Quebec libre’ (“Long live free Quebec”) here. It’s said to have been the spark of the Quebec independence movement which is still active.
Across the street from city hall is Ramezay House.
Musée du Château Ramezay
500 years of Montreal and Québec history are presented through both permanent and temporary exhibits at Chateau Ramezay. The house, with its thick stone walls, steep roof with dormer windows and abundant period furniture makes the perfect museum. Be sure to see the beautiful gardens around the house. The house was completed in 1705 for the city’s 11th governor, Claude de Ramezay with the tower added in the 19th century.
Continue on Notre-Dame Street for another 2 blocks to a National Historic Site.
Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site
Learn about the life and works of Sir George-Etienne Cartier, one of the Father’s of Canadian Confederation. Visit his restored Victorian home, with the interior returned to its original 1860s style to see how the Montreal wealthy lived.
Walk a block south on Berri Street. Turn right onto Saint-Paul Street and walk two blocks.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel
Climb up the church tower (69 steps) and admire the view of the harbour and Montreal.
This 1771 chapel, also known as the Sailor’s Church, was a favourite of sailors before or after a journey. They prayed before the Virgin Mary’s statue for safe passage, often leaving ship-shaped votive lamps, some of which remain. Even in the 21st century, people still drop by and light a candle for a safe journey.
Marguerite Bourgeoys had the first chapel built on the site in 1657. She is entombed in the side altar on the east side of the chapel. The Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum presents the story of Marguerite, who was canonized in 1982, and the people of 17th-century Montreal. There is access to the archaeological site below the church from the museum.
Walk next door to the stunning neoclassical building built as a public market in the 1840s.
This domed structure, with 6 columns, was a public market until the 1960s. Today it is filled with boutique stores, tiny art galleries and food stops.
Follow Saint-Paul Street back to the heart of Old Montreal and Place Jacques-Cartier for a break or keep walking to the river and the Old Port of Montreal.
Enjoy a break at one of the many cafes and restaurants on this sloped street, people watching from their terraces. There are usually buskers, street artists and musicians entertaining the crowds. This area was the site of Montreal’s first public market.
In the evening, the area is a popular dinner destination and its illuminated buildings make it worth a lovely stroll.
Old Port of Montreal
After visiting Old Montreal, walk towards the city’s Old Port. Montreal’s original working waterfront is revitalized, now a beautiful park with lots of activities for the whole family. Stroll the four quays and shop in the nearby stores. Kids enjoy the challenge at the SOS Labyrinthe. For more action, ride the zipline or rent a paddleboat. Be sure to check out the huge ferris wheel and the Clock Tower. In winter, enjoy outdoor skating.
Walk the Promenade du Vieux-Port, a lovely walkway along the waterfront connecting the quays. Start from the north end of the port and wander south.
Clock Tower Quay
The Sailors’ Memorial Clock Tower sits at the tip of the quay. Built in 1922, it commemorates the sailors who perished in World War 1. Climb to the top for a bird’s-eye view of the port.
Downtown Montreal residents enjoy the sun and sand at Clock Tower Beach, at the base of the tower. By the way, swimming is not allowed here.
The Montreal Yacht Club’s marina is sheltered within the “L”-shaped Clock Tower Quay.
Jet Boating Montreal is opposite the yacht club at the foot of the quay. Enjoy a 30-minute, white-water, adventure ride aboard their jet boats to and through the Lachine Rapids.
SOS Labyrinthe, a 2-kilometre maze of dead ends and obstacles is in Old Port’s 1900’s Hangar 16. Search the labyrinth for 4 treasures linked to Montreal history and learn stories about the Port of Montreal. Watch out for traps and surprises along the way.
Ride the Tyrolienne MTL Zipline over Bonsecours Island or try the pirate-themed rope course at next door at Voiles en Voiles.
In the winter, ice skate along the Bonsecours Basin, a half-kilometre natural ice rink.
Ride the 60-metre-high Montreal Ferris Wheel for an aerial view of the city. From one of Canada’s tallest observation wheels, see the waterfront below to over 25 kilometres away on clear days.
Continue south to the 2nd quay, Jacques-Cartier Quay, where the ferry to Parc Jean-Drapeau docks and Montreal’s famous circus performs.
Cirque du Soleil Big Top
Enjoy a performance by hometown favourites and world leaders in live entertainment. Cirque du Soleil, founded in Montreal in 1984, is one of the world’s best circus arts companies with shows on tour around the world.
