Canada has long been one of the attractive tourist destinations of the Americas. Canada not only has prosperous, thriving and bustling cities but also has majestic nature with spectacular mountain ranges, breathtaking national parks. Coming to Canada, you will discover many famous tourist cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, Quecbec or its capital of Ottawa, etc. And definitely speaking of the famous tourist cities of Canada, it is impossible not to mention the city of Montreal — Which dubbed the Canada’s capital of culture, a beautiful and impressive city. So, what to do and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Montreal for the first-time? Let’s check out our Montreal blog (Montreal travel blog, Montreal travel guide blog) with the fullest Montreal travel guide (Montreal visitor guide, Montreal canada travel guide, Montreal city guide, Montreal guide, Montreal tourist guide) from how to get there, best time to come, where to stay, best places to visit and top things to do to find out the answer!
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Montréal — the economic, industry, technology center of the Québec province and the second most populous city in Canada after Toronto with a population of around 4.2 million (Montreal Metropolitan in 2022). With 2 cultures Anglo-French coexisting and harmonizing, when traveling to Montreal, one of the tips that visitors should not miss is to learn a few basic French sentences to communicate, because there are half of Montrealers use French as their primary language.
Montreal blog: Overview of the city of Montreal
Montreal is a large and thriving city located in the province of Quebec, in the southwestern region of Canada. Montreal is about 150km from Ottawa and about 200km from Quebec City. Traditionally, Montreal once was known as the largest city in Canada and also the second largest city in the world after only to the French capital Paris.
If Toronto is one of the cities that bring slightly Urban Style in American style, Montreal is a bustling city in European style. The city of Montreal possesses a modern but equally romantic beauty. Add to that a bit of extravagance. As a large city with a immigrant population from more than 100 different countries, Montreal has a diverse, unique and rich culture.
A brief history of Montreal and culture
Montreal is located in southwestern Quebec on an island in the bed of the Saint Lawrence River, named after a hill on the island — Mount Royale. The Island of Montreal Island has been the land of the Algonquin, Huron and Iroquois indigenous for thousands of years before the French arrived to explore North America in the early 16th century.
In 1642, missionaries founded a village within the boundaries of present-day Montréal. That village was named Ville-Marie and it kept expanding. The majority of Ville-Marie’s population is French, but after Ville-Marie was handed back to the British Empire in 1760, immigrants from England, Ireland, Scotland and other parts of Europe also settled here. For that reason, Montreal is mainly a place of intersection between French and British cultures, a miniature of Europe in the heart of Canada.
Besides France, Montreal is home to the world’s largest French-speaking community: Nearly 50% of Montrealers speak French, more than half of Montreal’s population can speak both French and English very well.
Montreal brings the beauty of a romantic and poetic French city, from the ancient streets, calm river to the churches covered with green moss — All bring Montreal peace, leaving a deep impression in the heart of every visitor who have visited here.
Montreal travel blog: When should you visit to Montreal?
Montreal is a city influenced by continental climate with high average humidity throughout the year. Therefore, summer in Montreal is quite warm and pleasant. Summer is also the time when many exciting and attractive festivals in Montreal takes place such as Jazz Festiaval or Just for Laughs.
Most tourists who have traveled to Montreal will admit: Montreal is most beautiful and charming in the fall (September – November). Besides the fresh, cool and pleasant air, the autumn of Montreal also captivates visitors with the yellow and red color of the carpets of maple leaves. The whole space will be brilliant and romantic in the moment when the changing season comes.
Autumn is the most beautiful season of the year, when the trees begin to change their leaves colors and cover the city. While summer is the time for festivals like Jazz Festival in early July, Just for Laughs and Fantasia in mid-July.
Summer (June – August) is a favorable season for tourists from tropical regions like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and other tropical countries the weather is hot and humid, the average temperature fluctuates around 20 degrees, convenient for sightseeing, outdoor activities.
Meanwhile, the winter of Montreal (December – February) is extremely harsh, with heavy snowfall, sometimes with very large blizzards. Snow falls from early December to early March. For that reason, you should visit Canada’s warmer cities like Vancouver.
Spring (March – May), the weather is getting warmer, this is the season to restart Montreal tourism after a long “winter break”, after 3 months of cold winter.
Montreal travel guide: How to get to Montreal?
All flights to Montreal will land at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport which located just over 20km from the city center. The lowest airfare will be about USD 500 – 600 from Vietnam. You should book tickets at least 1 month in advance to save traveling costs.
