Montreal is a stunning Canadian city, located in the French province of Quebec. The beauty of Montreal lies in its cobblestone streets, old port, and the beautiful French remnants. Old Montreal is the oldest part of the city. It has a historical square which is surrounded by the famous basilica, the old port and stunning colorful lanes. We created this ideal one day in Montreal Itinerary and travel guide for you to plan your day. We have captured the best of the city’s old town charm, the downtown area, shops and more so that you can the best of Montreal in a day.
One Day in Montreal Itinerary – Visit Montreal in a day
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Montreal is one of the oldest cities to be incorporated in Canada (1604). The name “Montreal” is derived from the hill located in the city, called Mount Royal (or Mont Real). Most of Canada’s recent political history can be traced to Montreal and Quebec, so definitely visiting the museums or the city hall should be on your list. If you are short on time, you can head to the old Montreal part of the city, to re-live some of the French heritage and history.
Only in Montreal for half a day? Book this afternoon tour of Montreal (5 hour) and make the most of your visit.
Beautiful Heritage. Just beautiful heritage, so French and so elegant.
We started our exploration of Montreal with the older part of the city. Yes, Old Montreal it is.
Start the day at Old Montreal or Vieux Montreal
We arrived in Montreal via Air Canada in the early hours. We took a cab ride to Old Montreal to start exploring the city. The cab fare costs us $30 CAD and we reached Notre Dame Basilica in about 20 minutes. There is metro service available to the Basilica from the airport as well. The closest metro station to all sightseeing spots in Old Montreal is Place d’Armes station.
The beautiful French quarters, the cobblestone lanes and the iconic Notre-Dame Basilica are all located in Old Montreal. This part of the city dates back to the 17th century. In here, you will discover the old port of Montreal located along the Saint Lawrence River, the Montreal Science Centre and the historic Clock Tower.
Visit the iconic Notre Dame Basilica
Notre Dame Basilica is one of the popular Canadian landmarks and also a National Historic Site of Canada . The Basilica is dedicated to Mother Mary. The Basilica’s Gothic architecture is one of the splendid sights in the world. The structure is constructed of stone and the interior is decorated with golden stars and deep blue colored ceilings. It is filled with hundreds of intricate wooden carvings and religious statues.
The interiors of the church are stunning with stained glass windows.
The Notre Dame Basilica is open for masses. There is an entry fee for visitors, which is $8.00 CAD. The basilica conducts a light and sound show called the “Aura”. The show is 45 minutes long and it highlights the Basilica’s heritage. It is offered in the evenings, from Tuesday through Saturday (6:00 pm and 8:00 pm) and Sundays (7:00 pm and 9:00 pm). Tickets are priced at $24.50 CAD for adults ($22.20 CAD for seniors and $14.80 CAD for children and young adults).
Location: Old Montreal – 110 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal
Price: For mass – free, Without mass – $8 CAD, Light show – $15 – 25 CAD
Place d’ Armes – Site of Montreal’s founder
Right opposite to the Notre Dame Basilica is Place d’Armes. In the centre of Place d’Armes, lies a monument in memory of Paul de Chomedey, the founder of Montreal. This monument is called Maisonneuve Monument. Its commemorates Chomedey’s defense of the young French settlement against the Iroquois. (The Iroquois or Haudenosaunee are a historically powerful and important northeast Native American confederacy).
Place d’ Armes square is surrounded by other buildings of importance as well like the Saint-Sulpice Seminary (built in 1657), the monument of George III (built in 1773), New York Life Building (built in 1887), Montreal’s first high-rise; the Bank of Montreal head office (built 1859), Canada’s first bank; the Art Deco Aldred Building (built in 1931) and the International style 500 Place D’Armes (built in 1968)
Location: Old Montreal
Admire the Montreal City Hall
Montreal City Hall is located in Old Montreal. It is a five-storey city hall, which is the seat of local government in Montreal. Montréal City Hall has a long history – from the stunning architecture, to the fire survival signs to the French President General de Gaulle’s famous slogan “Vive le Québec libre!” (Long live free Québec) in 1967, the Montreal City is an iconic landmark and a testimony to the changing landscape and formation of Montreal today.
You can either admire the building from outside or take a guided tour with a walking tour of Old Montreal.
Location: Old Montreal – 275 Notre-Dame St. East, Montreal
Price: Free for touring the City Hall
Learn about Montreal’s History – Pointe-à-Callière Museum
Pointe-à-Callière Museum is a museum of archaeology and history in Old Montreal, Quebec, Canada. You can visit this museum to learn about the city’s past. This museum was founded in 1992 as part of celebrations to mark Montreal’s 350th birthday.
