Montreal Travel Guide

Welcome, dear traveler, to the land of poutine and bagels, where the old world charm meets modern innovation: Montreal. As someone who has experienced the magic firsthand, I can tell you that if you're planning to travel to Montreal, get ready for a journey of culture-soaked streets, culinary delights and unforgettable encounters.

The city is an eclectic mix of contemporary design and historic architecture. The people are as warm as the cinnamon-infused hot chocolate in a cozy French patisserie on a snowy day. In this guide, we'll walk through cobblestone alleys, scale Mont Royal's heights for breathtaking views and indulge in some after-dark jazz – all without leaving your seat! So sit back and let's unravel this vibrant city together with our Montreal travel guide.

Why Go to Montreal?

Montreal in Quebec is a fantastic culturally rich city that offers a wide array of experiences and attractions for visitors. Here are several reasons why you might consider visiting Montréal:

1. Rich Historical Experience: Montreal is one of the oldest cities in North America and has a strong French influence in its architecture, culture, and language. The city's rich history is evident in its beautifully preserved old town, Old Montreal.

2. Delicious Food:
Known as Canada's food capital, Montreal offers a wide variety of cuisines from around the world. The city is particularly famous for its poutine, smoked meats, and bagels.

3. Vibrant Festival Culture:
Montreal is renowned for its year-round festivals. From the International Jazz Festival to the Just for Laughs comedy festival, there is always something happening.

4. Beautiful Parks and Outdoor Spaces:
The city boasts numerous parks, the most famous one being Mount Royal Park, from where you can enjoy spectacular views of the city skyline.

5. Dynamic Art Scene:
Home to numerous museums, art galleries, and street art, Montreal is a paradise for art lovers. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Contemporary Art Museum are not to be missed.

6. World-Class Shopping:
Montreal offers a unique shopping experience with its elegant boutiques, designer stores, and bustling markets.

7. Excellent Public Transportation:
The city has a well-connected metro and bus system, making it very easy for tourists to move around.

Best Time to Visit Montreal?

The best time to visit Montreal depends on the activities you are interested in.

1. Summer (June through August) is considered the peak tourist season, with plenty of festivals such as the Montreal International Jazz Festival and Just for Laughs comedy festival taking place. The weather is also warm and inviting.

2. Fall (September through November) is also a good time to visit for those who enjoy scenic beauty. The fall foliage in Montreal is quite beautiful. The weather is also cooler and the tourist crowd is smaller.

3. Winter (December through February) can be very cold, but those who enjoy winter sports like ice skating or want to experience the city's vibrant Christmas markets and festivals might find this to be the best time.

4. Spring (March through May) can be a mix of mild to cool weather and city's parks and gardens blooming are a sight to behold.

Remember, popular times to travel will typically be more crowded and potentially more expensive, so plan accordingly.

Montreal in winter

Weather in Montreal

Montreal experiences four distinct seasons:

1. Winter (December to February) is very cold with temperatures often dropping below 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius). Snowfall is frequent and heavy, making it a great time for winter sports like ice skating and skiing.

2. Spring (March to May) sees temperatures gradually rising from chilly to mild, with average highs ranging from 40°F (4°C) in March to about 70°F (21°C) in May. Rainfall can be quite common in spring.

3. Summer (June to August) is typically warm to hot, with temperatures ranging from 70°F to 80°F (21°C to 27°C), but it can sometimes go higher. This is the most popular time for outdoor activities and festivals in Montreal.

4. Fall (September to November) experiences cooler temperatures, falling leaves, and beautiful fall colors. Temp averages range from 60°F (16°C) in September to below freezing in late November.

The weather can be unpredictable at times, so it's always a good idea to check the forecast before your visit.

How to Get to Montreal?

Getting to Montreal depends on your location and preferred method of travel:

1. By Air: Montreal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL) is the main airport serving Montreal, with multiple national and international flights daily. It is around 20 km from downtown Montreal.

2. By Train: Montreal also is well linked to other major Canadian and U.S. cities via train. VIA Rail serves Canadian cities and Amtrak's Adirondack line connects Montreal to New York City.

3. By Car: If you prefer driving, Montreal has good road links. It's about a six-hour drive from cities like Toronto or New York City.

4. By Bus: Multiple bus companies operate services into Montreal from other Canadian cities and some American cities. These include Greyhound, Megabus, and Orleans Express.

Remember, if you're traveling from outside Canada, you'll need a passport and possibly a visa, depending on your nationality. For travel within Canada, standard identification is needed. Always check travel advisories before planning your trip.

