Montreal, located in the heart of Quebec, Canada, is a city that effortlessly combines its rich history with a vibrant contemporary scene. For those considering things to do in Montreal, wandering through the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal, with its historic architecture and charming boutiques, and ascending Mount Royal for panoramic views of the city’s skyline are top activities.
The city’s Jean-Talon Market, one of North America’s largest open-air markets, offers a colorful array of fresh produce, gourmet foods, and local delicacies. Nearby, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts showcases an impressive collection of international and Canadian art, reflecting the city’s cultural depth.
Beyond its urban attractions, Montreal is renowned for its festivals, from the world-famous Just for Laughs comedy festival to the Montreal International Jazz Festival. For those seeking the best places to visit in Canada, Montreal’s blend of European charm, cultural richness, and modern dynamism makes it a standout destination.
Table of Contents
Attractions & Things to Do in Montreal, Canada
1. Old Montreal
Steeped in history, Old Montreal is a picturesque and vibrant neighborhood that transports visitors to an era gone by. Its cobblestone streets are lined with centuries-old structures, charming boutiques, and quaint cafés. One can also find the stunning Notre Dame Basilica, an architectural masterpiece.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable shoes, as the cobblestones can be challenging to walk on. Don’t forget to explore the riverside, especially during sunset.
2. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
One of the most prominent art institutions in Canada, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts boasts an expansive collection ranging from ancient artifacts to contemporary pieces. The museum’s design itself is an artful blend of classic and modern architecture.
Travel Tip: Consider visiting on the first Sunday of the month, when admission to the museum’s collections is free.
A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, Mont-Royal offers panoramic views of Montreal’s skyline. This hilly park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (who also co-designed New York’s Central Park), is perfect for hiking, picnicking, or simply enjoying nature.
Travel Tip: Visit during sunrise or sunset for a breathtaking view of the city. The “Chalet du Mont-Royal” lookout point offers the best vistas.
4. Saint Joseph’s Oratory
Perched atop Mount Royal’s Westmount Summit, Saint Joseph’s Oratory is Canada’s largest church. This Roman Catholic basilica is renowned for its massive dome, beautiful gardens, and an impressive votive chapel filled with crutches from those who claim to have been healed.
Travel Tip: Even if you’re not religious, the Oratory’s architecture and the view from its steps are worth the visit. There’s also a shuttle available for those who prefer not to climb the numerous steps.
5. Jean-Talon Market
A bustling hub of activity, the Jean-Talon Market is one of the oldest public markets in Montreal. Here, visitors can find an array of fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, baked goods, and other delicacies from local producers.
Travel Tip: Go on an empty stomach and enjoy tasting samples from various vendors. The market is most vibrant during weekends, but it’s also when it’s most crowded.
6. Lachine Canal National Historic Site
The Lachine Canal, stretching for nearly 14.5 km, played a crucial role in Montreal’s industrial history. Today, its serene path is enjoyed by bikers, kayakers, and pedestrians. The picturesque waterfront and the old factories converted into condos and shops provide a unique blend of history and modernity.
Travel Tip: Rent a bike or a kayak to enjoy the canal fully. There are several rental shops nearby, especially during the summer months.
7. Biosphere Environmental Museum
Situated on Saint Helen’s Island, this geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller for the 1967 World Expo is now home to the Biosphere Environmental Museum. It showcases exhibitions related to environmental issues and the ecosystems of the Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence River regions.
Travel Tip: The museum is especially great for families with kids. After visiting the Biosphere, explore the nearby Parc Jean-Drapeau.
8. Place des Arts
A cultural heart of Montreal, Place des Arts is a sprawling complex that hosts numerous festivals, concerts, ballets, and theater productions throughout the year. The site comprises several venues, including the contemporary Maison Symphonique, home to the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.
Travel Tip: Check the schedule in advance and consider booking tickets for a show. During the summer, the adjacent Esplanade often has free outdoor events and performances.
9. Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel
Often referred to as the “Sailor’s Church,” the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel is one of the oldest churches in Montreal. Overlooking the Old Port, it boasts beautiful stained glass windows, a wooden sculpture of Our Lady of Good Help, and an archaeological site revealing its rich history.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss the climb to the top of the tower, where you’ll be treated to a panoramic view of the Old Port and the Saint Lawrence River.
10. Montreal Science Centre
Located in the heart of the Old Port, the Montreal Science Centre offers a hands-on approach to science and technology. With interactive exhibits suitable for both adults and children, it makes learning about the wonders of science a fun and engaging experience.
Travel Tip: The IMAX theatre within the center frequently screens educational films. Consider bundling your ticket with an IMAX film for a complete experience.
11. Plateau Mont-Royal
A lively and bohemian neighborhood, Plateau Mont-Royal is known for its colorful row houses, murals, and a plethora of cafes, bars, and boutiques. The area is a blend of French charm and modern urban life, making it a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
Travel Tip: Explore the area’s numerous alleyways, which often hide some of the most vibrant murals and street art. Laurier Avenue and Saint-Denis Street are popular spots with numerous dining and shopping options.
12. Olympic Stadium
Built for the 1976 Summer Olympics, the Olympic Stadium is an architectural marvel that stands as a testament to Montreal’s sporting history. Its leaning tower, the Montreal Tower, is the world’s tallest inclined tower. Visitors can take a funicular to the top for panoramic views of the city.
Travel Tip: The Olympic Park area has several attractions, including a Biodome, Botanical Gardens, and a Planetarium. A combo ticket can provide access to multiple sites and offer savings.
13. Montreal Botanical Garden
One of the world’s most renowned botanical gardens, this expansive space boasts over 20 themed gardens and ten greenhouses. From the serene Chinese Garden with its traditional pavilions to the vibrant colors of the Alpine Garden, it’s a haven for nature lovers.
Travel Tip: Visit during the fall for the “Gardens of Light” event when the Chinese and Japanese Gardens are beautifully illuminated. Also, allocate at least half a day to appreciate the gardens’ beauty fully.
14. Atwater Market
A beloved institution since the 1930s, Atwater Market is housed in a distinguished Art Deco building. With an array of butchers, bakers, and fresh produce vendors, it offers some of the finest gourmet products in the city.
Travel Tip: Beyond the usual market offerings, look for local delicacies like Quebec cheeses and maple products. The market is also a short walk from the Lachine Canal, making it a pleasant stopover during a canal-side stroll.
15. Montreal Planetarium – Rio Tinto Alcan
Dive into the mysteries of the universe at the Montreal Planetarium. With its state-of-the-art technology, the planetarium provides immersive experiences of space through captivating shows. Interactive exhibits further allow visitors to explore astronomy in depth.
Travel Tip: Shows often sell out, especially during weekends and holidays. Booking tickets in advance is recommended to secure your preferred time slot.
16. Underground City (RESO)
Spanning over 33 kilometers, Montreal’s Underground City is a sprawling subterranean network connecting various malls, office buildings, hotels, and cultural venues. Especially popular during winter months, it provides a warm refuge from the cold, allowing uninterrupted shopping and dining experiences.
Travel Tip: While it’s a functional space, the Underground City can be pretty maze-like for first-time visitors. Keep a map handy or use mobile navigation to avoid getting lost.
17. McCord Museum
Dedicated to preserving the social history and material heritage of Montreal, the McCord Museum offers insightful exhibits on the city’s past, its indigenous communities, and the broader Canadian narrative.
Travel Tip: The museum often hosts temporary exhibitions on contemporary themes, so check their calendar for any special events or displays during your visit. The museum is also accessible on the first Wednesday of each month from 5 p.m. onwards.
18. Pointe-à-Callière Museum
Located in Old Montreal, the Pointe-à-Callière Museum is a unique archaeology and history museum that showcases the diverse layers of Montreal’s rich history. Built atop the city’s birthplace, visitors can walk through original archaeological ruins.
