Montreal is a unique place the exudes the old-world charm of Europe while still being a modern North American city. While there are many signs of French high culture, there's also a rapidly growing hipster scene worth exploring. Even if you've been to other parts of Canada such as British Columbia, you'll find Quebec unique in its own ways. Here's how to make the most of your weekend trip to Montreal. Check out these photos to inspire you to visit Montreal.
I visited Quebec's largest city on a fall road trip with my parents. We had spent the past week had been spent exploring New York City before picking up a rental car and driving north to upstate New York. From there, we crossed the border into Canada, settling in Montreal. Despite being a relatively long drive, it was smooth without problems. I'd definitely recommend traveling to Montreal as a road trip.
Getting Around Montreal
Like most cities, it's easiest to ditch the car and avoid driving around. If you love biking, you'll be pleased to know that Montreal has over 310 miles of bike lanes crossing the city. Use Bixi, the city's shared bike program and easily get around on two wheels. After all, this is why Montreal was named a Unesco City of Design in 2006. The Montreal Metro also runs frequently and is the top form of public transit.
Where to Stay in Montreal
Downtown is the central pulse of the city, and it's where you'll find large chain hotels. Standard accommodations through Hilton, Marriott, and the Holiday Inn and relatively easy to find.
Old Montreal is the best place to experience the city's unique mix of European and North American cultures. This section of old world charm shows off cobblestone roads, stunning architecture, and historic public spaces. There is a very unique and romantic vibe surrounding Old Montreal. In our case, we chose to stay here at the eclectically modern LHotel. Highly recommend staying here for its impressive design and closeness to attractions.
If you use a service like Airbnb to find a room, choose your location based on proximity to the Metro for easy day-time travel.
What to Do
1. Take a walking tour of Old Montreal
Place d'Armes is one of the main entrances to the city's historic area. From here, you can get a fantastic view of the facade of Notre Dame Basilica. Definitely go inside of the Basilica and prepared to be wowed by its colorfully lit interiors. No wonder Celine Dion got married in here!
Stroll down St-Paul Street and Place Jacques Cartier to feel like you've stepped back in time. Despite the many tourist shops, the architecture of these areas stunning. Be sure to head down Saint-Claude Street and visit the Bonsecours Market. It's the largest and oldest public market in the city. Walking these areas can feel a bit touristy, but it's one of those thing to do in Montreal that you really should do!
2. Visit Jean-Talon Market
As foodies (we had just visited the Culinary Institute of America days before), we still had food on our minds when we got to Canada. One of the best things to do in Montreal is visit the markets. We started our culinary tour at the Jean-Talon Market. Originally called Marché du Nord, Jean-Talon Market has been around since 1933. It was and still continues to be the main neighborhood market of Little Italy.
You'll see a wide variety of goods being sold at this market, but the emphasis is the fresh fruit and vegetables from farms in Quebec. All arrangements are drool worthy and you will go crazy taking food photos! Indulge in whatever fruits or vegetables are in season, and be sure to pick up some authentic Canadian maple syrup.
When you need a meal, grab a grilled cheese sandwich at Qui Lait Cru. They offer several variations of grilled cheese sandwiches such as brie with walnuts. Everything is made to order and there are many places to sit and enjoy.
3. Keep on eating at Atwater Market
Slightly larger and more popular than Jean-Talon is Atwater Market. The offerings are somewhat similar, including the many fresh fruit and produce vendors, cheese shops, maple syrup shops, etc. But the outdoor food court is the highlight here. Satay Brothers and their South Asian street food are arguably the most popular among diners.
4. Visit "The Big O"
The 1976 Summer Olympics were held at the Olympic Stadium of Montreal. Today, the interestingly shaped stadium is an architectural attraction. It also has the largest seating capacity in Canada and hosts many professional sporting events. There is also an Observatory that gives you stellar views of the Olympic Village.
Bonus tip: Eat poutine!
Trivia time: did you know that poutine actually emerged from Quebec? This popular Canadian dish consists of French fries and cheese curds topped with gravy, and you should eat some while in Montreal. One of the best poutineries (yes, it's a word) is Patati Patata.
Have you visited Montreal? What were your top places to visit? Let me know in the comments below!