In addition, you can also take a bus from Toronto, Ottawa or New York from the U.S. to Montreal with affordable prices. Train is also an interesting option. The trains run between Montreal and Halifax, Toronto and New York, it offers wireless networks and beers to drink during the trip.
Getting to Montreal from Toronto
Because I live in Toronto, so there is only Megabus is the cheapest option. But before buying tickets, you should pay attention to find coupons for Megabus, if you are lucky, you can buy tickets at a much lower price for the route Toronto-Montreal. To find these coupons, just go to Google and type a few keywords to get a “bunch” of suggestions. In addition, if you buy in groups, you can also get a discount.
It takes about 6 hours of traveling from Toronto to Montreal. One thing I forgot to say about Megabus is that the terminus is close to the Metro (subway), so it’s very convenient for commuting.
Besides Megabus you can take Greyhound, Via Rail… to get to Montreal from Toronto. If you don’t have a car but have a driver’s license, you can use Zipcar service to rent a car.
Montreal travel blog: Getting around Montreal
Montreal is a city with a fairly developed and convenient public transport system. The whole city has about 192 bus routes, 4 subway lines and 68 tram stations. With a such modern public transport system, you can reach to any place in the city. If you travel a lot, you should buy a day ticket (Pass) to be able to use all kinds of vehicles at cheap prices.
Tourists can buy a day ticket to be able to use all kinds of vehicles at a cheap price with a 1-day or 3-day ticket. Also, there are dedicated bike lanes in Montreal, so if you’re feeling a little adventurous, hop on a Bixi bike, a city public bike-sharing system, and explore the city in another perspective.
Since we were in Montreal for 3 days, we decided to use the Metro Pass (3-day pass for $18). Travel freely with Metro and bus. When buying tickets, remember to ask for a Metro map for easy travel.
Montreal blog: Where to go, what to do in Montreal
The city of Montreal owns a beautiful landscape, impressive small spaces, a peaceful atmosphere. When traveling to Montreal, visitors will admire many quaint, ancient architectures from the 17th and 19th centuries and also many corporate headquarters built in the early 20th century. In particular, the attractions around the city mostly serve free to the community.
Address: 2600 Av Pierre-Dupuy, Montréal, QC H3C 3R6, Canada
Architectural style: Brutalist architecture
Montreal has many interesting attractions for us to explore. One of the most famous attractions in Montreal is Habitat 67 Apartments which is also an strange inconic of the city, was designed by Moshe Safdie, an Israeli-Canadian architect. This is a very unique architectural complex made up of 354 architectural cubes made of reinforced concrete. The cubes are arranged on top of each other in a very special way. This is also considered one of the most unique architectural works in the city of Montreal.
Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal
Address: 110 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal, Quebec H2Y 1T1, Canada
Opened: July 1, 1829
The next place to visit that you should not miss is the Notre Dame Basilica. This is a beautiful old cathedral built in the Gothic Revival architecture and English Gothic architecture styles with a height of 60 m. Coming here, you will surely be amazed and impressed by the intricate carvings on the ceiling of the church. The altar here has an extremely splendid orange-yellow color.
It is the first parish church in North America (construction started in 1647), the Cathedral is steeped in the history of Montreal. It had hosted major events such as the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1982 and the marriage of the Canadian famous singer Celine Dion in 1994.
This is a prominent site of Vieux-Montreal, designed by an Irish architect and built from 1824 – 1829. If you have the opportunity, go inside the Catholic church to admire the works of art and its interior design. It is revealed that the stars on the blue-green ceiling are made of 24-carat pure gold.
Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal
Address: 3800 Queen Mary Rd, Montreal, Quebec H3V 1H6, Canada
The famous Catholic Church in Montreal which opened in 1904 with a height of 129 m and built in the architectural styles of Renaissance architecture, Italian Renaissance. The church not only attracting more than two million visitors to visit and pray every year, thousands of people of different religions from all over the world to pray because of the sacredness of “Brother Andre Jesuit” – who is the founder of the church.
Ville-Marie (The historical district of Old Montreal)
Don’t forget to enjoy the panoramic view of the city from the highest point: Mount Royal – where the name Montreal comes from. Montreal is also the filming location of many beloved American movies and TV series such as Catch Me If You Can, The Aviator, Lucky Number Slevin and The Notebook… Wandering around the Old Montreal, drop by shops, exploring some famous tourist spots, sipping a hot cup of coffee while watching people pass by is also a great experience.
