Planning a weeking in Montreal? This Montreal itinerary is perfect for first-timers. It includes where to stay in the city, where to eat, and the best things to do in Montreal.
Montreal is the perfect weekend destination. Even though I’m Canadian, whenever I travel to Montreal, I feel like I’m in a completely different country.
From the predominance of the French language, to the cobblestone street of Old Montreal, there’s no other city like it in North America!
Some visitors say that Montreal reminds of them Europe and others say that it feels like a beautiful combination of both the old and new world. I think you’ll just have to visit and experience the charm of Montreal for yourself!
If you’re traveling to Montreal for the first time, I recommend spending at least 2 days in Montreal. This will give you plenty of time to see the main landmarks and highlights of the city.
If you have more time to spare, that’s awesome! You may also want to check out Quebec City as well, which is another lovely city in the French-speaking province of Quebec.
Montreal is a very accessible city. There is really no reason to rent a car since their underground Metro and bus system makes it easy to get around.
This Montreal itinerary is also budget-friendly. It includes tips for how to see the city’s top attractions, how to save money on Montreal accommodations, and affordable restaurant recommendations.
- Visiting Montreal for the First Time (16 Tips & Tricks)
- The ultimate guide to visiting Quebec City on a budget
- 10 romantic things to do in Quebec City
Table of Contents
What do I need to know about traveling to Montreal?
Best time to go: The best time to visit Montreal is the beginning of summer (June and July) and fall (September and October). This is when the weather is mild and there are fewer crowds.
Best area to stay: Old Montreal is the best area to stay if you’re visiting Montreal for the first time. Other areas you’ll love include Downtown Montreal, Le Plateau Mont-Royal, The Village, and Mile End.
Best way to get around: The best way to get around Montreal is on foot. The city is very walkable. The Montreal metro and bus is also a quick and easy way to explore the city.
If you want to give your feet a break, consider riding the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour. This a fun way to get familiar with the different neighborhoods in Montreal.
What’s Montreal known for? Montreal is famous for its bagels and poutine. It’s also known for being the first city to hold the Olympics in Canada in 1976, Mount Park Royal, and being the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil.
Helpful tips for first-timers in Montreal
Montreal is Canada’s second largest city (Toronto is #1).
The Port of Montreal is one of the largest waterways in the world.
Montreal is set on an island in the Saint Lawrence River and named after Mt. Royal.
French is the city’s official spoken language, but most people speak both English and French.
A “Dep” is a convenience store. Short for “Dépanneur”.
Montreal has the highest number of restaurants per capita in Canada.
The legal drinking age is 18 (the legal drinking age is 19 in the rest of Canada).
If you’re driving, you can’t turn right on a red light.
What part of Montreal is best to stay in?
When visiting Montreal for the first time, the best neighborhoods to book your accommodations are:
- Old Montreal – The BEST location for first-time visitors.
- Downtown Montreal – This is ideal for luxury travellers.
- Le Plateau Mont-Royal – This area is ideal for families.
- The Village – A small neighborhood home to Montreal’s LGBTQ community.
- Mile End – The perfect neighborhood for foodies and art lovers.
Best hotels in Montreal for every budget
If you’re traveling on a budget, these are the best affordable hotels in Montreal:
- Epik Hotel Montreal – Located in Old Montreal.
- Maison Des Jardins B&B – Located in the Gay Village of Montreal.
- Hotel Alt Montreal – Located in Griffintown. 0.6 miles from Montreal’s Old Port.
If you have a little more wiggle room in your budget, these are the best mid-range hotels in Montreal:
- Le Petit Hotel – Located in Old Montreal.
- Hotel Place D’Armes – Located in Old Montreal.
- Hotel Le Germain Montreal – Located in downtown Montreal.
If you want to splurge, these are the best luxury hotels in Montreal:
- Hotel Nelligan – One of the best locations in Old Montreal.
- Ritz-Carlton Hotel – Located in downtown Montreal.
- Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth – Located in downtown Montreal.
My go-to site for finding deals on hotels is Booking.com. Below you can find local hotel deals in Montreal.
Top 10 things to do in Montreal
Below are the top 10 things to do in Montreal according to GetYourGuide:
- La Grande Roue of Montreal
- Explore Old Montreal
- Check out downtown Montreal
- Visit Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal
- Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal
- Old Port of Montreal
- Mount Royal Park
- Le Plateau-Mont-Royal
- Montreal Olympic Park
- Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
What should you not miss in Montreal?
Wander around Old Montreal (Vieux Montreal).
