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Best Things to do in Montreal

Home to some of the oldest buildings in Canada, the best art galleries, and the most mouth-watering dishes, there's so much to do in Montreal. It’s often called most European city in North America. Sink your teeth into savoury poutines and cultural bites, marvel at impressive artwork, enjoy world-class spas and skiing, and so much more. But, without local travel experts, knowing the best things to do in Montreal can be a challenge. 

At Canadian Train Vacations, we want you to have memorable vacations designed around your personal interests. When you book with us, we take care of all the details for you, so you can get back to what matters with travel — enjoying new destinations. Our advisors not only live in Canada, they spend their free time exploring and discovering great experiences.

Here is our list of the best things to do in the Montreal. 

Old Montreal

A busy street in Montreal, crowded with shoppers and retail signange.

Travel back in time as you wander across cobblestone streets and past beautiful historic buildings in Old Montreal (1). Dating back to the 17th century, Old Montreal features exciting shops, street vendors, museums, and quaint cafes for you to enjoy. Explore popular landmarks including the Notre-Dame Basilica and the iconic clock tower located in Old Port. Popular for its colourful and photogenic streets, you'll want to snap a few photos of this iconic neighbourhood. 

While there's never a bad time to visit Old Montreal, you'll have an easier time finding accommodation in early spring or fall. The area is easy to reach and navigate by transit, so you don't need to worry about driving if you don't want to. If you feel overwhelmed by booking a trip yourself, don't worry. Talk to one of our insiders today for a personalized booking and itinerary. 

Explore more: Montreal and Quebec City Getaway by Rail

Notre-Dame Basilica

Notre-Dame Basilica, one of the best things to do in Montreal

If you're wondering what to see in Montreal, Canada, look no further than Notre-Dame Basilica (2). With nearly one million visitors each year, this historic church is one of the most astonishing sites in the city. Located in Old Montreal, it is almost 200 years old. Once inside, you'll marvel at the beautiful stained glass windows and detailed paintings throughout.  Currently, the church is open for visitors from Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday the church is open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Sunday from 12:30 p.m. until 4 p.m. Ticket prices range from $10 to $16. The church is accessible by transit and is only a 15-minute bus trip from the downtown core.  Notre-Dame Basilica is a popular site on a private tour. Ask your Canadian Train Vacations travel advisor about arranging a tour during your time in Montreal.  

AURA at Notre-Dame Basilica

Interior of the Notre-Dame Basilica lit up in bright colours for AURA

If you thought Notre-Dame Basilica couldn't get any more stunning, think again. AURA (3) is an immersive audio and visual show that takes place inside Notre-Dame Basilica. The award-winning experience features orchestral music and countless dancing lights that help bring the church walls to life. 

Showtimes start between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. depending on the day, making this one of the best night activities in Montreal. Ticket prices range from $18 to $32  Since its launch in 2017, AURA has dazzled over 650,000 people from 137 countries. The show continues to draw in massive crowds to this day. Want to include AURA in your next Montreal trip? Remember to ask your Canadian Train Vacations advisor about tickets. Check the AURA on the Notre-Dame Basilica website for the most updated ticket pricing.

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Mont Royal Park

Sunset at Mount Royal Park - Kondiaronk belvedere

Located in the heart of the city, Mont Royal Park (4) is the perfect spot for a picnic and admiring the views or a hike through winding nature trails. If you're feeling adventurous, boating, skiing, skating, and tobogganing are also on offer.  Officially opened in 1876, Mont Royal Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted – the same man who designed New York's famous Central Park. Mont Royal is home to cafes, gift shops, and plenty of local flora and fauna. There are no entry fees.   

Although the park has something special to offer all year round, many visitors prefer to go in the fall to admire the changing leaves throughout. Mont Royal Park can be included on a private tour. Ask your Canadian Train Vacation advisor about adding one to your trip.  

Montreal Museum of Fine Art

Exterior of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

As the oldest art museum in Canada, Montreal Museum of Fine Art (5) is one of the most unique things to do in Montreal. The museum is home to thousands of paintings, sculptures, photographs, multi-media installations, and more. Many of the pieces you'll find here pay homage to Quebec and Canadian heritage. 