Location: 350 Place Royale, Montreal
Price: $8 – 22 CAD
Explore Old Port Montreal
The Old Port of Montreal (or Vieux-Port de Montréal) is the historic port of Montreal, Canada. It stretches for over two kilometres along the St-Lawrence River in Old Montreal. French fur traders have used this port as a trading post as early as 1611. In 2005, the Old Port of Montreal changed its name to The Quays of the Old Port of Montreal.
Currently, Old Port Montreal or Vieux Port de Montreal attracts millions of visitors each year. Activities like water adventures, spa, shopping, walking tours, boating, photo-shoot are common in the Old Port area.
We loved walking in these areas ~ old French architecture, stories of by-gone days and beauty all around.
This picture below was taken from Old Port. Its called the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel (Our Lady of Good Help). It is one of the oldest churches in Montreal, built in 1771 over the ruins of an earlier chapel.
Location: Old Port Montreal
Price: Free to access
Wander through Saint-Paul Street (Rue Saint Paul)
For years, Saint-Paul Street was Montréal’s main street. Its a beautiful street with many 19th century warehouses recently renovated to serve as boutiques, artists’ studios, homes. The street is lined with flags and French art and architectural buildings. This street (rue saint Paul) is paved with cobblestone all along.
You will also find souvenir stores and tons of restaurants at the Rue Sainte Paul, Old Montreal.
Location: Old Montreal
Located about 25 minutes from Old Montreal is Downtown Montreal. We walked through old lanes and reached Downtown in 25 minutes. (Its a 12 minute cab ride, if you do not wish to walk)
Just like any other major Canadian city, downtown Montreal had high rise buildings, manicured lanes, shopping centers, some churches and some monuments.
Montreal Olympic Park and Olympic House in Downtown
Montreal was home to Summer Olympics in 1976. There is an entire street that is built to commemorate the Olympics.
The Olympic Park was built to host the 1976 Summer Olympics. Today you can visit the Olympics Stadium and admire Montreal’s city-scape from the park’s inclined tower. The inclined tower is one of the highest in the world.
The Olympic Park grounds today are more of a recreational and tourist attraction with sports and entertainment shows, offered to its visitors.
Here is a picture of us by the Olympic House in Downtown, commemorating its Olympic heritage. You can see the sky-rise buildings too (like the Bean or the Cloud Gate in Chicago 🙂 )
Location: Downtown Montreal
Go Shopping at Complexe Desjardins
Shopping complex, Complexe Desjardins, is located in Downtown Montreal. This picture is of the shopping mall from inside the building. The day we visited Montreal, Jazz festival – Rio Tinto was going on.
We had an amazing lunch – beer and poutine at Rotisserie St-Hubert. Its located near Complexe Desjardins.
Location: 150 Saint-Catherine St W, Montreal
Price: Free to access
Hike Mount Royal
Mount Royal is a hill located in the city of Montreal. Mount Royal was once a volcanic mountain, which is now dormant. The city of Montreal’s name is derived from this hill, ‘mont real’ or ‘mount royal’.
It takes about 9 minutes to reach Mont Royal from Downtown Montreal by car (or a 45 minute walk). Mont Real is located to the west side of Downtown.
The location and the history of Montreal dates back to 1535, when the first European Jacques Cartier arrived in Mont Real, guided by the people of the village of Hochelaga. He named the hill in honour of his patron, Francis I of France and called this mountain Mount Royal. It is also believed that Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve made a pilgrimage to the top of the mountain in the 17th century. His statue is located in Place D Armes (in Old Montreal).
There are tons of activities to indulge in, at the Mount Royal Park. You can hike up the hill, it takes about 45 minutes to reach the summit (or look out) and from there you can see breathtaking views of Montreal. There is a staircase of 550 steps to reach the top (one way).
If you have additional time on your hand, you can bike around, picnic or just soak the sun and enjoy.
Location: Mont Royal Lookout – 1576 Voie Camillien-Houde, Montréal
We kept this item on the list for the evening, as you can see the beautiful city lights before you head for dinner.
Multi cuisine Dining Options by Mont Royal
There are quite a few dining options near Mont Royal. Depending on your budget, we have included a few options here (more options for Food in Montreal below – under the Travel Tips section)
- Maison Boulud ($$$) – French restaurant, located in posh Ritz Carlton.
- Lola Rosa Café ($$) – Home style restaurant, vegetarian options only
- Le Filet ($$$) – Seafood restaurant
- Ma Poule Mouillée ($) – Budget and casual style restaurant, offering Portuguese food
Other Montreal Trip Ideas
Here are some more sightseeing trip ideas and additional things to do in Montreal Itinerary.