Visit Montreal’s Old Port (Vieux Port).
Eat Montreal bagels – St-Viateur Bagel is the best!
Visit the Marche Jean Talon (Jean-Talon Market) – Great for fresh fruits & vegetables.
Eat Poutine – This is french fries, gravy and cheese curds. It sounds like a strange combination, but it’s the ultimate Canadian comfort food.
Have a smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz’s Deli.
Visit Mount Royal Park.
Check out the Botonical Gardens.
Check out Quartier Des Spectacles – Located in the arts & entertainment district of downtown Montreal.
Visit the Olympic Stadium.
Explore Mile-End – This is one of Canada’s hippest neighborhoods.
What’s the best way to get around Montreal?
The best way to get around Montreal is by taking public transport. It’s fast, safe, and reliable.
Montreal is also a very walkable city, so if you’re staying in a central location such as Downtown Montreal or Old Port, then you can easily walk or bike to all the major attractions.
If you want to give your feet a rest and experience a fun way to get to know the city, consider riding the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour or doing this popular scooter sightseeing tour.
This is an excellent way to see the top sights and learn more about Montreal with an engaging commentary.
Avoid renting a car since parking is quiet expensive at hotels and some streets are narrow. The metro is faster and much easier to use than driving.
You can also rent a bike and cycle around the city. There are tons of bike paths and it’s been named one of the most bike-friendly cities in North America.
How to save money on food in Montreal
Avoid eating at traditional French restaurants since these can be quite expensive.
Instead, consider eating at Montreal’s delicious vegetarian or ethnic restaurants, which are very affordable.
One of my favorite hotels in Montreal is Le Square Phillips Hôtel & Suites. The rooms are huge (and affordable), plus they offer a free continental breakfast. This helps us to save money when eating out.
Short on time? Consider taking this popular 3.5-hour guided bus tour. See over 200 sites and enjoy incredible views as you explore Mont Royal Park, Place Ville Marie shopping mall, Chinatown and Old Montreal.
You can check availability and book this tour below with GetYourGuide. This is the company I use to book all my travel tours because they offer free cancellation, just in case your travel plans change.
Montreal Itinerary: Day One
Start your morning by taking the Metro to Pie-IX station. We stayed at the Intercontinental in Old Montreal, so we bought a 2-trip ticket.
A 2-trip ticket saves you money and you’ll avoid waiting in line again to purchase another ticket.
For breakfast, head to Bistro Le Valois, about a 14-minute walk from the Pie-IX metro station. During the warmer months, you can enjoy a beautiful breakfast on the patio. The portions are generous and affordable.
I ordered the French crepes with maple syrup and my boyfriend ordered the French crepes with Nutella.
After breakfast, head to the Montreal Botanical Gardens. Here you’ll find one of the most beautiful gardens in Canada. Great for garden lovers or botany buffs!
My favorite area is the Chinese Gardens. It’s so pretty there that you’ll want to stop for awhile to take it all in.
When is the best time to visit the Montreal Botanical Gardens?
While anytime is good to visit the Botanical Gardens, my favorite time of year is during September and October.
This is also when the weather is more mild and the summer crowds have gone home.
Included in your admission ticket is access to Montreal’s Insectarium. It’s one of the largest insect museums in North America and fun for kids and adults alike.
Plan to spend 2 hours exploring the Montreal Botanical Gardens and Insectarium.
After enjoying the gardens, you can enjoy an incredible view of Montreal from the top of the Montreal Tower Observatory.
At 165 meters high with a 45-degree angle, this is the tallest inclined tower in the world. At the top of the tower, you can experience 360º panorama views.
Alternatively, if it’s raining or you’re visiting Montreal in the winter, I recommend spending the morning touring the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
This is the oldest and largest art museum in Canada and it’s located in the Golden Square Mile stretch of Sherbrooke Street.
The most famous paitings to see the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts include:
- Auguste Renoir – Young Girl with a Hat
- James Tissot – October
- Auguste Rodin – Sirens
- Gerrit van Honthorst
- Edgar Degas – At the Theatre: Woman Seated in the Balcony
More fun things to do in Montreal:
- La Grande Roue of Montreal
- 20 or 30-minte Helicopter tour of Montreal
- Montreal: 3.5-Hour Guided Bus Tour
Their Veggie Pad Thai is super yummy and goes great with one of the local beers they have on tap.
Montreal Restaurant Etiquette:
While most people are bilingual in Montreal, knowing how to say a few phrases in French can be helpful.
