Montreal is definitely a top city to in North America and if you’re asking whether Montreal is worth visiting, the answer is absolutely YES! A visit to Canada is not complete without visiting this historical city. There is a lot to see and do and since I live here, I thought it would be helpful to put together an itinerary of the best things to do to help you make the best use of your time when visiting Montreal.
How many days should I spend in Montreal?
There is a lot to enjoy in Montreal, starting with the historical sites, museums, and top rated restaurants. It is also the city to be in for festivals – both in the summer and winter!
Montreal is a very walkable city. There is also an underground path connecting different parts of the city, for those colder days. The Metro and bus systems connect popular parts of the island efficiently. In the summer, you can also rent BIXIs and make your way around town using the many bike paths.
As a local, I recommend a minimum of 3 days but would say 4 days is best to perfectly capture the vibes of the city, see everything and try all the food possible at a relaxed pace.
When is the best time to visit?
For best weather and to enjoy all the activities – I recommend visiting between the months of May and September. During these months, the city comes to life more than ever and festival season begins.
Where should I stay?
There are many different neighbourhoods within the city with each offering something different. Here is a list of the best neighourhoods as well as the hotels in each of these areas.
To have the best access to all the sights and for a short stay, I recommend staying in the Old Port or Downtown areas. This will ensure you make the most your short stay.
What not to miss?
Here is a summary of the top things you should not miss when visiting Montreal:
- Old Port – You can’t miss the European charm and the lively cobblestone streets of Old Montreal
- Quartier des Spectacles – This is where many events are held throughout the summer. Check out the schedule of events to see what events correspond with your visit.
- Mont-Royal – Hike up Mont-Royal and enjoy the wonderful views of the city (you can also drive or take a bus).
- Atwater and/or Jean-Talon Market for a real Montreal local experience, taste fresh local products and delicacies.
- EAT at some of the best restaurants in the city. As a foodie, I cannot emphasize enough how diverse and delicious food in Montreal can be. Look for links to some of my favorite spots in this post.
The perfect 4 day Montreal itinerary
Start your first day by exploring the Old Port. Here is where you will feel you’re no longer in Canada, as you walk through the cobblestone streets lined with shops and restaurants. Head into the different art galleries and enjoy the French culture throughout these streets. In the summer, you will find many people enjoying the music and performances on Place Jacques-Cartier.
Visit the Notre-Dame Basilica – One of the most beautiful churches in North America – Take a guided tour to learn about the history and architecture of the basilica. For an extra special experience, purchase tickets for The AURA Experience where you can enjoy a multimedia display of dynamic light playing harmoniously with orchestral music inside the church!
Visit Marché Bonsecours – One of Canada’s finest heritage buildings and an essential stop on any visit to Old Montréal. Just north of here, you will find Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel, which is one of the oldest churches in Montreal build in 1771.
From here, take a short walk to the Clock Tower (and Clock Tower beach for the summer days). You can climb the 192 steps of the Clock Tower to experience some of the most impressive views of Montreal and the St. Lawrence River. In the summer, you can relax and sunbathe on the lounge chairs on the soft sand at the man-made beach, which is a great treat in middle of the city.
You can also do a walking tour through the Old Port to learn more about the history. You can also choose one of these great guided tours to learn a bit more about each spot:
Once you have explored the Old Port – if you’re not too tired yet, take a short walk up St. Laurent street and you will arrive in China Town. Walk along Rue De La Gauchetière where all the Chinese shops and restaurants will make you crave a nice meal.
For a more more relaxing option, you can go to Bota Bota – a floating Scandinavian-inspired spa on the St. Lawrence river, right in the Old Port.
Enjoy the evening by the water. Indulge in a perfect meal at one of the wonderful Old Port restaurants. You can take a stroll and enjoy the many activities and events Montreal has to offer and see the city as it lights up for the night. For unparalleled views of the Old Port, you can end your night with a ride on the Ferris wheel.
On the second day, you can spend the day exploring downtown, Montreal. Walking along St. Catherine street to explore all the stores, and the many shopping malls. Check out Crescent Street, where you will find many bars and restaurants with terrasses along the street.
If you like museums, here is when you can visit the MAC (Contemporary Art Museum of Montreal), or Musée des Beaux-Arts. This is one of the largest museums in Canada. The museum has an extensive collection of art from around the world.