More kid-friendly entertainment is next door on King Edward Quay at Montreal’s Science Centre.
Centre des Sciences de Montréal
The many interactive and educational stations at the Montreal Science Centre are great for the kids (and adults too). There are games, puzzles and experiments to try and more at this hands-on science centre. Watch great science and nature films on the seven-story IMAX screen.
Grand Quay is the landing spot for cruise ships visiting Montreal. The city began in the area opposite the quay.
Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex
Learn about centuries of history, the First Peoples, the founding of the city up to the present, through the many displays and artifacts. Pointe-à-Callière sits on the site where the city was founded. Visit the archaeological site underground to see the excavated foundations from the 17th century and much more.
Place Royale, Montreal’s oldest civic square, sits to the north of the museum. The grass-and-treed boulevard of Place d’Youville runs south to Place de la Grande-Paix where the first French colonists landed in 1642. They are memorialized on a monument.
Turn right on Saint-Nicolas Street. The street ends at the Foundation PHI for Contemporary Art.
Fondation PHI pour L’art Contemporain
Several times throughout the year, the PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art presents exhibitions of contemporary art from around the world.
Place d’Armes, where the tour of Old Montreal began, is 2 blocks to the north.
Mount Royal Park
Parc du Mont-Royal sits on the large hill, often called la Montagne or the Mountain, overlooking the city. The 500-acre park, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, famous for New York’s Central Park, is a bit of wilderness in the middle of the city.
Join the locals and enjoy hiking and biking through its extensive network of trails. In the winter, try cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skating on the pond and tubing down groomed hills.
Take the steps located at the top of Peel Street on the park’s east side to hike up Mount Royal. Alternatively, enter the park from Park Avenue at the monument to George-Étienne Cartier, a 19th-century statesman.
Once at the top, be sure to grab a selfie with a panoramic view of the city below.
If driving to Mount Royal, park in the large parking lot near the centrally-located, stone Smith House. Conveniently this is the park information centre, with snacks and souvenirs available as well. This 1858 home was built for the park’s grounds keeper.
Wander west to the lake.
Enjoy a walk around the man-made lake or a rent paddle boat or rowboat to tour the lake. Families often float model boats. In winter, enjoy skating on the frozen lake.
The café in the pavilion at the lake serves light meals and beverages.
Wander back toward the parking lot and continue east to the chalet.
Mount Royal Chalet
Visit the 1932 Chalet du Mont-Royal and see paintings and pictures of Montreal and Canadian history. The chalet also hosts special events.
This broad terrace in front of the chalet is one of the most popular views of downtown Montreal, a real bird’s-eye view of the city. On a clear day, look eastward to see Mount Royal’s sister mountains; Mont St-Bruno, Mont St-Hilaire and Mont St-Gregoire. They are across the St. Lawrence River, east of the city.
Continue to the 40-metre-high cross.
Mount Royal Cross
The steel cross was erected in 1924, commemorating city founder Maisonneuve. He carried a wooden cross up the hill in 1643. The landmark, often called the Cross of Montreal, is illuminated at night for all of Montreal to see. On a clear night, it can be seen from as far as 80 kilometres away.
If driving, stop at Belvédère Camillien-Houde for a great view of the eastern part of the city.
On the north slope of Mount Royal there are two cemeteries. Both have tree-lined paths and famous occupants.
Canada’s largest cemetery, Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, contains more than 900,000 burials, in its 340+ acres. Since 1854, many famous local politicians, artists, and hockey players, such as Maurice Richard have been interred.
Mount Royal Cemetery
The Protestant Cimetière Mont-Royal, established in 1842, is about half the size of the neighbouring Catholic cemetery. Laid out like a terraced garden, many visit to see over 145 species of birds in the natural surroundings.
Saint Joseph’s Oratory is on the northwestern slope of Mount Royal.
Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal
This Christian oratory, dedicated to St. Joseph, is one of the world’s most popular pilgrimage sites to the father of Jesus. It is the largest church in Canada. Its immense copper dome stands 97 metres tall, one of the largest in the world. The interior of the main church is stunning.
To access the church from the main parking lot, either climb the steps or take the shuttle bus. There are 283 concrete steps on the right and left sides of the central staircase which has 99 wooden steps. Traditionally, pilgrims prayed to St. Joseph as they climbed the wooden steps on their knees.
