Top 18 Attractions & Things to Do in Montreal

Montréal has been a city of trade and communications for centuries. In 1535, Jacques Cartier landed here and took the territory from the local Iroquois tribe. It wasn’t until 1642 that a small mission settlement was founded here by Paul de Chomedey, a Roman Catholic priest. He named the settlement Ville Marie de Mont-Réal. The name means “City of Mary by Montreal.”

This city is today called Montréal, but was once known as Ville-Marie, which means “City of Mary”. The current city is the second largest French-speaking city in the world. Despite its size, it’s possible to visit all the tourist sites in the compact neighborhoods.

The downtown area of Montreal is a great place to find museums and arts venues. The most elegant street of the city is Rue Sherbrooke, a lively thoroughfare with a lot of shops and restaurants. Another important street for shopping is Rue Ste-Cathérine, filled with department stores, boutiques, and other commercial establishments..

Old Montreal is the oldest part of the city. It’s where it all began, and its original foundations and streets are preserved in museums. This quarter was the heart of the colonial town, and its old buildings make it one of the most beautiful parts of the city. It’s where you’ll find most of the historic attractions, as well as a popular waterfront promenade along Old Port.

In Montreal, a new trend is emerging. The Plateau is being abandoned by tourists, but it’s still the heart of French-speaking Montreal. Rue St. Denis often feels like being in Paris with its smart boutiques, sidewalk cafes, and restaurants.

The most popular restaurants in Montreal are located in the Mile End neighborhood. It was created by the latest waves of immigrants to Canada. At its far edge is Mile End, where you can find small groups of streets with distinctly Italian, Portuguese, or Greek atmospheres.

We’ve made a list of the best things to see and do in Montreal. Check it out.

1. Wander through Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal)

Old Montréal is tourist central in Montréal. The area is home to a remarkable concentration of buildings dating from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries and has the feel of a Parisian-style quarter.

If you are thinking about staying in the city for a few days, staying at one of the historic hotels is an amazing experience. The city has preserved the architecture. Many of the buildings are now used as hotels, restaurants, galleries, and souvenir shops.

The best way to discover the city is on foot. To start, you must visit the Notre-Dame Basilica. Then you must stroll down Rue Saint-Paul. Bonsecours Market is a must-see as well as a great place for a picnic. Finally, you should end your day at Place Jacques-Cartier where there are numerous restaurants and cafes.

When you’re in the city, don’t miss a chance to board a Ferris wheel and zipline as high as Mont-Royal.

In the evening, the city is very lively. Old Montreal features restaurants and cafes. If you want to enjoy the weather, you can eat at outdoor patios in the summer.

2. Explore the Old Port (Vieux-Port)

If you are wandering around downtown Montreal, you are most likely to end up in the lively area by the Saint Lawrence River known as the Old Port. Here, you will find plenty of things to do. You can ride the giant Ferris wheel or climb the famous clock tower. You can even scream down a zipline that descends from dizzying heights across open stretches of water.

Montreal is a vibrant and exciting city, and there are several activities to take part in. You can stroll the area and experience the 10 fascinating displays of public art, catch a movie at an IMAX theater, or learn more about science at the Montreal Science Center. If even those options sound exhausting, grab a cup of coffee and relax on one of the warm patios.

The summer is filled with many activities on the river. Boat tours depart from the docks here. If you want an even better view of the city, visit the man-made beach at the base of the clocktower. It faces the city and overlooks the river. In winter, bring your skates and enjoy skating on this huge frozen surface.

3. See the View from Mont-Royal

Located in the middle of the city, Mont-Royal is one of the main green spaces of Montreal. The park contains monuments to Jacques Cartier and King George VI, a lake called Lac-aux-Castors, and several cemeteries. These cemeteries are on the western side of the mountain and are where various ethnic groups have buried their dead for hundreds of years.

From the top of the mountain, or rather from the observation platform below the cross, you can see everything. You can see all 51 kilometers of Montreal Island and the St. Lawrence River. On a clear day, you can even see the Adirondack Mountains in America.

4. Jardin Botanique (Botanical Garden)

The Olympic stadium, built in the 1970s, is now a botanical garden that offers a unique experience. Plant lovers can enjoy the beautiful Montreal foliage, including trees that were planted decades ago, in the gardens of Parc Maisonneuve.

The San Francisco Botanical Garden is a unique site, with a wide range of climates represented. It includes the beautiful Japanese and Chinese gardens, as well as outdoor gardens devoted to alpine, aquatic, medicinal, shade, useful, and even toxic plants.