- Bonjour – Hello (Say this in the morning and afternoon)
- Salut – Hello (This is another popular way to say ‘Hello’)
- Bonsoir – Good evening
- S’il vous plait – Please (It’s always polite to say “please” and “thank you”)
- Merci – Thank you (You can also say “Merci beaucoup” which means “Thank you very much”)
- Bonne Journée – Have a good day (Your waiter may say this when you leave the restaurant. You can smile and reply with “Merci”)
- La facture – The bill (If you want to ask for the bill, say “La facture s’il vous plait”)
After lunch, this is the perfect time to check out this Old Montreal itinerary. Don’t be afraid to get lost as you wonder the cobblestone streets.
Throughout the center of Old Montreal runs the city’s oldest street, Rue St-Paul (Saint Paul Street). The path was first paved back in 1672. Here you’ll find unique boutiques, galleries, and cute cafes.
Make your way to Notre-Dame Basilica. This is one of the oldest examples of Gothic Revival religious architecture in Canada.
You can explore the church yourself, take a guided tour, or do the Aura Experience. This is an impressive light show in the evening. No Montreal itinerary would be complete without a visit to Notre-Dame Basilica.
After visiting the Notre-Dame Basilica, make your way over to Place Jacques-Cartier. This is one of the most popular squares in Montreal and a great place to people watch.
Here you’ll find Parisian-style “terraces”, stalls selling handmade goods, cute shops, and street artists.
For dinner, I recommend LOV Restaurant. My boyfriend and I agree that this was one of the best dinners he had during our trip.
Their hand-crafted cocktails are amazing and I really enjoyed the Big LOV Burger. You’ll want to make a reservation as this restaurant is popular on the weekends.
Montreal Itinerary: Day Two
Start your morning by enjoying a yummy breakfast at Olive et Gourmando. This is a popular breakfast and brunch restaurant in Old Montreal. Call ahead and put your name on the list to avoid waiting in line for a table.
After breakfast, make your way down to the Old Port in this Montreal itinerary. This is one of the largest waterways in North American and a fun spot to visit during the warmer months.
Check out the national historic site Lachine Canal, which is a 13.5-kilometre path that runs between the Old Port and Lake Saint-Louis.
Popular things to do in Old Port Montreal:
Montreal Observation Wheel
Enjoy a spectacular view 60 meters high on the La Grande Roue de Montréal. This ferris wheel is iconic.
Rent a pedal boat
This is a fun and relaxing way to enjoy a view of Montreal from the water.
Le Bateau-Mouche St. Lawrence Sightseeing Cruise
Make the most of the beautiful summer months by taking a cruise on Le Bateau-Mouche. This is a must when visiting Old Montreal.
Check out the first urban zipline circuit in Canada and experience Montreal from a bird’s eye view.
Clock Tower Beach
Relax in a comfy chair on this beautiful sandy beach.
If you feeling like splurging, consider a visit to Bota Bota. This enchanting spa is popular with locals and tourists alike. Enjoy a massage or check out their relaxing water circuit.
If you want to do something memorable in Montreal, consider taking this exciting helicopter tour. Here you’ll get a bird’s eye view of Montreal on a 20 or 30-minute helicopter flight above the city. This is the perfect photo opportunity.
Grab lunch at Pizzeria NO.900. This is the best spot in Montreal to get pizza and prices are affordable too.
After lunch, check out the Mile End neighborhood. This is a hip, laid-back area with tons of vintage shops, old-school bagel shops, cute cafes, and brunch spots.
Then head to Mount Royal Park.
If you’re visiting in the summer, check out Les Tam-tams du mont Royal, which is a free festival that takes place on Sundays near the monument to Sir George-Étienne Cartier.
In Mount Royal Park’s surrounding green spaces you can check out drummers, dancers, and other vendors.
This is a small mountain you can climb that offers some of the best views of the city. It’s free to visit and takes approximately 30-45 minutes to walk up (depending on where you start).
Alternatively, if you don’t have time to explore Mount Royal Park, check out Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal instead.
This one of Canada’s largest churches and has one of the largest domes in the world. You definitely want to include this in your Montreal itinerary.
Enjoy dinner at Aux Vivres. This is a cute spot in the Westmount neighborhood of Montreal. Rue Sherbooke offers some nice shopping if you’re interested in browsing the stores.
Head to the Mount Royal lookout to enjoy a beautiful view of the city. This is a nice spot to see the sunset (or sunrise if you’re up early).
Alternatively, if it’s raining, you can spend the afternoon checking out the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History and the Montreal Science Centre.
The Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History is the largest and most popular history museum in the city.
It’s also the largest archaeology museum in Canada where you can learn about how Montreal was founded.
More fun things to do in Montreal:
- From Montreal: Quebec City and Montmorency Falls Day Trip
- Montreal: Electric Fat Tire Bike Ride on Mount Royal
- Walking Tour in Old Montreal’s West Side
Staying longer than a weekend in Montreal?
Here are some more fun places to visit near Montreal. These would make for a great day trip.
Discover the magic of Quebec City on a guided day trip by bus from Montreal. Be charmed by narrow streets, steep hills and historic treasures, and see a waterfall 1.5 times bigger than Niagara.
This is a favorite market for locals and chefs alike. Here you can see a variety of fresh products. Pick up a few essentials and have a delicious picnic at a nearby park.
You can visit Montreal’s historic sights on this guided walking tour including Notre-Dame Basilica, Place Jacques-Cartier, Bonsecours Market, Montreal City Hall and Champ de Mars (to name a few).
Explore Montreal in an unique way and meet the spirits and ghosts that still haunt its historic streets. I love going on ghost tours in old cities.
Another popular market to buy gourmet olive oils, spices, vinegars, and dried fruits is Atwater Market (Marché Atwater).
As you make your way to Atwater Market, check out Little Little Burgundy, which is a fun neighborhood along the Lachine Canal. There is a lively path along the water, which leads to the market.
Biodome de Montreal
Walk through replicas of four ecosystems found in the Americas. This is fun for both kids and adults alike.
Ready to plan your Montreal vacation? See what hotel deals are available in the area thanks to Booking.com
Weekend in Montreal FAQs
When is the best time to visit Montreal?
The best time to visit Montreal is in the fall (September to November) when the weather is mild and there are fewer crowds. Another good time to visit is in the spring (March to May).
If you’re planning a trip to Montreal, I encourage you to check out Quebec City too. The best time to visit Quebec City is in the summer (June through September) and the winter (December through February) for its winter festivals.
Is April a good time to visit Montreal?
Yes, April can be a bit chilly, but this is a great time to visit Montreal when the crowds are small and hotel rooms are affordable.
Is 2 days enough in Montreal?
I recommend staying at least 2 full days in Montreal, especially for first-time visitors. This will give you enough time to see the historic center in Old Montreal, relax at the city’s cute cafes, and explore the surrounding neighborhoods.
What is Montreal famous for?
Montreal is known for being the largest French-speaking city in Canada and North America. It’s home to Cirque de Soleil and hosted the Summer Olympics in 1976. 85% of the world’s maple syrup also comes from Quebec.
Is 3 days enough in Montreal?
Yes, you can easily see the best of what Montreal has to offer in just 3 days. This gives you enough time to explore the major landmarks, eat the best food in the city, and experience the local neighborhoods.
How many days do you need in Montreal?
Plan to spend at least 2 full days to exploring the main attractions in Montreal. If you have more time, consider visiting Quebec City, which is 3-hour drive from Montreal.
Can I get by speaking English in Montreal?
Quebec is a French speaking province, however most people in Montreal are bilingual and can speak both English and French. If you travel outside of Montreal in Quebec, you’ll find that English is rarely used.
Is Montreal worth visiting?
Yes, Montreal is definitely worth visiting. It’s the second largest city in Canada. It’s beautiful in both the summer and winter time. Visitors love the mix of European charm and modern North American style.
What food is Montreal known for?
Montreal has some of the most delicious food in Canada. Below are some popular food items that you must try when visiting Montreal:
- Poutine – Crispy fries with gravy and cheese curds. La Banquise is the most popular place to try this Canadian staple.
- Bagels – Head to St. Viateur and Fairmont for the best bagels in Montreal. These bagels are thinner, smaller and sweeter than New York bagels.
- Smoked meat sandwich – Schwartz’s Deli is the most popular spot for this iconic sandwich.
Is Montreal expensive to visit?
You should plan to spend around $226 per person (per day) for your vacation. Based on the expenses of other visitors, this is the average daily price. (Price are in Canadian Dollars).
|Average Daily Cost |
As you can see, a vacation to Montreal for one week will cost an average of $1,583 per person. (Source)
Is Montreal or Quebec City better to visit?
If you have time, I recommend visiting both cities, as there is so much to see and explore. For those who are looking to visit a large, ubran city, with lots of amazing restaurants, then check out Montreal. If you prefer to visit a smaller city with a romantic old town experience, then visit Quebec City.