Visit the crypt, see murals about St. Joseph and walls hung with crutches discarded by those apparently cured. The museum contains 200 nativity scenes and the simple tomb of Brother Andre, canonized in the 21st century.
Brother Andre joined the Order of the Holy Cross in 1870. In 1904 he began building a chapel to St. Joseph. Word of cures attributed to petitions to St. Joseph led to donations arriving. Brother Andre used the money to begin construction of the oratory which was finished after his death. The tiny, original chapel is on the west side of the oratory.
The adjacent gardens east of the church display the 14 Stations of the Cross, the Passion of Christ.
Modern downtown Montreal is great place to stroll. Explore the many shops along Rue Sainte-Catherine or relax among the many green spaces tucked between the skyscrapers and shops. In winter, head below for some shopping in the underground malls.
A beautiful spot to begin exploring the city centre is on the lower slopes of Mount Royal, in an area which was once home to the city’s most influential residents. Huge mansions once filled the beautiful neighbourhood of Golden Square Mile. There are still stunning 19th-century and early 20th-century buildings even though many were replaced with modern town homes and high rises.
On the corner of Redpath and Sherbrooke Streets stands a beautiful Presbyterian church.
St. Andrew and St. Paul Church
In 1932, this was the heart of Montreal’s Scottish community. See its beautiful stone interior and altar. The stained glass window behind the altar is a memorial to those members of the Canadian Royal Highland Regiment (the Black Watch) who were killed in WW1.
On the other side of Sherbrooke Street, a block away, is one of Montreal’s most popular places to visit.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Canada’s oldest museum contains one of the country’s best collections of Canadian art including work of the Group of Seven, Paul Kane, Inuit art and more. See the international works of Picasso, Rembrandt and Renoir. The permanent collection also includes sculptures, photographs and prints. The huge Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal spans a number of buildings, linked by underground tunnels.
Continue along Sherbrooke to Rue de la Montagne. Turn right and walk 4 blocks. The entrance to the Bell Centre is to the left on Montreal Canadiens Avenue.
The Centre Bell, seating more than 20,000 fans, is the home of the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Canadiens are the oldest franchise in the league and the most successful team in NHL history with 24 Stanley Cups. Montrealers absolutely loves their “Habs”, with constant sellout crowds. Guided tours are available. If the Habs are in town, grab a ticket or watch the game with the locals in a neighbourhood bar. It’s a great party!
Windsor Station, formerly a major hub of the Canadian railway system and now an event space, is at the opposite end of Montreal Canadiens Avenue.
St George’s Anglican Church
See the amazing woodwork and stained-glass windows inside the stunning, Neo-Gothic church, across from the station. It was built in 1870.
Canada Place is across Peel Street and Dorchester Square is to its north across René-Lévesque Boulevard. The parks are popular gathering spots for downtown workers and shoppers on sunny days with lots of benches, picnic tables and grassy areas. There may even be a free musical performance. See a number of statues of influential people and the impressive monument to the dead of the Boer War.
The cathedral to the east of Canada Place is a stunning Canadian National Historic Site.
This beautiful baroque-style cathedral, built at the end of the 19th century, is a quarter-sized reproduction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Across the intersection of Mansfield Street and René Lévesque Boulevard, visit MAC.
Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal
Montreal’s Museum of Contemporary Art showcases contemporary art of both Quebecois and international artists. The core of the collection is the 1930’s art of a group of Quebec artists who called themselves the Automatistes.
On the other side of the museum is Place Ville Marie with benches, picnic tables and pretty planters in the summer. Next to the plaza is a cross-shaped building built in 1962 and Montreal’s first skyscraper. The mall under the plaza was the first part of Montreal’s very extensive underground city. Food options abound in Place Ville Marie and the mall below.
Continue on René Lévesque Boulevard to the Olympic Torch commemorating the torch relay of the Summer Olympics held in the city in 1976.
Look down (south) Beaver Hall Hill for several blocks to the beautiful green space of Victoria Square. Named for 19th-century British Monarch Queen Victoria, the square includes the monument to her unveiled in 1872. This park has an original 1900 Art Nouveau casting of a Paris (France) Metro entrance given to Montreal by the city of Paris as a gift for the 1967 World Exhibition.
Continue one block on René Lévesque Boulevard to a 19th-century basilica.
