As a jet setter and adventure seeker I'm always up to searching for new experiences. Sometimes we don't realize adventure & history is only a short distance away. Take for example the city of Montreal located in the province of Quebec. I never thought of myself visiting the city before, however I found myself travelling here for an event & ship inspection. As I talked with others I find out people don't get to see many parts of their own country. Me included! I booked myself a flight to maximize my time in Montreal so I could see as much as possible in this jam-packed weekend adventure. Need a little inspiration? Here is my helpful guide on Montreal.
Interesting Facts About Montreal
- roads always seem to be under constructions
- great Metro system for taking the bus
- there's a cruise port on the St. Lawrence River
- Montreal is an island
- popular spot for music & food
Must Know Tips for Montreal
I was pleasantly surprised to say the least. People were very friendly & I didn't find a language barrier at all between French & English- speaking people like I did in France. I guess I just assumed it would be tough not speaking the French language. Of course, just spending a weekend is much different than actually living there. I do try to learn a few words for the destination I travel to. If you plan on visiting Quebec City you will definitely want to learn a little French before you go.
Best Time to Visit Montreal
Summer time if the most popular time to visit Montreal especially in July & August. You'll find the streets filled with people enjoying the outdoor patios and festivals. During this time, a few of the streets are closed to vehicles so tourists & locals call fully enjoy all the outdoor entertainment. This summer there was live music playing in a local park, a James Bond impersonator entertaining the crowd with his balloon swallowing as well as other events throughout the city.
There's no secret about me loving great food. I like almost everything including pasta, fish, and delicious pastries. Sweet tooth, you bet! Got that one from my grandmother who always had a jar full of candy when we came to visit. Obviously if you've ever heard of Montreal smoked meat this should be high on your list of must tries.
delicious crepes in maple syrup & sugar
Crepes are another delicious food that can be a meal or a dessert. I stopped at a small local café when I was lured by the crepes sign out front. I ordered the crepes with maple syrup. Very delicious I might add. The owner was very friendly as we talked about this being my first trip to Montreal.
Exploring the City
Our bus tour was guided by Stacey and energetic person filled with passion for her city. She amazed me with her passion for food & described every deli making you savor for Montreal smoked meat. This is the same passion I have when describing Costa Rica to people who have never been. It rained heavily on part of our tour so I was thankful to be in a covered bus with my camera equipment safely protected from the elements. We looked out our window to see many students soaked standing at bus stops. It didn't really seem to bother them at all.
The afternoon left us finally to explore the city on our own. I broke away from the group to enjoy the rest of the day venturing in & out of streets to find the hidden treasures of Montreal.
If you love a city with history Montreal has plenty from museums, historical churches, to many streets still lined with brick walkways & houses with balconies or wrought iron stairway then you'll love Montreal especially the Old Town.
My favorites which always draws my attention is the beautiful churches. This city certainly has many. 2 churches were so spectacular from the inside & out. Notre Dame de Bon Secours Chapel & Church Marie Reine du Monde. A tour inside Notre Dame was free unless you decided to go through the museum and up to the lookout tower which cost $5. The church inside was truly breathtaking. This church happens to be the oldest in Montreal truly amazing and well kept. Although I didn't have the time to spend in the tower I'm sure it was worth the money just for the spectacular view itself. The Church Marie Reine du Monde is located across from the newly renovated Fairmont Queen Elizabeth. This one was beautiful from every angle. Read more about this hotel here.
Along the waterway and close to the pier you'll find a welcoming park of lush green surrounding a pool of water. To the right of the pier is an adventure park for kids complete with a zip line and pirate ship.
During the summer months, some of the streets are blocked off for pedestrians leaving you to wander about the shops and restaurants. Everywhere you look is interesting architect on building, restaurants with outdoor patios, and plenty of unique shops for browsing. A festival drew a large crowd of people which I really wanted no part of simply I prefer less crowded & noisy areas. I did come across a park area where I could her James Bond music planning. Intrigued I stop and watch the impressionist or magician swallow a balloon then begin to gather members of the audience to dance with him.
In some of the main center parks you'll find entertainment set up with displays of art from local artisans as well as entertainment of music. These areas are more crowded so I tend to stay away from this. Just my personal choice.
James Bond magician entertaining the crowd
This sort of reminded me of the time I was in New York City. I was so bored shopping I went to find entertainment in the street just like this. The entertainer there was trying to fit his whole body inside a box. Amazing he actually did it. This guy swallowed the balloon and we never saw it again. Magic, you think?
I sundered my way back to my apartment however as I neared my street of St. Hubert the crepes sign caught the corner of my eye of a small local café. Stepping inside was a great decision. This small establishment was inviting and friendly. I had a great conversation with the owner about how a family member loved to visit Costa Rica which is dear to my heart, and how he visited frequently. My experience at this stop was relaxing & friendly. I had the best time while relaxing my feet and catching up on my emails.
The city of Montreal has been a great experience for me as a first-time visitor and I must say more welcoming that Paris in France. Although beautiful and iconic I found people to be a little snooty.
I looked forward to our next day of a ship inspection aboard the Holland Maasadam. Read more about our ship inspection.
If you love shopping you'll love Montreal. There is certainly lots of treasure to explore as you stroll through the streets. There's plenty of unique shops at every turn of a corner and name brands too!
- Centre Eaton de Montreal
- Promenades Cathedrale
- Complexe Desjardins
You can latterly shop til you drop. Montreal is a thriving city of fashion even dating back to the day of fur & leather trade. Look to Rue Sherbrook & RIU Crescent for antiques and upscale boutique stores. I personally love to window shop. Each store seemed to have something funky and different. If the stores on the street weren't enough can you believe there's an underground of over 1500 more down below. That's mad! Every shopaholics dream.
Getting to Montreal
It takes about an hour flight time between Toronto and Montreal. If you have a little more time (about 5 hours) there are plenty of trains available for a reasonable cost. See train schedule here or bus schedule. I certainly would have considered the train but my schedule was a little short on time. You can also drive (about 8 hours depending on how many stops & speed).
Where to Stay in Montreal
There are lots of places to stay in Montreal. We suggest booking your hotel early if you are planning to go during the busy summer months. The hotels will be fully booked late August when all the college students are going back to school with parents looking to get everybody settled in. There are plenty of hotels large & small. I stayed in the Old Montreal district spending 3 nights at the Hotel Elegance. It's a small building which was a few blocks up from the St Lawrence River. I found it to be nice and quiet away from all the festival street noise. Taxis were a flat rate of $40 each way from the airport to the hotel.
My room was small on the 2nd floor with a single bed, bathroom, small working/eating table, bar frig to store some snacks or cold drinks, free wifi, and a tv on the wall. The building had an elevator. The hotel served a continental breakfast in the morning starting at 8 am with coffee, tea, fresh croissants and muffins. The front desk staff were wonderful at arranging all my taxis to get from point A to B for meetings.
My classes were at another hotel about 10 minutes away by taxi. The Alt Hotel here had a nice front lobby, meeting room on the 7th floor with great views of the city. I was really lucky to have a tour with our group of the newly remodeled Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel. This building is stunning. Read more about the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth here.
I like that there wasn't a lot of large name brand stores. Everyone had their specialty and unique crafts which makes Montreal a great place on visit. In Old Montreal, it was interesting to see horse & buggy rides being offers to tourists just like in the old days. Some streets were covered in brick stones and narrower than others so those who like to wear high heels may want to bring flats.
Have you been to Montreal? Tell us what you did on your adventures in the comments below.
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