At the centre of a major air, land, and sea transportation network, Montréal is an ideal attraction for cruise ships along the majestic St. Lawrence River and the North American East Coast. Every year, the Port of Montreal welcomes thousands of cruise ship passengers to its Iberville Passenger Terminal. A clean, safe, and unique city with a European cachet and a wealth of attractions for tourists to choose from, Montréal boasts fine restaurants, elegant boutiques, department stores, shopping complexes, well-preserved historical buildings, museums, impressive concert halls, and numerous theatres and stadiums that are home to professional sports teams.
DAY 1 - OLD MONTRÉAL AND THE QUAYS OF THE OLD PORT
The cobblestone streets of Old Montréal have witnessed the passage of time for more than 360 years. Today, art galleries, artisan boutiques, terraces, and cafés conduct business within the walls of gracious century-old structures, while the Quays of the Old Port are home to a wide array of outdoor activities and services for all tastes.
Your trip on dry land begins with a tour of the Quays. You can either take a refreshing and relaxing stroll along the waterfront or enjoy a ride on exclusive quadricycles with manual steering and multi-foot propulsion! Both provide excellent views of the city and some of its monuments.
Now, head to the Notre-Dame Basilica where you will find, in front of the boutique, the starting point for Guidatour, an Old Montréal Walking Tour. A guide will lead you through the historic district, revealing information on its history and architecture while recounting some of the area’s deepest secrets, from past to present.
Lunch options after the tour are plentiful in the neighbourhood. Try the outdoor terrace at the Château Ramezay Historic Site and Museum of Montréal or some of the fine eateries at Place Jacques-Cartier.
You can work off some calories by visiting the Marché Bonsecours, which showcases the creations of Québec artists, designers, and artisans, and by having a look at some of the artisanal boutiques and art galleries on Saint-Paul Street.
For the rest of the afternoon, discover Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaeology, a national historic site rising above the actual remains of the city's birthplace. Through an authentic archaeological tour, the Museum introduces you to, among other things, First Nations’ artefacts, while a multimedia show on the history of Montréal is available in eight languages: French, English, Spanish, Italian, German, Arab, Mandarin, and Japanese.
For a delicious way to end the day, dine at Accords Wine Bar and Restaurant, where Chef Marc-André Lavergne uses local products to create dishes with certain wine pairings already in mind.
DAY 2 – DOWNTOWN
Montréal’s downtown scene is a bustling study in contrasts where the latest architectural marvels soar alongside stately Victorian-era residential, civic, and religious buildings.
Situated in the heart of Montréal’s Quartier des spectacles (Entertainment District), La Vitrine culturelle de Montréal is an indispensable stop for all tourists looking for entertainment. You can make this your first stop of the day, especially if you want to purchase tickets for a later concert, cultural activity, or any other interesting event.
Now, head north up to Sherbrooke Street and walk west toward Guy Street. This promenade will allow you to see the McGill University main campus and the popular McGill College Avenue, as well as stellar examples of public art, commercial galleries, and boutiques, including the legendary Holt Renfrew.
It’s lunchtime now, so head on over to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, where the Café des Beaux-Arts offers an original menu of seasonal cuisine in an elegant setting.
With renewed energies, you can fully enjoy the Museum’s encyclopaedic collection, unique in Canada, as well as its current exhibition and its Boutique and Bookstore.
When you leave the Museum, walk down celebrated Crescent Street to appreciate the lovely Victorian buildings, which house luxury boutiques, haute couture showrooms, art galleries, restaurants, bars, clubs, and outdoor cafés. Take a left at Sainte-Catherine Street to appreciate Montréal’s renowned commercial thoroughfare, which stretches 15 kilometres across the city from east to west, and is lined with major department stores, shops, and restaurants. Sainte-Catherine Street also holds many points at which you can enter Montréal’s famed Underground City.
