Tips for Visiting Montreal

Montreal is one of the best cities in North America to visit. A culinary haven filled with French delights, it is considered the ‘Paris of North America.’ Anthony Bourdain said “You don’t come to Montreal to eat French food. Food is, however, a major reason to come to Montreal.”

We really enjoyed spending a long weekend for our 11 year wedding anniversary in March and wrote about ‘Romantic Getaway Ideas for Montreal’ in a previous article. But since Montreal is also a great destination for families and solo travelers, we want to focus on some general tips for visiting Montreal.

Notre Dame Cathedral Montreal

Download the Free Montreal en Histoires App

The Montreal en Histoires app (Montreal in History) was developed for the 375th anniversary of the city. This unique free app allows you to discover Montreal through an amazing multidimensional experience. With the app, your phone will present images of what various buildings looked like centuries ago. It also allows you to feature yourself in shots that merge today with centuries ago!

Montreal en Histoires App, Montreal in History App, tips visiting Montreal

Stay in Old Montreal (Vieux-Montreal)

We stayed at the luxurious Le Saint Sulpice, adjacent to the beautiful Notre Dame Basillica in charming Old Montreal. Le Saint Sulpice is an award winning 4 diamond hotel featuring 108 suites. Every suite features a kitchenette, Nespresso machine, fireplace and boutique toiletries by L’ Occitane en Provence.

Asides from being the perfect stay for a romantic getaway to Montreal, Le Saint Sulpice is a hotel that fully appreciates the arts. Suites include a copy of the book titled ‘Suite Stories’, which contains short stories written by 14 writers who have previously stayed in the hotel. Le Saint Sulpice also helped produce an award-winning 15 minute mystery film, called La Valise, which takes place at Le Saint Sulpice.

Eat Poutine in its Birthplace, And Have it Your Way

Poutine is becoming more popular, especially in cities like Boston. But poutine originated in Montreal and nobody does it better than the Quebecois. At it’s core, poutine is simply fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. But these days, Montrealers have taken poutine to an even higher level than before.

Poutineville is one place to enjoy poutine in literally a million different ways. They offer a huge assortment of meats, vegetables, gravies, sauces and cheeses to build your own poutine. Our local friends and Montreal natives Mandy and Pierre chose to meet us at Poutineville and we had fun creating our own dishes. Bell selected more traditional poutine toppings while I turned mine into what is pictured below, something resembling spicy spaghetti bolognese atop French Fries. Verdict: totally delicious.

Spicy Poutine at Poutineville
Poutine and Poutineville in Montreal

Take at Least a Day Trip to the Laurentides

Cabane a Sucre maple toffee syrup

A short drive northwest of Montreal, the Laurentides is a wonderful area for skiing in winter and hiking in summer. Another major highlight is the wonderful sugar shacks (cabanes a sucre). Sugar shacks are typically located on maple tree farms and the best time to visit is in March and April, when the maple sap is harvested. Traditionally, warm maple toffee is poured over snow and you scoop it up with a wooden stick to enjoy.

Sugar shacks also feature fantastic food and a lively atmosphere, often with live music. Outside, depending on the property, people can toboggan in winter, tour the farm or go for a horse and sleigh ride. A great sugar shack just a 30 minute drive from Montreal is Sucrerie Bonaventure.

Where to Stay in the Laurentides

During our 11 year wedding anniversary visit we enjoyed a wonderful two day stay at the beautiful Esterel Resort. Situated next to lovely lake Dupuis, in the heart of the Laurentian mountains, the Esterel Resort is a lovely place to get away from it all and relax. We really enjoyed spending two nights there, and loved their nordic spa.

Lake View Suite at the Esterel Resort in the Laurentides

Do Not Leave Montreal Without Eating a Croissant

The US has a bit of a problem with croissants in that very few places do them well. In Montreal the opposite is the case, and it’s easy to find delicious French style croissants at patisseries and cafes around the city. You honestly don’t have to look very hard. Delicious croissants can be found in cafes and patisseries all over Montreal.

