24 Hours in Montreal

Places Jacques Cartier
Places Jacques Cartier

Montreal is as close to a European city as one can get without crossing the Atlantic. French is the first language of over half the population (but many also speak English), the city has a unique way of mixing old-world architecture with the new (that might not be found elsewhere in the region), and there’s cutting-edge culture, design, and dining throughout. Whether you find yourself with a layover in Montreal as you make your way over to other parts of Quebec, such as the mountain retreat of Mont Tremblant, or you make a day trip to the city, here’s how to make the most of a short time in the vibrant, Parisian-like destination.

Morning: Weekend Brunch or Sightseeing

Bonsecours Market Dome
Bonsecours Market Dome

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If you find yourself in the city during the weekend, you can start the day the Montreal way with a long brunch. Être Avec Toi (Ê.A.T) at the W Montreal can make for an exciting venue with its murals, paintings, sculptures, and installations by a variety of artists. Art styles range from street art to contemporary, and the restaurant houses a gallery space and collaborative murals. First-time visitors might instead want to spend the morning walking around the cobbled streets of Old Montreal to visit and see the different attractions such as the Old Port of Montreal, Place Jacques-Cartier, Montreal City Hall, the Bonsecours Market, Place d'Armes, Pointe-à-Callière Museum, the Notre-Dame de Montreal Basilica, and the Montreal Science Centre. 

Afternoon: Museums, Shopping, or a Mountain Escape

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

In the afternoon, stroll around the museums in downtown for some Canadian culture. The Musée des Beaux-Arts is home to traditional and classic fine art pieces, and modern, cutting-edge art can be found at the Musée d’Art Contemporain. Of course another option is to indulge in some retail therapy throughout the city. 

Full of city flair options and quirky finds, Montreal is home to everything from refined department stores to independent boutiques owned by local designers and internationally renowned ones. For fashionistas, August can be a great time to visit for the Montreal Fashion and Design Festival. In downtown, travelers can stick to Saint-Catherine Street to find all the department stores and designer shops, and in The Plateau, Saint-Laurent Boulevard (or “The Main”) has a mix of unusual and renowned shops. Another unique shopping option for the city is Underground Montreal, which is an underground pathway system that also houses several shops, restaurants, movie theaters and more -- and it connects the entire city, making it a convenient means of getting around during rough weather.

For an adventurous, picturesque late afternoon, travelers can head over to Mount Royal, the mountain in the middle of the city. While it make appear to be a big hill from the distance, it’s actually a small mountain with fantastic views of the city. In the winter, you’ll find people cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and in the summer, you can walk serene hiking trails. 

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Night: Bars Aplenty

Apollon Club in The Village
Apollon Club in The Village

Nights in Montreal are almost always bustling. While there are countless dining options, those seeking a unique environment might want to check out L'Original in Old Montreal for a chalet-chic dining experience of Québécois cuisine. Afterwards, travelers can stay in the neighborhood to explore the bars with more historic and romantic ambiances, head to the Latin Quarter for a lively and casual night out, go to The Village for LGBT nightlife offerings, or head into one of the many hotel bars in downtown before calling it a night.

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