While you are downtown, also visit the beautiful Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral – a 19th-century church modeled after the famous St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
From downtown, you can also either bike or walk to Lachine Canal and check out the Atwater Market. There is a beautiful bike bath along the canal that takes you from Old Port to the Atwater Market and beyond with views of the city and Mont-Royal. The paths along the Canal have a vibrant energy as everyone picnics and enjoys the wonderful green spaces.
If you’re into exploring the city on a bike (or an electric bike) – you can opt to do a tour such as the Montreal City Architecture Guided Bike Tour.
Enjoy a nice dinner at one of the restaurants in Griffintown or St.Henri – some of the best in Montreal. You can find some suggestions in the list of best romantic restaurants in Montreal or restaurants out of town visitors must try.
To have a fun night out, check out what events there may be at Quartier des Spectacles. Here is where you will find some of the most popular Montreal events such as the Montreal Jazz Festival. Enjoy a great night of music and dancing if you are here during the festival season (July & August).
The third day can be spent enjoying the nature and the green spaces in Montreal. For a morning stroll, go up to Mont-Royal to see some of the best views of the Montreal skyline from above the “mountain”.
There are multiple viewpoints, and two of them are Camilien-Houde Belvedere and Kondiaronk Belvedere. With the most popular being the latter. This is especially beautiful during the Autumn as the colours of the leaves change and during the spring when the tulips are in full bloom.
There are a few hiking trails on the mountain that you can take. You can also picnic around Beaver Lake. If you visit in the winter, you can go ice skating at Beaver Lake.
From here, head over to St. Joseph’s Oratory – Canada’s largest church! The Oratory is also the highest building in Montreal, and it actually breaks the law because of its height. Here is where you can enjoy a sunset as well if you end up going in the afternoon.
Fun fact: The municipal building code of Montreal limits the height of any building, including skyscrapers, from surpassing the height of Mount Royal.
To enjoy more of the green spaces and nature parks around Montreal, you can visit Parc La Fontaine. Take the perfect evening stroll around the park and the lake here. Bonus tip: Grab a poutine from La Banquise (a must try!) and enjoy it in the park.
In the evening, check out Les Jardins Gamelin – A space created to enjoy the summer with diverse nightly musical programs and dancing.
On your last day, take the time to explore the trendy and hip neighbourhoods of Plateau Mont-Royal, Little Italy and Mile end.
The Plateau neighbourhood is one that architecture enthusiasts will love. The streets are lined with charming, and colourful historical buildings, many with the famous spiral staircases. You can also visit Saint-Louis Square, which was created in 1876.
Here you will also find some wonderful street art and can even enjoy the Mural Festival in the summer if you plan to be there at that time. You can go on a guided tour of Montreal’s murals or explore on your own. Here is a great interactive map of all of the Montreal Murals: https://muralfestival.com/festival/dynamic-map/
In little Italy, visit Jean Talon Market – one of the city’s largest farmers’ markets – and sample fresh, Quebec produce, including artisanal cheese, produce, and baked goods.
Visit the Montreal Botanical Garden and stroll through the various gardens, including the Chinese and Japanese Gardens. The garden also features a greenhouse with exotic plants and a butterfly exhibit.
If you have more time, you can also visit the Olympic Stadium and the Biodome. The Biodome has recreated four ecosystems: the Tropical Rainforest, the Laurentian Maple Forest, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Sub-Antarctic Islands. Each exhibiting animals, plants, and simulated weather conditions of the respective ecosystem.
You can indulge in a last meal of your trip at one of the trendiest restaurants, owned by famous Montreal chefs found in these neighbourhoods.
If you enjoy good food, good art, good festivals then you will love this city. The charm and vibe of the city is definitely different than any other North American city. With this 4 day Montreal itinerary, you will be able to see the main sights and enjoy the all the things the city has to offer.
If you’re visiting in the summer and looking to enjoy the outdoors, here is a list of activities that can help you take full advantage of what this city has to offer.
Travel tip: You can buy a MTL Passport which allows you to visit up to 28 of Montreal’s must-see attractions at great rates, including public transit.
For the perfect adventure, you can combine this Montreal itinerary with a road trip to Quebec City and even beyond. Lastly, you can also book one of these tours to further discover Montreal.