Montreal is a beautiful city with a lot of great food and an easy way (if you’re from North America) to feel like you’re visiting Europe at a much lower cost. That being said, when I was doing research to see what I wanted to do when in Montreal, it was hard to find things to do or places to go that aren’t obvious tourism drivers. My husband and I went to some of these and I’d like to share with you what we found to be actually worth the hype.
Tourist thing #1: Climb Mont Royal – WORTH THE HYPE.
Yes, definitely a tourist attraction, but ALSO a local attraction. It’s free, it’s beautiful, and it feels good to get exercise when you’re on vacation. By the way, it’s not really a mountain, it’s more like a big hill, so don’t be intimidated about walking up it. Start by the George-Ettiene Cartier monument on Av du Parc and walk up the large road all the way to the top you’ll have a lovely stroll at a slow incline. If you opt for stairs that cut through some of this winding road, you’ll get there faster but have more of a workout. If you just want the views, there’s a parking lot closer to the summit with the Chalet, but that really takes some of the fun out for me personally.
Tourist thing #2: Notre Dame de Montreal – WORTH THE HYPE.
It costs $5 CAD to get in, and then you can take the tour or just wander through the church. If you like architecture, I highly recommend the visit. If you’re lucky a man will be playing the huge 7,000 pipe organ while you sit and take it all in. Tourist places like this are nice because they’re generally quieter. Just go on a weekday morning to avoid big crowds.
Tourist thing #3: Orange Julep – WORTH THE HYPE.
There is a reason that people make the trek out here. It’s about 45-60 minutes from the main area of Montreal by transit, and literally just a drive in shaped like a giant orange, but their orange julep is so tasty that it makes it all worthwhile. They have burgers and hot dogs too (they’re decent) and if you go on an evening in the summer, there’s usually lots of classic cars parked in the lot. We went too early for the cars to be there and STILL thought the trip out was worthwhile.
Tourist thing #4: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – WORTH THE HYPE.
Yes, I’m an art geek, so most everywhere we go I drag my husband to some kind of art museum. He’s not a huge fan of contemporary stuff, but loves the historical exhibits. While we were here, we got to see the Pompeii exhibit, which honestly was one of the coolest I’ve been to in a while. We only went through one of the three buildings it uses for it’s collection and still spent a good 3 hours here.
Tourist thing #5: St. Viateur Bagel – WORTH THE HYPE.
This is a great place because even though it’s touristy, you’re only inside for 10 minutes tops unless you’re on a food tour and have a guide talking to you outside of it. We went in and got bagels to take to our Airbnb and enjoyed them the whole week!
Tourist thing #6: Schwartz’s Deli – WORTH THE HYPE.
While you will probably need to wait in line, you’ll understand why once you sit and eat. I didn’t know plain bread, smoked meat and a bit of mustard could be so satisfying. It’s small and you’ll sit by other people you don’t know, but they’ll all disappear when you bite into that sammy.
Tourist thing #7: Jean-Talon Market – ALMOST WORTH THE HYPE.
Note the “almost” here. I love markets, anywhere and everywhere, and Jean-Talon was fun because I could practice the itty bitty amount of French I had learned while getting some lunch goodies to take back to the Airbnb. The only reason this is an almost is because we found a different local cheese and meat shop walking distance from our Airbnb that we enjoyed the products from more. (I’ll let you know what that one was in another post!) We also went on a Monday, right after a very busy weekend, so some vendors told us they normally had more but had run out during the weekend. Maybe if you go really early on a Saturday morning it’d be so awesome you wouldn’t imagine another trip without it. While I’m glad we went I would plan it out differently next time.
Where we decided not to go:
- Montreal Biodome – Probably pretty cool, it was originally in our plan, but we had so much fun wandering through other neighborhoods that we decided to skip it. The botanical garden looks like it’d be a great afternoon activity.
- Underground City – Primarily a network of tunnels for business people to get to work without having to go outside in the cold. There’s also a mall-ish area that apparently none of the locals ever hang out in.
- Bus tour – I don’t understand the attraction of these. Just get a bus pass and do the same thing, or take a way more in-depth bike or walking tour.
- Touring the old ports. – They’ve been turned into tourist attractions and I would just rather do a walking tour of Old Montreal and learn about the history that way (which we did).
What are your favorite things in Montreal that I should do next time? What else is worth the hype? Let me know!
More about Montreal:
From this post:
- Mont Royal
- Notre Dame de Montreal
- Orange Julep
- Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
- St. Viateur Bagel
- Schwartz’s Deli
- Jean-Talon Market
- Montreal Biodome
- Underground City
- Old Port
- Walking/bike Tours