The museum is open from Tuesday-Sunday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. except on Wednesdays when it's open until 9 p.m. Ticket prices range from $12 to $24. There's no parking lot here, so a taxi or public transit is your best option for visiting. 

Jean-Talon Market

People walk past vegetable stands in the Jean-Talon Market

Known as one of the largest open-air markets in North America, the Jean-Talon Market (6) is among the best things to do in Montreal. Rows of vibrant local produce, fresh-cut flowers, and various handmade goods are waiting for you at Jean-Talon Market.  

Throughout each season the market holds special events including culinary demonstrations, workshops, and more. The market is ideal for pedestrian traffic and is easy to access by bus or metro. Open year-round, Jean-Talon Market provides a delicious taste of local culture — you won't want to miss it. 

Discover another Canadian city: Best things to do in Vancouver 

La Grande Roue

View of Montreal's large ferris wheel and zipline

See Montreal from new heights when you take a ride on La Grande Roue (7). Standing 60 meters tall, La Grande Roue is the largest observation wheel in Canada. You'll enjoy views of Montreal's Old Port area like you never have before. On a clear day, you can see up to 28km into the distance. And in the evening the ride is adorned with colourful lights making this a beautiful experience day or night. 

La Grande Roue is open year-round and features temperature-controlled gondolas to keep you comfortable while you ride. The observation wheel sees thousands of visitors every year. But if you love to look at fall foliage, then October is the best time of year to visit. La Grande Roue is one of many sites included when you book a private tour through Canadian Train Vacations. 

Montreal Food Tours

A tasting board with small slices of bread, meat and fruit

If you’re wondering “What is Montreal known for?” book a food tour to find out! Montreal is famous for its food. From poutine and smoked meat to bagels and crêpes, you'll have no problem finding something to tickle your tastebuds here. Montreal restaurants are filled with history, culture, and dedicated locals making them an excellent way to get to know the city.

Many food tours are neighbourhood based, making them a great way to spend an afternoon exploring a part of this city.   Want to experience Montreal one food at a time? Talk to your Canadian Train Vacations travel advisor about adding a food tour to your trip.  

Mile End Neighbourhood

People walk with bikes through Montreal's Mile End neighbourhood

If you really want to experience Montreal like a local, a visit to Mile End is a must. The laid-back neighbourhood is home to indie record shops, impressive street art, and old bookstores. Here, you'll find some of the best local bagel spots, coffee shops, and breweries. 

When it comes to fun activities in Montreal, you can't beat this neighbourhood. Wander in and out of art galleries, spend time at a board game cafe, or try some of Montreal's famous bagels.  Recognized as an art and culture hub since the 1980s, Mile End is sure to leave you feeling inspired. 

Bota Bota Spa

Bota Bota Spa in Montreal

If you’re wondering what to do in Montreal, let all your worries float away at Bota Bota Spa (8). Located on an anchored boat in Montreal's Old Port, Bota Bota Spa is uniquely beautiful. The boat itself has served many purposes. Before becoming a spa in 2008, it was used as a ferry, a shuttle, and a theatre boat. 

Bota Bota offers an array of spa services, gardens, and a gourmet restaurant. The spa is open daily and is typically busiest in the late afternoon.

St. Joseph's Oratory

View of Mont Royal and St Joseph's Oratory in summer

Situated on a hill with a wonderful view of the city, St. Joseph's Oratory (9) is an ideal spot to stop and snap a few photos. Lush gardens and a stunning water fountain decorate the church grounds. In the fall, the church becomes enveloped in fall foliage. The inside of the church is impressive as well. With a maximum capacity of 10,000 people, St. Joseph's Oratory is the tallest church in Canada and one of the largest domed structures in the world. The church also has a museum that you can tour for a small fee. St. Joseph's Oratory is available as a stop on a private tour booked through Canadian Train Vacations.

Cruise along the St. Lawrence River

A couple stand on the outside deck of a boat cruising the St. Lawrence River

Experience one of the top 10 things to do in Montreal with a river sight-seeing cruise. River cruises are equal parts relaxing and beautiful. See the very best of the city as you make your way along the water. Want to learn more? Talk to a Canadian Train Vacations travel advisor today about adding a river cruise to your trip to Montreal.  

