Have you ever been to a place and struggled with communicating and still loved the place?
Visiting the vibrant city was a must do for us during our Canada excursion. The city is beautiful by the day as by night. People are always laughing, smiling and enjoying life to the fullest here. It is said Montreal adapts itself both in snow and in sun. All this is seen in the street which is always filled with things to do.
It is said to be the second largest French speaking place and boy did we have fun communicating here. While in cafe we had locals getting bugged taking our orders in English. However, when visiting the tourist information desk we met another set of locals who were happily answering all our queries.
When we first stepped down to explore the neighbourhood all we saw were road names written in French- my school French was totally rusted by this time. But in the end of the trip we were gallivanting along the streets of Montreal like the locals.
There was so much to fall in love with this place. I loved the whole vibe and attitude of people. If you ask me I would recommend this place to everyone and would definitely visit it again given an opportunity.
TIME TO VISIT
I am more of a summer lover hence opted to visit in August. We had the perfect weather and found the whole place buzzing with people enjoying the festive seasons till late nights. Should you book in advance then there are also some good deals to avail.
The warm weather is from May to September with July being the hottest. Then from October to December the weather gets cloudy. The cold season comes in from December to March with January usually being the coldest.
Depending on individual preference and your itinerary I would recommend choosing your trip accordingly. I would suggest the best time to visit would be from March to May or from September to November as the weather is milder and the hotels are also cheaper.
TRAVELING AROUND MONTREAL
We were traveling to Montreal from Toronto. We had booked our tickets through via-rail website. We took the fastest train travel which was roughly four hours and thirty three minutes. We had taken the early morning train which departed from union station and got off at Central Station in Montreal. We were very happy with the train services as everything was clean and running on time.
The metro (subway) system has four lines connecting from downtown centres to most of the tourist sites. We mostly used combination of bus and train.
STM is the transit network used to travel around Montreal. There are number of fares to choose from namely 1 trip, 2 trip, 10 trips, unlimited evening, 1-day pass, unlimited weekend, 3-day pass, weekly pass, monthly pass and Aeroport MTL-Trudeau (747) pass. There are Opus card, tickets and occasional card.
We had opted for occasional card where 1 trip, 2 trips, unlimited evening, 1 day, unlimited weekend and 3 days fares can be added. We purchased it from the ticket booth attendants. The card allows you to transfer between metro and bus lines.
There is also Bixi public bike which really helps in a city which have over 780 km of bike paths. You can hire the bike at one station and dock it in another station of your destination.
We had split our itinerary in such a way where one day we visited all places which can be done on foot. Another day we did everything where metro was needed. Hence we ended up seeing Montreal all ways possible. But our favourite was always on foot.
WHERE WE STAYED IN MONTREAL
We had stayed in two separate hotels during our stay in Montreal. The reason for doing this was because we wanted to also visit Quebec in between. Since we had chosen train as our mode of transport to and from Montreal we also wanted to stay near the metro.
For the first night we stayed at Hotel Faubourg Montreal downtown. This hotel was walking distance from two subway lines. It worked out best for us for visiting most of the places and also during our arrival when we had luggage. We had taken breakfast option and didn’t have much complains. The rooms were also clean and spacious with most of the important amenities provided.
For me the staff also plays an important role in liking the place and this hotel did have a friendly team. I would recommend staying here.
For our last night we had chosen Sandman Hotel Montreal- Longeuil for 1 night.
This hotel is not in downtown but its roughly 10 mins metro ride. We had chosen this hotel for only a night’s rest. It was close to the bus station and also next day we found it close to the train station. Since we arrived late from Quebec we found this the best option. We had chosen the breakfast option also and found it ok.
The room we got were clean and served the purpose. Staff were not that polite but we were too tired to care. I would recommend this hotel only if you looking for a night’s rest and need something near the bus stations.
THINGS TO DO IN MONTREAL
I would like to divide Montreal into 4 sections. Within those sections I would like to mentions the places we visited on the way. Since we had only two days here we didn’t get to see everything but we made the most of it.
