Montreal travel tips: Where to go and what to see in 48 hours

This French-accented Canadian city sparkles in summer, with parks and river views

Travel essentials

Why go now?

Canada's second- largest city (after Toronto) may shiver in winter but it shines in summer. The warm temperatures bring al fresco life to the lively harbour and a carnival-like atmosphere that sweeps the cobbled streets of the historic quarter.

The cultural calendar is full to the brim, too. Just For Laughs (, the world's largest comedy gathering with 1,700 performers, kicks off on 9 July for two weeks, followed by the three-day Osheaga Music and Arts Festival ( on 1 August. This year's performers include the Arctic Monkeys.

Touch down

British Airways (0843 493 0787; and Air Canada (0871 220 1111; each fly once a day from Heathrow to Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport, 21km west of the city centre. Air Transat (020 7616 9187; flies once a week from Gatwick. I travelled with Travelbag (0845 543 6615;, which offers flights from Heathrow and four nights' accommodation from £839pp.

Airport bus 747 departs from outside the terminal every 15 minutes or so to Berri-Uqam station (1) on Rue Berri. The fare for the 45-60-minute journey is C$10 (£5.70), which also grants free public transport for 24 hours; or buy a 48-hour ticket for C$13 (£7). Tickets can be purchased on board or at one of the machines in the arrivals hall. A taxi to Old Montreal will cost around C$40 (£23) and takes an average of 30 minutes.

Get your bearings

Montreal, the largest city in the French-speaking province of Quebec, sits on the banks of the St Lawrence River in eastern Canada. It was founded by the French in 1642. The most historic part of the city remains the cobbled harbourside area known as Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal) to the south.

To the north-west, on the other side of the modern Downtown district and dominating the city, is Mont Royal (Mount Royal) (2), the 233m peak after which Montreal was named. The central tourist information office (3) is located at 1255 Peel Street (open 10am-6pm daily). For information in advance, call 0800 051 7055 in the UK or visit:

Check in

With a strong design focus, the Hotel St Paul (4) at 355 Rue McGill (001 514 380 2222; has 120 rooms themed around the Earth and the sky, housed in a historic building. Doubles start from C$219 (£125), room only.

Le Place d'Armes Hotel (5) at 55 St-Jacques West (001 514 842 1887; is a good choice in the heart of Vieux Montreal, located just across the road from the Notre-Dame Basilica (6). There's a spa, rooftop terrace and stylish rooms with exposed brick and leather armchairs. Doubles start from C$169 (£97), room only.

Budget travellers can go with the well-located Kutuma Hotel (7) at 3708 Rue St-Denis (001 514 844 0111; Rooms are tastefully decorated with kitchenettes. Doubles start from C$99 (£57).

montreal map

Click here to see a bigger image of the map

Day one

Take a view

Perched at the top of Mont Royal (2) is the sacred dome of St Joseph's (8) at 3800 Chemin Queen Mary (001 514 733 8211;; 6am-9.30pm; free), the highest point in the city. The view encompasses old and new – gleaming skyscrapers and old buildings with fairy-tale turrets – as well as the St Lawrence River. Pilgrims believe their prayers will be answered by climbing the 101 steps on their knees. Alternatively, there's a shuttle.

Take a hike

… back to the bottom of Mont Royal. The parkland of oak, maple, and poplar trees that clings to its slopes was designed in the 1840s by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same chap responsible for Central Park in New York. Follow the zig-zagging pathway until you emerge on to Avenue des Pins (9) and walk south along Rue Peel (10), passing a cluster of mansions built in the 1850s. Finish on the corner of Rue Sherbrooke, close to the McGill University campus (11).

Altar ego: imposing Notre-Dame Basilica Altar ego: imposing Notre-Dame Basilica Lunch on the run

Grab a booth and dine on an old-fashioned sandwich of thinly-sliced smoked beef at Dunns (12) at 1249 Metcalfe Street (001 514 395 1927;; open 24 hours). It was opened in 1927 by Myer Dunn, whose grandfather's recipes soon won quite a following. Sandwiches with fries and coleslaw cost from C$14 (£8).

Window shopping

The main shopping street is Rue Ste-Catherine (13), with its glossy stores stocked with high-end goods, but there's also retail therapy to discover in the depths beneath. A vast network of underground shops and tunnels – exceeding 32km, making it the largest of its kind in the world – covers much of the Downtown area. They can be accessed via most buildings along Rue Ste-Catherine.

Elsewhere, don't miss the indoor market of Bonsecours (14) at 350 St-Paul St East (001 514 872 7730;; 10am-9pm daily), which offers a mix of handicrafts and trendy local fashion designers boutiques. Visit Ricchi at number 220 for skillfully-crafted Inuit art made of rock from Baffin Island. Further along the street you'll find a number of reasonably priced souvenir shops.

An aperitif

There are more than 800 beers – many from local microbreweries – to choose from at Saint Bock (15) at 1749 Rue St-Denis (001 514 680 8052;; 11.30am-3am daily). The sweet Mackroken Flower, made with wildflowers and honey, is popular. Pints from C$7/£4.

Dining with the locals

Communion (16) at 351 Place Royale (001 514 937 6555;; 10am-10pm daily) is a trendy new addition to Vieux-Montreal with bare brick walls and modern fixtures. Choices include bison bresaola with pickled mustard seeds. Mains from C$12 (£7).

Soul food is on the menu at Garde Manger (17) at 408 St-François Xavier (001 514 678 5044;; 5.30pm-11pm; closed Monday), where dishes such as lobster risotto are scrawled up on blackboards. Mains from C$32 (£18).

Retail refuge: Bonsecours indoor market Retail refuge: Bonsecours indoor market Day two

Sunday morning: go to church

Take part in Sunday mass (at 8am, 9.30am or 11am) at the Notre-Dame Basilica (6) at 110 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest (001 514 842 2925;; tourist visits 12.30-4pm on Sundays, 9am-4pm other days; C$5/£2.85). The imposing structure with twin towers took shape in the 1820s upon a site previously occupied by a 17th-century chapel.

Out to brunch

The inviting smell of freshly-baked cupcakes welcomes you to Maison Christian Faure (18) at 355 Place Royal (001 514 508 6453;; 8am-7pm daily), where the pastries are almost too pretty to eat. Brunch costs C$14 (£8).

A walk in the park

Stroll along the parkland that runs the length of Promenade du Vieux-Port (19). Beyond the river views are rugged derelict warehouses and all manner of ships docked in the harbour. Pack your swimsuit and visit the Bota Spa boat (20) on the corner of McGill and De La Commune West (001 514 284 0333;; 10.30am-10pm daily; from C$35/£20). This old 1967 transport vessel has been given a new lease of life as a holistic retreat with outdoor hot tubs and massage rooms.

Cultural afternoon

Pointe-à-Callière (21) at 350 Place Royale (001 514 872 9150;; 11am-5pm except Mondays; C$20/£11) looks at Montreal's archaeological history, including the remains of the city's original 17th-century cemetery, rediscovered in 1989.

Montreal's past can also be traced at the Château Ramezay Museum (22) at 280 Notre-Dame Street (001 514 861 3709;; 10am-4.30pm except Mondays; C$10/£5.70), which examines the lives of early settlers.

Icing on the cake

End with a bagel at legendary St Viateur Café (23) at 263 Rue St-Viateur Ouest (001 514 276 8044;; open 24 hours), which started baking in 1957.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    ICE ICT: Lead Business Consultant

    £39,000: ICE ICT: Specific and detailed knowledge and experience of travel sys...

    Day In a Page

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most