Best Flights To Montreal

Quickly search the best flights from the widest selection of airlines flying to Montreal. Regardless of what airline you go with, you can save money by comparing. Skyscanner is the best airline price comparison service specifically for Montreal.

How to Get Around Montreal?

Getting around in Montreal is made relatively easy with a variety of transport options:

1. Metro: The Montreal Metro has four lines and 68 stations linking various parts of the city. It's a fast and efficient way to commute.

2. Bus: Montreal's extensive bus network complements the metro and can get you to areas not serviced by the metro.

3. BIXI Bikes: For those preferring to cycle, Montreal offers BIXI, a public bike-sharing system.

4. Taxi/Rideshares: Taxicabs and ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft are also available throughout the city.

5. Walking: Many attractions in the city, especially in neighborhoods like Old Montreal, are within walking distance and the city is very pedestrian-friendly.

6. Car Rental: Renting a car can be practical for visiting the areas surrounding Montreal, but keep in mind that driving and parking in the city might be challenging due to traffic and parking regulations.

7. Ferries: To cross the Saint Lawrence River, you can also take a ferry.

It's recommended to purchase an OPUS card if you're planning to use public transport frequently. This reloadable card can be used on both the metro and buses.

public transport in Montreal

How Much Time Should I Spend in Montreal?

The length of your stay in Montreal largely depends on your interests, but a 3-4 day trip is generally sufficient to explore the main sights of the city.

Here's a very rough itinerary:

1. Day 1: Explore Old Montreal - visit Notre-Dame Basilica, stroll the cobblestone streets, explore the shops and have dinner in a quaint restaurant.

2. Day 2: Visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts or the Montreal Science Centre, then head up to Mount Royal Park for panoramic views of the city.

3. Day 3: Visit the Montreal Biodome, Botanical Garden and other attractions in the Olympic Park area. In the evening, check out the bustling Quartier des Spectacles entertainment district.

4. Day 4: Explore some of the city's diverse neighborhoods like the Plateau Mont-Royal, Mile End, or the Atwater Market in Saint-Henri.

If you have more time, you could also visit some of the city's other numerous museums, spend more time sampling the food scene, dive deeper into its neighbourhoods, or even take a day trip to nearby attractions such as Mont Tremblant or Quebec City.

tourist in Montreal

What Should I Do on My First Trip to Montreal?

For your first trip to Montreal, here are some key attractions and activities that you shouldn't miss:

1. Visit Old Montreal: This is the historic area of the city, filled with beautiful architecture, art galleries, and quaint shops. Don't forget to visit the stunning Notre-Dame Basilica.

2. Explore Mount Royal Park: This large park offers great trails for hiking, biking or simply strolling around. Be sure to visit the lookout points for a spectacular view of the city.

3. Check out the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: As one of the most prominent museums in Canada, it houses an extensive collection of art from around the world.

4. Visit the Montreal Biodome: It showcases four different ecosystems, and it's located in Olympic Park, which hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics.

5. Eat Local Food: Make sure to try out the city's famous dishes like poutine, Montreal smoked meat, and bagels.

6. Walk in Saint Joseph's Oratory: This is Canada's largest church and its dome is one of the largest of its kind in the world.

7. Take a stroll in the Montreal Botanical Garden: Enjoy its collection of 22,000 plant species, 10 exhibition greenhouses, Tree House and more.

What Are Some Hidden Gems to See in Montreal?

Apart from its more well-known attractions, Montreal is also home to several lesser-known treasures. Below are some hidden gems:

1. The Darling Foundry: An old metal factory converted into a contemporary art gallery, The Darling Foundry is a local favorite, located in the Griffintown neighborhood.

2. Les Bouquinistes: This hidden specialty bookstore sells used books, and specializes in literature, drama, and history. It’s a must-visit for book lovers!

3. Ruelle Verte (Green Alleyways): These small backstreet alleys scattered throughout the city have been repurposed into green, pedestrian-friendly havens.

4. Lachine Canal: A bit removed from downtown, this scenic canal area is perfect for bike rides or picnics.

5. St. Louis Square: This Victorian-era square in the Plateau neighborhood offers a picturesque spot away from the city bustle.

6. Atwater Cocktail Club: A speakeasy style bar hidden behind a sandwich shop. They serve artfully crafted cocktails and small bites.

7. Jean-Talon Market: Although not exactly hidden, this market is less touristy than Atwater Market and offers a wide range of fresh local produce, flowers, and gourmet food stalls.

