When you’re planning to visit the fun and exciting city of Montreal, there are a lot of events and places you can’t miss. At the same time, there are some tourist traps you’ll want to avoid, as well as some local rules that can help make your trip even better. Here is a list of 10 things tourists to Montreal should never do.
Tourists Spend Most of Their Time in Old Montreal
Old Montreal is the city’s historic neighborhood, and for a good reason, it is one of the most popular tourist spots. This neighborhood is one of a kind in Canada and North America because it has cobblestone streets and French Colonial architecture. It’s a must-see, but don’t make it the only place you go! While in Montreal, you should also check out the Plateau, Mile End, Little Italy, and Griffintown, among other cool neighborhoods. Don’t forget to shop in Old Montreal!
Go for a buggy ride in Old Montreal
Also, the horse-drawn carriages that drive around the cobblestone streets of this historic district might add a bit of old-fashioned charm, but we don’t recommend them. It’s not always easy to see how the horses live and work, especially when it’s hot and tourist season in the summer. Beautiful neighborhoods are easy to get around on foot, for free, and at your own pace.
Only eat (and drink) at chain restaurants and bars.
With so much to see and do in the city, you might be tempted to stick to familiar chain restaurants or the bars that line the main streets. On streets like Saint-Denis and Saint-Laurent, there are a lot of great bars and restaurants, but you should also try some of Montreal’s most famous foods, like smoked meat sandwiches, bagels from the Mile End, and so much more.
Tourists Expect to pay with credit cards in Montreal
Small businesses in Montreal are a big part of what makes the city unique. It also means that you should always have cash on you because many stores, cafes, and restaurants don’t take credit cards (due to fees). Debit cards aren’t always accepted either, so if you need cash quickly, you might have to use a generic ATM in the restaurant, which will cost you more. Don’t count on being able to use an American Express card, in particular. Most businesses won’t take it, unless it’s a big grocery store or restaurant chain.
Put a car to use everywhere.
Like in any city, you are finding a place to park in Montreal can be hard. Even without the constant construction sites and detours in the summer, this is a good reason not to use your car as your main way to get around the city. Also, suppose you’re in a car. In that case, you’ll miss most of what makes Montreal a fun and exciting city to explore:
- Unexpected side streets.
- Hidden murals.
- Colorful little ice cream shops.
- The ruelles vertes or green alleyways serve as mini public gardens.
- Architectural details add to Montreal’s overall charm.
The city is easy to get around on foot and has a lot of bike paths. If you can, walking or riding a bike is the best way to see the city. The public transportation system is also perfect, and on the weekends, there are often deals on fares.
Talk about the secession of Quebec.
Whether you’re from an English-speaking part of Canada or another country, there’s no need to discuss separatism or Quebec’s independence in Montreal. Even though it’s not a big deal, it can sometimes lead to a heated discussion. It’s a very different issue for different generations, and it’s affected by politics, identity, history, personal opinions, education, immigration, and more, as well as where people live or come from in the province.
Shopping in Montreal but only in malls
In the same way, when you’re in the city, you should shop somewhere other than a chain store in Montreal. The Underground City is a huge, connected mall with all the big-name brands you could want. Still, you’ll also want to get off the beaten tourist path and visit the boutiques and independent shops on Avenue Mont-Royal, Saint-Denis through the Plateau, and Saint-Hubert in Villeray, for example.
Buy maple syrup at a gift shop
Tourists often shop maple syrup and maple products as souvenirs while in Montreal. As a result, you can find maple syrup on several shelves in the city’s gift shops. But these products are often more expensive and not always different or better than what you can buy at a local market or grocery store. Depending on the time of year, you can also go to one of the many sugar shacks close to Montreal and buy syrup, candies, baked goods, and other maple-inspired specialties straight from the source.
Tourists Visit Montreal during winter
Like most cities in Canada, from Calgary in the west to Halifax in the east, the winters in Montreal are long, hard, and very cold. Of course, it makes sense to visit Montreal in the middle of winter if you like ice and snow or if you want to ski at nearby Mont-Tremblant. During the winter, people can enjoy several festivals and events, such as Igloofest and Montréal en Lumière. But if you want to feel the city’s joie de vivre, you might want to visit between June and September.
Tourists Think about having to speak French (or English) in Montreal
One of the characteristics that make Montreal unique is its linguistic landscape. Even though French is the official language, the city runs smoothly in French and English. Many immigrants also speak other languages, which adds to the mix of voices you’ll hear on the streets. So, don’t be afraid if you don’t know French or if you haven’t used it much since middle school. Still, it’s polite to know at least how to say hello and goodbye in French while you’re here. Also, if you want to practice French, most people are happy to help you.