After spending about three months living in Montreal, I think it might be my favorite place in Canada

I love the European vibe, especially around the Port of Old Montreal.

I’m also enjoying practicing my French in a truly bilingual city.

Montreal is a city with something for everyone. It has plenty of nature, lots of culture, and a great food scene.

I feel sad as I get ready to leave Montreal and head back to the States; but I know that it won’t be goodbye forever. 

This is a city I plan on coming back to visit again in the next few years, even if it’s for a quick 24 hours.

Whether it’s your first trip or you’re returning for a brief visit, this is the perfect way to spend one day in Montreal. 

Best Things to Do in Montreal in the Morning

Start Off With Breakfast

le passe compose montreal brunch

I highly recommend grabbing a hearty breakfast before a day exploring Montreal. 

My all-time favorite breakfast spot is Le Passé Composé. Their breakfasts are original, with large portions, quality ingredients, and original twists. 

I currently eat there two to three times a month since it’s close to my apartment. It will always be my first stop for breakfast in Montreal, and especially when I’m only in town for 24 hours. 

Can you tell I’m really going to miss my weekly breakfasts at Le Passé Composé?

It’s in Gay Village, which is right down the street from the city’s famous La Fontaine Park.  

You should note that the bistro  is only open for breakfast from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every day except Tuesday.

Other notable breakfast spots around the city include:

Les Affamés – Hochelaga-Maisonneuve 

Le Valois – Hochelaga-Maisonneuve 

L’Express – Plateau Mont-Royal 

Café Régine – La Petite Patrie

Climb to Parc du Mont-Royal

mount royal viewjpg

After breakfast, start your day off with a bit of a hike by trekking up Mount Royal. Jacques Cartier famously was the first European to scale the mountain in 1535. He’s the one who gave the mountain the name Mount Royal. 

It takes about 45 minutes to climb 400 wooden steps to get to the top. 

Just make sure you’re wearing tennis shoes—I made the mistake of climbing it in my comfortable walking flats and my feet were on fire by the time I made it to the top.

Once you make it up the mountain, you’ll see picturesque views of downtown Montreal. It’s one of the best views in the city and a popular spot for Instagrammers. 

There’s more than just a magnificent view at the top—the park itself is stunning. Frederick Law Olmsted designed it, and my history buff readers will know that he also famously designed NYC’s famous Central Park… 

You can rent rowboats on the small pond during the summer, and rent toboggans, ice skates, and skis during the winter.

Fun Fact: The mineral “Montroyalite,” was first discovered at Mount Royal, so scientists created the mineral’s name after the mountain.

Check Out the Musée des Beaux Arts

montreal museum

A short walk from the bottom of Mount Royal, you’ll find The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. It’s the city’s largest museum and also the oldest museum in Canada. 

I love walking around the museum taking in the artwork and people watching. It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon getting lost in this place. 

It houses over 1,400 paintings, drawings, and sculptures, including works by El Greco, Goya, Rembrandt, Dali, Cezanne, Monet, Rodin, and Picasso.  

Best Things to Do in Montreal in the Afternoon

Grab Some Lunch

lunch montreal

After exploring Mount Royal and walking around Musée des Beaux Arts, you’ll be ready for some lunch. 

Montreal has so many delicious spots that it’s hard to choose. These are some of the most popular lunch spots: 

L’Express – Plateau Mont-Royal 

Otto Bistro – Plateau Mont-Royal 

Elena – Saint Henri 

Épicerie Pumpui – Little Italy 

Shop the Marché Bonsecours

The Marché Bonsecours montreal

After lunch, visit this historic hundred plus year old marketplace. It’s got tons of affordable shops, and plenty of souvenirs for tourists.

It’s free to visit and worth a quick stroll around for a bit of shopping and an afternoon coffee.  

Fun Fact: The Marché Bonsecours served as a location for Parliament for a short time in 1849

Visit the Pointe-à-Callière Museum

montreal musuem 2.

Known in English as the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History, this is one museum you won’t want to pass up.

At the museum, you’ll learn about the history of Montreal. They even have a section where you can explore the underground remnants of the city’s ancient streets. It’s one of the coolest experiences and a must for any history lovers.  