What Neighborhood Should I Stay in When I Visit Montreal?

The best neighborhood in Montreal for you to stay in depends mainly on what you want to do and see. Here are a few great options:

1. Old Montreal (Vieux-Montreal): This is Montreal's historic district, with cobblestone streets, landmarks, boutiques and restaurants. Stay here if you are interested in history and architecture.

2. Downtown (Centre Ville): This bustling area contains many of the city's high-end shops, luxurious hotels, and the Museum of Fine Arts. It's also home to Quartier des Spectacles, a hub for festivals all year round.

3. Plateau Mont-Royal: Known for its bohemian vibe, it's dotted with coffee shops, bookstores, and boutiques. It's a great area for those looking for a vibrant food and arts scene.

4. The Village (Le Village): As Montreal's LGBTQ+ district, The Village boasts an electric atmosphere, colorful architecture, lush parks, and inviting cafes.

5. Mile End: This trendy residential neighborhood is known for its vibrant art scene, hipster vibe, and diverse food options, including the famous St-Viateur Bagel Shop.

6. Griffintown: This up-and-coming neighborhood is an industrial area-turned-hip district, with loads of new condos, eateries, and boutiques.

Most of these neighborhoods have good access to Montreal's efficient public transport, so you should have no problem exploring the city, no matter where you choose to stay.

Recommended Hotels In Montreal

William Gray hotel room

William Gray

Guests can enjoy the on-site bar and private parking is available on site.
All rooms are fitted with a flat-screen TV. You will find a coffee machine in the room. Every room has a private bathroom with bathrobes and slippers. There is free shuttle service, a 24-hour front desk, a cash machine and gift shop at the property.

Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth

Fairmont Queen Elizabeth

Connected to Montreal's underground city, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth offers access to more than 20 miles of underground pedestrian walkways, shopping centers, entertainment venues and attractions. A wellness center with an indoor pool is featured at the hotel.

Four Seasons Hotel Montreal

Four Seasons Hotel Montreal

Featuring a bar, Four Seasons is located in the center of Montreal, a 3-minute walk from Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. With free WiFi, this 5-star hotel offers room service and a 24-hour front desk. The hotel has family rooms.Popular points of interest near the hotel include Bell Centre, Ogilvy and Eaton Center Montreal.


What Is a Good Budget for a Trip to Montreal?

The budget for a trip to Montreal can greatly depend on the individual's travel style, accommodation preferences, and personal spending habits. Here's a rough estimate:

1. Accommodation: Budget hotels and hostels cost around 30-50 CAD per night. Mid-range hotels can be between 100-150 CAD per night, and luxury hotels can start at 200 CAD per night.

2. Food: You can spend around 10-15 CAD for a cheap meal, 20-30 CAD for a meal at a mid-range restaurant, and upwards of 50 CAD at a high-end restaurant.

3. Attractions: Many attractions in Montreal cost around 15-25 CAD for adult admission.

4. Transportation: A day pass for unlimited travel on Montreal's metro and bus system is 10 CAD. Taxis and rideshares vary depending on distance.

5. Misc: Extra for shopping, nightlife, tours, etc.

So, a budget traveler might spend around 60-80 CAD per day, a mid-range traveler might spend 100-200 CAD per day, while a luxury traveler can expect to spend 250 CAD per day or more.

Remember that these are approximations, and prices can fluctify based on season, events, and personal spending habits. It's always good to carry a bit of emergency cash and try to over-budget rather than under-budget.

Best Flights To Montreal

Quickly search the best flights from the widest selection of airlines flying to Montreal. Regardless of what airline you go with, you can save money by comparing. Skyscanner is the best airline price comparison service specifically for Montreal.

How to Save Money in Montreal?

Visiting Montreal on a budget is entirely possible with some careful planning and smart choices. Here are several ways to save money during your visit to Mntreal:

1. Use Public Transportation: Using the metro or bus in Montreal is significantly cheaper than using taxis or rental cars. Consider getting a multi-day pass if you plan on using public transit frequently.

2. Eat at Food Trucks and Markets: Montreal has a vibrant street food scene, with many affordable options for meals. The Jean-Talon and Atwater markets also have a range of food vendors where you can eat for less.

3. Visit Free Attractions: Many of Montreal's top attractions are free, such as the Mount Royal Park or the Lachine Canal. There are also several museums that offer free admission or discounts at certain times or days.

4. Travel Off-Peak: Prices for flights and hotels tend to be cheaper during the off-peak season (spring and fall). Avoiding weekends and holidays can also help save money.