Travel Tip: The museum frequently offers special exhibitions, so check the schedule ahead of time. Don’t miss the multimedia show, which gives an excellent overview of Montreal’s history.
19. Parc La Fontaine
A green oasis in the heart of the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood, Parc La Fontaine boasts picturesque ponds, lovely walking paths, and open spaces for relaxation and recreation. In the warmer months, it’s frequented for picnics, while in winter, the frozen ponds attract ice skaters.
Travel Tip: The park hosts several cultural events and festivals throughout the year, especially during the summer. Check local listings to join in on the festivities.
20. Redpath Museum
Nestled within the McGill University campus, the Redpath Museum is a fascinating museum of natural history. Housing everything from dinosaur bones to ancient Egyptian artifacts, it’s a journey through time and a delight for curious minds.
Travel Tip: Entry to the museum is free, but donations are appreciated. It’s a compact museum, making it an excellent stop for those with limited time.
21. Little Italy
A lively neighborhood echoing the spirit of its namesake, Montreal’s Little Italy is a hub of Italian culture, cuisine, and commerce. The area teems with authentic Italian restaurants, bakeries, and shops centered around the iconic Jean-Talon Market.
Travel Tip: Visit during June when the neighborhood comes alive for the Grand Prix weekend or in September for the Italian Week Festival, showcasing Italian culture, music, and food.
22. The Montreal Casino
Situated on the picturesque Île Notre-Dame, the Montreal Casino is the largest in Canada. Beyond its gaming floors, it offers several dining options live performances, and boasts a unique architectural design.
Travel Tip: Even if gambling isn’t your cup of tea, the Casino’s architecture and the views of the city skyline from the island are worth a visit. Do ensure you adhere to the dress code if planning to enter the gaming areas.
23. Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal
Located in the Place des Arts complex, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) is dedicated to contemporary visual arts. It showcases works by both Canadian and international artists, offering a unique blend of permanent and temporary exhibitions.
Travel Tip: The museum hosts “Nocturnes” on the first Friday of every month, where visitors can explore the museum at night, often accompanied by live music or performances.
FAQ About Things to Do in Montreal, Canada
What are the top attractions to visit in Montreal?
Some of the top attractions in Montreal include the Old Montreal, Mount Royal Park, Notre-Dame Basilica, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and the Montreal Botanical Garden.
Is the Montreal Jazz Festival worth attending?
Absolutely! The Montreal Jazz Festival is one of the largest jazz festivals in the world, attracting international artists and thousands of visitors every year. It offers a mix of free and ticketed events, making it accessible for everyone.
Where can I experience Montreal’s culinary scene?
Montreal is renowned for its diverse culinary scene. You can explore local delicacies at Jean-Talon Market, dine at gourmet restaurants in the Plateau-Mont-Royal neighborhood, or try the city’s famous bagels in Mile End.
Are there any historical sites to visit in Montreal?
Yes, Montreal is rich in history. You can visit the Pointe-à-Callière Museum, Château Ramezay, or take a walking tour of Old Montreal to learn about the city’s colonial past.
What outdoor activities can I do in Montreal?
Montreal offers a range of outdoor activities, from biking along the Lachine Canal, ice skating at the Old Port during winter, hiking up Mount Royal, or kayaking on the Saint Lawrence River.
Is Montreal a family-friendly destination?
Definitely! Montreal has numerous family-friendly attractions like the Montreal Science Centre, Biodôme, La Ronde amusement park, and the Ecomuseum Zoo.
Where can I experience Montreal’s nightlife?
Montreal is known for its vibrant nightlife. You can visit the bars and clubs on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, attend live shows at Place des Arts, or enjoy a night of comedy at the Just for Laughs Festival.
Are there any unique festivals or events in Montreal?
Montreal hosts numerous festivals throughout the year, including the International Fireworks Festival, Osheaga Music Festival, and the Montreal World Film Festival. Each event offers a unique experience and showcases the city’s cultural diversity.