Montreal, a melting pot of cultures and ideas, is a city of the world attracting citizens of the world. Whether you’re there to discover the city’s rich French-Canadian heritage or its role as a modern urban center filled with people helping define Canada’s future, there’s something for everyone in Montreal.
Here are some of the top Montreal must-see sites, events, and activities in this energetic and charming city aptly nicknamed the “Paris of North America.”
1. Sample Eclectic Foods
For more than a generation, Montreal has been a refuge and desired destination for immigrants from around the world. Montreal benefits from the investments these individuals make in local communities, including diverse culinary options.
Visitors to the city have their choice of an incredible array of must-experience restaurants, street vendors, delis, bakeries, and grocers located in the heart of downtown. Dine on authentic Vietnamese or Haitian cuisine for one meal and then switch gears for some of the French-inspired fare the city is widely known for. Poutine is the popular favorite but other French-Canadian delights include lobster rolls and smoked herring from the nearby St. Lawrence River as well as decadent maple pudding cakes.
2. Witness the Fall Foliage
The trees in Montreal typically begin their vibrant transformation in mid-September, with the peak of autumn colors gracing the landscape in early October. Montreal is a popular leaf-peeping destination because of its geographic location; trees don’t usually shed their leaves until later in the fall compared to the rest of Quebec.
There are several parks with ideal lookout points dotted across the city for those visiting Montreal for leaf peeping. Some of the most adored spots can be found in Mount Royal, including the cemetery and the nearby Mount Royal Chalet. Leaf viewers get even more than they bargained for from these elevated lookout points, with views of the leaves and cityscape reflecting off a seasonally still Lake Beaver. Other favored leaf peeping locations include Parc Jean-Drapeau and Parc Angrignon, where visitors can stop for a bite at picnic tables situated under maple trees and view fall’s colors up close.
3. Discover Downtown
Downtown Montreal is a blend of old and new, storied and contemporary, modern and vintage. There are perhaps few places in North America so densely packed with incredible must-see sites ranging from the centuries-old Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal and the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral to technologically advanced centers of learning in the Grande Bibliothèque de BAnQ.
Other must-see downtown landmarks include the city’s many murals, statues, and monuments documenting the lives and important events of Indigenous and French-Canadian residents past and present. But perhaps one of the most exciting must-see attractions in downtown Montreal is even further down. Colloquially known as the “Underground City” and formally named RESCO, this unique collection of shops, restaurants, bars, and entertainment options comprises over 22 miles of subterranean fun! Visitors of any age will find something they love at RESCO, from a one-of-a-kind Barbie Expo to an underground movie theater!
4. Experience Montreal During the Holidays
While the Island of Montreal is a delight any time of year, there’s something extra special about the city during the holidays. Nearly every prominent facade is draped in rows of dazzling lights for a festive nighttime spectacle you shouldn’t miss.
You and your travel companions will be sure to find last-minute gifts at Montreal’s holiday markets big and small. A renowned shopping district at any time of year, Saint-Catherine Street is home to the bustling The Great Christmas Market, with dozens of vendors offering artisan crafts, specialty baked goods, and beverages made with pure Canadian maple syrup! Past years have featured a fully decorated, 30-foot Christmas tree sourced from local tree growers placed front and center greeting guests as they arrive at the market. Next is the Jean-Talon Christmas Market, home to one of North America’s largest farmers’ markets, making its rows of rustic stalls among the best places in Montreal for local families and restaurants to source fresh ingredients for their holiday meals. Another local favorite is Montreal Christmas Village, located near Lachine Canal and boasting a traditional Christmas village, the perfect setting for its many dedicated merchants and artisans to peddle holiday spirit!
5. Take a Step Back in Time in Old Montreal
Old Montreal is built on the very ground on which the city was founded. And even though it’s now just one of several beautiful and welcoming Montreal neighborhoods, Old Montreal still offers its visitors something special. Old Montreal is a center of art, architecture, and culture, drawing in many of the region’s finest craftspeople, artisans, chefs, and innovators.
If you’re in Old Montreal, you’ll want to wander through the Old Port area, with its original cobblestone paths and expansive views of the mighty St. Lawrence River. There’s more than one way to see Old Port; tourists can engage in a number of walking tours led by expert guides. Themes include food and drink, art, and history. You’ll discover why locals are so passionate about Old Montreal’s story of old-world foundations intermixed with modern urban facades. Hire a local photographer to document your trip so you can relive the inspiration you felt while visiting Old Montreal!