Montreal downtown was always buzzing with people during our visit. While walking along the streets we saw many architectural buildings, skyscrapers, neo- Gothic churches, stores, museums, galleries and restaurants. During the day we saw people going to work and as night fell we saw people relax and enjoy some after-work cocktails on bars and terrace restaurants.
Our first stop in Montreal was the Eaton centre as we had just arrived and headed straight to the mall while waiting for checking in our hotel. This is in the heart of Downtown Montreal which is accessible to underground city and is connected via McGill station. There are four levels with many stores and food court. I didn’t do much shopping as I was keener on checking out Montreal so we had our first meal at the mall. The mall is mostly very busy but I would recommend strolling to see the whole place.
UNDERGROUND PEDESTRIAN NETWORK
Another thing which I really enjoyed seeing was the 32 km underground pedestrian network. Right below the buzzing city is another place which is packed with people. This includes subway, commuter train and buses. If that is not enough there are over 2000 shops and restaurants. While we were there we also saw further development also taking place.
Every place in Canada we visited has a Chinatown and this place was no different. It is said in 1860s the Chinese immigrants came to Montreal to work in mines and on railroads. The Chinese are now seen buying exotic foods and celebrating their traditional festivals in this neighbourhood.
LE 1000 DE LA GAUCHETIERE AND ATRIUM LE 1000
This 51 storey building standing at 672 feet high is an indoor skating rink which is said to be inside a dome with sky-lit exhibition hall. This is said to be the jewel in Montreal’s skyline. Here skaters are welcomed all year round and have equipments available for renting. Montrealers sure do love skating to have dedicated a building to it.
We had our train stop here and only later did we know that it was one of the tourist places to see. It is said to be opened in 1943 and the departure hall is decorated with illustrations showing the lives of Canadians, their activities, their industries and dream of their future. On the base of the fresco the words of the Canadian national anthem is seen. There are also many shops which you come across like various restaurants, bakeries, liquor store, florist etc.
MARY, QUEEN OF THE WORLD CATHEDRAL
This Catholic cathedral was built in the end of 19th century and is the third largest church in Quebec. It is supposed to be a replica of St. Peters in Rome.
Inside there is a glided neo- baroque ciborium with twisting columns which overlooks the altar.
There are also paintings inside which illustrates the historic beginning of Montreal.
The 13 statues makes the cathedral look majestic in the roof of the cathedral.
I loved being inside and enjoyed seeing every details. I recommend visiting it, truly is worth it.
ST JAMES UNITED CHURCH
While walking the streets of Montreal we came across this beautiful church. It is designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1996. I totally loved the Gothic style exterior.
There are still some more places of interest which we walked passed or heard of which I would recommend seeing should you have time.
See map below for more details on the locations.
2. OLD MONTREAL AND OLD PORT
Old Montreal is specially filled with all the old buildings which are adding onto the Montreal appeal. Here is another street which we loved exploring on foot.
MONTREAL CITY HALL
The five storey building was constructed for municipal administration and in 1984 it was designated as the National Historic Site of Canada. Originally it was built in the 18th century however it was destroyed by fire and hence rebuilt in the 19th century. We unfortunately didn’t know there were guided tours inside, would have loved to hear the stories of the place.
THE NOTRE- DAME BASILICA OF MONTREAL
Located in the heart of Notre Dame Street is the stone church which was constructed in various stages over a period of time. We had done the 20 minute tour and got to know more about the place.
The church is divided into five sections namely- The sanctuary and alter; the pulpit; the organ; Chapel of Notre-Dame du Sacre-Coeur and the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.
I personally loved seeing the stained glass windows. The ground floor glass windows are said to show Montreal’s religious and social history.
There is an admission fees to visit the church but masses or other religious services are free of charge.
I was in total awe with the beauty of it and loved the overall atmosphere. I personally felt no photos taken can do justice to the true beauty of the place.
JACQUES CARTIER SQUARE
Should you want to see an awesome view of the Old Port then I would recommend seeing it from Jacques-Cartier square. Built in 1804 a place this is now used as public market along with many street artists seen thriving in the place. There are lots of restaurants and shops also along with many places to sit and chill out.
Since we were there during summer the places was crowded and had musicians playing which added onto the beauty of the place. Although this place has mixed reviews I was happy visiting the place.
