If you’re planning a vacation in Montreal, Quebec, you might struggle to narrow down your choices of things to do. It’s a big city with plenty of fascinating destinations. Read on for an itinerary that covers everything from meals and morning excursions to vibrant nightlife and places to stay.

Montreal Town Hall
The Montreal Town Hall in Montreal.

Early Morning: Grab Breakfast to Fuel the Day Ahead

You’ll need a delicious breakfast to get your first day in Montreal started. Instead of hitting one of the big chain breakfast joints that you could enjoy back home, look for a venue that offers some local flavor. As a bonus, you might meet a few friendly locals while you chat over eggs and bacon or cups of steaming hot coffee.

L’Avenue is the perfect choice if you have an artsy flair and you love delicious food. Some of the items on the menu can get a little pricey, but why pinch pennies while you’re on vacation? L’Avenue is known for its fantastic omelets as well as its sizzling bacon. You can even sleep in a little since the restaurant doesn’t open until 8 a.m. If you’re a morning person who needs to kill some time, take a stroll through Parc La Fontaine just a few blocks away. It’s a gorgeous green space with a lake and several trails.

If you’re not in the mood for L’Avenue, try Fabergé Restaurant. It’s known for its crepes, which it serves with plenty of fruit and syrup. Grab a table by the front windows so you can people watch during your breakfast. Locals appreciate this restaurant because of its friendly staff, so don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions about the area.

For vacationers who need to grab a fast bite, try Bagel Etc. It’s a no-frills breakfast joint that serves bagels as well as doughnuts, kolaches, and other fare. It’s also easier on your wallet if you want to save most of your cash for activities instead of food.

Midmorning: Take a Hike Around Mount Royal

You won’t find many places as beautiful as Mount Royal. It’s a volcano that features gorgeous surrounding terrain, much of which has been paved with asphalt for hikers and joggers. During the fall, you’ll see plenty of orange and red leaves, and the waterfront offers the perfect place to take photographs as mementos of your vacation.

Several works of notable architecture surround Mount Royal, including churches and university buildings. The area offers a few historical landmarks as well as an enormous Roman Catholic cemetery. Take your time exploring the nature paths as well as the historical attractions. You’ll work off your breakfast calories and get a dose of Montreal culture to boot.

Basilique Notre-Dame
The Basilique Notre- Dame in Montreal.

Noon: Get a Burger Royal

After all that walking, you’ll need some comfort food, and what’s more comforting than a thick, juicy burger? Burger Royal is close to Mount Royal, which makes it convenient, but it also serves the best burger in the entire city. All burgers are made with grass-fed beef and served on a lightly toasted bun. You can get your sandwich with just about any toppings you desire.

If you’re not a fan of red meat, you don’t have to skip this Montreal treasure. You can also get sandwiches with fried or grilled chicken, each of which is just as delicious as the burgers. Vegetarians and vegans won’t go hungry, either. There’s a solution for any dietary preference on the menu, so skip those fast food chains in favor of customized meals.

Other favorite dishes on the menu include mac and cheese, spicy chiquitas, and smoked meat. You can request gluten-free bread or a lettuce wrap instead of the regular bread, fried pickles instead of bacon, and vegan cheese instead of the dairy variety. Get a soft drink to go with your meal, then round off the experience with one of Burger Royal’s delicious desserts.

Afternoon: Explore Animals and Ecosystems at Montreal Biodome

It’s an aquarium, zoo, museum, and interactive experience all under one roof. The Montreal Biodome is the perfect local attraction for adults as well as children. The Biodome is home to more than 4,500 animals, and there are over 500 plant species grown in the facility. It’s devoted to four North American ecosystems, from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Labrador Coast. You might love the Sub-Antarctic Islands ecosystem best of all, especially if you enjoy watching penguins frolic from behind glass.

The Botanical Garden will enchant all visitors, so don’t miss it during your visit. Plentiful plants share space with art sculptures, insects, and other native fauna in this magical place. You can even bring a picnic if you need a mid-afternoon snack. Just make sure to enjoy it in one of the designated picnic areas, each of which features a shelter to keep the sun off your face.

Kids who love insects won’t want to miss the live exhibits. You can watch as ants colonize their ecosystem and provide food and shelter for each other. Even if you’re not enthralled with creepy-crawly critters, you’re likely to find yourself enchanted by the colorful butterflies.

Old Montreal
Old Montreal in Montreal.

Late Afternoon: Enjoy Architecture and Shopping in Old Montreal

Lovers of history and architecture won’t want to skip Old Montreal. It’s the oldest section of the city, and its walkable streets allow you to take your time as you peek in shop windows, take photographs of massive turrets, and chat with locals you meet along the way. When your feet get tired, take a brief coffee or ice cream break in Place d’Armes, a historical public square.

You can take a tour of the Basilique Notre-Dame, which is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the North America. Celine Dion got married here in the ’90s, but it’s also known for its gorgeous architecture and stained glass dome. You can trace nearly every book from the Bible in the illustrated scenes.