Montreal Botanical Garden

Couple enjoy indoor tropical gardens at the Montreal Botanical Garden

If you're searching for memorable things to do in Montreal Canada, the Montreal Botanical Garden (10) won't disappoint. Venture into the biodome where you'll find tropical rainforests, birds and various marine animals. Or check out the impressive architecture of the biosphere. During your visit, you'll also find greenhouses, beautifully landscaped gardens, and a variety of insects and plants.

The garden frequently hosts events such as the Gardens of Light show. The garden is conveniently located just 15 minutes from downtown and is near three metro stations. Talk to a Canadian Train Vacations travel advisor about adding a visit to the gardens to your time in Montreal.

#1 Travel Tip: Explore the city by bike

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Rent a bike and ride on the beautiful tree-lined path along the Lachine Canal, which spans 13.5 kilometers. It’s a great way to take in the beautiful scenery.

Samantha Edwards
Travel Writer and Content Coordinator

Montreal Planetarium

A man points at an interactive display screen in Montreal's planetarium

Venture into space at the Montreal Planetarium (11). This is an excellent spot to visit if you're travelling with family or if you're already planning to visit the nearby Botanical Gardens. You can enjoy immersive videos and experiences that teach you about all aspects of astronomy.

Ask your Canadian Train Vacations travel advisor about adding a visit to the planetarium to your personalized itinerary.

Day trip to Mont Tremblant

Canoeing at Mont Tremblant National Park

If you're looking for adventure activities in Montreal, then a quick day trip outside of the city might be in order. Located a little over one hour outside of Montreal, you'll find the famous ski city of Mont Tremblant (12). Here you can enjoy stunning mountain views, impressive ski hills, and quaint shopping villages.

Mont Tremblant is busiest during the winter, but the activities don't stop in the warmer months. You can enjoy hiking trails and canoeing in Mont-Tremblant National Park. To experience Mont Tremblant, ask your Canadian Train Vacations travel advisor about booking a tour.

Tour to the Laurentians

Hiking in the Laurentians, outside of Montreal

Just North of Montreal you'll find the picturesque Laurentian mountains. There are plenty of activities available here to fill your day. Enjoy golfing, local shopping, hiking, spas, and so much more. Some of the mountain rocks are over 540 million years old, making these mountains some of the oldest in the world. To make the most of your time,  book a private through your Canadian Train Vacation travel advisor.   

Tour to Montmorency Falls

A shot of the Montmorency Falls Park Cable Car running along the cable system.

Located roughly three hours from Montreal, a day trip to Montmorency Falls (13) is definitely worth your time. The stunning 83-meter-tall waterfall can be found inside Montmorency Falls Park. You can choose to get up close to this force of nature as you walk along the bottom of the waterfall. Or enjoy a zip line ride to get a birds-eye view of the falls. If you’re more of a thrill-seeker, enjoy a zip line ride to get a birds-eye view of the falls. 

There's a small admission fee of $7.39 to enter the park. Parking, zip lining, and other activities all come with an additional fee. The outdoor areas of the park are open daily for your enjoyment. You won't have to worry about these details if you book a private tour of this impressive waterfall. Just ask your travel advisor.

Explore Saint-Laurent Boulevard

Located in the districts of Plateau-Mont-Royal and Mile End, this boulevard, also known as “The Main” to locals, is a centre point of trendy bars and eclectic shops. Food enthusiasts will love the boulevard’s vibrant culinary landscape, featuring everything from casual eateries to artistic cafes to high-end restaurants showcasing global flavors. 

If you love the nightlife, Saint-Laurent Boulevard has some of the best things to do in Montreal. After dusk, the area comes alive, drawing crowds to relaxed brewpubs, stylish clubs, lively cabarets, karaoke joints, dance venues, and cozy dive bars, all open until the early hours of the morning. 

During warmer seasons, the boulevard transforms into a hub of activity, hosting lively festivals, weekend sidewalk sales, and large-scale art events like the acclaimed MURAL Festival.