The rose displays are stunning, but especially interesting is the First Nations garden. That’s because it features plants that were used or grown by Indigenous peoples. The greenhouses contain a tropical rain forest, ferns, orchids, bonsai, bromeliads, penjings (miniature Chinese trees), and an Insectarium. There is also an arboretum on the grounds and ponds supporting a variety of birds.

5. Notre-Dame Basilica

The oldest church in Montreal, Notre-Dame Basilica, was founded in 1656. A far grander incarnation than the original church, it has two grand towers and a neo-Gothic façade on Place d’Armes. The interior was designed by Victor Bourgeau and is incredibly intricate and resplendent.

The magnificent carved pulpit by sculptor Louis-Philippe Hébert (1850-1917) and the 7,000-pipe organ by the Casavant Frères firm are highlights of this church. The stained-glass windows portraying scenes from the founding of Montreal are also notable.

The entrance fee to the basilica includes 20 minutes of education, or you can purchase an hour-long tour that provides more historical information. This tour also grants access to private areas, including the second balcony and crypt.

6. Oratoire Saint-Joseph (St. Joseph’s Oratory)

On Mount Royal, near the western exit from the park, is a huge Renaissance-style domed basilica dedicated to Saint Joseph. It’s a mecca for pilgrims and one of the most important churches in the city. Built in 1924, it’s a place where people can reflect and pray.

Brother André of the Congrégation de Sainte-Croix built a small chapel here in 1904. It was a place where he performed miraculous acts of healing, which led to his canonization in 1982. Many of the faithful believe that his tomb is in one part of the sanctuary.

A second chapel displays votive gifts. Behind the church, a cloister leads to Mont-Royal. A beautiful view in the northwest can be seen from the top of Mont-Royal over the city and Lac Saint-Louis.

7. Parc Jean Drapeau

This island and man-made island were the site of Expo ’67. They were called Ile Sainte-Hélène and Notre-Dame respectively, and they are now known as Parc Jean Drapeau. Parc Jean Drapeau is a family-oriented park with many children’s activities.

A structure shaped like a sphere, the Biosphere Museum is a remnant of the 1967 World’s Fair. The museum now houses a collection of ecological issues and is the largest of its kind in the world.

If you like to ride and play games, check out La Ronde Amusement Park. The historic Stewart Museum has the British arsenal from 1820. Bassin Olympique is where the Olympic rowing events took place in 1976. You can also have a race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

8. Musée des Beaux Arts (Fine Arts Museum)

The Musée des Beaux Arts houses some of the best collections in the world, including art from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. Covering new media as well as the traditional arts, the museum contains over 9,000 pieces of art. These are divided into collections of world cultures and Mediterranean archaeology.

The Getty Museum in Los Angeles has thousands of artworks that are important to the history of art. The collection includes masterpieces by Pieter Bruegel the Younger, Canaletto, El Greco, Gainsborough, Goya, Mantegna, Poussin, Rembrandt, Tiepolo, and Veronese. It is particularly strong in artworks of the Dutch Golden Age.

You will see a variety of art in this museum. The collection includes works from the Realists, Impressionists, and Modern artists. It includes paintings by Cézanne, Dali, Miró, Monet, Derain, Kandinsky, Matisse, Picasso, Rodin, Otto Dix, and many others. The museum is near McGill University.

9. Pointe-à-Callière

At the corner of Place Royale in Old Montreal is a striking modern building. This is the Pointe-à-Callière, which now holds a museum of archaeology and history. In the early days of Montréal, Place Royale was the center of life, containing the market, shops, and parade ground. Later government buildings would displace them.

Did you know that the foundations of the early streets of Montreal are still visible? You can visit the Museum of Archaeology and History to see these foundations.

The best way to learn about a city’s history is to walk among the original streets and buildings. London’s Museum of London does just that, with a route that takes visitors through time, starting from the 17th century. Exhibits and interactive displays show how London evolved over time. Special exhibitions cover a wide range of topics, from archaeology to current events.

10. Place des Arts

The Place des Arts is an entire complex dedicated to visual and performing arts. Three great organizations have their home here: the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, and the Opéra de Montréal. Its various halls and stages provide venues for all kinds of theatre, music, dance, films, and events.

The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal is the most important event of the year. It attracts visitors from all over the world and hosts some of the biggest names in jazz. Held in late June and early July, it is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike.

The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal is an art museum with contemporary pieces. The museum is particularly well known for its French-Canadian artists. They pick up where their predecessors left off, creating captivating works that will hold your attention for hours.

