Montréal is full of sophistication with its French culture woven throughout. As well as its distinct French vibe, Montréal has a host of other incredible feats to its name. It is Canada’s second largest city, after Toronto; it was the first Canadian city to hold the Summer Olympics in 1976; it has one of the highest number of restaurants per capita in North America; and while French is Montréal’s official spoken language, you’ll find most people speak both French and English! Here’s how to spend a weekend in Montréal.
Start your weekend in Montréal off with a bang, with a reservation at Candide. Delight in the regional cuisine on offer with a unique dining location – the presbytery of a (now) converted church.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Montréal without a bagel. Choose from a classic lox (smoked salmon), or perhaps you may want to try a flavoured cream cheese (hello, maple bacon cream cheese!). One of the best things about Montréal is how it is such a walkable city. There are also kilometres of bike paths to take advantage of (as well as rentable bikes using the BIXI app), and an easy public transport system if the weather turns and/or you need a break.
Beginning in Vieux Montréal (Old Montréal), take your time to leisurely stroll along its cobblestone paths and past historic buildings. You may well feel like you’re in France, not Canada! Vieux Montréal is home to the 19th-century Notre Dame Basilica of Montréal (one of the oldest Gothic Revival churches in Canada), Vieux Port, and an iconic Ferris wheel (La Grande Roue de Montréal). If you need a coffee break and/or lunch spot, check out Crew Collective and Café for a caffeine hit amongst its jaw-droppingly beautiful interiors in an old bank building.
From Vieux Montréal, take public transport to the Mount Royal Park. Rising up in the middle of the city, this park is a beloved part of Montréal designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York City’s Central Park. If you have the time and energy, we recommend climbing to the Belvédère Kondiaronk lookout. It takes no more than 45 minutes and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views across Montréal.
Found just next to the Mount Royal Park is St Joseph’s Oratory. Not only is it one of Canada’s largest churches, but it also has one of the largest domes in the world. From here, your last stop for the day is the open-air Marche Jean Talon in the Little Italy district. Generations of both local vendors and customers have grown up frequenting this historic public market, the largest in North America. Wander through the market, taking in the fresh flowers, fruit and vegetables.
Seeing as you’re already in Little Italy, you’ll be spoilt for choice for dinner options in this area. From pizza to pasta, to aperitivos and wine bars, take your pick. We recommend an early dinner so that you can make your way back to the Notre Dame Basilica for the AURA Experience. This dramatic light and music show showcases the interior of the Basilica in a completely different way to when you saw it earlier in the day.
If you happen to be in Montréal during spring and summer, you might be lucky enough to purchase tickets to a Cirque du Soleil show in Vieux Port. Montréal is the birthplace of this world-famous circus, and you’ll be guaranteed an entertaining performance.
Grab a bagel and coffee to go and start your Sunday off at a more leisurely pace at Place Jacques-Cartier. This popular square is perfect for people-watching while having breakfast with its Parisian-style ‘terraces’, local vendors selling handmade crafts, street artists and good shopping.
Next, take a combination of bus and underground metro to the Botanical Gardens. The rest of this morning can be spent discovering the immaculate gardens – in particular, look out for the peaceful Chinese Garden.
For lunch, there is the vegetarian-friendly Restaurant Jardin Botanique within the Botanical Gardens; but also plenty of options on the outskirts, too.
To wind up your time in Montréal, some popular activities include:
- Visit Space for Life, Canada’s largest science museum complex that features a planetarium, insectarium, and biodome
- Spend time in the Museum of Fine Arts, the oldest and largest museum in Canada
- Tempt your tastebuds with some baked goods from Le Petit Dep or ice cream at Mlle Catherine
- Hire a bike using the BIXI app to ride along the Lachine Canal
- Check out one of Montréal’s quirky neighbourhoods – we recommend Mile End for its hipster vibe, perfect for foodies, art lovers and vintage shopping aficionados
- Make sure to try poutine – Montréal really does take fries to the next level
This weekend in Montréal is just a snapshot of all the delights that this French Canadian city holds. Have we piqued your interest? We include Montréal on many of our Globus and Cosmos Eastern Canada tours.