5. Stay in a Hostel or Airbnb: Staying in a budget hotel, hostel or an Airbnb can be much cheaper than a traditional hotel.

6. Use City Tourist Cards: Montreal offers a tourist card, the 'Passeport MTL,' which includes public transportation and free access to over 28 attractions. It could save your money if you're planning to see a lot of sights.

7. Eat Like a Local: Food staples like bagels, poutine and smoked meat sandwiches are delicious eats that won't break the bank.

Remember that budgeting appropriately is an important part of travel. By planning ahead and making smart choices, you can save money and still enjoy your trip to Montreal to the fullest.

How to Stay Safe in Montreal?

Montreal at night

Montreal is generally considered a safe city, but like any major city, it's always important to be cautious and aware of your surroundings. Here are some safety tips:

1. Be Careful at Night: Avoid walking alone late at night in unknown areas. Stick to well-lit, populated places.

2. Beware of Pickpockets: Be alert in crowded places as pickpocketing can occur. Keep your valuables secure and out of sight.

3. Avoid Confrontations: If confronted by panhandlers or street people, avoid engagement and walk away.

4. Safe Travel: Use only licensed taxis and be wary of accepting rides from strangers.

5. Alcohol Safety: Drink responsibly, never leave your drink unattended in bars or clubs.

6. Road Safety: Follow the traffic rules while walking, driving, or biking in the city. Be particularly careful during the winter due to slippery conditions.

7. Emergency Number: In case of an emergency, dial 911.

Overall, Montreal is commonly regarded as a safe city for tourists. Use common sense and taking normal precautions should allow for a trouble-free visit.

What Are the Best Neighborhoods for Shopping in Montreal?

shopping in Montreal

Montreal is known for its diverse shopping experiences. Here are some neighborhoods that are popular among shoppers:

1. Downtown Montreal: The city's commercial center, featuring high-end shops along Rue Sainte-Catherine, and a range of retailers in Eaton Centre and Place Montreal Trust shopping malls.

2. Mile End: Known for its hipster vibe and independent boutiques offering everything from vintage clothing to locally made jewelry.

3. Plateau Mont-Royal: Home to a broad array of unique boutiques, thrift shops, and specialty stores, especially along Avenue Mont-Royal.

4. Old Montreal: Perfect for art lovers and antique collectors with its numerous galleries and antique shops. The area is also known for its high-end home decor and designer boutiques.

5. Saint-Henri: Check out Atwater Market for a range of fresh food, and nearby Notre-Dame Street for vintage stores and decor shops.

6. Griffintown: This up-and-coming neighborhood features modern, chic boutiques mixed in with cool antique and decor shops.

7. Little Italy: Great for anyone interested in Italian goods and cuisine. Be sure to visit Jean-Talon Market, one of the largest public markets in North America.

8. Outremont: This upscale neighborhood is well-known for its luxury boutiques and high-end retailers.

Remember, Montreal's sales tax is relatively high compared to other places in North America, so factor this into your budget.

Best Flights To Montreal

Quickly search the best flights from the widest selection of airlines flying to Montreal. Regardless of what airline you go with, you can save money by comparing. Skyscanner is the best airline price comparison service specifically for Montreal.


What Food is Montreal Known For?

Montreal is renowned for its food culture, with several dishes that are distinctly its own:

1. Poutine: Originally from Quebec, this dish is made up of fries, cheese curds and brown gravy. You'll find it everywhere from fast food chains to gourmet restaurants.

2. Montreal-Style Smoked Meat: Similar to pastrami, this cured and smoked beef brisket is served in a sandwich, usually with mustard and pickles. Schwartz's Deli is a famous spot for this.

3. Montreal-Style Bagels: Slightly smaller and denser than New York bagels, they're boiled in honey-infused water and baked in a wood-fired oven. The two most famous bagel shops are St-Viateur and Fairmount.

4. Tourtière: A traditional meat pie often served during the holiday season, filling varies but usually includes a mix of meats with spices.

5. Maple Syrup: Quebec is the largest producer of maple syrup in the world, and it's used in numerous desserts and dishes.

6. Pea Soup: This hearty soup made with split peas and ham or pork is a traditional Quebecois dish.

7. BeaverTails: A BeaverTail is a fried dough pastry, stretched to resemble a beaver’s tail, topped with various sweets.

For the best dining experiences, explore both local markets and diverse neighborhoods in Montreal, where good food can be found at every corner.

FAQ

Q: Are Montreal locals friendly to tourists?