At the very least plan to be there for at least an hour and a half, there’s a ton to see!

Best Things to Do in Montreal at Night

Explore the Old Port of Montreal

port of old montreal

Old Montreal is one of my favorite areas in the city to explore. The old buildings and cobblestone of the streets will make you feel like you’re in Europe.

They have plenty of shops and cafes lining the streets, plus tons of historic spots like the Place d’Armes which is a picturesque plaza that dates back to the end of the 17th century. 

I particularly love strolling around those streets in the evening, it’s the perfect time for people watching.

La Grande Roue de Montréal

montreal ferris wheel

Who doesn’t love a Ferris wheel?

Taking a ride on La Grande Roue de Montréal is the perfect way to see the city from 60 meters above. I recommend booking your ticket close to sunset for the ultimate view of the city. 

While you’re in the area, check out the array of booths offering everything from souvenirs to snacks.

There’s also a zip-line that goes over the lake and a paddleboat rental. 

Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal

Notre Dame Basilica of Montrealg

It’s Gothic Revival designs make it one of the most beautiful basilicas that I’ve ever seen. It’s no wonder that Canadian royalty Celine Dion chose it as her wedding location in 1994. 

The basilica is also a Canadian landmark and a National Historic Site of Canada. 

Look ahead to find out the schedule for their Aura show. It’s an epic light show set with orchestra music that showcases the basilica’s architecture.  

Architecture nerds and church oriented people will not want to miss this stunning sight. 

Local’s Tip: Be prepared, it’s a major tourist attraction that charges $8 per person for entry to the basilica. 

Relax at Bota Bota

massage montreal

After all the walking you’ve done, what you’ll be dying to unwind with a massage.

Bota Bota is the ultimate spot to relax, it’s a historic river ferry that now operates as a floating spa. 

They offer massages, mani/pedis, a eucalyptus steam bath, outdoor whirlpool baths, and two saunas that boast gorgeous views of the river. 

Just in case you end up too relaxed to go out to dinner, the spa is even complete with a restaurant on board that boats a Michelin starred chef.

Honestly, I could spend the entire day here and not feel guilty about it. 

Make a Reservation For Dinner

dinner montrealpg

After temporarily moving here, it was a pleasant surprise to find out Montreal has got a pretty solid foodie scene. 

There are lots of places that I can’t wait to eat at again, and others that I can’t wait to try.

The city has no shortage of hot-spots for dining out. Some of the hottest and most delicious spots to eat at include:

Au Pied de Cochon – Plateau Mont-Royal 

L’Express – Plateau Mont-Royal 

Nouilles de Lan Zhou – Chinatown

Joe Beef –  Little Burgundy

Caribbean Curry House – Cote-des-Neiges

Nora Gray – Griffin Town

Vin Papillion – Little Burgundy

End the Day With a Late Night Cocktail 

Montreal cocktial2

I love going out for drinks in cities, it’s the perfect way to meet locals and get new unique recommendations for places most tourists don’t know to check out. 

Montreal has a fantastic selection of cocktail bars. Unwind with a drink at one of these popular spots:

The Coldroom – Old Montreal 

Bar Nacarat – Downtown Montreal

Le Royal – Plateau Mont-Royal 

Cloakroom Bar – Shaughnessy Village

Atwater Cocktail Club – Little Burgundy

Bar Le Mal Nécessaire – Chinatown 

Pelicano Club – Chinatown

Final Hours in Montreal

St. Viateur bagel

Before hitting the road, I suggest you grab one of Montreal’s famous bagels. 

New York has the best bagels in the world, but I’ll admit that these are a close second. They’re sweeter and more flat compared to NY’s, but still are a step above bagels in the rest of the country.

Last Advice

montreal at night

If you only have 24 hours, don’t waste time running around to all the tourist traps. 

The best part about visiting any city is experiencing its culture, locals, and vibe. 

If you’re rushing through the day, then you won’t be taking in what makes Montreal unique. 

Montreal is a city I’ve really enjoyed living in and I can’t wait to return one day soon. 

It’s truly a unique city that everyone should visit at least once.

Let me know in the comments what you would do with just one day in Montreal!

While you’re in Montreal, check out some of these popular tours!


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