Saint Patrick’s Basilica
This basilica has a large amount of carved wooden pieces and decoration. Take note of the pulpit in the 1847 church, also known as the “Irish Church”.
Montreal’s Chinatown begins several blocks further down René Lévesque Boulevard, at Jeanne-Mance Street.
Chinatown is a great lunch stop, with many shops selling foods and crafts. Chinese immigrants came to Canada to work on the railways and many settled in this neighbourhood in the 1860s. The neighbourhood is small, roughly 1 block wide and 4 blocks long, stretching from Jeanne-Mance Street to St. Laurent Boulevard. Look for the two large ornate Paifang Gates, typical of most Chinatowns, on St. Laurent.
Walk a block north on Jeanne-Mance Street to Sainte-Catharine Street and Festival Place.
Place des Festivals
Enjoy the 235-jet fountain, one of the largest interactive fountains in Canada. This is a gathering place during the popular Jazz Festival and Just for Laughs comedy festival. There are often free concerts in the quarter in the summer.
The huge Arts Place is to the east.
Place des Arts
Montreal’s main performing arts complex has 6 performance venues. Its 2100 seat Maison Symphonique is a state-of-the-art concert venue and the home of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.
This is the heart of Le Quartier des Spectacles, a square kilometre dedicated to arts and culture.
In 2023, MEM – Centre des Mémoires Montréalaises will open its doors in the quarter at the corner of Sainte-Catherine Street and St. Laurent Boulevard. It will showcase the human history of Montreal, with people from Montreal’s past telling their stories about life in Montreal.
St. James United Church is about 3 blocks west on Sainte-Catharine Street. This large Gothic-style church was completed in 1889.
Continue along Sainte-Catharine for another 3 blocks.
Christ Church Cathedral
Look inside this neo-Gothic cathedral at the 2,778-pipe organ. There are often noon concerts. Sit a bit and enjoy the organ’s beautiful music.
The church is the seat of Montreal’s Anglican diocese. Built in the mid-19th century, based on a parish church in Norfolk England, its Gothic arches show leaves of trees which grew on Mount Royal at the time. Behind the altar, the stained glass windows were installed in the 1920s in memory of the dead of WWI.
McGill College Avenue is one block west. Turn north and walk by the Illuminated Crowd. The sculptor, Raymond Mason, is famous for crowd sculptures.
The Greek Revival Gates, at the end of McGill College Avenue, are an impressive barrier between the city and university.
Explore the beautiful, treed university campus and buildings. Founded in 1821 by fur trader James McGill, it is one of Canada’s most esteemed universities.
The Redpath Museum of Natural History is located on campus. This natural history museum has great dinosaur fossils, zoological specimens and more.
A block east of the gates, on Sherbrooke Street, visit the museum in a beautiful, stone, 3-storey building.
McCord Stewart Museum
The Musée McCord Steward’s extensive collection of historical artifacts tells the story of the people who settled in Montreal. The Notman Photographic Archives are an amazing historical record of Montreal and Canada’s development.
Olympic Park Area
This is the area used during the 1976 Olympic Summer Games as the main events area. It’s a great place to take the kids, with lots of activities and attractions.
Montreal’s Space for Life is Canada’s largest museum complex and open year-round. Visit 4 different world-class science museums.
This uniquely-shaped building was the Olympic velodrome. After extensive renovations, the Montreal Biodome opened in 1992. Explore 5 different ecosystems with over 250 different animal species and 500 plant types. There’s lots to see, from the hot Tropical zone with sloths, to the Sub-Antarctic habitat with penguins.
Montreal Botanical Garden
At over 185 acres, Jardin botanique de Montréal is one of the largest botanical gardens in the world. Find over 22,000 plant species from all over the world, spread over 10 greenhouses and 30 themed gardens (such as China, Japan and First Nations).
Insectarium de Montréal
Most kids will love seeing all of the creepy specimens at the Montreal Insectarium. It is the largest museum dedicated to insects in North America. In addition to mounted exhibits of insects, there are also live critters, including tarantulas and scorpions.
Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium
Learn about the stars and our solar system, using great digital and interactive exhibits in this state-of-the-art building. The Planetarium Rio Tinto Alcan is one of only a few in the world with two circular theatres. One showcases astronomy exhibits and the other is a multi-media venue.