- The Biosphere Environmental Museum – The Biosphere is an environment museum,located at Parc Jean-Drapeau, on Saint Helen’s Island. This site is the former pavilion of the United States for the 1967 World Fair (Expo 67 in Montreal). The museum’s geodesic dome is a stunning piece of architecture. The museum is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm everyday. There is an entry fee of $15 CAD for an adult access. The museum is great for environment related educational tour.
- Montreal Botanical Garden (Jardin botanique de Montréal) – Montreal Botanical Garden is a large botanical garden in Montreal. The entire area comprises of 75 hectares of thematic gardens and greenhouses. In the gardens, there are a diverse array of plants on display. Get entrance tickets to the Montreal Botanical Gardens
- Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is an art museum in Montreal. It is the city’s largest museum. It is located on the historic Golden Square Mile stretch of Sherbrooke Street. The museum is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (Wednesdays – open till 09:00 pm). Entry fee ranges from $10-12 CAD. Book your Montreal Museum of Arts tour/exhibition show
- Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal – Saint Joseph’s Oratory is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and national shrine, located on Mount Royal’s West Summit. It is Canada’s largest church.
Take Day Trips from Montreal to nearby cities
If you are extending your stay in Montreal, venture outside the city to explore more of Canada. Here are some day trips from Montreal options for you
- Quebec City – One of the oldest European settlements in Canada, is the capital of Quebec – Quebec City. Everything here looks and feels European. It is an ideal day trip from Montreal as it is located only an hour away and is filled with history and the legislative buildings.
- Ottawa – Located very close to Montreal is also the capital city of Canada – Ottawa. You can easily explore the capital city’s highlights in a day and then return back to Montreal by evening. There are tours and trains, buses to take you to Ottawa from Montreal. Some of the key sightseeing spots include the Parliament hill, Rideau Canal, etc.
- Mont Tremblant – And into the mountains we go – Mont Tremblant is perfect for a quick day trip outside the city and into the lap of nature. It takes 1.50 hour to reach Mont Tremblant, one way. You can hike or enjoy the day at a mountain resort. During winters, ski and snow activities are very common here.
- The Laurentians – The Laurentians will transport you to the Swiss Alps in the blink of an eye. Stunning mountain ranges, resort town vibes and tons of outdoor activities to keep you busy for a day trip, head to the Laurentians.
- Eastern Townships – Located only about 2 hours away from Montreal, is the land of Eastern Townships. Almost in a world of its own, with beautiful buildings (and architecture), greenery and activities, Eastern Townships is an off beat day trip option from Montreal. You can go golfing, wine tasting, food tours, slow travel, and relaxation.
Travel Tips for Montreal
Here are some useful travel tips to prepare for your trip to Montreal Canada
Getting to Montreal
Montreal is very well connected to all the major cities of the world. The city is served by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, which is very well-connected to all the major destinations. Air Canada headquarters are in Montreal.
Montreal is easily accessible via road and railways. It is very affordable and convenient to travel to Montreal from other major cities of Canada or North America in general. It is roughly 5.50 hours to reach Montreal from Toronto, Ottawa is 2.50 hours away or Quebec city (2.75 hours) or even from the United States.
Travel Documents for Montreal Canada
Travelers with a US/EU passport are eligible to come to Canada, without a tourist visa. They are, however, required to get a travel authorization prior to landing or arriving in Canada. Travel authorization or the eTA, as it’s called, can be applied online. It takes only a few minutes and you will receive the document via email. Please apply for the travel authorization before arriving in Canada.
For visitors requiring a tourist visa, you will have to apply for a visa before arriving in Canada (not a visa on arrival). It is usually applied in your country of residence, with proof of funds and travel plans (or itinerary, hotel reservations to be shown) submitted with your application. Processing times vary by country.
Travel Medical Insurance for Montreal
Tourist visa applications and travelers to Canada must have travel medical insurance.
Currency in Montreal Canada
Canadian Dollars (CAD) are the mode of exchange in Montreal, Canada. Credit cards are widely used as well. Debit or ABM machines can be easily found in the city to withdraw cash.
Language – Montreal speaks French
Canada is a bilingual nation and this is quite prominent in the province of Quebec. Most street or road signs will be in French. This is true for café and restaurant menus as well. So it will be nice to brush up on some French terms.
- Hello – Bonjour
- Yes/No – Oui/Non/Si
- Excuse me – Excusez-moi
- Thank you – merci beaucoup
- Welcome – Bienvenue
- You are welcome – Je vous en prie
- Good bye – Au revior
- Do you speak English? – Parlez-vous anglais?
