Montréal has so many incredible things to do all year round, although you can’t beat late spring to early fall for the best time to go there. It can get fairly hot in the summer, but just as cold in the winter – so pick the kind of season you like the most. With all the festivals in the summer, it’s hard to keep up but amazing nonetheless. Winter would be beautiful around Christmastime, and who can resist maple sugar stands in February?
Festivals, Festivals, and more Festivals
Montréal is home to some of the greatest festivals in Canada. It is truly a city of festivals – although the season peaks in mid summer, it’s a tradition that continues all year round. There’s a festival for each and every month in Montréal. Here’s a taste of what you might hit when you arrive in Montréal.
In January, the major winter festival in Montréal, La fête des Neiges, takes place for three consecutive weekends in the magical setting of Parc Jean-Drapeau. In February, you can discover the Montréal High Lights Festival – technically three festivals in one. The summer months are packed with music festivals, such as Osheaga and the International Jazz Festival. There’s also Juste Pour Rire (also known as Just For Laughs) during the summer. The streets are abuzz with characters and fun things to do. Just leave your hotel! Before you know it, the festival season starts all over again.
Who can say no to poutine? And other food, of course.
The amount of food available in Montréal is unbelievable. There are of course, some things you must try. First, the famous Québécois dish, poutine. This combination of cheese curds, gravy and fries is prevalent all over Montréal. The best known place for poutine is La Banquise – which is conveniently open 24 hours.
Once you’ve experienced poutine, your next stop should be one of the many crêpe places around town. There are tons of places and lots of variety – some places let you choose buckwheat flour instead. One of the best places to have a crêpe and some incredible chocolate, is Juliette et Chocolat. There are two locations in Montréal you can go to. Don’t forget to try the chocolate fondue – it’s to die for!
Montréal is also famous for it’s smoked meat sandwiches, and there’s no other place to hit but Schwartz. Grab a sandwich and a pickle to go – it’s packed inside and it’s nicer to eat it in the park. Last but definitely not least, get one of their famous bagels at the Fairmount Bagel Bakery. They’re hard to resist!
Sainte-Catherine Street & More
One of the best things about Montréal is the abundance of shopping – nearly anything you could desire! From vintage shops to high end boutiques, malls, and locally owned shops, Montréal has everything. Sainte-Catherine Street (or rue Saint-Catherine in French) is the mecca for shoppers. Almost anything you can imagine is on Sainte-Catherine’s stree.
The métro station Peel or Guy-Concordia will let you off right there – parking is tough in that area, so you’re better off to just grab a 3-day tourist pass at any métro station for all of your quick jaunts around town (it’s only $14). There is also a series of underground malls connected to one another in that part of Montréal which can be accessed via the Peel station or the McGill station. If you do happen to have a car while in Montréal, head up to Laval (a suburb of Montréal) which is home to Le Carrefour Laval, the biggest shopping center in the eastern side of Canada. The best way to find the greatest shops in Montréal is to just start exploring the city.
Vieux-Montréal & Museums
For the tourist in you, head down to Vieux-Montréal. It’s the oldest part of the city and chock full of all your touristy needs as well as a ton of restaurants for any type of cuisine you could imagine. If you drive down, make sure you park at the parkade next to the Montréal Science Center – it’s right next to the action, and way easier than finding parking on those cobblestone streets. If you’re taking the métro, get off at any of the three stops on the orange line that service the area: Square-Victoria, Place-d’Armes or Champ-de-Mars. There’s tons to see and explore, but you’ll be on foot – so bring comfortable shoes!
Montréal is also home to two incredible art galleries as well as a number of museums. The main attractions are Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (or Musée des beaux-arts in French) where the permanent collection is always free, the Contemporary Art Museum (or Musée d’art contemporain in French) and the Canadian Centre for Architecture (or Centre canadien de l’architecture in French). Bring your walking shoes – there’s a lot to see in those museums!
Tons of Nightlife
Nightlife in Montréal is great. They have everything from clubs to bars to pubs to lounges. Anything to suit your taste. For some of the busiest places in town, hit up Crescent Street or the Gay Village. For a slightly different atmosphere, try La Distillerie – they serve their drinks in mason jars. It gets pretty busy, so get there early. For those looking for something a little classier, try the bars in Vieux-Montréal (or Old Montreal).