Huge Parc Maisonneuve has lots of urban trails for hiking and biking with designated picnic areas. In winter, enjoy skating on the outdoor rink. There are groomed cross-country skiing trails in addition to walking trails. A municipal golf course is to the northeast of the main park across Viau Street.
La Tour de Montréal
The Montreal Tower is visible from anywhere in the area (and many places in the city itself). Ride the glass funicular up to an observation deck to admire the cityscape and surrounding park. Rising 165 metres (at a 45 degree angle), this is the tallest inclined tower in the world.
The tower is undergoing major upgrades and is, unfortunately, temporarily closed. The reopening date is estimated as Fall 2024. Check the Olympic Park’s Tower webpage for updates.
This is one of Canada’s largest stadiums with over 56,000 seats in the stands and over 60,000 when people can access the stadium floor. While Olympic Stadium isn’t as active as it once was, it still hosts many concerts, trade fairs and special events.
The stadium was designed as the main event venue for the 1976 Olympics. In 1977, it became the home of Major League Baseball’s Montreal Expos until the team’s move to Washington DC in 2004. The Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes used the stadium until 1998. Major League Soccer’s CF Montreal team played its first season in 2011 at Olympic Stadium before moving next door in 2012.
Just to the north of Olympic Stadium, Saputo Stadium is the home of CF Montreal. Close to 20,000 fans enjoy professional soccer games.
At the southwestern corner of these beautiful green spaces visit the early 20th-century palace built for shoe-manufacturing brothers.
The Dufresne-Nincheri Museum, in the 1918 beaux arts Château Dufresne, contains artifacts from the life of the Dufresne family. The family was influential in Montreal’s early 20th-century social scene. The collection includes painted murals and a number of pieces of furniture.
The museum also protects the stained glass studio/workshop of Guido Nincheri. Nicheri, an Italian painter and master glass maker, arrived in Canada in 1925. His studio was in a building belonging to the Dufresne brothers. Nincheri made over 5000 stained glass windows in the studio making it important to both Quebec and Canadian culture.
Roughly 3 blocks south of Olympic Park, on Ontario Street, at the top of the pretty tree-lined Morgan Street is the beautiful Old Maisonneuve Market building.
Since the early 20th century this area has been home to a market. The old, beaux arts, market building is now a community centre. The current market operates from the modern building next door. Open daily, there are dozens of vendor stalls of local producers, market gardeners, retailers, restaurateurs and agri-food artisans selling and serving fresh locally-made produce.
Neighbourhoods of Little Italy, Mile End, and The Plateau
These neighbourhoods are rich in culture and cuisine and perfect to explore on foot or by bicycle.
This neighbourhood, north of Mount Royal, is roughly bounded Jean-Talon, St-Zotique, Marconi and Drolet Streets. It remains the heart of Montreal’s Italian community.
The Jean Talon Market is a great place to start exploring. At the centre of Little Italy, it is one of the largest open-air markets in North America. Operating since 1933, locals come for all kinds of fruits, vegetables, meats and Quebec cheese, local wines and handmade chocolates. In the block south of Jean-Talon Street, from Casgrain Avenue to Henri-Julien Avenue, the two alleys are closed to create the huge pedestrian market zone. It’s open daily.
Follow Henri-Julien Avenue for several blocks to Chiesa della Madonna della Difesa. The pretty Our Lady of Defense Church has a beautiful mural by Guido Nincheri (the famous glass artisan). It commemorates Benito Mussolini signing the Lantern Pact with Pope Pius XI long before Mussolini’s backing of the Nazi’s during World War II.
In Little Italy, there are lots of cafes and pastry shops on Saint Laurent Boulevard, which parallels Henri-Julien Avenue 5 blocks west.
Saint Laurent Boulevard, often called “The Main”, travels through all of the culinary neighbourhoods of Little Italy and Mile End. Beginning at the turn of the 20th century, immigrants made the area around this street their home, creating a tapestry of multicultural and culinary riches.
Continue south on Saint Laurent Boulevard to Mile End.
Mile End Neighbourhood
Originally home to Montreal’s Jewish community, Mile End has become a melting pot showing its multiculturalism with lots of Greek restaurants and Italian cafes. Saint Laurent is crudely the centre line of the compact neighbourhood running from Van Horne/Rosemont Avenue south to Mont-Royal Avenue. Over the years, more upscale and trendy dining has arrived, giving Mile End the “hippest” tag.
