This past weekend I had the pleasure of being a personal tour guide in beautiful Montréal. I spent a fair amount of time prior to the trip trying to narrow down what was necessary for someone to see when experiencing the city for the first time. After a lot of list-making and process of elimination, I have compiled my list of spots to hit on your whirlwind tour of Montréal.
Now, this is meant as a loose guide. Depending on what time of year you’re in town and whether it’s a weekday or a weekend can affect some of this itinerary. Use your judgement and feel free to switch up the stops! If you think you won’t be able to fit everything in, don’t stress and save it for your next trip! Montréal is a city that’s meant to be enjoyed, not rushed around all in a tither. For the best chance of fitting everything in nicely however, I’d suggest trying to be out of your Airbnb, hotel, hostel, etc by 11am, high noon at the latest.
A great way to start the Montréal experience is to check out La Banquise for lunch and try some of their famous poutine. Loud and busy, don’t expect to have a quiet, calm dinner conversation. I’ve never seen servers seat so many people in such a short amount of time as I have here at La Banquise! Great portions that are reasonably priced ($8-$12), you have an array of combinations to choose from to suit your palette (yes, you too vegans!). My suggestion is La Festival, but it might be a bit much for some. Also, unless you’re planning on sharing or you eat enough for two people, always go with a regular. I can pack it in pretty well, but I can always make two meals out of it!
After stuffing yourself silly with Montréal’s best, take a hike over to Mont Royal and feast your eyes on the beautiful city skyline from Chalet du Mont-Royal. This beautiful lookout area is only accessible by trail, so be prepared for a jaunt, which can turn out to be quite the hike in the winter. If the day you go it’s -25°C like it was for us, then make sure you’re bundled. If you’re not as prepared as you would like – don’t worry! The Chalet is open from 8am to 8pm daily.
Now that you’ve seen new Montréal, it’s time to go back in time and check out Vieux Montréal. Often overrun by tourists in the summer, these cobblestone roads are a slice of European life in the winter. Take your time strolling through the streets with a hot cup of joe and appreciate the beautiful architecture – some buildings have been standing since the 17th century! While wandering, be sure to admire the Notre-Dame Cathedral, City Hall, and the Bonsecours Market.
By this point your stomach probably has something to stay about your next plan of action, so I suggest heading to Schwartz and treating yourself to another Montréal delicacy – a smoked meat sandwich. Many Montréalers will sigh that I named Schwartz as tourists flock to it, but if this is your first time in the city, I think it’s a must-go. As the oldest deli in Canada, Schwartz has been serving its delicious smoked meat sandwiches since 1928. Running you about $12 for dine in or take out, Schwartz will always leave you with a full belly and one important question – when did the bread disappear?
In order to keep a balanced lifestyle and not let all that meat get to your head, my next stop would be Place des Arts in Montréal’s Quartier des Spectacles. A beautiful little plaza, the city has public art installations, stages for events, or pretty much whatever they feel like, whenever they feel like it. This chameleon of a location is always worth a look in my opinion, even if you arrive in-between attractions. If you’re lucky however, you might see some comedy shows, or maybe even an ice slide or two!
After a solid day of good sight-seeing and great food, my final suggestion is stopping in for a drink or two at La Distillerie. With wonderful staff, great bartenders, and even better drinks, this is hands-down my favourite bar in the city. Their menu has new additions every time I go, and each being more delicious than the next. Patrons have two sizes to choose from, however I usually suggest going with two smalls instead of a large – that way you can try more of their delightful concoctions. With smalls running about $9 and larges around $17, this place is a little on the pricier side. However, you will never be disappointed as if you want to tweak the drinks a bit to suit your taste, the bartenders are happy to oblige. Plus most of their drinks are served in mason jars – it doesn’t get much better than that!
So this may seem like quite a few things to fit into a day, but I can assure you it is possible! The best way to ensure you make all these great stops is to grab a day pass ($10) for the STM which gives you access to Montréal’s fabulous transit system. Or if you’re around on a weekend, for only $13 you can abuse the system from 6pm Friday to 5am Monday. Pretty sweet deal, eh?
Now the big question… when’s the next bus to Montréal?