There are really so many things to do when you’re lucky enough to spend a few days in the lovely city of Montreal! If you’re a bit short on time though, here are some great ideas for you to enjoy throughout the city. I honestly find the locals so friendly, even when your French is a bit shaky (like mine). The effort of simply trying out some basic French is really appreciated, and if you’re good enough at first to trick them that you can speak great French and their response is to ramble on in super fast and lengthy French tangents, just smile and nod. That’s what I do!
1. Hike Mont Royal
Hiking up to the top of Mont Royal was one of my most favourite things I did while in Montreal over the holidays. The hike fell on the chilliest of days but at the same time the cold brought picturesque moments, such as the trickling streams freezing into icicles and sheer blankets of ice. Once at the top you are offered amazing views over downtown Montreal.
2. Eat a smoked meat sandwich
This sandwich is a Montreal icon, and there is only one place to enjoy it properly: Schwartz Deli located on Boulevard Saint Laurent. Enjoy 4 inches of thick smoked meat wedged between slices of rye. You’re able to choose between “lean, medium, or fat.” I suspect fat would be the tastiest but I chose medium and it was phenomenal. Schwartz Deli has been around since 1928 and appears as though it hasn’t changed at all since.
I encourage you to not order anything else off the menu besides their smoked meat sandwich. I overheard someone ask the waiter for a bologna sandwich and the waiter responded to their question with an extremely unimpressed and disgusted look. (I was equally unimpressed).
3. Walk along Saint Paul Street in Old Montreal
Old Montreal encompasses the famous European atmosphere of Montreal. Saint Paul Street has tons of restaurants, cafes, bars, souvenir shops, and art galleries. My favourite stop here was Les Délices de l’Erable (Canadian Maple Delights). Inside there was a maple syrup tasting of various Canadian maple syrups, maple syrup honey and maple syrup grand marnier. Needless to say I was in here for a while and took away a bunch of mouth-watering maple cookies and fudges. A legitimate sugar high ensued after this visit and as soon as I left the shop there was a stand right across the street handing out free chocolates.
Just a little further along there was an outdoor stand serving piping hot apple cider, the perfect opportunity to warm up from the cold and to enjoy even more maple syrup goodies. Nearby the stand there were several outdoor fire pits, so I sat in one of the lounger chairs and defrosted my toes as I sipped my yummy cider.
4. Visit the Basilique Notre Dame
I’m not one for recommending visiting religious buildings unless it’s absolutely necessary, but in this case, it is. The Notre Dame Basilica is a gorgeous building with incredibly ornate and colourful features of blue, red, purple, silver, and gold. I was not expecting such a stunning blue interior but that was my favourite feature. The organ comprises of 7,000 pipes that you can hear reverberate through the streets several times a day. You can partake in the Sunday mass to hear the choir sing (and possibly join along!)
5. Browse the vintage shops of Boulevard Saint Laurent
The amount of vintage shops along Boulevard Saint Laurent is enough to make any vintage lover like me elated with pure joy. Vintage clothing, bookstores, and antiques are abundant for ages. You will find anything and everything from 60’s dresses to vintage artwork and so many other things. You’ll be sure to discover several unique finds perusing these shops!
6. Taste the local beers at Dieu du Ciel!
Dieu du Ciel! is one of the best places in the city to taste quality beer, from dark stout to fruity ales to citrusy whites. I highly recommend the beer called La Première Neige. This super fun place is always packed with locals and I can’t wait to head back there again!
7. Eat a bagel
Another Montreal icon! Head to Saint Viateur for your delicious, freshly baked bagel. It’s open 24/7!
8. Wander around the Quartier des Spectacles
Quartier des Spectacles is an entertainment district located in downtown Montreal, designed as a centre for cultural events and festivals such as art exhibits, music concerts, dance performances, plays and comedy shows. There are colourful spinning prisms that bounce and reflect light off each other (Luminothérapie), and artistic projections being played against several of the building walls. Taking a stroll through this area is really neat because you never really know what cool thing you’ll come across next.
9. Visit Suite 88 for a hot chocolate
This hot chocolate tasted like pure melted dark chocolate. It was so incredibly rich I couldn’t finish my drink but I sure enjoyed trying. This chocolatier serves any specialty drink including several homemade truffles and other sweets. Definitely worth a visit for any sweet tooth, (placing emphasis for the chocolate lover).
10. RIDE THE METRO!
Instead of freezing your ass off like me and walking everywhere during the frigid winter . . . ride the metro. I discovered how to use the metro on my last day in Montreal and not only is it relatively cheap, it is super easy to navigate. I suppose the plus side to the walking is that I got lots of exercise, but freezing to the core could have easily been avoided and more time could have been allotted to see and do even more.
11. Have a perturbed experience at the Contemporary Museum of Art?
I was uncertain whether to include this one or not on my list. I visited the Contemporary Museum of Art, and it was beyond the opposite of what I was expecting. I was expecting the exhibits to be odd and thought provoking, of course, but not as incredibly disturbing as I found them to be. Super creepy videos of a time traveling fox with bulging bloodshot eyes, children running for their life, and most shockingly, dead bodies being burned and people being beaten to death. (Can someone please explain to me why this is featured in a museum? A child-friendly museum at that?) There were also dead animals placed into random corners with no explanations.
If you have been to this museum or decide to check it out for yourself, please give me some insight into the exhibits you experienced during your time here. I’m sure the particular exhibit that was featured during my time at the museum does not represent them all! I was simply puzzled as to how it was considered art or anything noteworthy, but I would love to find out.