St. Michael’s and St. Anthony’s Catholic Church is 2 blocks west of Saint Laurent, on Saint-Viateur Street. Enjoy the architecture of this beautiful church.
Montreal is known for its scrumptious Montreal Bagels and Mile End has some of the best.
These bagels are hand-rolled and dipped in honey sweetened water and then baked in a wood-fired oven. In Mile End, two bagel shops vie for Montreal’s best bagel. Fairmount Bagel is Montreal’s first bagel shop, opened their doors back in 1919 (Fairmount between Clark and Saint-Urbain). There are two St-Viateur Bagel shops on Saint-Viateur West. The original location between Park and Jeanne Mance opened in 1957. Due to overwhelming demand, a second shop opened two blocks east in 1985. Enjoy bagels from both and decided for yourself who has the best bagel.
Another city specialty is the Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich.
This juicy sandwich is made of cured spiced meat. The meat is stacked in layers on rye bread and covered in a mustard spread. Lester’s Deli is one of the most well known on the western side of Mile End (Bernard Avenue at Durocher Street).
Continuing south along Saint Laurent, Schwartz’s Deli (at Napoleon Street) is another well-known option. They’ve been serving excellent smoked-meat sandwiches since 1928, the first deli in Canada.
In this lively neighbourhood of artists and professionals, enjoy the many sidewalk cafes and restaurants. Notice the winding, wrought iron staircases and balconies on many buildings. The outdoor staircases were added to buildings beginning in the late 1800s accommodating the duplexes being built in the working-class neighbourhood.
Six blocks east of Saint Laurent Boulevard on Rachel Street at Henri Julien Avenue is the massive Saint-Jean-Baptiste Catholic Church. The neo-Baroque church was opened in 1872. By 1892 it was complete including the addition of electricity to the church and presbytery. The church’s interior is stunning with a canopied altar.
Continue east on Rachel Street to the west corner of Parc La Fontaine and sample some Quebec Poutine.
La Banquise has been serving up the Quebec-specialty since 1968. Purists can still enjoy their French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy but there are over 30 varieties with about any kind of topping imaginable.
The beautiful, treed, 86-acre Parc La Fontaine is a great place to stop. There are paths throughout. In the summer enjoy tennis, baseball, soccer, bocce, and volleyball. Grab a picnic lunch and relax on the grass beside the large artificial pond. In the winter, enjoy skating on the pond.
To the southwest, on Pins Avenue between Drolet Street and Henri Julien Avenue, learn about Canada’s oldest French-speaking military unit at Musée des Fusiliers Mont-Royal and its history. The Mont-Royal Fusiliers formed over 150 years ago and its members have distinguished themselves when called to serve the country. It is an active army reserve unit belonging to the 34th Canadian Brigade Group of the 2nd Canadian Division.
Hotel Dieu Hospital is at the border between the Plateau and Mount Royal Park at the end of Pins Avenue. Visit the Museum of the Hospitallers of Hotel Dieu on Pins Avenue and learn about the nuns of the Religieuses Hospitalières de St-Joseph. They arrived in the 1600s to minister to the poor, sick and dying. They ran the hospital for over 300 years until it was taken over by the province and the University of Montreal in the 1970’s.
Parc Jean-Drapeau and the Islands
Jean-Drapeau Park, on two islands just east of the city: Île Ste-Hélène and Île Notre-Dame, was the site of Expo ’67. The 1967 Word’s Fair celebrated Canada’s Centennial. Explore the many recreational opportunities, paths and gardens in both summer and winter. Some of the old pavilions, such as the Biosphere, were repurposed and house interesting attractions for the whole family.
To get to the park, drive across the Jacques Cartier Bridge. For a much more relaxing journey, take the passenger ferry from Old Port and enjoy the views along the river. The Montreal Metro is also a great transit option.
Before crossing to the islands, just before the Jacques Cartier Bridge, stop at the 19th-century prison.
Take a guided tour of the prison, built between 1831 and 1840. Learn about the rebellions of 1837-1838 against the British Crown and the living conditions at the prison.
Île Ste-Hélène is the “north” island with lots of walking and cycling baths.
Montreal’s massive summer amusement park, La Ronde, has over 40 thrill rides and roller coasters. Don’t worry. There are tamer rides also; Ferris wheels, boat rides and rides for the kids. Concerts in many music genres and the annual International Fireworks Competition keep the crowds coming all summer long.