OLD PORT OF MONTREAL
A perfect place to relax, shop, dine and enjoy the beautiful weather Montreal has to offer. There are lots of fun things to do like paddle boat, quadricycles, or enjoy an historical guided tour. There are also various cruises and excursions to choose from to enjoy the place more. It is said in winter the place is an outdoor skating rink which hosts lots of other activities as well.
This imposing building was inaugurated in 1847 and has been the city’s main agricultural marketplace for over a century. There is also a concert hall and has even served as city hall. You can also enjoy the shops, exhibitions and cafes which is now surrounding the building.
DHC/ART FOUNDATION FOR CONTEMPORARY ART
It is an art exhibits which also presents film screening, talks and has educational and outreach programs. We passed this while we were enjoying the Montreal festival.
THE CLOCK TOWER AND THE CLOCK TOWER BEACH AT THE OLD PORT MONTREAL
The clock tower was built in 1922 in honour of the courage of the men of the Merchant Fleet who were lost during World War I. From the beach you can see the St. Lawrence River. Swimming is not permitted here but you can enjoy sun bathing along with all the beach essentials. It’s a perfect place to come and relax.
The map below can help you plan some of the other places in the locality.
3. PRAC JEAN-DRAPEAU
In the middle of two island of St. Lawrence River you will find the Parc Jean-Drapeau. This green oasis has sports, recreation, culture and nature. There is a 25 km trail where cyclist and locals enjoy nature along with the panoramic view of public river and downtown skylines. During summer the beach was also open along with the amusement park, museums and casinos.
BIOSPHERE ENVIRONMENT MUSEUM
We did visit the Biosphere environment museum from Expo 67. The museum highlights the way of living as eco-citizens and also addresses environmental issues like water, energy, sustainable development, air, severe weather and climate change.
We enjoyed the place and felt it was filled with interesting information.
This is located at the Olympic Park. It allows visitors to walk through replicas of the four ecosystems which is found in America. We walked around it and loved it.
Built in 1976 to host the Olympic Games and later which has been renovated. It is available for sporting and cultural events. We only enjoyed it from outside but loved seeing it.
SPACE OF LIFE
It is said to offer an experience in five ecosystems, where there are more than 7000 animals of 270 different species and 500 plant type alive.
Check the map below on the surrounding areas to add should you have more time.
4. NEIGHBOURHOOD AND SURROUNDING
While you are exploring on foot or cycle you will come across many neighbourhoods. If you ask any Montrealers they would give you more suggestions on the food and places to explore.
SAINT JOSEPH’S ORATORY
This is the world’s most visited center of pilgrimage.
Dedicated to Saint Joseph, the shrine includes the small original chapel, The votive Chapal, The crypt church, The Saint Joseph Oil and The Hall of the Renovation Project.
The building is sure an eye-catcher, from the terrace there is a nice view of Montreal.
We saw it during the day, I am told it looks equally nice as night falls. We spent few hours exploring the whole place and weren’t disappointed.
The city of Montreal takes its name from Mount Royal as the hill is part of the Monteregian Hill. Jacques Cartier christened Mount Royal in 1535 but it was three centuries later when it was ready for walkers to enjoy it.
There is a viewing platform which gives an awesome view of Montreal. There are lots of steps to climb to reach the top but the efforts are worth it. It is a nice place to get away from the busy life in Montreal.
The place is nicknamed as ‘the mountain’ by Montrealers.
Originally the land was a swamp which in 1938 was changed into an artificial basin. It is located in Mount Royal, another place where you can relax and enjoy sometime with nature.
Beaver lake is shaped like a four leafed clover. The surroundings had many recreational activities like slides during winter and vast lawns during summer.
Check map below for more details on the direction of the mentioned location and the nearby neighbourhood.
OUR ITINERARY IN MONTREAL
For most of my walking directions please check the above maps for more details.
