Best Things To Do in Montreal
Montreal's museums, landmarks, shopping districts and nightclubs provide plenty of entertainment. For a taste of historic Montreal, spend a day exploring the 18th-century buildings of Vieux-Montréal, which now house small museums and souvenir shops. This city is also a great destination for families, with attractions like the Montreal Biodôme. If you are visiting during the winter, escape the cold by heading down to the shopping malls and museums of the Underground City.
Updated July 9, 2018
- #1View all Photos
As the site of the original city of Montreal, Vieux-Montréal (accessible from the Orange Line's Place-d'Armes and Champ-de-Mars métro stations) is the hub of the city's culture. Not much has changed in this neighborhood despite the city's rapid urbanization. Horse-drawn carriages traverse cobblestone streets and meander past such notable sites as the Basilique Notre-Dame, the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), the Vieux-Port (Old Port) and the Marché Bonsecours (Bonsecours Market).
Here, you'll mingle with Montrealers at sidewalk cafes while overlooking the river, or enjoy the summertime street performers at Place Jacques-Cartier. This is also a popular shopping area (despite the kitschy souvenir shops), and numerous bars and clubs bring Vieux-Montréal to life come sundown. Recent visitors said this area is a must for strolling, eating and experiencing the history of Montreal and feels very European thanks to its beautiful architecture.
- #2View all Photos#2 in Montreal4.1 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND4.1 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Thanks to 10 large greenhouses – each tailored to a specific theme – the 190-acre botanical gardens is home to more than 22,000 species of flora and offers scenic year-round respite from the metropolis' downtown core. Spend some time strolling through the tranquil bonsai trees in the Japanese Garden or learn about the principles of yin and yang in the Chinese Garden, which showcases designs from the 14th to 17th century Ming Dynasty. Outdoor gardens include a colorful rose garden and a stunning alpine garden.
Recent visitors called the garden a must-visit with lots to see. If you're visiting with kids, don't miss the ever-popular toxic plant garden. What's more, the Insectarium is one of the largest insect museums in North America, with more than 250,000 specimens of living and naturalized insects. Permanent exhibits include We Are the Insects, Atta Ants, Butterflies Go Free (a favorite among the garden's youngest visitors) and The BuzzGround, a fun discovery zone especially for kids. Reviewers say the variety is amazing and that kids love visiting.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Montreal0.8 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND0.8 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Montreal's most prestigious museum has been building its collection of fine arts for more than 150 years. Feast your eyes on an impressive assortment of Canadian and international works, including pieces by such renowned artists as Rembrandt, El Greco, Renoir, Cézanne and Picasso. Other interesting members of the museum's collection include 18th-century English porcelain, artifacts from World War I and several beautiful pieces of furniture designed by Frank Gehry.
Recent visitors described the exhibits as outstanding and worth the admission price, and highly recommend spending a few hours here if you have the time. There's also a bookstore and restaurant located on-site.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Montreal1.4 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, Recreation, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.4 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, Recreation, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
This 761-foot hill from which Montreal got its name is the largest of the city's parks. Towering over central Montreal (and accessible from the Green Line's Peel métro station or the Orange Line's Mont-Royal métro station), Parc du Mont-Royal is frequented by joggers, picnickers, dog walkers and bicyclists throughout the year. During the warmer months, you can rent row boats to take on the park's Lac des Castors (Beaver Lake), while the Chalet du Mont-Royal offers breathtaking park and city views any time of year. Also, be sure to stop by the Croix du Mont-Royal (Mont-Royal Cross), or the park's two cemeteries (one English and one French).
Recent visitors highly recommended walking up the stairs to the top of the hill for an unbeatable view of the city, but reviewers also warned it's a steep trek.
- #5View all Photos
In a world dominated by overly refrigerated, fluorescently lit supermarkets, the Jean-Talon Market is literally a breath of fresh air and one of the largest public markets in North America. Located a block or so off Boulevard Saint-Laurent (accessible from the Blue Line's Jean-Talon métro station), this open-air market entices with the aromas of grilled sausages, Quebecois cheeses, mounds of fresh produce, home-grown spices and handmade chocolates.