Montreal Cafe

Montreal Bagels are Arguably Better than New York City’s

New York City is the most famous place for bagels (in the US anyway). But many foodies consider Montreal bagels superior to those found in New York. In contrast to New York bagels, Montreal bagels are thinner, sweeter, smaller, denser and have a larger hole. They contain malt, egg, no salt and are boiled in honey-sweetened water before being baked in a wood-fired oven. A really popular place to try Montreal bagels is St.-Viateur Bagel, which is open 24 hours.

Don’t Miss the Notre-Dame Basilica in Old Montreal (Vieux-Montreal)

If you appreciate beautiful architecture, you have to visit the Notre-Dame Basilica. Featuring predominantly blue and gold colors, Notre-Dame Basilica was originally built in 1829. We’ve seen fantastic cathedrals around the world, and we still left very impressed. During a visit, don’t miss the lovely Chapel of Notre-Dame du Sacre Coeur. Situated directly behind the main section of the basilica, the ornate chapel is crafted entirely of linden wood.

Notre Dame Basilica Montreal, tips for visiting Montreal

Visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musee Des Beaux Arts) features over 41,000 works and is a gem for art lovers. They currently have a world class exhibition on Pompeii running through September 5th, 2016. The Pompeii Exhibition features over 220 mosaics, frescoes, statues and artefacts. And the eruption of Mount Vesuvius is brought to life through a dramatic multidimensional theatre experience.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has a wonderful permanent collection and we particularly enjoyed impressionist works by Monet and surrealist paintings by Picasso. Their collection of Quebec and Canadian art features nearly 3,000 pieces, including 500 Inuit artefacts and 180 AmerIndian pieces.

Pompeii Exhibition, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Eat and Drink in a Gastropub

 Montreal microbrews and food at gastropub L' Amere a Boire, tips for visiting Montreal

If you’re a beer fan, there’s a great chance you’ve drank a tasty La Fin Du Monde in the past. Quebec has a booming craft beer scene that pairs wonderfully with its excellent food. We highly recommend a visit to an establishment like L’Amere a Boire for great food and beers. Quebecois pub food is different to US pub food, with unique selections that include minced rabbit (lapin) burgers and duck drumsticks (pilons de canard). L’Amere a Boire serves all types of beer and even supplies the Czech consulate with fresh brewed pilsners.

Additional Tips for Visiting Montreal

Montreal is one of the best cities in North America for a night on the town. There’s wonderful hangouts to suit all tastes in Old Montreal (Vieux-Montreal), Le Plateau and elsewhere. Plateau is the artists hub of Montreal, so it’s an area you shouldn’t miss. Bar Henrietta is one hip hangout there, but there’s a ton of them.

Watch the sunset over Montreal from Mount Royal. Or if you go up earlier, pack a picnic including delicious croissants, pastries or bagels. Take note of the tower at Olympic Stadium, as it’s the tallest inclined tower in the world!

Interested to book a trip to Montreal? Get in touch with us and we can help you save on plane tickets and accommodation! Email me at alex(at) or leave a comment below with questions.

Mont Royal at sunset, Montreal

During our stay, we were graciously hosted and assisted by Quebec Tourism (#QuebecOriginal) and Tourism Montreal (#MTLmoments). All opinions and photos featured in this article are our own. Also, this article contains some affiliate links, where we earn a small commission off stays booked through the links. Thank you for supporting independent travel journalism!


  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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6 thoughts on “Tips for Visiting Montreal

    1. Yes indeed! We didn’t get a chance to visit underground Montreal…next time as we definitely want to return!

  1. My family wants to go on a vacation to Montreal, and your article had great tips for visiting a place like this. I liked how you said to visit a sugar shack where we can get frozen maple syrup on a stick. Thanks; we’ll keep this in mind if we visiting Montreal.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the article, Jocelyn. Let us know if you have any questions on travel to Montreal. Happy travels!

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