21 things you have to check off your Montreal bucket list
Montreal is a massive city that always has things to do. Regardless of the season, day or time, you can’t be bored in Montreal. Nor does it want you to be!
A list of 1,000 things to do in Montreal wouldn’t even do the city justice but we’re going to steer you into the proper direction with 21 essential things that should be on everyone’s checklist when they visit La Belle Province’s biggest city.
So clear your schedule, because Montreal’s got a lot to offer.
Montreal’s an island that is situated on a giant mountain. So, you’d better believe there’s plenty of gorgeous sights to see. Regardless of where you are on the island, there is a slew of phenomenal parks that offer great events throughout the year. But what’s best about parks is even if you’re doing nothing, you’re still doing something.
You have to check out Westmount Park, Dorchester Square, Parc La Fontaine, Mont Royal Park and Girouard Park, just to get you started.
This one’s a no-brainer. Along with the fact that poutine was created here, it was also perfected here. Nowhere on the planet can compete with our french fries, cheese curds and gravy. Some spots will add other toppings to it, but really, what more could you need?
There are poutine spots all over the province but you can’t ever go wrong at La Banquise, Frite Alors!, La Belle Province, and Patati Patata.
Go to the farmers’ market
Speaking of food, you have to check out our farmers’ markets. The Jean-Talon Market and the Atwater Market are both Montreal staples.
They’re both open daily and offer a phenomenal selection of local, seasonal products including meat, pastries, desserts, cheese, coffee, fruit, vegetables, and so much more.
Visit the Notre-Dame Basilica
Built between 1824 and 1829, the Notre-Dam Basilica is the first Gothic Revival church in Canada and it’s absolutely stunning. The attention to detail of every inch of the building, both inside and out, is mind-boggling. The Casavant organ, one of the largest of its kind in North America, is outstanding and the remarkably high altar is gorgeous.
There are not enough adjectives in the English language to describe this historical masterpiece. Though there are a few more in French.
Grab a coffee
Good times or bad, we all need coffee. Montreal not only has a plethora of places, but the city boasts an impressive array of phenomenal coffee shops.
Montreal has pioneer spots like Pikolo and Le Butterblume that treat coffee like a fine wine or scotch and traditional Italian spots like Myriade downtown, Cafe Olimpico in Le Plateau and De’ Mercanti in NDG.
If you’re looking to study, take a break, grab a pick-me-up and everything in between. Montreal’s coffee game is strong.
Enjoy Saint Joseph’s Oratory
Saint Joseph’s Oratory is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and national shrine located on the Westmount Summit of Mont Royal. It is the largest church in all of Canada and claims to have one of the largest domes in the entire world. This landmark of Montreal is definitely a sight to be seen.
If you’re looking for a rewarding hike that’s full of history and meaning, you have to check out Saint Joseph’s Oratory.
Devour some smoked meat
Montreal is obsessed with food. That’s probably because we have so many tasty options. Sure, the poutine is our provincial dish, but we also make smoked meat like nobody’s business. Thick smoked meat, stacked on top of each other on rye bread, dressed with mustard and cheese – it’s decadent.
Ever-popular spots include Schwartz’s Deli, The Main, Lester’s and Reuben’s.
Hike up Mont Royal
Mont Royal might be the ideal spot to start off your Montreal journey, regardless of the season. It’s a beautiful walk that leads to arguably the best view of the city, and is a great spot to take pictures.
Mont Royal, from which Montreal took its name, hosts the Kondiaronk Belvedere Chalet, the Mont Royal Cross, and a bike path and snow trails depending on the season.
Coast to La Ronde
Quebec’s biggest amusement park is a hoot. From the steep fall of Le Goliath, to the largest two-track roller coaster in the world with Le Monstre, La Ronde is bustling with events from the spring to the fall.
There are Halloween theme nights as well as after-hour festivities, and it’s the best spot in the city to watch the summer’s International Fireworks Competition.
Check out a Habs game
The Montreal Canadiens are an original six hockey team in the National Hockey League and the Bell Centre is a mecca within the hockey world. Regardless if you’re a hockey fan or not, watching a Habs game is an absolute spectacle. The lights, sounds and vibes of the crowd are tough to compete with, anywhere in the world. No matter what the Canadiens’ win-loss record is, we love our hockey team through and through.
Enjoy our bike path
Montreal’s bike path network is impressive, extensive and constantly expanding. The majority of the bike path is secluded from vehicular traffic and contains cement landing blocks, allowing for ease of travel.