The Biosphere sits under the frame of the geodesic dome that was the United States pavilion for the Expo ’67. During Expo, the large 20-story-tall dome had an acrylic covering protecting the exhibits.
The building, given to the city at the end of Expo, was named the Biosphere in 1968. Montreal created an aviary and a series of hanging gardens under the dome. A 1976 fire melted the covering which was not replaced and the building closed. In 1995 the Biosphere Museum opened dedicated to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River ecosystem and its connections to society. The museum continues to be a leader in environmental issues and stewardship both locally and globally.
Île Notre-Dame, a man-made island, was created in the early 1960s from the earth removed during the building of Montreal’s Metro system.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
The Gilles Villeneuve Circuit is a Formula 1 Race Track ringing the island. Every June, it hosts the Montreal Grand Prix, the Canadian segment of the Formula 1 World Championship.
This track is special as the general public can use the track for cycling, rollerblading and walking. I had a blast taking my bike for a lap on this 4.4-kilometre-long track.
On hot summer days, locals seek relief at Jean-Doré Beach, an artificial beach in the middle of the race track. Canoe, kayak and pedal boat rentals are available. There is open water swimming, beach volleyball and much more.
Tickets are required. As it does get busy on hot summer days, check for tickets online before visiting.
The Casino de Montréal is a great way to end the day with more than 3000 slot machines and 100+ gaming tables. There are 5 restaurants on site and live cabaret performances. The building was the French pavilion during Expo 67.
Just across the Concorde Bridge at the southern end of Montreal’s Old Port is Habitat 67.
Habitat 67 was the McGill thesis project of internationally renowned architect and urban planner Moshe Safdie, then a 24-year-old student. Built for Expo 67, this unique housing complex was visited by tens of thousands and was the temporary residence for some visiting dignitaries. Cubes are stacked at different angles providing the 150 residential units both privacy and great views of the river. Today it is classified as a city heritage monument and a prestigious address. Habitat 67 Guided Tours are available.
Southwest Montreal and the Lachine Canal
The area west of the city centre consists of several neighbourhoods; Griffintown, Little Burgundy, Saint-Henri and Verdun.
Lachine Canal National Historic Site
The Lachine Canal stretches from the Old Port for 14 kilometres to St. Louis Lake in western Montreal on the St. Lawrence River.
Built between 1821 and 1825, the canal enabled small flat-bottomed boats on their way west to the interior of the continent to bypass the Lachine Rapids. The canal was enlarged twice in the 19th century as the size of boats increased. The canal’s use declined significantly with the opening of the larger St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 and was ultimately closed to shipping in 1970.
Parks Canada took over management and revitalization of the historic canal in 1978. Since 2002, the 5-lock canal system is open for pleasure craft use each summer. For information about navigating the canal, check the Parks Canada Lockage and Navigation webpage.
The National Historic Site is the waterway itself, a green urban park along the canal and the remains of the industries which grew along the canal. A multi-use path between Old Port and Lake Saint-Louis connects it all together and is maintained from April 15 to November 15. There are activities in the parkland year-round.
The neighbourhoods of southwestern Montreal were once blue-collar, industrial areas and developed in close proximity to the canal. Recently, many artists have moved to the area.
An excellent way to explore the canal and surrounding parks is by bicycle. Enjoy riding the 14.5-kilometre trail that runs along the canal.
Arsenal Contemporary Art is behind Lien Nord Park, between Saint-Gabriel Lock and the Atwater Footbridge.
Arsenal Art Contemporain Montréal
Arsenal galleries support and promote Canadian contemporary art. Founded in Montreal in 2011, there are now galleries in Montreal, Toronto and New York. The Montreal Arsenal gallery is huge, occupying a former shipyard warehouse.
Opposite the Atwater Footbridge, grab a picnic lunch at the Atwater Market. Marché Atwater has a great selection of vegetable, meat and fish vendors along with specialty merchants carrying products such as olive oils, vinegars and locally made items. Open since 1933 in the beautiful art-deco building, with a huge clock tower, it is one of the Montreal’s oldest markets.
The Lachine Lock is at the western end of the canal. Visit the lock station’s Visitor Centre for information about the canal’s history.
In an 1803 stone warehouse in the nearby park, explore the fur trade museum.
