Montréal musts for a perfect long weekend

The city
  • The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
  • Mural Mémé la Main - Mural by Projet Tyxna - Produced by Festival MURAL 2023
Daniel Baylis

Daniel Baylis

Montréal is a city known for its rich cultural tapestry, historic charm, and culinary delights. Travellers keep coming back because of the local innovative spirit and culture of acceptance. In short: you can be who you want to be in Montréal (while eating great food). 

With this three-day itinerary, you’ll embark upon an exploratory journey to see the best of Montréal's history, cuisine, vibrant neighborhoods—and so much more.

Let’s go. 

Place d'Armes

Day 1: Enchanting Old Montréal

No visit to Montréal is complete without exploring Old Montréal and the Old Port, the city’s postcard-pretty historic districts.

Morning

Start your day by exploring the cobblestone streets of Old Montréal. Begin at Place Jacques-Cartier, a bustling square with street performers and cafes. Admire the iconic Notre-Dame Basilica, a masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture. Satiate your caffeine craving with a coffee at Crew Café, a former bank renovated into one of Montréal’s most beautiful cafes. Take a stroll to the Old Port, where you can enjoy waterfront views and perhaps embark on a boat tour of the St. Lawrence River.

Then head to the historic Bonsecours Market for a taste of local art and crafts. Recognized as one of the ten most beautiful heritage buildings in Canada, the old marketplace showcases Québec artists, designers, and artisans. Enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of the charming bistros in the area, savoring French-Canadian dishes. Here are some beloved restaurants in Old Montréal that are great for lunch or dinner!

Les Forges de Montréal - Heritage Space - Traditional Blacksmithing

Afternoon

Next choose history or science (or both if you’re ambitious). Pointe-à-Callière Archaeology and History Complex marks the spot where Montréal was founded in 1642 and houses a plethora of artefacts from the city’s early history. The museum also offers a rare opportunity to head underground to explore the foundational roots via the Memory Collector, a cutting-edge visual and sound experience in the neighbourhood’s old river-routing sewer system.

Alternatively, head to the Montréal Science Centre. Along with impressive exhibitions and educational activities, you can catch at 3D film presented at the centre’s IMAX theatre. The information is presented in a way that’s accessible for all, using interactive devices in an innovative environment, both educational and entertaining. Ideal for the whole family. 

You can also follow your journey to an fun activity with Les Forges de Montréal, a venue featuring exhibitions, workshop tours, demonstrations and training in traditional blacksmithing.

La Grande Roue de Montréal

Evening

Now it’s time to go up!-up!-up! atop La Grande Roue de Montréal for the sunset and stellar views of Old Montréal’s angled rooftops and the St. Lawrence River. With temperature-controlled cars perfect for small groups or a romantic moment, La Grande Roue’s calming vistas make for a picturesque rest after a bustling day.

The Ring at the Esplanade Place Ville Marie

Day 2: Dynamic Downtown

Montréal’s lively, walkable downtown core has something for everyone, from to foodies to business executives, from architecture buffs to shopaholics. 

Morning

Start the day at The Ring, Montréal’s iconic circular sculpture located at the Esplanade Place Ville Marie. This is the perfect location for Instagram photos. Then head to Sainte-Catherine Street to understand (and relish in) the city’s main commercial strip. The street is home to major department stores, an array of boutiques, restaurants, and several major shopping centres like Place Ville Marie, Complexe Desjardins, Place Montréal Trust and the Centre Eaton, all with food courts and rest areas. When it’s time for lunch, visit one of downtown’s many incredible food halls

Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal

Afternoon

Ready to get creative? Montréal is a hub of creativity. As one of the most important institutions in North America, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is the premier stop for any art aficionado. For a more modern approach, visit Canada’s leading museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC). History buffs can travel back through time at the McCord Stewart Museum, which features the history and diversity of the communities that make up Montréal’s fascinating past. Or simply wander through Quartier des spectacles (the city’s cultural district), where a rotating roster of festivals and installations provide iconic Montréal moments. 

Kondiaronk belvedere - Mount Royal Chalet - Downtown Montreal

Evening

Before the sun sets, ascend Mount Royal for panoramic views of the city skyline. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (the same landscape architect who crafted New York’s Central Park), the “mountain” park at the heart of the city is the city’s most iconic landmark—and the most popular place to snap a Montréal selfie. Reach the viewpoint at the top of Mount Royal Park by walking up the stairs, with a guided tour, or via taxi. In the chalet at the summit, visitors will find washrooms and a small canteen for refreshments. 

If you feel like heading out to enjoy some live music, catch a game with other fans or trip the light fantastic on the dance floor, Montréal’s nightlife options have something for everyone.

Jean-Talon Market (photo: "Marché Jean-Talon")

Day 3: Living la vida local

While much of Montréal’s appeal comes from the quaint cobblestone streets of the old city, to fully understand the city’s charm a visitor needs to wander through neighbourhoods. 

Morning

Begin the day at the Jean-Talon Market, a food lover's paradise in the Little Italy neighborhood. Explore the stalls brimming with fresh produce, local cheeses, and artisanal goods. Enjoy a light breakfast of crepes or croissants at one of the market's cafes or bakeries. To dig deeper into the significance of the market, consider arranging a market tour with one of Montréal’s many scrumptious food tours! 

Mural Festival 2022, Mural by Hatecopy Maria Qamar, 2022

Afternoon

After the market, head southward to spend the afternoon in Mile End and the Plateau neighbourhoods. One of the most popular activities is to go mural hunting along “The Main” (Saint-Laurent Boulevard). The city’s urban art festival MURAL has turned the city into a veritable open-air art gallery year-round. If the weather is not favourable, pop into the shops along the boulevard or grab a coffee at one of the many independent cafes in the neighbourhood. You’ll also find options for bagels and smoked meat—considered iconic local foods—along Saint Laurent Boulevard. Finish by arriving back downtown to visit MEM, a museum about the identities and stories that define Montréal.

Chinatown

Evening

End your three-day adventure with dinner in Chinatown, a bustling neighbourhood with fantastic food options. Montréal’s Chinatown was established in the early 1890s and has survived expropriation and redevelopment. From dim sum to dumplings to wine bars, you’ll find plenty of options to refuel. When it’s time to eat, here are some local Chinatown favourites.  

Further resources!

Want to save money on attractions? Pick up a Passeport MTL.

Want to prioritize sustainability? Check out our favourite eco-friendly spots and activities.

Brunch is a religion in this town. Here are some brunch options. 

We publish a weekly list of weekend recommendations. See it here!

Like gourmet restaurants? We’ve made a list for you.

Daniel Baylis

Daniel Baylis

Daniel Baylis is a writer, poet, and musician. Several years ago he moved to Montréal to chase silly bohemian dreams. And he’s still at it. 

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