I absolutely LOVE Montreal! I have lost track of the number of times I have visited this beautiful city, and I can confidently say that it is my favourite city (that I have visited) in Canada. What do I love about it so much? The city is rich with culture, and has something to offer for everyone. If you want to enjoy the outdoors, you can do so by visiting Parc du Mont-Royal. If you want to feel like you are in Europe, you can do so by visiting Vieux Montreal. If you want to admire the big city life, you can do so by walking around Downtown Montreal. Simply put, this city has got it all from history, to festivals, to dining, to a great nightlife, to parks, and so on.
Day 1: Musical Swings, Old Montreal, free Nutella and Crepes!
Krystal and I arrived in Montreal in the early afternoon. On our way to the hotel (we walked from the bus terminal to the hotel), we stopped to take a break in front of the Université de Québec à Montréal (UQAM) to swing on the musical swings. Unfortunately I did not take any pictures of these swings, but you can see them here on the PlayGroundology site. If you are in the area, you should definitely stop and swing away. And don’t be afraid of feeling silly…majority of the people we saw on these swings were adults.
After checking in to our first hotel and having lunch, we headed straight to Old Montreal (Vieux Montreal) as it is one of the most beautiful parts of the city.
Our first stop was at the Place d’Armes, where we snapped some photos of the Notre Dame Basilica
and, of course, the Place d’Armes square.
We didn’t go inside the Notre Dame, however, I have been inside before and it is very beautiful. I believe there is now a fee to get in, but if seeing the inside of churches/cathedrals/basilicas is something you enjoy to do, then it will be well worth the money.
We continued our journey, walking the narrow and beautiful streets of Old Montreal, snapping photos here and there, until we arrived to the Old Port of Montreal. Here we were greeted with free Nutella and crepes!!!
Now at first we almost missed these free crepes and Nutella since we thought that there was a protest going on. We didn’t know why there would be a big group of people in the middle of a workday, outside of the tourist season, hanging out at the old port. That is until we saw the giant Nutella jars (I would also like to blame the lack of sleep for this confusion).
After enjoying our free crepes, we continued walking along the St.Lawrence River until we reached the large tent of Cirque du Soleil.
Since the weather network was calling for rain all day Saturday, we decided that maybe we should try buying tickets to the Kurios show. Unfortunately, the system crashed at the ticket booth, and when we called to purchase tickets over the phone, we were informed that the cheapest tickets were $125/person. Since we were on a budget, we decided not to go. If this is something you want to do while visiting Montreal, I would suggest buying your tickets in advance as they were advertising some for as little as $45/person, and anyone who knows anything about Cirque du Soleil knows that it is a great price for the show.
We finished our visit of Old Montreal by watching street performers at Place Jacques-Cartier, a pedestrian only zone, which seems to be lively anytime of the year you go (especially in the summer months). If you only have time to visit one spot in old Montreal, this is the place I would recommend you to see. There are numerous restaurants and cafes, various street performers, shops, and beautiful photo opportunities.
Day 2: Rain, rain, and more rain
Our second day was not very eventful from the tourist perspective as it was raining all day. After breakfast, Krystal and I met up with our friend Derek (who lives in Montreal) to do some shopping at my favourite store of all time called Simons. This store can only be found in Quebec, excluding the one location at the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta. If you came to Montreal to shop, this is the place to go!
After our day of shopping, we went back to the hotel to relax and enjoy the hotel pool, hot tub, and sauna.
Day 3: Mount Royal and McGill University
Our last day in this beautiful city. After finishing our bagels, we began our walk towards Parc du Mont-Royal. Although this was not my first time to the top of Mount Royal, it was my first time to climb to the top on foot. After three days of walking, and being out of shape (mainly me), this hike wore both of us out. The hike to the top is not challenging, however, if you do as little physical exercise as I do, perhaps going on your first or second day would be better timing. And the view from the top is worth the walk. If you are not able to walk up to the top, and you have access to a car, there is a route to get to the top by car as well.
Once you reach the top, you can use the facilities at the chalet (pictured below). There were vending machines with snacks and drinks, but I did not see any restaurants so you might want to bring your own food if you are planning on having lunch there.
After enjoying the view, we headed back to our hotel to collect our things and catch our 4 p.m. bus back to Toronto. On our way to the hotel, we passed by McGill University and took a short walk around the campus. This was my first time walking around McGill, and I must say it is a beautiful campus. I told myself if I go as far to complete my PhD one day, I would aim to do it here just so I could enjoy the campus. If you have the time, and are close to the campus, take a walk around.
Tips about Montreal
My 3 main tips for Montreal:
1. If you want to go on a budget, and not spend too much money, plan ahead. Look for affordable restaurants and lodging in advance. The Plateau has many great restaurants at affordable prices. Old Montreal is more expensive, so if you are on a budget, go somewhere else (perhaps to the close by Chinatown) for your meal.
2. French is the main language in Quebec, but you will find that almost everyone speaks English so don’t let the language barrier intimidate you (and it never should).
3. Spring time in Quebec can still be cold (at least I found that each time I visited in the spring). The summer months are much more comfortable and certainly offer many festivals such as the popular Jazz and Just for Laughs Comedy. If you do come during a colder season, plan your wardrobe accordingly.
Other Things To Do
As I mentioned before, Montreal has lots of things to offer. Depending on the time of year you go, you can also:
– attend a Montreal Canadiens Hockey Game
– visit the Olympic Stadium which has many attractions, including the Biodome (which I previously visited and would recommend for a family friendly activity)
– take a walk through the Montreal Botanical Gardens
– visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
– be a kid again at La Ronde amusement park
– test your luck at the Montreal Casino (please gamble responsibly)
– for the architect lovers, check out Habitat 67
– watch one of your favourite performers by checking Ticketmaster to see if they are playing
For more pictures of Montreal, checkout my Instagram page @drea_wanderlust.
Happy travels everyone!