Top Montreal Attractions
Since living in Montreal for a little over a year now, I’ve been given plenty of time to explore the city and pick out favourites. For a visitor, it can be daunting to figure out what to do since there seem to be about a million “must-see” attractions and events happening at the same time.
If you only have a few hours or a couple of days, here is what I would recommend in this French-speaking vibrant, artsy, historical city.
1. Start out with a brunch at L’Avenue on Mont-Royal
What’s Montreal without enjoying some of the best culinary charms this city has to offer? Besides good eggs benny on a panko crust, this restaurant has cans of maple syrup on their tables for you to douse your entrees in. Quebec is Canada’s biggest producer of maple syrup, so it’s only natural Quebecois restaurants would offer this delicious sweet topping generously on their menus. After brunch, since you’re in the area anyway, I would walk around the Mont-Royal neighbourhood.
2. Grab a coffee and a croissant at one of the many cafés in the Plateau neighbourhood
My favourite is Moineau Masque in the summer because of the shaded patio area. It has the right amount of sunshine and breeze for you to enjoy a book or a chat with friends. If it’s fall/winter and patios aren’t open, I would recommend heading to La Cabigi. Another favourite is Le Depanneur Cafe on Bernard Ouest, where they have an excellent playlist of retro favourites or live music, depending on which day you go. For croissants, my favourite is Croissanterie Figaro, further up in the Mile End. They have smaller croissants with a harder texture than what most people are used to, but they make the best Nutella croissants in all of Montreal so it’s worth a trek.
3. (If it’s warm) Lie down on the grass at Plateau Mount Royal or along the grass at Canal Lachine
This is what locals do. They suntan, bask in the sun, picnic and enjoy life. This activity takes a couple of hours and is best enjoyed in daylight hours, so schedule accordingly. One of the things about experiencing new cultures isn’t just in the food or sights. To travel to a new place is to inhabit or study the way locals live, and relaxation in grassy areas is a big part of Montreal’s lifestyle. Skip this step and go for hot chocolate instead if it’s winter.
4. Grab a poutine or a smoked meat sandwich
My favourite place to eat Montreal cuisine is Poutineville (poutine) and Schwartz’s (smoked meat). Both poutine (cheese curds, fries and gravy) and smoked meat are local delicacies of Quebec and you can’t leave without tasting either. For vegans, head to Aux Vivres on St. Laurent.
Here’s a little bit of poutine history for you: according to Le Lutin qui rit in Warwick in 1957, a guest named Eddy Lainesse asked owner Fernand Lachance to mix the cheese curds with the fries, to which the restauranteur responded: “Ca va faire une maudite poutine” (That’s going to make a damn mess”), and that is allegedy how poutine was invented.
5. Walk around Old Port
Ideally, this would be a leisurely stroll. In the Summer, there are plenty of buskers to watch. And in Winter, the cobblestone steps and old buildings in this neighbourhood are accentuated with Christmas decorations and snow. Historical sites in this neighbourhood include the Notre-Dame Basilica, Place Jacques-Cartier, City Hall and the Bank of Montreal Museum.
6. Dinner at Au Pied de Cochon or Jardin Nelson
Of all the places I’ve dined in Montreal, Au Pied de Cochon and Jardin Nelson are my favourites. Au Pied de Cochon serves delicious meat plates filled with all sorts of things like foie gras pancakes, duck fat fries, ham, etc. It’s a local favourite and so popular, you need to make reservations a week in advance. Jardin Nelson in the Old Port is where I’ve had the best savoury crepes (apple, cinnamon, cheese and ham) of my life while enjoying jazz music on their terrace.
7. Enjoy the festivals
Before visiting Montreal, one should always check to see which festivals are happening. There is almost always something going on in this city, whether it’s the International Jazz Festival (my favourite), Just for Laughs Festival, Poutine Festival or Osheaga Music Festival. Many festivals always feature free events, so it’s worth a look to see if anything catches your eye.
Enjoy Montreal, one of Canada’s biggest cities and certainly one of the most vibrant.
Written by Jessica Lee
Jessica Lee is a photojournalist and world explorer born and raised in Toronto. She has swam in the Great Barrier Reef, travelled by camel through the Saharan Desert, climbed a mountain in Indonesia and photographed the Northern Lights in Iceland. When she is not capturing moments or sorting through them in a coffee shop, you can find her climbing on rock or sailing at sea. Follow her on her adventures at www.jessicawritesatravelblog.com