Place Jacques Cartier
This is a lively, bustling public square, surrounded by the unique historic architecture of buildings, cafes, shops and restaurants. During the summer, the area will be closed to vehicles so that locals and tourists can walk freely. Place Jacques Cartier offers views of Montreal City Hall and the impressive Nelson’s Column, the city’s oldest structure.
Saint-Paul Street (Rue St-Paul)
Considered a tourist icon of the city of Montreal, Saint-Paul Street was established in the late 1600s. The street is less than 1 mile long and was once a bustling shopping district in the old town area of Montreal. The most prominent feature is the cobblestone street, the surrounding eateries, bars and old buildings.
Montreal Science Centre
Address: 2 de la Commune St W, Montreal, Quebec H2Y 4B2, Canada
Opened: May 6, 2000
The Montreal Science Centre was founded in 2000, formerly is a science museum of Motreal, Quebec. Here visitors can explore science and technology while they also can imagining the future through dynamic and interactive exhibitions. A good place that suitable for families with kids with interactive exhibitions on science and technology and an IMAX theatre as well.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Address: 1380 Sherbrooke St W, Montreal, Quebec H3G 1J5, Canada
Hours: 10AM–5PM/Monday; Tuesday: Closed
Perhaps this is the Montreal’s most prestigious museum, the museum of fine arts was originally founded in 1860 by a group of local art collectors and supporters. Today, the museum includes paintings, sculptures, graphic arts, photographs and decorative artworks displayed through five galleries namely international art, world culture, art decoration and design of Quebec province and Canada and international art.
Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art
Address: 1 Place Ville Marie, Montreal, Quebec H3B 3Y1, Canada
Hours: 11AM–7PM/Saturday, Sunday: 12–5PM/Monday: Closed
Since 1964, the Museum of Contemporary Art has showcased some of the best contemporary art from around the world. The Montreal Museum of Art is a free entry after 5:30 p.m. every Thursday where visitors can explore the collections of European masters.
Here you will find a wide range of digital and acoustic works, paintings, installation art, temporary works, sculptures and more. Located in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles (the city’s major cultural district), the museum is a cultural hub that makes art an integral part of everyday life in the city of Montreal.
Address: 4581 Sherbrooke St E, Montreal, Quebec H1X 2B2, Canada
Opened: February 7, 1990 and located in the Botanical Garden, this is a unique insect museum that gathers nearly 250,000 insect specimens with the number of species of 95 and is the largest insect museum in North America. Don’t be surprised to see giant spiders or scorpions.
La Ronde Amusement Park
Address: 22 Chem. Macdonald, Montréal, QC H3C 6A3, Canada
Opened in April 1967 with an area of 59 ha and 8 Roller coasters for Expo 67, the 1967 World Fair. If you go with a family with young children, you should try once to visit La Ronde park – the largest amusement park in Eastern Canada. There are many attractive games such as roller coaster, ferris wheel…
Known as the arts and hipster hub of Montreal, Mile End is a neighborhood located in the Plateau-Mont-Royal district of Montreal. This is a place for young people in general and art lovers in particular. Here you’ll find an array of fashion boutiques, eateries, live music bars, vintage shops and underground music venues. All of these sites immerse themselves in the culture of Canada’s Jewish and Portuguese communities, embodying the richness and diversity of the Mile End.
Mile End has even been called “the heart of Montréal’s incomparable independent music scene”. Some of Mile End’s most famous attractions include Church of St. Michael and St. Anthony, Café Olimpico, Casa Del Popolo, Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore, Wilensky’s Light Lunch (made famous by author Mordecai Richler) and Frank and Oak
La Ville Souterraine (Montreal Underground City)
Traveling to Montreal, visitors cannot help but visit the underground city of La Ville Souterraine. This is a place full of restaurants, shops, hotels, cinemas, exhibition areas, subway stations, nightclubs and libraries.
Known as “the home of life”, the Biodome is home to four models of the ecological systems of the Americas, home to 750 species of plants and 4,800 species of animals. In the Naturalia area, children can play educational games and interact directly with the animals. At the fossil exhibition area, you can admire the white whale skeleton up to 10,000 years old.
As a national historic site with ancient beauties, it is a destination that anyone coming to Montreal should not forget to visit. The roads on both sides of the canal is a rest stop or picnic for many people. Especially the souvenir shops, the surrounding small markets create a wonderful beauty for interesting discoveries that make you forget the time.