11. Shop at Atwater and Jean Talon Markets

Montréal’s Jean Talon and Atwater Markets are very similar. They have many of the same vendors, and visitors get a unique experience from their local food products. Go to one of these markets to experience a happy, bustling atmosphere and get a taste of Montréal culture.

The Marche is a collection of vendors selling maple syrup and candies, dried wild blueberries, home-style fruit jams and preserves, and the region’s fine cheeses. You’ll also find restaurants and cafés selling luscious pastries. It’s in a warehouse-style building in Montreal, with vendors selling fruits and vegetables, flowers, meats, fish, cheese, baked goods, and specialty foods.

The farmers’ markets are a favorite stop for locals on Saturday mornings. They get a boule of coffee and a flaky croissant while they grab their weekly shopping fix.

12. St. Mary Queen of the World

This cathedral has been standing for over 100 years and it’s a smaller version of St. Peter’s in Rome. The building took much effort and time to construct, and the result was an impressive masterpiece. The impressive statues represent the patron saints of Montreal’s 13 parishes in the 19th century. They were created by Olindo Gratton between 1892 and 1898.

The most important artwork in the interior is a crucifix, which is atop a marble baptismal font. It is a painting by Philippe Hébert. Seven paintings by Georges Delfosse retell Montréal’s tumultuous history.

13. McCord Museum

The McCord Museum is a fantastic place to learn about Canadian social history. It has an exceptional collection of exhibits on Canada’s native peoples. The museum’s collections of clothing, accessories, quilts, and other hand-made textiles total more than 20,000 objects and include works by Montreal fashion designers.

The museum holds more than a thousand antique pieces of furniture, silver, ceramics, glass, and other household items. The collection also includes toys, sports equipment, and folk art. All these items are related to Canadian life in the early 20th century.

Native peoples have a rich history of art and artifacts. Their clothing, hunting and fishing equipment, weapons of war, domestic implements, ceremonial items, and art are top-notch. The archaeological finds from these early peoples are also amazing.

14. Square Saint-Louis and Rue Denis

The Square Saint Louis in Montreal is one of the prettiest old squares in the city. It’s in a residential area that is still French-Canadian. There are still some old, Victorian houses here. Some of them are restaurants.

On the eastern edge of the square and running along St. Laurent, Rue St. Denis is one of Montréal’s most popular streets for shopping, dining, and arts. Many historic buildings have been converted into boutiques, restaurants, and cafes.

At one end, St. Denis starts in the student-minded Quartier Latin neighborhood (it’s handy to Université du Québec à Montréal and the Grande Bibliothèque) and heads west into the trendy Plateau area with its independent designers and chef-run restaurants. The street also passes through the independent designer shops in trendy Le Plateau .

15. Lachine Canal National Historic Site

Lachine is a small town on the southeast side of Montréal Island, in Lac St.-Louis. Until the 19th century, the St. Lawrence River had many rapids, which made it difficult to navigate. The first pioneers to make their way up the St. Lawrence were looking for a route to China. They dug a canal that went around these rapids, which was named after Lachine.

However, the canal was shut down for shipping many years ago, and now it’s just a beautiful park. It’s the perfect place for an afternoon bike ride or boat ride. A bike path runs alongside the entire length of the canal, and you can rent a boat at any point.

16. Chinatown

The colorful Chinatown of Montréal is centered on Rue de la Gauchetière. This neighborhood dates back to the late 1860s, when many Chinese laborers moved into the cities in search of a better life. They came originally to work in the mines and build the railroad.

Today, Chinatown is more than a place for Chinese people to shop and eat. It has become a gathering place for all sorts of people who want to enjoy a delicious meal or a fun night out.

17. Ride La Grande Rou de Montreal

Montreal’s Old Port is the place to be, and you can’t miss La Grande Rou de Montreal , a giant wheel that towers over the city. At 60 meters high, it’s just the right height for an exciting ride. It has 42 climate-controlled gondolas that can hold up to eight people.

The views from the top of Montreal are incredible. You can see the old Expo site, the Saint Lawrence Seaway, and the Jacques Cartier Bridge. You can even see nearly 30 kilometers in most directions.

For the absolute top of the luxury market, consider booking a VIP gondola. It’s four chairs made from the finest Italian leather and the glass floor adds an element of fun.

18. Montreal Science Centre

The MSC is the perfect place to escape the weather, especially in the winter. It’s located right in the center of the action, in the Old Port (Vieux Port). If you’re looking for something fun to do with your family, look no further than the Montreal Science Center.

Children can create their own creative products in Fabrik, an exhibit where they build items in an assembly line-like process using the items available. Clic! is an exhibit where you can create almost anything imaginable using oddly shaped blocks.

Leave a Comment