Located on an island in the Saint Lawrence River, Montreal is Quebec’s famously francophone capitol, with roughly 60% of their current population speaking French at home. This bustling international city offers world-class food, old world architecture alongside modern design, and vibrant art and culture that will keep you entertained for weeks. But if you only have one weekend, check out our tips for must-see sights and must-do activities in this magnificent metropolis. Make sure to find the perfect Montreal vacation rental — whether it’s a charming apartment or a spacious house — and brush up on your long-forgotten high school French!
Where to Stay
You’ll find plenty of urban excitement downtown, including walkable access to must-visit restaurants, shopping centers, and museums. From here you can get just about anywhere in the city via metro or bus. (In fact, Montreal’s transit system is convenient and easy to use in just about every neighborhood.)
Old Montreal is home to some of Montreal’s most stunning old-world architecture, like Montreal City Hall, built in 1872, and the Notre-Dame Basilica, dating back to 1829. This popular historic neighborhood is near downtown and crammed with all the art galleries, restaurants, cafes, and boutiques you could want.
If you want to stay further away from the downtown bustle, but still catch the sights, find a rental near Olympic Park. This area northeast of downtown offers multiple attractions surrounding the iconic Olympic Stadium, including a botanic garden and insectarium, planetarium, and the beautiful respite of 150+ acres (63 hectares) of Maisonneuve Park. This makes for a great kid-friendly visit.
For another option further from the city center, check out Plateau Mont Royal. It’s still centrally located and offers a culture all its own, with plenty of cafes, shops, bars, and restaurants sans tourists. Best of all, you’ll be steps from Parc du Mont Royal, Montreal’s beautiful mountain park and cemetery.
Where to Eat
Montreal is practically overflowing with eateries, which means you’ll find a wide array of cuisine to fit just about every taste and budget. If you’re starting your weekend with breakfast, you can’t go wrong with Lawrence. Their homemade pastries, like scones and chocolate donuts, make for a light option alongside hearty English breakfast and Indian-inspired kedgeree. Quaint Cafe Parvis offers bright, veggie-forward dishes along with espresso and baked goods. You might have already heard, but the city is also famous for its bagels – here’s our guide to where to find the best bagels in Montreal.
You can’t go to Montreal and not partake in some poutine, Canada’s unofficial indulgent dish of french fries bathed in gravy and cheese curds. For a classic, laid-back joint serving up poutine 24-hours a day try La Banquise. Au Pied de Cochon offers an upscale dinner version with foie gras. (Did we mention poutine is not low-fat?)
Montreal’s food scene rivals some of the most noteworthy foodie cities. For dinner, don’t miss the Joe Beef,a rule-breaking Québécois legend that is high-end yet approachable. It’s not just food, it’s an experience. If you can’t get a reservation at Joe Beef (you’ll probably need to make one months in advance) try the acclaimed Haitian dishes and rum cocktails at Agrikol.
Got a sweet tooth? Indulge in beautiful gourmet doughnuts, like vegan lime coconut or lemon meringue, from Léché. Or for a classic French pastry, try the elegant treats at Maison Christian Faure.
What to do
Peruse the bright and fresh fruits, vegetables, and baked goods at Marché Jean-Talon, a renowned food market located in Little Italy. (The market is covered during the winter, so you can visit no matter the season.) Grab produce for a homemade dinner or snack while you shop.
Like the city’s mix of historic and modern architecture, Montreal’s museums offer a taste of old and new. Try the Musée de Beaux-Arts, if you’re looking for tradition, and the Musée d’Art Contemporain, for innovative works by contemporary artists. For less art and more history, the Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex lets you explore Montreal’s past.
Montreal becomes a magical, snowy wonderland in the winter months. Embrace the cold! Ski the nearby Laurentian mountains, hit the toboggan hill at Mont Royal, and play in the snow at the Fête des Neige — a free, family-friendly winter festival offering tubing, dog sledding, skating, and more.
Planning a trip to Montreal, Canada? Let us help you find the best place to stay.