The Lachine Canal has a length of 4km starting from Old Montreal to Atwater Market. Coming here, you can explore the daily life of the people on both sides of the canal which will be very interesting.
Montreal Botanical Garden
Address: 4101 Sherbrooke St E, Montreal, Quebec H1X 2B2, Canada
Consisting of 190 acres of gardens and greenhouses along with the no. of species of 22,000, the Montreal Botanical Garden was established in 1931 and offers a range of themed green spaces including Alpine Garden, Chinese Garden, Rose Garden, Rhododendron garden, Japanese Garden… There are a total of 10 greenhouses, and over 22,000 species that can be explored around the peaceful grounds. This is also an interesting place to watch the sunset. If you go in May, you will see cherry blossoms everywhere.
Jean Talon Market
Address: 7070 Henri Julien Ave, Montreal, Quebec H2S 3S3, Canada
Jean Talon Market is considered one of the oldest markets in the city of Montreal, located in the Little Italy neighborhood. During the high season, there are more than 300 vendors with various products ranging from fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, spices, cheese to handmade goods. Jean Talon Market is also one of the largest in North America, with most of the produce being local specialties or from Quebec.
The market is open year-round and the stalls change with the seasons. Those interested in exploring Montreal’s cuisine can enjoy sandwiches, pancakes, tacos, cakes, ice cream, fresh juices and great coffee. In particular, the Le Marché des Saveurs du Québec (Address: Marché Jean-Talon, 280 Pl. du Marché-du-Nord, Montréal, QC H2S 1A1, Canada/Hours: 9AM–6PM) store specializes in Québec specialties such as wine, cider, fresh cheeses, smoked meats and some other elegant gifts. This is a great place to buy fresh food and soak up the open atmosphere of the locals. This is a great place to buy fresh food and soak up the open atmosphere of the locals.
Montreal used to be famous as a city with a developed maritime industry. Old Port was once a busy place with hundreds of ships and boats coming in and out. Today, the Old Port has become a familiar resting and relaxing place for Montrealers as well as tourists. Here, you will see the ancient architecture. You will have the opportunity to walk on the cobblestone roads, visit the beautiful Place Jacques-Cartier square. In addition, Old Port also has many modern shops and shopping centers.
Just a few minutes from the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal you will find the Old Port. See the quaint buildings spread along both sides of the road. This is a bustling part of the city and a hub for shopping, dining and even live music performances. Stop by to enjoy the performance of talented street artists.
Mount Royal Park
Mount Royal Park is not only a place where you can enjoy the fresh and pleasant atmosphere. Because it is located at the highest point of the city, this park is also an ideal place for you to see the city of Montreal from above. Mount Royal Park is like an observatory in other famous cities in the world.
Address: 4545 Pierre-de Coubertin Ave, Montreal, Quebec H1V 0B2, Canada
Built for the 1976 summer Olympics with a capacity of 66,308 and a height of 165 m as one of the most recognizable structures in the city, it was the home of Montreal’s former baseball team, the Expos, until they moved to the United States to become the Washington Nationals. Currently, it serves as a venue for special events, concerts, trade fairs and conferences. The stadium is a part of the Olympic Park complex, a larger entertainment destination that includes other famous landmarks and attractions: Biodome, Botanical Garden and Insectarium.
This is one of the most impressive works, it is also the most controversial architecture because it was built for the Olympic Games in 1976, but still not completed until 1980 despite the cost up to 1.47 billion of dollars. However, this is also a very attractive place for tourists.
Similar to Vancouver, in the city of Montreal, there is also a neighborhood dedicated to Chinese people living and working. Montreal’s Chinatown is located at De la Gauchetière Street. This place sells a lot of items from food, fashion, households to convenience stores for visitors to explore and discover.
Montreal International Jazz Festival
Jazz Festival is the largest international jazz festival in the world. Come to Montreal in July and take part in a 10-day festival spread across 20 other stages, clubs, and concert halls across the city. Every year attracting more than 3,000 artists from many countries around the world. There are about 650 performances and attracts more than 3 million visitors each year.
When the free outdoor shows take place, most other entertainment activities in the city are closed. The show usually has 100,000 people attending and sometimes even doubles. A few big names who have performed at the festival over the years include Ray Charles, Diana Krall, the Symphony Orchestra, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and Ahmad Jamal.
Montreal blog: What and where to eat?
