What to do in Montreal
Montreal is a city with a reputation for European charm, old churches, and an incomparable passion for hockey. All of this is true, but there are many, many more sides to Montreal, including an incredible foodie scene and a tendency to latch onto summer with two hands and make the most of the great weather.
Here’s what a summer escape to Montreal might look like.
Day 1: Fill your belly with the classics
Montreal isn’t all French food and poutine. There are a number of cultural influences behind the city’s thriving culinary scene. The Jewish community in particular has helped put Montreal on the foodie map, through a couple of classic dishes.
You’ll definitely want to take a day to explore Montreal’s two bagel kings: St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel. Montreal is home to some of (if not the) best bagels in the world, but no one can seem to decide which of these two legendary shops has the edge. You’re going to want to grab a sesame-seed coated creation fresh out of the wood-burning ovens of both and decide for yourself.
Main Location: On Fairmount West, in Montreal’s stylish Mile End Neighborhood
Price: Under a dollar for a bagel
Main Location: On St-Viateur, in Montreal’s stylish Mile End Neighborhood
Price: Under a dollar for a bagel
Despite being open essentially 24 hours a day, people tend to enjoy bagels in the morning or afternoon. For your supper, set aside some time and stop in at the iconic Schwartz’s Deli. There, sink your teeth into a juicy, tender, medium-fat smoked meat sandwich, and then try your best not to order a second one.
Location: The popular St. Laurent Boulevard in downtown Montreal
Hours: Open from 8 a.m. to between 12:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. depending on the day
Price: CAD $9.60 for a smoked meat sandwich
Day 2: Spend a day on the mountain
Many people aren’t aware that right in the heart of Montreal sits a mountain. Okay, it’s more of a hill really, but Mount Royal is still an awesome place to spend a day. Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the designer of New York’s Central Park, Mount Royal Park offers Montrealers and tourists alike a natural oasis in the city. It’s where people go to hang out, spend some time outdoors, play sports, and a whole lot more.
You’re definitely going to want to climb to the lookout point at the top for beautiful views of the entire city (and a great backdrop for your Facebook profile photo). And, if you can swing it, visit on the park on a Sunday for the tam-tams. Tam-tams are weekly gatherings (weather-permitting) of drummers, dancers, vendors, and picnickers. People go to lay out a blanket, soak up some rays, and enjoy some people-watching with their lunch. Essentially It’s a big outdoor party and you’re invited.
How to get there: Easily accessible via multiple bus routes, uber, and taxis.
Day 3: Pick your festival
It isn’t hard to enjoy summer in Montreal. On top of the great weather, there are more festivals in the city than any one person could possibly attend. From music, to sports, to comedy, and everything in between, Montreal has a summer festival for every interest and taste, and any weekend you might be in town. Here are a few of the standouts, or you can check out our Montreal summer festival guide for more:
The Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada
Proving it’s a cosmopolitan city with A-list pull, every June Montreal welcomes the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada, the only race of its kind in North America. Superfast cars and star-studded parties power this glitzy weekend.
Where: The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, in Parc Jean-Drapeau, with events and parties around the city
The Montreal International Jazz Festival
Officially crowned the biggest jazz fest in the world, this granddaddy of festivals is all about musicians playing and people swaying in the Quartier des Spectacles downtown.
Where: The Quartier des Spectacles
The Just for Laughs Festival
If you get your kicks from comedy, Montreal’s legendary Just For Laughs has been a springboard for some of the craft’s biggest names who, come July, fill comedy venues, downtown theatres, and nightclubs.
When: Late July
Where: A number of venues in downtown Montreal
The epic Osheaga Music and Arts Festival is where big names and emerging artists in indie pop, rock, hip hop, and electronic music share the stage for three days straight.
When: Late July or Early August
Where: Île Sainte-Hélène.
Sold on a weekend in Montreal? Visit Tourism Montréal for more information.
Other Montreal musts
Food: As mentioned above, Montreal is one of the best foodie cities anywhere. In addition to the must-stops mentioned above, there are a laundry-list of other restaurants worth your time. You might want to stop into farm-to-fork pioneer Chef Normand Laprise’s Toqué, the elegant Restaurant Les 400 coups, or food personality Anthony Bourdain’s meat haven Joe Beef. Or just check out our Montreal Foodie Guide.
Activities: Montreal is a city for museum lovers, from fine arts to history. The highlight of the bunch might just be the Space for Life, however. The Space is about connecting us with nature and our universe, and is really four museums in one: The Biodôme, Botanical Garden, Insectarium, and Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. If you’re after a bit more of an adventure, Montreal’s Laronde theme park is a popular getaway during the summer. Or you could spend an entire weekend shopping the popular St. Laurent street or the popular ‘underground city.’
Other highlights: Like many great cities, Montreal’s neighborhoods each have a distinct feel and character. To really get to know this city, spend some time in multiple neighbourhoods, from the hip Plateau Mont-Royal, to the up-and-coming St. Henri, to the historic and beautiful Old Montreal.