A: Yes, Montreal locals are generally very friendly, welcoming, and helpful to tourists. People in Montreal are known for their hospitality and are often more than happy to give directions or recommend places to visit. However, as with any city, experiences may vary from person to person.

Q: What you need to know before going to Montreal?

Montreal is primarily a French-speaking city, but most residents are bilingual and can also speak English. You will often hear locals switching between the two languages. The local currency is the Canadian dollar. Credit cards are widely accepted, but it's useful to have cash for small businesses and tipping.

The weather varies greatly throughout the year in Montreal. Winters can be bitterly cold and summers can be hot. Dress appropriately and always check the forecast before your trip. Montreal has an extensive public transportation system, including subways (called the Metro), buses, and a bike sharing program known as BIXI. It’s easy to walk or bike in the city, especially in areas like Old Montreal.

In Montreal, it is customary to tip servers 15-20% on the pre-tax total of your restaurant bill. Tips are also generally given to taxi drivers, hairdressers, and other service providers

Q: What is cool about Montreal?

Montreal is known for its plethora of festivals. From the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Just For Laughs comedy festival, to the Fireworks Festival, there's always something happening.

The mountain the city was named after provides a great view of the city skyline, a large park designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (who also designed Central Park in New York), and lots of outdoor activities year-round.

Montreal's underground city, or "RÉSO," is a vast network of pedestrian walkways under the city center, connecting various metro stations, shopping centers, and office buildings. This network comes in handy during winter.

Q: What is the safest area in Montreal for tourists?

A: Most of Montreal is very safe for tourists, but three areas stand out as both safe and attractive to visitors:

1. Old Montreal: This historic area is filled with quaint shops, historic sites, and lovely squares. It's a bustling area with lots of people around, making it a safe choice.

2. Downtown Montreal: This is where many of the city's most popular tourist attractions are located. It is well-lit and usually crowded, particularly during the day.

3. The Plateau-Mont-Royal: This residential neighborhood is also filled with cafes, boutiques, and art galleries. It has a very low crime rate and is considered especially safe.

Q: Is Montreal bad for pickpockets?

A: While Montreal is generally a very safe city, pickpocketing can happen, as it can in any major city, especially in crowded tourist areas and on public transportation. It's always important to stay vigilant, keep an eye on your belongings, and avoid showing off expensive items in order to minimize the risk. However, such incidents are not extremely common and should not deter you from enjoying your trip.

Recommended Hotels In Montreal

William Gray hotel room

William Gray

Guests can enjoy the on-site bar and private parking is available on site.
All rooms are fitted with a flat-screen TV. You will find a coffee machine in the room. Every room has a private bathroom with bathrobes and slippers. There is free shuttle service, a 24-hour front desk, a cash machine and gift shop at the property.

Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth

Fairmont Queen Elizabeth

Connected to Montreal's underground city, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth offers access to more than 20 miles of underground pedestrian walkways, shopping centers, entertainment venues and attractions. A wellness center with an indoor pool is featured at the hotel.

Four Seasons Hotel Montreal

Four Seasons Hotel Montreal

Featuring a bar, Four Seasons is located in the center of Montreal, a 3-minute walk from Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. With free WiFi, this 5-star hotel offers room service and a 24-hour front desk. The hotel has family rooms.Popular points of interest near the hotel include Bell Centre, Ogilvy and Eaton Center Montreal.

PLAN YOUR TRIP TO MONTREAL

Book Your Hotel In Montreal

You can book your hotel in Montreal with Booking.com as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hotel, they also return the cheapest rates for accommodations like guesthouses and apartments.

Book Your Flight To Montreal

Use Skyscanner to find cheap flights to Montreal. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know you get the best rates.

Need a Rental Car In Montreal?

Here is a budget-friendly car rental resource. No matter where you’re traveling, you’ll be able to find the best — and cheapest car rentals in Montreal here.

Looking for an Airport Transfer Service In Montreal?

If you are looking for a convenient and affordable option to get to and from the airport in Montreal, here you will find all the answers to book your next airport transfer in Montreal.

Don’t Forget Your Travel Insurance

Travel insurance will protect you against illnesses, an injury, luggage theft, and even trip cancellations. It’s a comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong during your trip. I never travel to Montreal without it as I’ve had to use it several times in the past. My favorite travel insurance companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the Best Travel Companies to Save Money With?

Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you visit Montreal. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m taking a trip. They will save you money when you travel too.

Want More Information on Canada:

Be sure to visit our Canada Travel Guide for even more planning tips.

More Montreal Travel Resources