Ideas for solo travel in Montréal
Travelling solo can be a wonderful way to experience a city—you get to do what you want, when you want. In Montréal, the many festivals throughout the year provide a perfect backdrop for mingling or simply sitting back to watch the crowds. The various markets are ideal for strolling. For the more ambitious, a BIXI (public bike share network) enables visitors to easily discover the many green spaces across the city.
No matter what age, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation, Montréal is a safe destination for solo travellers. If you want anonymity, Montréal gives plenty of space. If you want company, the locals have plenty to say. Really, all you have to do is show up.
When solo sojourning in Montréal, here are some ideal places to tick off the list.
In Old Montréal, the former-bank-turned-coworking-space Crew Collective & Café is an ideal place to sit and sip a latte, especially on a rainy day. At the heart of Mile End, Café Olimpico has a spacious patio where socializing is the standard, and a sister location at the Hôtel William Gray. You’ll find plenty of chatterboxes at old-school coffeeshop Café Italia, in the heart of Little Italy. Dispatch offers tasting monthly events, which is a method to learn about coffee and mingle with other people.
Sometimes a museum is best visited alone. Without others, visitors can truly immerse themselves in an exhibition or installation. As one of the most important institutions in North America, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (think painting, sculpture, graphic art, photography and decorative art) is the premier stop for any art aficionado. For more modern tastes, visit Canada’s leading museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art: the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. For archaeology and history, check out Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex. The McCord Museum holds collections of costumes, decorative art, aboriginal objects, paintings and prints. Finally, the Phi Centre showcases art in all its glorious forms—check out the event schedule for a listing of live performances.
One of the best ways to savour the city is to visit one of the local public markets. With a wide range of regional products from across Québec, Jean-Talon Market—located in the heart of Little Italy—is the largest and most culturally diverse market in Montréal. For a smaller yet equally delicious option, the art deco-style Atwater Market offers an array of specialty products and delicatessen treats. (Plus, it’s located in the picturesque Quartiers du canal.)
A guided tour takes the guesswork out of navigating a city. Spade & Palacio offer a walking food tour that focuses on less-visited neighbourhoods of the city, perfect for the young and young at heart. For an architectural slant, opt for the cycle excursions by Montréal On Wheels. The fat bike tours of Mount Royal—led by Fitz & Folwell—introduce participants to the magic of the city during wintertime. Try Local Montréal Food Tours for tasty gourmet tours through the Mile End and Old Montréal districts. Finally, Guidatour offers personal tours available in 21 languages! (Discover even more food tour options…)
Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (the same landscape architect who crafted New York’s Central Park), the “mountain” park at the heart of the city is Montréal’s most iconic landmark — and the most popular place to snap a selfie. Ranked among the most beautiful urban circuits in the world, the Lachine Canal is a stunning linear park, ideal for cycling. In the heart of the Plateau neighborhood, Parc Lafontaine is the type of place to sit on a blanket and observe locals in their natural environment. If you’re really ambitious, here are a dozen other green spaces in Montréal.
From haute couture to vintage duds to home décor, Montréal offers unlimited options for shopping. For years, Saint-Paul Street was the city’s main street and many of the renovated 19th century buildings serve as designer shops, art galleries and artist studios. At Complexe Desjardins, you’ll find a store dedicated entirely to local crafts, L’Art des artisans du Québec, full of woodwork, blown glass and amazing finery. From there, you can connect to the malls in the underground network. For more mainstream shopping, Sainte-Catherine Street West (and its various shopping malls) offers the perfect place for retail rehabilitation.
One of the best options for dining alone is to find restaurants where you can eat at the bar. Local favourites such as Maison Publique, Pizzeria Magpie, Restaurant Leméac, and Nora Gray all offer bar seating. If you’re willing to roll up your sleeves, take a cooking class from Ateliers et Saveurs or the Chocolate Academy. You’ll make food and friends.
When it’s time to mingle, Montréal cocktail bars offer picture-perfect backdrops. Join the handsome crowd in Old Montréal at Mimi la nuit, where the short cocktail menu hits all the bases. On ‘The Main’ (Saint-Laurent Boulevard), Big in Japan may be hard to find (the door is unmarked!), but once you’re in you’ll feel instantly at home. Dominion Square Tavern is a restored 1920s pub with fantastic British food and house cocktails that straddle the line of old school and newfangled. Le Mal Nécessaire, in Chinatown, offers a Tiki-inspired menu and a friendly (and hipster) crowd.
Daniel Baylis, blogger
Daniel Baylis is a writer and adventurer. Born in British Columbia, Daniel came to Montréal with the kooky bohemian notion that he would write poetry, learn to speak French and fall in love. Having achieved various levels of success in said domains, he now focuses his energy on a new hobby: artisanal pickling.
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