Central Station, Hotel Faubourg Montreal, Montreal Information office, Eaton Centre, underground pedestrian network, 1000 De La Gauchetiere and Atrium Le 1000, St Mary Cathedral, St James United Church, Chinatown, Hotel Faubourg Montreal, City Hall Montreal, Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal, Bonsecours Market, Jacques Cartier Square , Old Port and Clock Tower, Montreal Festival, Art Foundation of Contemporary art.
- Walked from Central Station to Hotel Faubourg Montreal. Kept out bags at the reception as our check in was in the afternoon.
- Walked to Tourist Information centre to get map and details about Montreal.
- a 4 mins walk got us to Eaton Centre where we had lunch.
- Then explored the underground pedestrian network.
- Walked to 1000 De La Gauchetiere and to Atrium Le 1000.
- Headed to St Mary Cathedral which we explored more from inside.
- From here walked to St James United church.
- Then headed to Chinatown.
- Walked back to Hotel Faubourg, did check in and rested.
- From hotel walked to City Hall Montreal.
- Walked to Notre Dame of Basilica Of Montreal. Explored it from inside with a tour.
- Walked to Bonsecours Market
- Headed to Jacques Cartier Square and explored the whole place.
- Walked to Old Port and also did Clock Tower on the way.
- Walked back to Montreal Festival where we spent the evening. On the way saw Art foundation of Contemporary art.
- Returned to the hotel.
Checked out of Hotel, Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Montreal, Beaver Lake, Mount Royal, Downtown, Picked bag from hotel, Orlean express bus to Quebec.
- Checked out from the hotel but left bags at the reception.
- From Hotel we went to Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Montreal
- Option 1-Take the green line and get off at Guy- Concordia. From here take the 166 (get off at (Queen Mary/ No 3800) or 165 bus (get off at Queen- Mary).
- Option 2- If you take the yellow line then get off at Snowdon. From here take Bus no. 51 E (get off at Queen Mary) or Bus no. 5 (Get off at Queen Mary)
- We decided to walk to Beaver Lake. You can also take Bus no 166 get off at Gage. There are other combination buses also but recommend direct bus.
- We decided to walk (1.4km) to Mount Royal.
- From here took the metro green line and got off at McGill and walked in downtown.
- Walked to our hotel to pick our bags
- Then walked to the Greyhound bus terminal to catch our Orlean express bus to Quebec
Note we had spent 2 days in Quebec in between. Taken the evening bus back to Montreal from Quebec. Checked in to Sandman Hotel Montreal- Longeuil.
Checked out of Sandman hotel Montreal- Longeuil, Biosphere Environmental Museum, Biodome, Olympic Stadium, space of life museum, Picked up bag, Central Station to catch train back to Union Station, Toronto.
- To get to Biosphere Environmental Museum we took the yellow line metro and got off at Jean-Drapeau and walk 350m
- To get to Biodome we again took the yellow line and got off at Berri-UQAM. Then took the green line and got off at Viau.
- We walked from Biodome to Olympic Stadium and space of life museum.
- From here we took the green line and got off at Berri-UQAM station. Then took the yellow line and got off at Longueuil Metro Station. Walked to the hotel to pick up our bag.
- Took the metro for Central Station to catch the train back to Toronto.
THINGS TO NOTE
- Mainly a French speaking town. But Montrealers do speak very good English also. It’s a bilingual city so don’t need to stress on visiting the place.
- There are lot of activities in Montreal throughout the year. Do check out the neighbourhood to know more.
- Most prices don’t include tax. I was staying in Canada so knew this but have noticed many tourist complain regarding this.
- Bikes are everywhere in Montreal. Many travel to work also during summer to enjoy the weather. I would recommend it for tourists also.
- ‘Dep’ is known as the convenience store in Montreal. You get everything inside one and its there in every corner of the street.
- Lots of places are closed during winter. Plan ahead before visiting.
- Old Montreal is more expensive if you stay and eat there. Although it’s very pretty it can mess your budget.
- In Old Montreal be careful of tourist traps. Check out prices from different vendors and then take the final decision to avoid getting cheated. Checkout restaurants also online before visiting.
- Check bus number and timings before leaving. There maybe different options available from the ones I mentioned.
- Would recommend first visiting tourist information centre to get the map and also ask what festivals are currently happening. If you don’t speak French the map will come really handy.