Montreal is one of Canada’s most culturally diverse and vibrant cities. And there’s no shortage of things to do in Montreal. With a strong European influence, you will find the trendiest fashions, the tastiest food, and the edgiest arts scene. From winter snow festivals to hikes in forests of fall leaves, these are 15 unmissable Montreal activities for your next trip!
What to Know For Your Trip to Montreal
Montreal transforms with the changing of the seasons so there are different activities going on depending on the time of year. Whether it’s spring, summer or winter in Montreal, this city loves to celebrate and there are always events and festivals going on. Be sure to investigate what’s happening during your visit and check the forecast so you can pack accordingly! While Montreal summers call for good walking sandals for exploring Old Montreal during the day and a pair of stylish stilettos for those epic Montreal nights, Montreal winters call for a second pair of mittens and waterproof winter boots (trust me on this one).
Do people speak English in Montreal?
Is your French a little rusty? Not to worry. Montreal is surprisingly accessible to English speakers, especially in the downtown core of Ste. Catherine’s Street by the city’s major universities, it wouldn’t hurt to learn a few lines in Quebec French! This is a multicultural city and most languages under the sun are spoken in Montreal.
1. Go to the Top of the Montreal Tower at the Montreal Olympic Park
The main site for the Montreal Summer Olympics
Montreal’s Olympic Stadium – affectionately called the ‘Big O’, has the tallest inclined tower in the world. Built for the 1976 Montreal Olympics, much of the area has now been re-purposed to house museums, some of Montreal’s top attractions, and activity centres. You can reach the top in a glass funicular throughout most of the year (they close from January to March for maintenance though). The Montreal Tower stands, or rather, it leans at 165 metres high with a 45-degree incline. From the top, you will get a 360-degree panoramic view that can span up to 80 km on a clear day.
Tourism information and the attractions pass: It takes two minutes to get to the observatory at the Montreal Tower and this attraction costs $12 for kids and $25 for adults. Passeport MTL, Montreal’s main attractions pass, is accepted at this site. Even if you don’t make it up to the observatory, it’s worth a visit just to see this highly unique structure and architectural feat! Plus, there are tons of partner attractions that surround it – see below for some great things to do in Montreal.
Spend a day at the Olympic Park with the kids!
Around the Montreal Tower, you will find multiple attractions for kids to entertain the whole family year-round. The Jardin Botanique, or Botanical Gardens, are spectacular in the summertime and offer a peaceful sanctuary in the winter months. The Montreal Insectarium is a bug lover’s heaven and the Biodome and Planetarium will satisfy your inner nerd. There are lots of package options for individuals or families who wish to visit more than one attraction. Tickets can be purchased online before your trip. Each one is outlined in more detail below. Be sure to give yourself enough time because there is so much to see!
2. Take a tour of Montreal’s Biodome
Even if it’s just to catch a glimpse of otter’s holding hands
The Biodome is home to over 250 different animal species and 500 different plant species. With over 4500 different animals in there, you’re sure to meet some interesting characters. Montreal’s Biodome is the only museum in the world to replicate the natural habitats for these animals so faithfully. Their environments allow them to maintain their social connections and engage in the same behaviours they would in the wild. Special care was taken to ensure animal welfare in this space and to replicate the natural interaction between the animals and plants. All ages will enjoy travelling through the four ecosystems and learning about our natural world.Find Hotel Deals in Montreal
3. Check out the Botanical Gardens
Take the time to smell the flowers and more
Montreal’s Botanical Gardens are spectacular all year round. Even in the dead of winter, this space gets rave reviews. Recognized as one of the world’s greatest botanical gardens, it has 20 thematic gardens that are spread out over 75 hectares. You will encounter 22,000 different plant species and 10 exhibition greenhouses. You can easily spend a day bird-watching or just enjoying the serenity and beauty of the gardens. There are always lots of events going on all year, and in the winter you can even go cross-country skiing inside the gardens!
4. Space out at the Planetarium
Where art and science become one
In true Montreal style, the Planetarium has taken a distinct approach to astronomy education. It has one area where you can learn the science of astronomy, and another that offers a more artistic approach to knowing our magnificent universe. Naturally, Montreal’s would be the only planetarium in the world to have an artistic director – or two of them, actually! Sit back in a theatre-type setting to have an immersive experience that blends technology, science, and artistic vision. Unravelling the poetic beauty of our universe in a display that honours the great mysteries we have pondered since the beginning of time. Something tells us that recent cannabis legalization might have made the Montreal Planetarium even more enthralling!
5. Bug out at the Insectarium
Have an afternoon of family fun in Montreal with the monarch butterflies and more
After you space out at the Planetarium, you can bug out at the Montreal Insectarium! Here you can learn about all types of insects and arthropods and meet some weird new characters. This place is crawling with live bugs – some of which you can touch or even hold if you are brave. Be warned, there are some very big, hairy spiders in residence at the Insectarium, but you can always just run away screaming to the butterfly exhibit.