Fur Trade at Lachine National Historic Site
Lachine became a hub of local fur-trading operations due to the difficulty of navigating the Lachine Rapids. Learn about the fur trade and the history of the canal.
Marché de Lachine, the oldest, and smallest, public market in Montreal is less than a kilometre away, at 18th Avenue and Notre-Dame Street.
For a circular cycling route, continue on the cycling trail along La Salle Boulevard and the St. Lawrence River back toward Old Port.
This small museum sits on the Le Ber-Le Moyne Heritage Site. Visit 17th-century buildings, a collection of archaeological artifacts, art exhibits and a sculpture garden.
See the second mill Fleming, a Scottish miller, built on the site in 1827. It is an Anglo-Saxon-type mill and unusual in Quebec. It has been owned by the city of LaSalle since 1947.
Parc des Rapides
This 75-acre refuge area sees over 225 species of migratory birds and is a great area for hiking and bird watching. Interpretive panels explain the history of the rapids and the site’s former hydroelectric plant. Kayakers try their skills against the white water rapids beside the park.
House Nivard-De Saint-Dizier Museum and Archaeological Site
This 1710 historical home, museum and archaeological site are open in the summer. The home is typical of those built in the countryside by the French soon after their arrival. Archaeological investigations revealed Indigenous occupation on site over 5500 years ago.
This historic 17th-century home was the farmhouse of the King’s Wards, women from France who worked at the farm until they found a husband in the new world. See the beautiful gardens and enjoy guided tours at Maison Saint-Gabriel.
Biking in Montreal
Montreal is a great city for biking, with over 600 kilometres of cycling trails, including the Lachine Canal Bike Path. Many streets have dedicated bike lanes. Don’t have your own bike? It’s easy to rent one.
Bicycle Rentals in Montreal
These businesses rent regular and electric bikes. Several offer guided bike tours as well.
|Business||Location (Street address and neighbourhood)|
|Ca Roule Montreal/Montreal on Wheels |
Rental and guided bike tours
|27 Commune St. E |
|Ma Bicyclette |
Rental and guided bike tours
|2985 Saint-Patrick St. |
Lachine Canal, Southwest Montreal
|La Bicycletterie JR||201 Rachel St. E |
|Allo Velo Boutique||141 du Shannon St. |
Griffintown – Southwest Montreal
Instead of renting a bike, try Montreal’s bike-sharing network, BIXI. There are lots of BIXI stations and bikes located around the city. Fun fact: Bixi is a blend of bicycle and taxi.
Bike routes in Montreal
With bike rented or grabbed from a BIXI station, it’s time to head out on one (or more) of Montreal’s great cycle trails:
- Lachine Canal – 14.5 kilometres
- St. Lawrence Waterfront Cycling Path (at Pole des Rapides) – 21 kilometres
- Gilles Villeneuve Circuit – 4.4 kilometre circuit
- The Green Route
Route Verte Trail System
The ever expanding network of the Green Trail is more than 5000 kilometres long. For longer trips, use one of the towns in the Eastern Townships as a base. Try portions of Circuit 1, which runs all the way to Gaspe along on the St. Lawrence. South on Circuit 4 travels through great countryside on the way to Vermont.
Best Festivals in Montreal
Montreal has many entertaining festivals in both summer and winter. These are the most popular festivals.
- L’International Des Feux Loto (La Ronde) – June thru August – This is Our Recommended Festival
The International Fireworks Competition takes place on weekly in the summer months. Each week, a different country presents an amazing 30-minute fireworks spectacle. We saw the fireworks from the Jacques Cartier Bridge.
- Montreal International Jazz Fest (Downtown) – July
The largest Jazz Festival in the world has lots of free Jazz and Blues concerts in downtown Montreal.
- Just for Laughs Montreal (Downtown) – July
International comics come to Montreal for two weeks of laughter.
- Fete des Neiges (Jean-Drapeau Park) – January
At the Montreal Snow Festival the whole family can enjoy ice sculpting, tube sledding, dog sledding, snowshoeing, ice climbing, mini golf on ice and much more.
- Montreal en Lumiere (Downtown) – February thru March
This winter festival is filled with food, performing arts and outdoor activities for the whole family.
- Osheaga (Jean-Drapeau Park) – August
The Osheaga Music Festival is one of the biggest in the world.
- Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada (Gilles-Villeneuve Circuit) – June
International drivers compete annually at the only Canadian stop on the Formula 1 racing circuit.
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