Upstairs Jazz Bar and Grill

While downtown Montreal has some incredible jazz clubs, jazz music lovers will need to add Upstairs Jazz Bar and Grill to their list of what to do in Montreal, Canada. It has been hailed as one of the finest jazz clubs in Montreal. Here, you can enjoy delicious food like pasta, seafood, burgers and salads while taking in some smooth jazz tunes in a warm and inviting ambiance. Live music begins at 8pm and there is a new show almost every night of the week. You’ll get to hear a variety of local legends or international musicians during the Montreal International Jazz Festival.

Visit the Neighbourhood of Saint-Henri

If you are looking for gastronomy, music, history and open green spaces, the eclectic urban neighboughood of Saint-Henri is the place to go! This Montreal hidden gem boasts amazing parks and architecture, shops, and a variety of places to eat and drink.  

While at Saint-Henri, explore the Atwater Market, which is one of the city’s largest farmers markets. Here you can find a mix of local and imported products and seasonal produce. You can also admire the beautiful murals and graffiti that add to the vibrancy of the neighborhood. 

You can easily access Saint-Henri by two nearby metro stations, Place Saint-Henri and Lionel Groulx

#2 Travel Tip: Visit Cabaret Mado

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Looking for some fun after dinner? Head over to the Cabaret Mado for a colourful and entertaining evening of drag queen shows!

Louise Weiss
Director of Legendary Hospitality

Parc Jean-Drapeau

This park is proof that there is no shortage of things to do in Montreal. Spanning approximately 2.68 square kilometres and located in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, it is a popular spot for sports, events and festivals. It is also a perfect place for nature lovers as it consists of 25 kilometers of multidisciplinary trails. 

Another unique feature of Parc Jean-Drapeau is La Ronde, the largest amusement park in Quebec. During the summer months of June, July and August, you can also experience the L'International des Feux Loto-Québec, an international fireworks competition. 

Every year, multiple festivals and events are held at Parc Jean-Drapeau, including the Osheaga, Heavy Montréal and ÎleSoniq music festivals, as well as the Canadian Grand Prix and the Fête des Neiges de Montréal.

Place Jacques-Cartier

Known as Montreal’s oldest meeting place, Place Jaques-Cartier is a lively and bustling plaza steeped in heritage. Here you’ll find artists and artisans showing off their work, musicians and street performers entertaining the crowds. This charming square is also lined with restaurants and cafes, where you can stop for a coffee or a bite to eat. While it is beautiful to stroll through during the summer, its charm extends into the winter season during Christmas time.

Final Thoughts

When visiting Montreal take advantage of its amaing culture and food scene. If you only have a short amount of time in the city, be sure to walk around Old Town. If you have more time, add in a private food tour, which combines a city tour and a meal. 

Our team of travel experts at Canadian Train Vacations can help you create a your ideal trip, no matter how many days you have to explore Montreal.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best month to visit Montreal?

The best month to visit Montreal depends on what you want to do. In the summer the city is bustling with festivals and tourists, in the winter you'll find snow activities around every corner, and in the spring you can enjoy a quiet, less crowded visit.

Does Montreal have good museums?

Yes. Montreal is home to over 40 different museums, each with something unique to offer.

Is two days in Montreal enough?

Two days in Montreal is enough to check off a few of the must-see sights and attractions. However, you could easily spend a week or more here, as there is no shortage of things to do in Montreal.

What is Montreal famous for?

In addition to the mouthwatering poutine, smoked meat, and bagels, Montreal is known for being one of Canada's oldest and largest cities. It is also a popular city for festivals and major events.

Is Montreal worth the hype?

A bit of history, a pinch of nightlife, and a dash of beauty–with all Montreal has to offer, it's definitely worth the hype.

How to get from Toronto to Montreal by train?

To travel from Toronto to Montreal on the train you'll travel by VIA Rail. The train goes directly from Toronto Union Station to Montreal Central Station and takes roughly 5.5 hours. Ask a Canadian Train Vacations travel expert about about train packages that include this trip.

What’s the best place to stay in Montreal?

Montreal has plenty of hotels, and the Hotel Place D'Armes in Montreal is one of the best. There are accommodations available for any budget. For more information, contact one of our travel experts.

About the author: Samantha Edwards is the Content and Social Media Coordinator at Fresh Tracks Canada. A creative storyteller, she enjoys sharing her local expertise with visitors. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, her favourite Canadian destination is Sooke on Vancouver... Read more

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