Languages: French, English
Visa: Not required for U.S. and U.K. nationals
How to reach: Via flights from Heathrow, New York and Canadian cities; train (11 hrs) from New York; scenic drive (7 hrs) from New York and other connecting cities
With Montreal’s 375th birthday taking place on June 25, 2017, Montreal is decked out in full regalia. From the unique Jacques Cartier Bridge illumination to hundreds of programming lined up, Montreal is the place to be now. It is summer time, when visitors flock to this city as outdoor activities and weather are at an all-time high. Al fresco cafes and markets, street festivals and the popular Montreal Jazz Festival, Montreal is choc-a-bloc with summer attractions. Fall can be another great time to visit if you like to observe the fall colours in glory. Just as the winter months are great for cross-country skiing and tobogganing.
Montreal sits in the midst of the St. Lawrence River, on a 15×40 km island. Designated as a UNESCO City of Design in 2006, Montreal defies expectations. This culturally diverse global city combines the best of a cutting-edge avant-garde architecture with the charm of a small historic place. American swag blends with Parisian chic. Good food, open skies and friendly people, Montreal wows you for a quick weekend getaway.
These are our suggestions on how to pack the best things of the city in 1 day in Montreal.
1. Take a walk
Walking is the best way to absorb the unique ambience of Montreal neighbourhoods. While the Plateau is the hip part of Montreal, Griffintown is more historical and artistry. Little Italy is great for a guided walking tour to get a glimpse into its fascinating past. The Old Town with its narrow cobblestone streets has its own appeal.
Have fun exploring the city on foot. Stroll through old alleys lined up with cafes and art galleries, Explore the myriad food and shopping choices with a quintessentially French slant of Quebec and a local Canadian flavour.
Walk through the parkland at the bottom of Mount Royal, designed by none other than Frederick Law Olmsted, the creator of New York City’s Central Park. A short distance away is the Old Port area, with its own Clock Tower Beach. At 45m high, the century-old Clock Tower marks the entrance to the port with spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River and the city. Climb the 192 steps of the Tower or stroll on the beach. The park along Promenade du Vieux-Port makes for a great stroll with river views, warehouses and ships vying for interest.
2. Suss out the view
Take a hike to Mont Royal, the highest point in the city about 232m high. Alternatively you can take a shuttle bus. Check out the views of the sacred dome of St Joseph’s, with skyscrapers and old turrets in the backdrop of the St Lawrence River. See the most iconic landmark, Cross of Montreal, illuminated at night. The popular lookouts about half an hour apart are the Kondiaronk lookout and the Belvedere Camillien-Houde.
3. Find a Bike
Montreal is a great bike-friendly city with more than 310 miles of dedicated bike lane network across the city. There are about 400 Bixi stations with gray-and-red Bixi bikes. Download an iPhone app. Swipe your card and book your bike at 5 Canadian dollars. Gain easy access to any of the Montreal neighbourhoods on a Bixi bike. Hit a cultural spot. Pedal along the Lachine Canal, or check out architectural marvels like Habitat 67. Make your way up the leafy Mont Royal hill, or cycle through the green parks along the many bicycle trails.
4. Take a ride
Montreal has its own quaint horse-drawn carriage called caleche. You can take a touristy ride in a caleche before opting for the excellent bus and subway system that serves the city. Trains can be accessed in the underground station adjacent to Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel.
Buy a bus travelcard at 8 Canadian dollars. Take a bus at Vieux Montréal. Visit the Old Town and the historic Basilique Notre-Dame. Move up north to Rue St Laurent. Take an hour’s ride up north to the Laurentian Mountains and St-Jerome. Make the most of the terrific venue for hiking amidst lakes and quaint villages in summer, which becomes equally beautiful for skiing in the winter.
5. Have a grab on-the-go
Every neighbourhood in Montreal has its own bakery, patisserie, coffee bar or bistro. Grab a bite or have a brunch on-the-go. Do not miss the beef sandwich at the Dunns or the smoked meat and brisket sandwiches at the Schwartz’s. Opt for a Canadian menu at La Banquise and drinks at the Dieu du Ciel microbrewery.. The Saint-Henri (Marche Jean Talon, Little Italy) and Atwater are the two must-do places for portable snacks and fresh juices. Sample the best of bakeries, chocolatiers and delis as you stroll or bike through the city’s neighbourhoods.
6. Visit the Historical Montreal and the Modern City of Designs
With more than 50 skyscrapers and tall buildings especially in downtown Montreal, you can idyll away hours looking up at the structures that grace the city. Carre Saint-Louis or the St. Louis Square is Montréal’s most significant address with a juxtaposition of the old and the new.
The Place d’Armes is Montreal’s iconic public square flanked by centuries of flawless architecture. The Seminary of Saint-Sulpice (1684), the Church of Notre-Dame (1823), The Bank of Montreal (1848), the National Bank Tower (1960s), Aldred Building (1931), Montreal’s first skyscraper and the 500 Place D’Armes. The Downtown area and Old Montreal are living legacies of historic and architectural interest, both old and new.
The 19th century Notre-Dame Basilica church facing the Place d’Armes square, is certainly Montreal’s hallmark. It is in the Gothic Revival style, highly decorated with intricate wood carvings and religious statues, beautiful vaults and altar. If you have time, visit the Pointe-a-Calliere for Montreal’s archaeological history, or the Chateau Ramezay Museum for Yours Truly, Montréal, the eighteen-minute multimedia Show on the early history of Montreal.
The Place Ville Marie is a must-see 47-storeyed cruciform office tower. This is also the hub of Montreal’s Underground City, a must check-out.
The Biosphere is a museum dedicated to the environment; build for the 1967 World Fair, Expo 67.
The Olympic Stadium with the world’s tallest inclined Montreal Tower at 175m is another architectural wonder that you must-see.
7. Have a cultural evening
Although Rue Ste-Catherine is the prime shopping area, Montreal also offers a vast criss-cross of underground shops in Downtown area or the indoor market at Bonsecours. These are great places for handicrafts, souvenir shops and local boutiques. Must-visits are the shops that stock Inuit arts and crafts.
The Jean-Talon market is Montreal’s largest market, with hundreds of stalls stocking fruits, vegetables, Quebec speciality snacks, maple syrups and more.
8. Music festivals
Montreal offers an eclectic choice of bands and techno music. Check out the city’s art weeklies, Hour or Mirror, to see what’s up. Although the Montreal Jazz Festival is summer’s flagship concert [June 28-July 8, 2017], street concerts are also quiet the thing at Montreal with Old Montreal being the place of action
9. Have an aperitif
Have a drink at one of the local microbrewery or beer places. Alternatively, look up a rooftop terrace for outdoor drinks. If you are a beer aficionado you will want to take one of the beer tours that showcase the intertwined histories of Montreal and its beer.
10. End the day with decadent dining
You can dine with the locals at places like the Communion or the many restaurants and diners dotting the streets of Old Montreal. Go touristy to have the finest of French fare in Brasserie T or savour a wide choice of food in restaurants like the Joe Beel and McKiernan. Montreal is a fun place to explore food choices.
Do you have any recommendations in this city? How did would you spend 1 day in Montreal? Please comment below!