Even if you're not looking to buy, recent visitors recommend that you take a stroll through the market to meet and mingle with Montrealers and check out the convivial setting. Others praised the variety saying this is a must-visit for foodies and a great place to find Montreal specialties.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Montreal2.8 miles to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND2.8 miles to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Sitting adjacent to Mont-Royal, this immense basilica is the highest point in Montreal. Dedicated to St. Joseph, Jesus' earthly father and Canada's patron saint, St. Joseph's Oratory was designed in an Italian Renaissance style with a copper dome rising 318 feet high. The inside of the basilica is decorated with intricately carved murals and thousands of votive candles leading to the crypt. St. Joseph's Oratory receives several million visitors each year (the most devout Catholics climb the basilica's 99 steps on their knees).
Recent visitors agree this stunning basilica is a must-see, for both devoted and secular tourists, calling it spectacular. Recent visitors were particularly fond of the view from the top of the structure. If you'd rather not climb to the top on our two feet, there is a free shuttle that transports visitors from the main entrance on Queen Mary Road to the top.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Montreal0.6 miles to city center0.6 miles to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
It is said that when architect James O'Donnell designed the Notre-Dame Basilica in 1824, he was so moved by the outcome that he himself converted to Catholicism. Constructed in a Gothic Revival style and adorned with intricate statues and tranquil chapels, this grand church can accommodate 3,200 worshippers.
Recent visitors said a trip here is worth it, and highly recommend taking the time to go on a 20-minute guided tour. Reviewers were also complimentary of the "Aura" sound and light show that is offered regularly.
- #8View all PhotosfreeBarbie Expo#8 in Montreal0.5 miles to city centerMuseums, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND0.5 miles to city centerMuseums, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
This whimsical exhibit, in what it bills as the largest permanent collection of Barbie dolls in the world, has more than 1,000 Barbies on display. Many of the dolls have been dressed to the nines by designers such as Christian Dior, Armani, Vera Wang, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta and practically any other fashion designer you can think of. There's even a fashion show, with Barbie models on the catwalk, with a Barbie audience in attendance. In addition, special celebrity-themed Barbies, such as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Cher are on display, as well as Barbies designed as movie characters, such as the cast from "The Wizard of Oz" and "The Twilight Saga." Recent visitors said the exhibit is fun, adorable and for many, brings them back to their childhood.
Admission to the museum, which is located in the Les Cours Mont-Royal shopping center, is free. The exhibition is open Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is direct access from the Peel métro into the mall. For more information on the exhibition, visit its official website.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Montreal3.7 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND3.7 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
This powerful museum's mission is to tell the story of Jewish communities before, during and after the Holocaust. It offers both permanent and temporary exhibits featuring testimonies and objects from survivors to teach visitors about genocide in the past as well as in the present. Recent visitors called the museum humbling and moving, especially the video collection, which is narrated by survivors.
The museum, located near the Côte-Sainte-Catherine métro station (orange line), is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed on Saturdays. Admission for adults is CA$8 (about $6) and CA$5 (about $4) for kids 18 and younger. Note that the museum's permanent exhibition is not suitable for children 8 and younger. The museum recommends setting aside between 90 minutes and two hours to tour its exhibitions. For more information, visit the museum's website.
- #10View all Photos#10 in Montreal0.5 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND0.5 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Many say that this is the best place to begin discovering Montreal. While the modern architecture may not be typical of a history museum, the real reason to come here is to hop in the elevator and head underground. Here, an archaeological dig revealed the foundations of the city's original settlement, established in the 17th century. You can follow the development of Montreal from its days as a fledgling colony and on up through the present day to an exhibit showing the city's multicultural lifestyle. During the summer, the museum hosts numerous period fairs and festivals.
Recent visitors highly recommend visiting the museum for its excellent exhibits and great staff. Others said it appeals to children as much as adults thanks to an exhibit devoted to pirates.
Explore More of Montreal
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.