6. Hike Mount Royal
Get outside and hike in the heart of Montreal
Montreal’s beloved Mont-Royal is considered the local ‘mountain’ and is where the city derived its name. Though crowning at 233 metres, it’s really more of a large hill. Don’t be discouraged by its modest size, there is no shortage of things to do here. Locals love to drive up to the ‘lookout’ and spend time with friends while enjoying a view of the city’s east side. You can go up any time of year, at any time of night and you will likely find music and laughter. The Cross atop Mount Royal stands 30 metres tall and is always lit up. Erected in 1924, it is considered one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. While very popular any day in the summer, there are plenty of things to do here in the winter. Mount Royal Park also has an artificial lake named Beaver Lake where you can skate in winter or rent a rowboat in the summer.
7. Visit Montreal’s La Grande Roue
Montreal’s latest Instagrammable spot
If you aren’t afraid of heights and want to get a stunning view of your surroundings during your Montreal getaway, then take a ride in the “Montreal Observation Wheel”, the city’s newest attraction. As usual, the French name sounds better: “La Grande Roue”, which translates to ‘the big wheel’. It’s essentially a big, fancy Ferris wheel. They went above and beyond the carnival staple by adapting the common Ferris wheel to suit all types of weather. You can sit comfortably in your cabin which is air-conditioned in the summer and heated in winter while enjoying the view. Reaching 60 metres high, you get a panoramic view of the Old Port, the city, the river and the mountains. La Grande Roue is in Montreal’s Old Port and runs until 11:00 p.m., so it’s a great place to go on a romantic date in this Canadian city of love! If you are a student or senior then be sure to bring your ID for a discount.Find Cheap Flights to Montreal
8. Explore the Architecture of Old Montreal
European architecture at the heart of Montreal’s historic past
We could easily write you a list of the top things to do in Old Montreal alone. Until then, here are the highlights of the Old Montreal area. Montreal’s rich history is showcased mainly in this Montreal neighbourhood and it’s one of the top things to do in Montreal with tourists. Cobblestone streets and heritage sites give it a uniquely European feel. Take a walk back through time on Saint-Paul Street and admire the impressive architecture. Then take a romantic stroll by the nearby St. Lawrence River or nerd out at the Montreal Science Centre. Be sure to check out Marche Bonsecours, which is a great spot to stop for a coffee and some souvenir shopping.
Travel tip: If you are a history buff, then check out Pointe-à-Callière, Montreal Archaeology and History Complex. There you will learn about Indigenous life before colonization and about the early days in the birthplace of Montreal.
9. Be Inspired at Montreal’s Fine Arts Museum
Montreal is easily Canada’s arts centre and has arguably the most exciting art culture on the continent. The city is a hub of creativity and ingenuity, always breaking through with cutting-edge ideas. For your refined tastes, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts offers 41,000 pieces in its permanent collection alone and its temporary exhibits do not disappoint. It’s the top Montreal art museum. Be sure to find out the exhibits happening during your visit. Admission to the Collections and Discovery Exhibitions is free the first Sunday of every month. General admission is $23 and children 12 and under (must be accompanied by an adult) can visit for free.C
10. Check out the Underground Arts Scene
Immerse yourself Montreal’s alternative art world and you’ll never want to leave
If you are looking for something edgier and some recommendations for cool places to visit in Montreal? Venture into the underground arts scene at Articule, an artist-run centre that showcases emerging artists and values work that tests limits and gets people talking. They also have events and host workshops. When you combine European flare with the rebellious nature of Montreal, it creates something incredible that should not be missed. Best of all, Articule is always free and open to everyone. We bet you will be talking about it for a long time after your Montreal trip!
For more free things to do in Montreal, head for some inspiration and contemporary art in Montreal’s Mile-Ex neighbourhood to the Centre Never Apart. This is an art gallery and non-profit creative space, working to support emerging artists and help spread public awareness and compassion. The Centre is open on Saturdays from 12-5 p.m. and access to all of the exhibitions is free. There’s even a saltwater pool on-site! They also host numerous events, so check their website before your Montreal trip.
