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What to do in Montreal: 10 unique experiences

If you’re looking for things to do in Montreal, in this post you’ll find our 10 favorite experiences in the city.

Montreal is a vibrant and engaging city with an atmosphere that combines a bit of France, the United States, and England. According to Tourism Montreal, the city receives approximately 11 million tourists per year, making it one of the most visited cities in Canada.

We visited Montreal in June 2024, the first city of our second trip around the world, where we stayed for about 4 days.

Montreal was the perfect choice to start our adventure. During those four days, we explored its vibrant streets, enjoyed the local cuisine, and immersed ourselves in the rich culture of the city. From bustling markets to historic landmarks, every moment in Montreal was an unforgettable discovery.

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Why We Decided to Visit Montreal

We decided to visit the city because Montreal fit perfectly into our travel itinerary, making it an excellent gateway to North America. The convenience of the route made the city a practical and strategic choice.

We love exploring diverse cultures, and Montreal is a true melting pot of French, English, and many other influences from around the world. Its vibrant multiculturalism creates a unique and welcoming atmosphere that captivated us from the first moment.

We are passionate about food, and Montreal is a paradise for food lovers. From poutine to bagels and smoked meat, every corner of the city offers a new delicacy to savor, making the culinary experience memorable.

Where to Stay in the City

During our stay in Montreal in June 2024, we carefully chose our base in the city, considering proximity to public transportation and the availability of affordable accommodations. Here are the top four areas we considered, including the Gay Village:

  • Downtown: Ideal for those seeking proximity to major tourist attractions, shops, and restaurants. It is well-served by public transportation, making it easy to explore the city. See accommodations here.
  • Plateau Mont-Royal: Known for its bohemian atmosphere, Plateau Mont-Royal offers a vibrant atmosphere with cafes, art galleries, and unique shops. It is a popular choice among visitors seeking a more local experience. See accommodations here.
  • Gay Village: Recognized for its welcoming and vibrant atmosphere, the Gay Village is an excellent option for those looking to explore Montreal’s cultural diversity. Additionally, the area offers convenient access to public transportation and a variety of accommodation options. See accommodations here.
  • Vieux Montreal: Known for its charming historic atmosphere, proximity to major tourist attractions, charming restaurants, riverside scenery, and vibrant cultural environment. See accommodations here.

We chose to stay at the Hotel Labelle in the Gay Village, which perfectly met our needs. In addition to including breakfast, the hotel had a small kitchen that allowed us to prepare one or two meals, optimizing our budget without compromising comfort and convenience.

What to Do in Montreal

1. Chinatown

We loved the vibrant atmosphere and the enticing restaurants. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to have a meal in the neighborhood. We were fascinated by the variety of shops and restaurants. Every corner had something new to discover.

Chinatown, a must-visit in Montreal

Metro Station: Place-d’Armes

2. Marché Jean-Talon

The Jean-Talon Market in Montreal is a historic icon that has offered a variety of fresh local products for decades, essential to the community by promoting local agriculture and providing a vibrant space for gathering and commerce. We strolled through the market, exploring both fresh produce stalls and street food vendors. We participated in a food tour with Spade and Palacio, which not only introduced us to the market but also to other places and foods that reflect the city’s culture. We loved the experience.

Visiting Marché Jean-Talon is essential in Montreal

Metro Station: Jean-Talon

3. Street Festivals

It seemed like something was happening everywhere. The main site with Montreal’s event schedule is the Montreal Events Calendar. This portal offers a comprehensive list of cultural events, festivals, exhibitions, and activities happening in the city. We participated in a music festival, and it was amazing to see the city so lively.

Franco Street Festival in Montreal.

Metro Station: Various locations (Check local event schedules!)

4. Biosphere

We explored the Biosphere, an iconic structure and its surroundings. There are always exhibitions, but we ended up not visiting due to cost and having to make choices.

Montreal Biosphere

Metro Station: Jean-Drapeau

5. Atwater Market

We explored the various stalls of fresh produce and street food at the Atwater Market. The market has both an indoor and outdoor area with street food. We spent some time exploring the different stalls and tasting local specialties.

Atwater Market in Montreal

Metro Station: Lionel-Groulx

6. Parc La Fontaine

An amazing place to relax in a green park within the city. The park is huge and has everything from gardens to playgrounds. We sat on a bench enjoying the garden and recharging.

Parc La Fontaine in Montreal

Metro Station: Place-des-Arts

7. Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ)

We spent peaceful time exploring this treasure trove of knowledge. This library not only has books but also multimedia and video games that can be borrowed.

Comic book area at BAnQ library in Montreal

Metro Station: Berri-UQAM

8. Avenue Duluth

We strolled through charming streets, discovering various hidden treasures. The avenue also boasts plenty of street art contributing to a fantastic atmosphere.

Avenue Duluth in Montreal

Metro Station: Mont-Royal

9. Little Portugal

We entered a Portuguese café for a Delta coffee and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the neighborhood. We also ate a smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz’s. We couldn’t miss seeing the work of Portuguese artist Bordalo II.

Artwork by Bordalo II in Little Portugal in Montreal

Metro Station: Mont-Royal

10. Librairie Drawn & Quarterly

We loved the ambiance and excellent book selection at this iconic bookstore.

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly in Montreal

Metro Station: Mont-Royal

Safety Tips

Travel Insurance

Make sure you have travel insurance before visiting Montreal. Without travel health insurance, medical costs for tourists in Canada can be significantly high.

A good insurance policy can cover everything from medical emergencies to lost luggage. Check if your policy covers specific activities you plan to do, such as winter sports, and always carry a digital copy of your insurance.

We always travel with Heymondo insurance, and our trip to Canada was no exception. Besides offering one of the best deals on the market, it also includes Airhelp.

Day-to-Day Safety Tips

  • Keep Your Belongings Safe: Use a backpack or bag with a zipper and keep your valuables out of sight.
  • Avoid Unfamiliar Areas at Night: Stay in well-lit, busy areas, especially if you’re exploring alone. The city has some areas that may seem a bit less secure at night. While we never felt threatened, we still recommend caution.
  • Emergencies: Always have local emergency numbers handy, as well as contacts for your country’s embassy.

Extra Tips

Mobile Data

Consider using an eSIM for your phone during your stay in Montreal. An eSIM allows you to avoid roaming charges and access mobile data easily and affordably. While traveling, we always use MobiMatter, which allows us to check and compare offers from various carriers.

Public Transportation

Use the metro and buses: Public transportation in Montreal is efficient and safe. A daily or weekly pass may be more economical if you plan to explore the city extensively. When we arrived at the airport, we immediately purchased a 24-hour ticket that gave us access to the bus to the city (747) and also the first day of free transportation.

Local Culture

  • Practice French: While many residents speak English, knowing some French can open doors and enhance your experience.
  • Try Local Food: Don’t miss out on poutine, Montreal bagels, and smoked meat. These are local specialties you shouldn’t miss.

Planning your trip to Montreal?

If you are planning a trip, check our resources page.

Activities at Montreal

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