veryone in the U.S. wants to go to Europe. It’s been that way for decades. But for so many Americans who struggle to get even 10 days of vacation per year, visiting Europe can start to feel like a pipe dream.
But what if there was a way to feel like you’re in Europe for just a long weekend? You could save time, and money, and still have an unforgettable vacation.
If that all sounds pretty good to you, then let us introduce you to the beautiful French-Canadian city of Montreal.
Last we checked, it covers just about everything we could want on our European City Checklist:
- Different language? Yes.
- Architecture from the 1600s? Yes.
- Unique culture? Yes.
- Rich history? Yes.
- Local cuisine? Yes.
Without a doubt, it’s the closest thing you’ll get to a European city in North America. So without further adieu, let’s dive into how we think you should spend your time in the beautiful city.
When to visit Montreal
First things first. Montreal is a city that has four exceptionally beautiful months with warm temperatures, and about 8 months where you’re going to want to bundle up a bit. If you aren’t interested in snow or cold, then we highly suggest visiting in its busier seasons: June, July, and August.
The shoulder season months of April, May, September, and October are often said to be the best months to travel because there are fewer people and more vacancies, however, we strongly feel that summertime in Montreal cannot be beat.
Notable Montreal Neighborhoods
There are so many awesome neighborhoods and areas in Montreal to check, each with their own unique vibe and personality. Some of those neighborhoods include Old Montreal, Plateau-Mont-Royal, Quartier des Spectacles, The Village, Little Italy, La Petite-Patrie, and Mile End.
Old Montreal: Built back in the early 1600s, Old Montreal may be the most touristy part of the city, but it’s for good reason. You’ll step back in time as you wander through the cobbled streets of this historic district, visiting art galleries, boutiques, and cozy cafes.
Plateau-Mont-Royal: A hip and lively neighborhood, the Plateau offers a bohemian atmosphere with trendy shops, diverse eateries, and beautiful residential streets lined with colorful houses.
Quartier des Spectacles: The epicenter of all the action in Montreal. Here you’ll find numerous festivals, theaters, and entertainment venues hosting concerts, art shows, and performances year-round.
Mile End: A trendy and eclectic neighborhood, known for its artistic community, vintage shops, and an assortment of cafes and world-class bagel joints. We’ll talk about two of its most famous bagel shops down below.
The Village: A huge part of Montreal’s LGBTQ+ community, this is an awesome area where you’ll go out for a drink and then bounce for an unforgettable night of fun.
Little Italy: A bustling neighborhood exudes a lively ambiance with charming streets lined by authentic trattorias, coffee shops, and delis. Savor delectable Italian cuisine, soak in the cultural spirit, and indulge in a warm, welcoming atmosphere.
La Petite-Patrie: This eclectic and artsy neighborhood offers a laid-back vibe with tree-lined streets, local boutiques, and cozy cafes. Enjoy the artistic flair, vibrant community spirit, and the diverse culinary/brewing scene.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. In this case, that would be eating poutine and once you get here and try it, you’ll understand why.
Traditionally, poutine consists of french fries, gravy, and cheese curds, all combined into a hot messy plate of ooey-gooey deliciousness. But from there, every place will do it slightly differently with their own recipes and topping options.
The most popular of these places is La Banquise, a legendary 24/7 poutine joint with a vast selection of creative toppings, perfect for late-night cravings. That said, it’s highly debated about which is the best in the city and everyone has their own personal favorite.
In our opinion, we think Ma Poule Mouillée, Gibeau Orange Julep, and Chez Tousignant are every bit as good (if not better).
In all my years, I still have yet to meet someone who didn’t love poutine so no matter what, be sure to stop in for at least one serving. But the real pro-tip is to split plates with the friends you’re traveling with and taste test multiple.
Other Food & Restaurants
Okay, poutine is out of the way so now to get into some of our favorite places to visit.
Montreal is famous for its bagels and there are two places in particular that have been duking it out for Montreal’s best. Those two places are Fairmount Bagels and Saint Viateur, and they’re both located in the Mile End district. Which is better? You’ll have to decide for yourself and let us know when you’ve tasted each.
The good news here is that they’re both extremely affordable compared to U.S. standards so splurging for one of each will not break the bank.
As for other restaurants, we love L’Express, Joe Beef, Toqué!, Au Pied de Cochon, Dama, Osteria Venti, Park, Jun I, and Kazu.
These are just a few of the many exceptional restaurants in Montreal and cover everything from upscale dining experiences to hidden gems and international delights. Montreal has one of the highest restaurant-to-population ratios in the entire world so there is truly something to satisfy every palate.
If you’re looking for a bar or two to wash down all the grub, we got your back.
Brasserie Dieu du Ciel! Is one of our favorites in the city. And yes, it’s spelled with the exclamation point! Something you’ll come to find is fairly popular in the city.
For beer enthusiasts, Dieu du Ciel! is a revered pilgrimage site. With a rotating selection of artisanal beers on tap, from hoppy IPAs to rich stouts, each sip offers a taste of craft beer perfection.
The warm atmosphere, shared tables, and passionate staff foster a sense of camaraderie among patrons, making it the perfect spot to be your social butterfly self and maybe make a new friend or two.
Whether you’re a seasoned beer aficionado or just curious to explore new flavors, Dieu du Ciel! promises an unparalleled beer-tasting experience in the heart of Montreal.
If that’s not to your liking, then we recommend stopping for a drink at any of Montreal’s rooftop terrace bars – something that the city is well known for in the summer months. Two of our favorite spots include Terrasse William Gray and Terrasse Nelligan.
Montreal is world famous for its music and nightlife scene. Here are some of our favorite places to have a drink or cut a rug.
Stereo: A world-renowned techno haven, Stereo boasts top-notch DJs, a mesmerizing sound system, and an intimate ambiance that will keep you dancing till dawn.
La Voûte: Step into this chic club, housed in a historic bank vault, and be swept away by its upscale atmosphere, live music, and diverse events that cater to all tastes.
Bar Le Mal Nécessaire: Unleash your inner tiki enthusiast at this hidden gem, renowned for its exotic cocktails, fun vibes, and tropical décor.
Newspeak: An underground club that celebrates electronic music, Newspeak hosts talented local and international DJs, perfect for an immersive dance experience.
Le Belmont: This multi-level venue hosts live concerts, theme nights, and DJ sets, making it a hub for music lovers and party enthusiasts.
Club Unity: A prominent LGBTQ+ nightclub in the Village, Unity boasts energetic drag shows, themed parties, and a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.
And it’s not exactly ‘nightlife’ but if your trip is planned in the summer months, you NEED to check out their outdoor parties such as Les Tam-Tams – a free festival that takes place on Sundays in Mount Royal Park, as well as a paid weekly concert called Piknic Électronik.
Both are an absolute must if you’re into the scene.
Other great aspects of Montreal
Coffee shops: Crew collective cafe, Cafe Olimpico, and Cafe Mechants Pinsons
Parks: Parc Jean-Drapeau and Mont Royal Park
Sports: Montreal Canadiens game (NHL) and Montreal Allouettes game (CFL)
Markets: Jean-Talon Market and Atwater Market
All-in-all, a trip to Montreal is going to be an unforgettable vacation and you can get a taste of Europe in just a weekend. So grab your passport and book the trip ASAP.