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Traveler: Your Guide to Montréal

Jan 5, 2017

Traveler: Your Guide to Montréal

“Hi, bonjour, hello,” is the greeting when you walk into any spot in the faux-Euro artsy port city of MontrĂ©al. This vibrant, French-speaking city is full of open-air markets, intricate architecture, vintage shops, and every kind of art. With just a quick hop over the U.S. border, English speakers may get cold feet upon arrival, but 56 percent of the population can speak English and French. Between Mont-Royal, the walkable streets of Old Port, and the array of diverse museums, you’ll want to pack your walking shoes, then refuel with the carb-heavy signature dishes of the city.

Getting There

MontrĂ©al has an international airport named for everyone’s favorite hunk of a prime minister’s dad: Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. It’s 12 miles from downtown and a quick city bus ride into town. Multiple railway lines service MontrĂ©al, including a daily Amtrak train to and from New York City. From MontrĂ©al, you can also hop on a train for a quick trip to QuĂ©bec City or Toronto.


A variety of quality hostels, like Hi-Montreal in downtown or Auberge Saint-Paul in Old Port, range from $15-25 CAD for shared rooms to $85 CAD for private rooms. Most of them have free wi-fi, free breakfast, and an upscale European vibe, unlike many seedy American places that give hostels a bad rap. There are also plenty of Airbnb options and quaint hotels, if you’re looking to spend a little more. Check out Hotel Nelligan or W MontrĂ©al. Staying in or near downtown is a good idea, if you’re sans car.

Entrée Libre Attractions (Free Entry)

Traveler: Your Guide to Montréal

Just walking the streets of MontrĂ©al could take up a whole trip to the city. There’s also a lot to take in if you’re strapped for cash. Mont-Royal was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (Central Park, the Biltmore) and is a great people-watching spot, with lots of room to hike, bike, picnic, etc. Highlights include Beaver Lake, a chalet that overlooks downtown MontrĂ©al, and an old cemetery. It’s also home to Tam-Tams, weekly drum circles held on the lawn — a uniquely MontrĂ©al tradition.

Saint-Laurent Boulevard is peppered with murals, vintage shops, a stretch of Chinatown, clubs, and the best bagels you’ll ever eat.

Traveler: Your Guide to Montréal

Nerds will agree the MontrĂ©al Main Public Library is something special. The large, modern building is centrally located and is worth stopping by for a look. Plus, there’s an art gallery downstairs.

MontrĂ©al has some of the oldest buildings in North America, located near the port in Old MontrĂ©al. Bonsecours Market, MontrĂ©al City Hall, and Notre-Dame Basilica are among the buildings not to be missed. The 17th-century architecture borders Old Port, which is exactly what the name says — an old shipping port. Both areas are major tourist attractions, but worth the crowds. Parc La Fontaine in the Plateau also has a skating pond during the winter that is free.

Paid (and Worth It) Attractions

Getting lost in the Museum of Fine Arts is a must. Artists from Edmund Alleyn to Toulouse to Robert Mapplethorpe have recently been on display in this contemporary-leaning museum. It’s half-priced on Wednesday evenings and costs a well-worth-it $10-$14 CAD.

The Jardin Botanique is the second-largest botanical garden in the world. History buffs and plant lovers will both dig this spot, opened in 1931, featuring 10 greenhouses.


MontrĂ©al’s music scene is plentiful and diverse. Catch Hillbilly Night at the Wheel Club , the MontrĂ©al Orchestra, or an indie band at myriad venues across town. Get fancy at the Theatre Rialto, a neo-baroque dinner theatre hosting all types of music, or visit La Sala Rossa and Casa Del Popolo, sister venues located across the street from each other — the latter is where Arcade Fire got their start. PDB Ritz, Club Soda, and Divan Orange are hipster haunts for live alternative music.


Traveler: Your Guide to Montréal

Get ready to carb load. Poutine, bagels, thick sandwiches 
 MontrĂ©al’s food scene is home to some heavy-hitting dishes. Highlights include:

Patati Patata — Best burger $2.75 can buy ya, tucked in a lively neighborhood.

Chez Broussard — Because you have to have poutine.

Tommy — The coffee scene is alive and well in MontrĂ©al, boasting homemade croissants almost as good as in Paris. Almost.

Traveler: Your Guide to Montréal

Local Marches are a trademark of the city’s culture. You’re sure to run into fresh produce, if you go during the Summer or Fall. Check out Jean-Talon Marche.

Getting Around

MontrĂ©al’s public transportation is award-winning. Four lines service 68 stations across town, allowing you to get to — or within walking distance of — almost anywhere in the city via metro, or bus the SociĂ©tĂ© de transport de MontrĂ©al (STM) for $3.25 CAD/trip or $18 CAD/weekend. The city is easy to navigate, and there are plenty of ridesharing services available. They also have a network of rental bikes located throughout the city, if you’re feeling active.

Lede photo credit: szeke via Foter.com / CC BY-SA. All other photos by Josephine Wood.

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Traveler: Your Guide to Montréal
Traveler: Your Guide to Montréal