Fancy some tea this afternoon? Check out the Birks Café par Europea on the mezzanine floor of the illustrious Birks jewellery store. The Café also serves wine as well as a fine selection of pastries and sweets.
For supper, head to the Quartier International de Montréal where Restaurant Holder will bring you into the spirit of the best European pubs and taverns.
After supper, experience one of Montréal’s more recent urban projects, Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle. Named after the renowned Québec artist, this public square is home La Joute, his sculptural fountain composition, which is animated by dramatic water, mist, and lighting effects, a sparkling way to end your second day in Montréal!
DAY 3 – HOCHELAGA-MAISONNEUVE
With expansive green spaces and a multitude of attractions surrounding the Olympic Park, the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district, affectionately called “HoMa” by Montrealers, is filled with cultural, historical, and natural treasures.
Start off the day with a hearty breakfast downtown at Ben & Florentine. Inspired by the story of a couple whose recipe for love was made up of happiness and good food, this restaurant is dedicated to providing superior quality and high standards in the “Ben & Florentine” way.
Now, take the Métro to the Viau Station where you will find yourself surrounded by the 1976 Olympic Stadium and Montréal’s Space for Life, where the nature museums—the Montréal Biodôme, Botanical Garden, and Insectarium—await your perusal. You can spend the entire day here and even have a late afternoon cocktail at the Garden!
DAY 4 - SAINT JOSEPH’S ORATORY AND MOUNT ROYAL PARK
Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal is one of the world's most visited centres of pilgrimage and underlines the significance that religion has played in the establishment of Montréal. Its founder, Saint Brother André, started its construction in 1904. The massive complex includes a stately building whose dome reaches 97 metres (second only in height to Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome), a small original chapel, a votive chapel, a crypt church, a basilica that can accommodate over 2,200 people, and well-tended, colourful, diverse gardens. Its magnificent organs and its carillon comprising 56 bells ring out music from the world's greatest composers. The site also houses two gift shops that offer a wide variety of religious goods and sacred art.
For a change of pace in another part of town, head to the Jean-Talon Market (Métro Jean-Talon), where multicultural flavours and sights have been attracting crowds to the Little Italy neighbourhood since 1933. Here you can have lunch and wander amidst countless fruit, vegetable, and flower stalls, and browse specialty shops that feature spices, oils, cheeses, meats, pastries, and other products exclusive to Québec.
From the Market, take the Métro to the Mont-Royal Station. From there you will be able to walk around and admire the wrought-iron staircases, old-style stone masonry, walk-up duplexes, designer fashion boutiques, and funky second-hand stores of the Plateau Mont-Royal, a working-class-turned-hip neighbourhood with bohemian undercurrents. If you are still feeling a bit peckish, you might want to check out Saint-Viateur Bagel & Café, a genuine Montréal establishment that has been preparing oven-baked bagels since 1957.
From Mont-Royal Avenue, take the 11 Montagne Bus towards the majestic Mount-Royal, the veritable jewel of the city. Affectionately referred to by locals as "The Mountain", Mount Royal Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect behind New York City’s Central Park. The Mountain is not only one of the city’s playgrounds for admiring nature and outdoor activities, but it is also home to a wealth of religious heritage. On the slopes of Mount Royal are two of the city's oldest cemeteries: Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery and Mount Royal Cemetery. Of particular interest to trivia buffs is the little-known historical fact that outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Mount Royal is home to the greatest number of graves (12) in the world related to the sinking of the Titanic!
Other notable landmarks include Smith house, where you can obtain an interactive map to locate Mount Royal’s points of interest, among which are views, lookouts, as well as artistic, cultural, historical, architectural, and natural attractions. The Kondiaronk Belvedere, in particular, presents you with vistas of the downtown area that will take your breath away.
Enjoying Mount Royal Park can create a healthy appetite, in which case the Bistro Le Pavillon provides a wonderful place to have some food, take a rest, and bask in the unparalleled views of Mount Royal and Beaver Lake. You can also seize the opportunity to think about your next trip to Montréal!