Montreal, Quebec is a vibrant cultural melting pot that attracts tourists worldwide with its famous festivals, food, and nightlife. Even in winter, there’s no shortage of fun things to do in Montreal. Here are the best attractions that make Montreal the most exciting city in North America.
There are dozens of distinct neighborhoods to explore – best attractions in Montreal
Montreal, unlike other North American cities, is not designed for automobiles. Its sprawling parks, winding streets, and lush green back alleys (or ruelles vertes) are designed for strolling, and the entire city is easily accessible by metro.
So, where is the best place to stay—or simply stroll around and soak in the atmosphere? It’s nearly impossible to declare the coolest neighborhood in Montreal objectively, but Plateau-Mont-Royal might just win the popular vote. Its colorful buildings, particularly those around Square St. Louis, are simply stunning. Furthermore, the Plateau is close to iconic delis, trendy cafes, the St. Laurent club strip, and the city’s most beautiful parks, including La Fontaine, Laurier, and the mountain.
Saint-Henri is the place to go for the city’s hottest restaurants and a view of the water. Meanwhile, the Mile End (which is technically in the Plateau borough) isn’t as hip as it was when Arcade Fire and Grimes were frequent visitors, but it’s still a cool area to book an Airbnb and ideal for the ultimate carb crawl.
Montreal’s food scene may be the best in Canada.
You’ve probably heard of Montreal’s famous foods and rivalries—St. Viateur vs. Fairmount for bagels, Schwartz’s vs. The Main for smoked meat, La Banquise vs. Chez Claudette for poutine, Romados vs. Ma Poule Mouilée for Portuguese chicken—but there’s just so much more. Much, much more.
There are the gluttonous classics, such as Anthony Bourdain’s Au Pied du Cochon and Joe Beef. Damas serves exquisite Syrian cuisine, L’Express serves fine French cuisine, and Sushi Momo serves vegan sushi. There’s also a fiercely competitive cheap(ish) eats scene, with restaurants like Arepera, Falafel Yoni, and Tacos Frida, and you’d be remiss if you didn’t try Montreal-style hot dogs (aka “steamies”) at the Montreal Pool Room, an old-school joint that dates back to 1912.
Getting outside is an important part of the experience – Montreal attraction
Despite being Canada’s second-largest city, Montreal is also the third greenest. (After all, it’s important to stay competitive in a country with literally dozens of beautiful natural wonders to visit.) Along with the aforementioned parks (plus Jarry, Jean-Drapeau, and dozens of other massive green spaces not listed here), opportunities to escape to quiet, laid-back outdoor spaces are plentiful.
You can bike, canoe, or kayak along the Lachine Canal in Saint-Henri; stroll along the Wellington promenade in Verdun, or lounge on the shores of one of Montreal’s beaches (or have a unique urban beach experience at the Old Port); or visit the Jardin de Sculptures de Lachine to stroll or bike through an open-air art gallery.
Festivals and cultural events fill the streets.
On some days, more than a dozen festivals are taking place in Montreal, making it difficult to decide which one to attend. Just thinking about it will give you FOMO.
The world’s biggest artists perform at Osheaga and its electronic younger sibling Île Soniq on Parc Jean-Drapeau, an island easily accessible by bike or metro, during the summer. Then there’s Just for Laughs and the Montreal Jazz Fest, two world-class festivals in Montreal’s Quartier des Spectacles, as well as the Circus Festival and the MURAL graffiti festival. In the winter, the city hosts dozens of different exhibits at Nuit Blanche, as well as the chilly outdoor dance party that is Igloofest.
Aside from the festivals, Montreal is always buzzing with activity. The PHI Centre features cutting-edge interactive exhibits, such as The Infinite, a virtual tour of the International Space Station. A cabaret at Chez Mado will give you a taste of Montreal’s sin city roots. If that isn’t enough to keep you busy for a week or three, head to the east end for the Botanical Gardens, Olympic Stadium, Insectarium, Planetarium, or newly renovated Biodome, all of which can be found at Espace pour la Vie.
After dark, the fun doesn’t stop – Montreal attraction
Americans have long made pilgrimages to Montreal to party, from the days when alcohol was illegal during Prohibition to now, when the drinking age is 18. The bachelor party crowd and rowdy tourists usually get their kicks downtown on Crescent and St. Catherine streets, or in touristy Old Montreal—but there are better places to spend a night out.
Hip dives like Notre-Dame-des-Quilles, which has an indoor bowling alley, twinkly-light date spots like Le Majestique, speakeasies like Le Mal Nécessaire, breweries like Dieu du Ciel!, and classy wine bars like Pullman are all available. Of course, there are clubs for a big night out, such as Apt. 200 and after-hours Stereo (temporarily closed).
So, while I won’t tell you that you won’t have fun in touristy areas, believe me when I say that Montreal’s best bars, speakeasies, and clubs are where you’ll want to be when the sun goes down.