11. Up your Style Game with Montreal fashion
The Montreal streets of Saint-Laurent and Sainte-Catherine are home to world-class shopping and style
Much like the arts scene, Montreal fashion blends European taste with a unique and creative edge. A number of global brands were born in Montreal but if we were you, we would hunt for something fresh before the rest of the world makes it uncool. The beauty of Montreal style is that it isn’t about designer brands. When it comes to Montreal style, the hottest looks trend from the bottom-up – meaning the kids who are getting creative with what they’ve got are the ones dictating chic, and that’s good news for those of us on a budget! Check out some independent designers and visit the boutiques in Montreal’s neighbourhood of the Mile-End or spend the afternoon shopping along St-Laurent Boulevard for some of the city’s top styles. If you have some patience, then go shopping for second-hand treasures.Find Cheap Flights to Montreal
12. Go on a Foodie Adventure
Pastries, poutine, bagels and beyond
Other cities may resent this statement but here it is: Montreal has the best food in Canada and probably North America. Sorry, not sorry. The city features rich French cuisine, decadent pastries and sweets, the world’s best bagels (apologies, New York), sublime smoked meat, and of course, poutine. The cheese scene alone will haunt your dreams. You can (and should) get a sugar rush with an array of Quebec maple syrup-based foods, hit a Jewish deli like Lester’s Deli in the neighbourhood of Outremont for smoked meat and other kosher delights, and eat warm bagels right out of the bag at Fairmount Bagels in the Mile-End, open 24 hours a day!
You might be familiar with decadent French food, but what you may not know is that Montreal’s multicultural community makes for some really good eats. Montreal features authentic Italian, Greek, Lebanese, and so much more. We mean someone’s grandmother is in the back cooking your meal, so you’d better like it!
Vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Montreal:
Don’t worry, vegans and vegetarians! There are plenty of places to eat in the city that serve inventive vegetarian and vegan dishes just for you. Some popular spots include Aux Vivres, Chu Chai, and Lola Rose Café.
13. Stay up All Night in Downtown Montreal
Montreal may take a lot of food naps, but it never sleeps. The city’s nightlife scene attracts locals and foreigners alike. Party-goers pour in from surrounding cities every weekend throughout the year. The legal drinking age in Quebec is 18, which is younger than the rest of Canada and the United States. Montreal’s nightlife attracts folks of all ages, however, because of the vibrant energy and lively atmosphere. The best clubs in Montreal regularly attract international DJs, and Montreal is home to some world-renowned DJs as well. Montreal’s main clubbing districts can be found on two streets: Saint-Laurent and Crescent Street. If dance clubs aren’t your thing, not to worry, Montreal’s downtown area has a wide collection of Irish pubs and bars that feature live music and good times. Head to the neighbourhoods of St-Henri and Griffintown just south of the downtown core and hit up a stylish speakeasy, like the Atwater Cocktail Club or Henden.
14. Visit Montreal’s Many Churches
Religious sites like Notre-Dame Basilica and Saint Joseph’s Oratory are some of Montreal’s top attractions
Once you’ve completed the last few suggestions for things to do in Montreal, you can repent for your sins at one of Montreal’s famous churches, basilicas, or cathedrals. Montreal has a strong Catholic identity and culture that is showcased in some magnificent places of worship throughout the city. Even hardline atheists will have to marvel at the splendour of these architectural masterpieces! Located in the Old-Port, Notre-Dame Basilica is a favourite with its awe-inspiring artistic design. It’s no wonder Céline Dion got married here! Saint-Joseph’s Oratory sits atop Montreal along the hill of Mount Royal, and its cross at the top of the dome marks the highest point in the city. Mary Queen of the World Basilica is another gem located along Rene-Levesque Boulevard in downtown Montreal. It was modelled after Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
15. Go to a Festival in the Summer and Winter
Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, the Jazz Festival & Igloofest in winter, just to name a few
With a city so full of arts and culture, it’s no surprise that Montreal has a city with festivals going on year-round. Some must-sees include the International Jazz Festival in June and Igloofest in the Old Port every January. Let’s not forget the popular outdoor summer music festivals like Piknic Électronique and Osheaga. One of the most popular comedy festivals in the Just for Laughs Festival, which happens every July. There are a number of events throughout the festival, from intimate improv shows in the Plateau to big international performers that come to perform stand-up comedy.Find Cheap Flights to Montreal
Getting Around on Your Montreal Getaway
The STM, Montreal’s metro system has 3 main lines, the green line, orange, and the blue line. The metro hours are from 5:30 a.m. beginning at Berri-UQAM station and the last train departs just before 1 a.m.
Getting in and out
Most international and domestic travellers arrive from Montreal’s Trudeau Airport, only 20 kilometres from downtown Montreal. Trains to neighbouring cities like Ottawa and Quebec City depart from Central Station near de la Gauchetière Street downtown.
Where to Stay in Montreal
There’s a variety of hotels and hostels to stay at for your visit to Montreal. Housed in an old Montreal building on Bishop Street in downtown, the Auberge Bishop is great for solo travellers. If you’re looking for Montreal hotels with a pool for your weekend getaway with the kids, the Hilton Garden Inn downtown has a pool on the top floor that overlooks the city. Use our hotel search below to find the best some deals on accommodation for your Montreal trip!