We didn’t face any difficulty in navigating the city, without French language, as most people were able to help us with broken English.
Where to stay in Montreal Canada?
We highly recommend staying in a central location for your 1-2 days in Montreal Itinerary. Consider staying in Downtown Montreal or in Old Montreal. These areas are close to most of the sightseeing spots, shopping and restaurants.
- SpringHill Suites by Marriott (Old Montreal) – Located in a central location
- A 4 star hotel, close to sightseeing areas in Old Montreal
- Good hospitality and friendly staff
- Free breakfast. Has an indoor pool
- Book your stay here – SpringHill Suites by Marriott
- LHotel Montreal (Old Montreal) – Central Location
- 3 star boutique hotel
- Great location, access to sightseeing spots
- Book your stay here – LHotel Montreal
- Courtyard by Marriott Montreal Downtown (Downtown Montreal) – A mid budget hotel option in Montreal
- A 3 star hotel in Downtown Montreal
- Convenient location
- Free parking in Downtown Montreal
- Book your stay here – Courtyard by Marriott Montreal Downtown
We recommend using HotelsCombined.com to find accommodation. It is our favorite hotels website for quickly comparing the prices of multiple hotel booking sites at once.
What to eat in Montreal? Best Montreal food to try
Montreal is a gastronomic heaven. There are TONS of dishes and food to try in Montreal. Take a food tour to experience what Montreal has to offer. Here are some of Montreal’s finest foods to relish.
- Bagels – Yes! You can try bagels and eat them at breakfast, lunch, brunch, snack or dinner. Montreal bagel is a unique style of handmade and wood-fired baked bagel made with malt, eggs, and honey. Try them at St-Viateur Bagel Shop (they are open 24 hour and is a popular bagel shop in Montreal). Find more about them here
- Poutine – Poutine is a dish made of French fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy. The dish emerged Québec area and has been cuisine of the province of Quebec. And they are LOADED and DELICIOUS. Try them at Montréal poutine or Poutineville.
- Montreal Smoked Meat – Montreal smoked meat is quite popular and is prepared in a very unique way. Try that in Schwartz Deli
- Maple Syrup – Try it in a donut form at Leche Desserts, or bring some home with you for your oatmeal or waffles.
- Sea food – Try sea food especially oysters at La Boite Aux Huîtres
- Multi cuisine Best – Montreal is also a melting pot of multi-cuisine dishes.
- Try rotisserie chicken at Roitsserie Romados (Portuguese)
- Pork Buns at Satay Brothers (Oriental)
- Pho or other Vietnamese food at Pho Bac 97 (Vietnamese)
Best time to visit Montreal
Montreal experiences all types of weather. Here is a quick snapshot of seasons in Montreal
- December to March – Winter months. Temperature can drop to -15 or so in winters. Montreal receives snow in winter.
- April to August – Summer and warmer months. Early April you might see floods in the city as snow is slowly melting. But May to August are prime tourist season as the weather is warm and nice for strolls and city exploration.
- September to November – We always recommend visiting in the shoulder season (or off season). The weather during this time is mild, it could get chilly in the evenings, it is not a bad time to explore the city. During this time, hotel vacancies are common so you can score a good hotel and a flight deal to Montreal.
Christmas in Montreal
Christmas are a magical time in Canada in general. So you will LOVE Montreal for the Christmas season. Montreal gets snow in December, so you experience a WHITE snowy Christmas. There are tons of activities in Montreal during Christmas
- There are Christmas or Santa Parade across the city
- Snow activities like ice skating (at Old Montreal or Olympic Stadium), snowshoeing through Jean-Drapeau or hike at the Mont Royal
- Watch Christmas Lights in Downtown Montreal and the City Hall
- Christmas Fireworks at Montreal Old Port
- Seasonal Shopping at the Montreal Underground City – It is a pedestrian network right under the heart of the city links metro stations to shopping plazas for over 32 kilometres. You can take a stroll and shop underground, away from the freezing snow.
- Experience Diners across the city, especially with seasonal Christmas menus.
Hope you found this post on Montreal Itinerary and travel guide useful. It is one of the beautiful cities in Canada and definite MUST visit in your trip to North America.
Additional Montreal and Canada Resources
- Winter Packing Guide – Canada
- Get the most Instagram-worthy spots in Montreal
- Travel Guide to Calgary Canada
- Travel Itinerary and Guide to Vancouver Canada
- Guide to Banff National Park Canada
- See winter and Christmas activities in Banff
Last Update: January 03 2020
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.