Montréal is a city of integrated culture, prestigious universities, and fresh cheese curds smothered in gravy. It’s easy to forget exactly where you are; on one block skyscrapers tower over you while the next brings the feel of a small town, filled with local shops, art, and homes. Cats hug your legs, and people greet you with a smile. Montréal has something for everyone, the family, the foodie, and the partier.
The activities here vary depending on the season. Spend summer months exploring the parks and winter months on the ice rink. No matter the time of year, Montreal is full of hidden gems, some more difficult to find than others.
Here are our can’t miss spots in Montréal:
Just a short metro ride away from downtown is Old Montréal—an epicenter of shops, restaurants, and street performers. This area is full of old churches and small museums open to the public with small fees, anywhere from 4-10 CAD. The boardwalk is home to many of the city’s festivals, food trucks, and surprisingly to us, adventure courses. During the summer months, there is a ropes course, zip line, and paddle boats available for more family friendly fun.
In Montréal you eat poutine. It’s a fact. La Banquise serves up piping hot poutine 24 hours a day. It is smothered in gravy, grease, and almost any other traditional and non-traditional topping you can imagine. We opted for the less traditional route and chose the southwest with bacon, onions, guacamole, and onion rings; the matty with bacon, peppers, mushrooms, and onions; and the festivale featuring steak, swiss cheese, peppers, and onion rings. We probably could have shared two regular or one large portion between the three of us. When we left, we needed to be horizontal. Important to note, La Banquise doesn’t accept international credit cards, so make sure to have cash.
Parc La Fontaine
This park, hidden in the center of Montreal, is deceivingly large. While we treated it initially as a place to digest poutine, we found it to be much more. It’s a charming spot filled with slow guitar players, shady gazebos, and chattering wildlife. Boasting lakes, ice cream shops, restaurants, and plenty of room to relax, the park is the perfect pitstop for a busy day.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
This museum, also located in the heart of downtown Montreal, offers a massive exhibition of art of all styles and ages. Its permanent exhibitions are all free to see. Spend an entire afternoon surrounded by artists from from Rothko, to Dali, to Rembrandt.
Home to one of the highest points in Montreal, this park offers an incredible view of the city. It requires a stair-filled hike to the top where it features a pavilion overlooking the city, a small center offering information on history of the park, and a café. There is plenty of green space and ample park benches to sit and relax. Through the park is a hiking trail called “the loop.” Follow the loop for a close and personal view of the Cross of Montréal.
Originally constructed for the 1972 Olympics, the Biodome was repurposed in 1992 to operate as a multi-climate facility. Its has four climates and showcases over 4000 animals and over 1000 plants native to each climate. However, unlike most of the other attractions we visited, there is an entry fee: 14.75 CAD for students (with ID), and 20.25 CAD for adults.
Things to Know
- While the city itself is officially bilingual, most signage, menus, and public information are written in French. The city has laws in place to protect the language.
- The city is very walkable, but the metro is cheap and easy to use. One ride costs around 3 CAD, and a three day pass is 18 CAD. Uber, taxis and buses are also transportation options.
- If you’re operating sans smartphone, it is worth noting that Montreal operates on a shifted compass that follows the St. Lawrence river.
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