We also offer public bikes, available to rent called BIXI bikes. It costs $2.95 for a one-trip ride, $5 for the day and $10 for the weekend. The older bikes are three-speed and newer models have seven-speeds. Some are even motorized.
The bikes are good, safe and can get going pretty fast. We’d recommend staying away from the gray BIXIs; those are the oldest models. Aim for the black or green mini-choppers and enjoy Montreal through a bike path that’s spread out throughout the city.
Peruse the Old Port
Old Montreal, also known as Le Vieux Port or the Old Port, was the original site of the city. Today, it makes up the most vibrant part of the city with its cobblestone streets, colonial buildings, great restaurants, trendy bars and constant events.
Besides the Montreal Science Centre, Montreal City Hall, the bustling street square and the Jacques Cartier Bridge, Old Montreal is reminiscent of Europe and home to classy hotels and shops, and some of the most picturesque views of the city.
Expand your mind at our museums
Montreal has a slew of museums, a little something for everyone, and sometimes even a big something for everyone. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has a fascinating permanent collection that offers a glimpse into Canada’s history of arts. It also has big-ticket exhibitions that have welcomed the works of Chihuly, Rodin, Warhol, Gaultier and most recently, Picasso.
The McCord Museum, Redpath Museum, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture are also totally worthy of checking out.
Test out the Montreal Biodome
Originally constructed in 1976, the Montreal Biodome is a facility located at Olympic Park that allows visitors to walk through replicas of four ecosystems found in North America.
It’s a great way to learn more about the different climates on the continent, but most importantly, to hang out with adorable animals, including penguins. Penguins. Need we say more?
Brave the cold at Igloofest
There’s no question that it gets horrifically cold in Montreal during the winter. But instead of shying away from it, we revel in the cold and Igloofest is a perfect example of that.
The annual outdoor music festival started in 2007 and has become an instant Montreal classic. Taking place in the Old Port, Igloofest welcomes tens of thousands of guests every year.
Go see Parc Jean-Drapeau
Parc Jean-Drapeau, situated east of downtown, consists of two islands: île Sainte-Hélène and the man-made island of île Notre-Dame. Originally the site of the Expo 67 World’s Fair, Parc Jean-Drapeau now hosts an array of tourist attractions throughout the year.
The historic site welcomes Osheaga, Jean-Doré Beach, Montreal’s Casino, the Biosphere, Ile Soniq, Expo 67, Fête des neiges, Tour de Lévis and hundreds of other activities throughout the year.
Party at Tam Tams
Tam Tams is a Montreal tradition that happens every Sunday from the spring to the fall. It’s a weekly party on Mont Royal gathered around the Sir George-Etienne Cartier monument.
The party welcomes drummers, tight-rope walkers, LARPing, volleyball, musicians, performance art or just lounging around. Plus, it’s 420 friendly, extremely 420 friendly.
Eat lots of bagels
Rounding out Montreal’s trifecta of food, our bagels are top-notch. The Montreal-style bagel (or Montreal bagel) is a distinctive variety of handmade and wood-fired baked bagels. There are various spots that have constant lineups that are worth the wait for the tasty pastry.
We’re looking at you R.E.A.L. Bagel, St-Viateur and Fairmount Bagel. You’ll never eat a tastier bagel.
Dazzle yourself at Montreal’s Botanical Gardens
The Montréal Botanical Garden, one of the city’s jewels, is recognized as one of the world’s best botanical gardens. It offers a wide program of events, exhibitions and activities all year round.
It has a collection of over 20,000 plant species and cultivars, 10 greenhouses, and more than 20 thematic gardens spread out over 75 hectares. It’s a perfect spot to enjoy fresh air and natural beauty.
Discover Le Quartier des Spectacles
Le Quartier des Spectacles, the “entertainment neighbourhood”, is a new and vibrant area of Montreal dedicated to – you guessed it – entertainment.
You’ll find Place des Arts, the biggest performing arts centre in the city. All of the major shows, festivals, ballets, operas, and circus acts are hosted here.
All of the festivals
Festivals in Montreal are constant – it’s literally known as Canada’s festival city. There’s a wide variety of options and they’re all executed to perfection. From Montreal’s International Jazz Festival, to Just for Laughs, Mural Fest, Les FrancoFolies, Montreal Pride, Fringe Fest, Elektra, Black and Blue, POP, M for Montreal, Mutek, Osheaga and everything in between, Montreal has a festival for every type of visitor or local.