You will definitely want to try the traditional dish and also known as the national dish called “Poutine”. This dish consists of French fries topped with curd cheese and topped with a brown meat sauce. La Banquise (Address: 994 Rue Rachel E, Montréal, QC H2J 2J3, Canada) is the exclusive shop that offers Poutine (in many variations) and is open all day. Many restaurants here have taken Poutine to a new level with the addition of some other attractive ingredients such as bacon, mushrooms, onions…
Referring to Montreal cuisine, beaver tails cannot be ignored. This is a type of pastry made from flour, similar to a donut but with a flattened shape like the tail of a beaver. The pastry is fried to a crispy golden color and spread with a layer of greasy butter or chocolate sauce, fruit jam… When enjoying, you will see that the outside of the cake is golden crispy, the inside is soft and fluffy, and the sweetness of the toppings blends together.
Bacon has made its own mark on Montreal cuisine thanks to its distinctive flavor. Unlike any other, the bacon here is made from lean pork loin, adding spices and covered in cornstarch layer. When processing, the pork will be marinated longer, add more pepper and less sugar, so the bacon has a different flavor than other places in Canada. It can be eaten with rye bread and mustard, the bacon is very tender, rich with the flavor of smoke that will stimulate your taste buds.
The best place to try the world famous bacon in Montreal is the restaurant Schwartz’s Deli (Address: 3895 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, Quebec H2W 1X9, Canada/Hours: 10AM–10PM). Schwartz’s Deli is the most famous restaurant in Montreal. Especially, this place always attracts millions of visitors with its bacon. Accordingly, the bacon here is selected from the lean pork loin. Then it will be processed with typical cooking spices and rolled in cornstarch to be smoked. Therefore, this dish has made the name of Schwartz’s Deli restaurant for many years. Mix with the locals and don’t hesitate to order more a plate of pickles and fries while enjoying Motreal bacon.
The unique combination of vodka and clamato juice – a mixture of tomato juice and sea scallop soup, with a little spicy chili sauce or pepper sauce. An indispensable ingredient is the special Worcestershire sauce, specially formulated from food to mature for 18 months.
Bagel is a ring-shaped bread, famous all over the world, sprinkled with sesame seeds. There are bakeries in Montreal that have been around for hundreds of years, with a special style of baking that is kept very secret. This cake is very popular with tourists because of its unique and attractive taste thanks to the secret of the mixing ratio of ingredients: flour, malt, honey, eggs, yeast, cinnamon…
You can get this bagel at two shops vying for the top spot, Fairmount Bagel or Saint-Viateur Bagels.
Fish and brewis
This dish was created by sailors, is a combination of salted cod and bread. Bread will be soaked in water to soften, salted cod is also soaked in water to reduce salinity, then all are boiled and mixed with cracklings.
After trying all of these greasy dishes and cakes, you may want to enjoy the farmhouse and delectable menus of celebrity chef Normand Laprise by visiting Toque or Brasserie, which together belongs to a small chain of restaurants.
From open coffee shops to Starbucks, Montréal has it all. Through the bustling streets of the city center and even the old houses, you can easily find warm cafes. If you are looking for the perfect combination of delicious pastries, coffee and a place that can make you emotional, go to Tommy Cafe or Cafe Olimpico. If you’re a tea lover, when the clock ticks to 4 o’clock, arrange for Birks Café par Europea to enjoy their famous afternoon tea.
Montreal travel blog: Shopping in Montreal
Take time to stop by Canada’s first lavish fashion house, Marie Saint-Pierre, which also has a boutique on Rue Montagne street. Otherwise, you may want to check out the Ogilvy Department Store (Address: 1307 Saint-Catherine St W, Montreal, Quebec H3G 1P7, Canada) has been established since 1866. Or you can strolling along Saint-Catherine Street where you can find a lot of expensive goods, major brands and stores.
Saint Catherine Street is home to many unique shops and multi-storey shopping centers, and in the basement there are many retail stores to choose from.
Montreal blog: Where to stay?
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Hotel Nelligan (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Hotel Place d’Armes Old Montreal (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Auberge du Vieux-Port (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Hotel Bonaventure Montreal (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Hilton Garden Inn Montreal Centre-Ville (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Le Square Phillips Hotel & Suites (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
Check out more top hotels in Montreal on Agoda.com or Booking.com.
Happy traveling! Read more guide to other cities: Ottawa, Quebec, Toronto and Canada travel guide here.