Spring break in Montréal: flying solo through the city

Isa Tousignant

Isa Tousignant is a Montréal-based editor and storyteller with a curiosity that runs deeper than most. She has chatted life philosophies with celebrity chefs, gemologists, arena rockers and furries. All were transformative. 

This article was updated on January 24, 2024.

It’s spring break! Whether you’re with a gang or taking this opportunity to get away solo style, Montréal is packed with parks and trails, museums, shops to update your wardrobe at and cafés and restaurants to taste new and delicious things. You won’t lack things to do with this list of ideas to make the most of your break. 

All around Montréal

Downtown Montréal has so much to offer that it can be tempting to spend your entire holiday there. But don’t hesitate to get out and explore! Get to know another neighbourhood on a professionally guided private walking tour: there are some catered to introduce you to architecture, history, murals — even ghosts. Some, like TourBird, even offer specials specifically for spring break.

 

Art galleries, coffee and treats in Old Montréal

With art galleries like Images BoréalesHéritage and Le Chariot, plus the PHI Centre and the Marguerite-Bourgeoys historic site, you’ll find lots to do to keep you inspired.

 

 

Along the way, stop for a café-gourmandise at Le Petit DepChez Mère-Grand or Olive et Gourmando, a veritable institution in Old Montréal.

 

Antiques and restaurants along the canal

Did you know that Montréal has its own Antique District? Spring break is the perfect time to journey back in time and browse the city’s best antique shops on Notre-Dame Street, between Guy and Atwater. 
 

 

After stopping by the Atwater Market to refuel and fill up on its pantry of local produce, the return trip along the Lachine Canal is a great way to extend your visit and enjoy some quality me-time.

If you’re new to the neighbourhood, you won’t want to miss a visit to Le Richmond Italian Market and then treat yourself to a sublime dinner at the one and only Foxy.

 

Museums and shopping downtown and beyond

Discover downtown all over again. Soak up some culture at Montréal’s many world-class museums and galleries: the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, the Musée d’art contemporain and the Canadian Centre for Architecture are great places to start. Immerse your senses in a whole-body experience through the powerful visual projections and stunning sound at OASIS immersion.

Enjoy a little retail therapy at the many fabulous downtown shopping centres: Complexe DesjardinsCentre EatonPlace Montréal Trust, Place Ville Marie and Holt Renfrew Ogilvy. And to keep you going, fuel up at the many indie coffee shops in the area, including Café Myriade and Humble Lion.

 

 

End a perfect day with anything from gourmet pizza to sushi. Find the whole world of food atone of Montréal’s gourmet food courts, or take your pick from these great restaurants.

 

Fresh air and fun in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve

Nature is never far away in the very urban Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood. Get outside for some fresh air at the Botanical Garden, which offers free entry in winter. You can even enjoy a little cross-country skiing throughout the gardens. 

 

 

Just next door, Parc Maisonneuve has a skating rink as well as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails to get you all rosy-cheeked before that well-deserved hot chocolate, coffee or chai tea. Third-wave coffee lovers head for Hélico Café or the Club Social Wolfgang arts café — if you don’t know it, you really have to check it out. Canard Café is also there to warm you up with the hot drink of your choice. For a more substantial meal, head to the État-Major or its little sister, Heirloom pizzeria.

 

Food and shopping in the Plateau, Mile-End and Outremont

Why not start your day by tasting some of the city’s most iconic dishes? Start your gourmet journey at Schwartz’s to bite into Canada’s best-known smoked meat sandwich. Then, walk north along The Main (another name for St. Lawrence Boulevard) to Fairmount Avenue (stopping, of course, at Boulangerie Guillaume for a pastry) and get a piping hot bagel at Fairmount Bagel.

 

If you want to walk off some of those calories, walk on to Saint-Viateur Street to taste their famous bagels (St-Viateur Bagel) and decide which one between the two renowned bakeries is your fave. (Tough choice). If you still have room, grab a slice of pizza at Toni or taste one of the best falafel sandwiches in town at Yoni. Before you head home, get a coffee to go at the local favourite Olimpico café, and (why not?), a donut at Bernie Beigne.

 

If you’re more of an arts-culture-shopping type, download Festival Mural’s interactive map and create your own self-guided tour of local street art. Stroll along Mont-Royal Avenue for a few cool finds, then keep walking to browse many boutiques on Laurier Avenue West.

 

Tasty stops in Little Italy and Villeray

Jean-Talon Market is always a great place to start. You’ll find everything you can think of, from fruits and vegetables to third-wave coffee spots — but save some room to discover the tasty gems all along the little streets nearby. Stop by the Alati Caserta pastry shop for fresh cannoli and San Gennaro for a real Roman pizza. 

 

Before heading into Villeray, make a little detour to the famous Quincaillerie Dante before diving into 100% local products at Arloca. Chocolate lovers will be in heaven at État de choc fine chocolate makers — the perfect boost to whet your appetite for the sublime panzerotti and salads at Knuckles. If you want to stock up on fresh bread and pastries, La Boulangerie Jarry is an absolute must. For a little something to warm your heart and comfort your soul, take home a delicious meal from La Belle Tonki.

 

Fresh air activities in Parc Jean-Drapeau

Always well maintained, the 25 km of hiking trails in Parc Jean-Drapeau (a vast island park just a quick metro ride from central Montréal) offer city dwellers lots of ways to enjoy an invigorating day of winter exercise. 

If you’re craving a little speed, dust off that crazy carpet and slide for free on the natural slope near Espace 67. Lace up your skates and glide along the 500 m Skaters’ Trail or wax up your skis for some cross-country skiing on the beginner train on Île Sainte-Hélène or the intermediate trail on Île Notre-Dame.

 The fat bike craze is alive and well at Parc Jean-Drapeau, where it’s a great place to ride on trails designed and maintained especially with them in mind. 

Whatever adventure you choose, enjoy your spring break in style!

Isa Tousignant

Isa Tousignant is a Montréal-based editor and storyteller with a curiosity that runs deeper than most. She has chatted life philosophies with celebrity chefs, gemologists, arena rockers and furries. All were transformative. 

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