Try the Montreal Town Hall if you need a beautiful backdrop for a group photo or if you’re interested in a tour. There’s also the Bonsecours Market, which used to serve as the trading post for food and other necessities. Now it’s filled with shops and boutiques, selling everything from jewelry to furniture.

Dinner Time: Choose From Several Fantastic Restaurants

When dinner time rolls around, you’ll have plenty of restaurants from which to choose. One favorite, the Ferreira Café, plates up Portuguese seafood in a romantic atmosphere. While you might want to skip cocktail hour, don’t forget to ask for a wine list. The restaurant is known for its excellent selection of port. You might also want to try the appetizers, especially if you’re hungry after all that walking in Old Montreal.

If you’re in the mood for something a little more quirky and modern, grab a table at Robin Square. It’s a casual eatery that takes American cuisine up a few notches with special spices, beautiful plating, and signature specialties. You’ll also find yourself surrounded by work contributed by local artists, which can always improve your dining experience.

After Dark: Take a Load off at Wunderbar

Head to the W Hotel for an evening at Wunderbar, an upscale nightclub with an outdoorsy theme. Bright colors, hip music, and delicious drinks steal the show here, and it’s a popular hangout for locals, so you don’t have to worry about feeling like a tourist. The bar’s usually packed, so grab a table off the dance floor for those few occasions when you want to catch your breath. Or, if you’re not up to dancing, you can just take in the music while you chat with your companions.

Try one of the club’s cocktails if you’re feeling adventurous. The mixologists at this restaurant have no trouble concocting fancy drinks in beautiful glassware, and the prices are reasonable.

Bonsecours Market
Bonsecours Market in Montreal.

Where to Stay

After a full day of eating, drinking, and sightseeing in Montreal, you need a place to recharge for the next day. You have several choices in this diverse city, depending on how much you want to spend and where you prefer to spend your time.

The L’hôtel Le Germain Montréal is one of the most famous hotels in the city. It also offers guests the lap of luxury, with premium linens, upscale toiletries, and gorgeous metallic accents throughout the facility. You can keep up with your exercise regimen in the fully equipped gym, heat up food in the microwave, order room service, and watch your favorite programs on the flat-screen TV. If you’d like more space, reserve an apartment suite, which comes with separate living and sleeping areas.

Located just five minutes from Basilique Notre-Dame, the Le Westin Montreal is another upscale choice in the city. You’ll love the edgy decor, modern furnishings, and minimalist design. You can enjoy beautiful views of downtown from your room’s picture window, and there’s an indoor pool if you feel like splashing around with your companions or swimming a few laps.

There’s also Le Centre Sheraton Montreal Hotel, a downtown accommodation with lots of common areas where you can relax with a book or companion. The outdoor areas feature fire pits and barbecue grills, and each room comes with triple-sheeted beds, a flat-screen television, and an ergonomic workspace. Just don’t let your job take you away from all the fun in Montreal.

To save money, you could also stay at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Montreal. While it’s less expensive than the other hotels listed here, it’s by no means subpar. You’ll love the spacious rooms, comfortable mattresses, and free breakfast buffet.

There are also several hostels available in Montreal, some of which offer lodging for less than $10 per night. You might have to share a bathroom with other guests and make do with a small bed in a shared room, but you can put more money toward your tourist activities.

Popular hostels include Auberge Bishop, which offers free breakfast and either private bedrooms or dorms, and the Alternative Hostel of Old Montreal Inc., which is a little more modern and playful. The Alternative Hostel of Old Montreal Inc. requires guests to check out by 7:30 a.m., though, so it’s not ideal for night owls who like to sleep in.

Beaver Lake
Beaver Lake in Montreal.

Landmarks

Start with the Underground City, which features over 20 miles of tunnels that connect to shops, eateries, and other destinations. You’ll move above and below ground, but you’ll stay inside for the entire tour, which helps if you visit during the middle of summer or winter.

Just about any church in Montreal could also be considered a landmark. Look for the famous belltowers, of which there are several dozen, and don’t miss the Oratory, which is the largest church in the country. It’s easy to identify thanks to its giant green dome and castle-like turrets.

Beaver Lake is also considered a landmark, and it’s the perfect place for a spring or fall stroll. The lagoon-shaped basin was designed by famous architect Frederick Todd, and it’s a popular watering hole for sunbathers and swimmers in the summer months.

Airports

Most people who enter or leave Montreal by plane use the Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. It’s about 12 miles from downtown, which makes it convenient for many local hotels. There are several shops and restaurants both before security and after, so you don’t have to worry about returning home on an empty stomach or without souvenirs.

Several forms of public transportation serve the Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, and if you’re traveling with a large group, you can rent a private bus directly from the airport terminal. Of course, you might decide to simply rent a car or take a taxi, either of which will simplify your arrival or departure. If you decide to drive, you can access Highways 520 and 20 easily.

If you’re planning to visit Montreal in the near future, use the itinerary and suggestions above to plan your visit down to the minute. However, don’t forget to leave a little license for serendipity. You might happen upon an interesting sight or landmark on your way to your next destination.