When you visit Montreal, you feel like you’ve been transported to Europe. This beautiful Canadian city has so much to offer visitors. The food is fantastic, the people are friendly and lively, and rest assured, everyone speaks English in the city. Montreal is unlike anywhere you’ve ever been and we’ve created the ultimate to-do list for any traveler. Here are the top nine things you need to do when you visit Montreal.
1. Eat Authentic Poutine
Poutine is Canada’s national dish originating from Quebec. This decadent dish is a plate of fries, served with fresh cheese curds, thick gravy, and often other accompaniments like condiments and meats. If you’ve never had poutine, you’re in for a treat – it will fill your soul as much as it does your stomach. And, of course, when you visit the very province that created poutine, you have to try it for yourself.
There are poutine sports all around the city for you to choose from. We recommend La Banquise, which is popular with both tourists and locals. This poutine restaurant operates 24/7, so you can drop by anytime. The menu has two pages of poutine creations for you to choose from, including options for vegetarians and vegans.
2. Explore Old Montreal
Old Montreal is a neighborhood in the city that dates back to the 17th century. As you walk down the cobblestone streets, you feel like you’re in a European city. This neighborhood is full of fantastic architecture, local shops, some of the city’s best restaurants and bars, and live musicians. Come here anytime, day or night, and you’ll find the area lively with crowds of people.
3. Visit Montreal’s Best Spa
When you’re done exploring the area, we suggest booking a spot at Montreal’s most famous spa – the Bota Bota. This spa is built on an actual boat anchored in the St. Lawrence River. You can book spa treatments, eat on the water, and even swim in the pool located on the top deck of the boat! It’s a fantastic way to relax and enjoy the water views of Montreal.
4. Visit Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts (Musee des Beaux-Arts)
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has been growing its collection of fine art pieces for over 150 years. Visit here to see various Canadian and international works of art. Some of the artists on display include Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne, and Rembrandt. The entire museum has over 44,000 pieces, so you’ll want to dedicate a few hours to take it all in.
5. Book a Boat Ride
One of the best ways to enjoy the views and architecture of Montreal is to relax on a boat and watch the city go by. You have two options when it comes to boat rentals. You can book a ferry to go along the wild, fun waters of the Lawrence River. Or, you can rent and drive a small boat down the calm waters of the Lachine Canal. If you choose the Lachine Canal adventure, you can stop at the nearby Atwater Market to grab some fresh food and have a lovely meal on the boat. It’s a perfect way to spend an afternoon in Montreal.
6. Have a Montreal-Style Bagel
You’ve probably heard of the age-old debate of who has the better bagel – Montreal or New York. We might not be able to answer that question, but we can assure you that Montreal’s bagels are a must-try. In particular, you have to go to St-Viateur Bagels. This bagel shop has been making fresh, hand-rolled bagels for over 30 years. St-Viateur has won over Montreal and has seen massive success, with four locations across the city and a food truck.
Pro tip: You have to try the sesame flavor, as that’s what St-Viateur is known for.
7. Go on Canada’s Largest Ferris Wheel
First, we recommend you see the city from the water, and now we’re moving onto views from the sky. Canada’s largest Ferris wheel, called La Grande Roue de Montréal, is located in the Old Port of Montreal. This observation wheel takes you 60 meters high, giving you panoramic views of Montreal and the St. Lawrence river. You can do this excursion in the summer or winter because the gondolas are climate-controlled to keep you warm or cool.
8. Visit the Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal
Famous architect James O’Donnell designed the exterior of the beautiful Notre Dame Basilica in 1824. The old tale says that he was so stunned by the outcome that he converted to Catholicism himself! This massive church looks impressive from the outside, but it’s the interior that will truly amaze you. Walk inside, and you’ll be stunned at the blue-and-gold vaulted ceilings, intricate carvings, beautiful statues, and attention to detail.
The Notre Dame Basilica is Montreal’s “mother church” and the first church in Canada to be built Gothic Revival style. You can book a quick 20-minute guided tour that will give you the full experience and history of this magnificent church.
9. Schwartz’s Deli
If you love Montreal Smoked Meat, you’ll find the best smoked meat sandwiches at Schwartz’s Deli. This deli has been open since 1928 and is now considered a cultural institution of Montreal. The restaurant believes that the secret to its meat is the 10-day meat curing time, the high turnover of the meat, and their brick smoke-house oven.
In true Montreal fashion, Schwartz has remained dedicated to staying an exclusively Montreal staple. Throughout the years, the owners have been approached many times to franchise their location and enter the US markets, expand to other cities in Canada, or expand into multiple locations in Montreal. The answer has always been a firm no.
Come here and try the classic smoked meat sandwich, which comes with a massive portion of meat, two slices of bread, and a layer of mustard. However, just be prepared to stand in line for anywhere between 30 minutes to over an hour, as this place is always busy!
Fun Fact: Schwartz’s serves lukewarm coffee, so people don’t lounge around too long after their meal!
This is your sign to book your flight to Montreal and go as soon as possible!