What To Do In Montreal – – The Heart of Canada’s French-Speaking Province, Quebec

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No need to wonder about what to do in Montreal. You merely have to step outside your hotel door to experience its many delights!  This enchanting metropolis can satiate every shopaholic’s desires, serenade the ears of music aficionados, indulge the palate of culinary enthusiasts, and inspire the curious traveler within. 

Amidst cobblestone streets and shimmering skyscrapers, you’ll find a blend of both European charm and North American vibrancy. It’s a city where both history and modernity intertwine, along with the two predominant languages: French and English.

It’s also a very walkable city with much to captivate you!  So, ladies, fasten your seatbelts as we embark on a journey to explore the best of Montreal’s offerings. Let’s begin with a shopping spree.

What To Do In Montreal  – Shopping

Love to shop? Then you’ll love the chic boutiques along Rue Sainte-Catherine. This bustling thoroughfare stretches through the city’s center, lined with an array of boutiques, designer stores, and trendy outlets.

Whether you’re in search of haute couture, stylish accessories, or unique Canadian designs, Rue Sainte-Catherine has it all.

And don’t forget to explore the famous underground shopping network. Dubbed the “Underground City,” its 20.5 miles of tunnels (33 km) makes it the largest underground complex in the world. For a guide on this awesome shopping mecca, see IsaTousignant’s article here.

To access it, you can choose from about 120 entrances at street level – or from seven metro stations. Should be enough shopping here to keep you busy on a cold or rainy day!

What To Do In Montreal – Live Music

Hear that beat? On a warm summer evening, you’ll find that music pours out into the open air. Music is one of the city’s most exciting qualities. For the music lover within you, the city boasts an extraordinary array of venues and festivals catering to all tastes.

The iconic “Place des Arts” stands as a temple of the performing arts, hosting classical concerts, jazz ensembles, and mesmerizing ballet performances.

Meanwhile, the lively Plateau-Mont-Royal neighborhood is brimming with cozy cafes and intimate bars where you can catch talented local musicians performing live sets, filling the air with their soulful melodies.

For those visiting during the summer months, the Montreal International Jazz Festival is a must-see, as it transforms the city into a playground of musical bliss, with world-renowned artists gracing the stages. Whether you prefer the soothing tunes of jazz or the electrifying beats of rock, Montreal’s music scene will leave you with unforgettable memories.

What To Do In Montreal – Dining

Prepare your taste buds for an extraordinary gastronomic journey! Montreal proudly showcases its diverse culinary landscape. With a mix of French, Italian, and indigenous influences, the city’s restaurants promise an explosion of flavors.

Dunn’s Famous – A Favourite Montreal Delicatessen

If you travel to Montreal, upon your return friends might ask: “Did you go to Dunn’s?” That could be because of their two most famous offerings: smoked meat and delicious cheesecake! Or that they’ve been around since 1927.

The pic below looks very similar to one I had many years ago. You can try them out anytime, breakfast, lunch or dinner, at whatever time of the day or night. That’s because they are open 24 hours.

Photo of a delicious smoked meat sandwich at Dunn's Famous - a popular Montreal deli
Photo of a smoked meat sandwich at Dunn’s Famous; by-sa; Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported


Begin your day with a traditional Montreal bagel, famed for its sweet and chewy texture, at one of the renowned bakeries such as Fairmount Bagel or St-Viateur Bagel.

Bagels in the Making at St-Viateur Bagel
Bagels in the Making at St-Viateur Bagel, Montreal; Photo: Flickr; Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic


As the day unfolds, venture into the “Le Plateau-Mont-Royal” district, where you’ll find an eclectic array of restaurants and bistros serving up delectable dishes from around the world. Treat yourself to the classic Quebecois delight, “poutine,” a comforting ensemble of crispy fries, cheese curds, and gravy that will undoubtedly leave you craving more.


For an elegant dining experience, Old Montreal boasts a plethora of upscale restaurants nestled within historic buildings. A classic example is Barroco for old world charm.

Photo credit: Barroco Montreal

Indulge in French haute cuisine or sample local delicacies with a modern twist. But be forewarned. The charming ambiance of the cobblestone streets is a little hard on heels. You might want to tuck a pair of ballet flats in your bag.


And let’s not forget the city’s lively food markets, such as Jean-Talon Market and Atwater Market, where you can savor fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, and delectable treats, immersing yourself in the local culinary culture.

Jean Talon Market, Little Italy in Montreal - full of shoppers buying fresh produce
figa, CC BY 3.0 creativecommons/licenses/by/3.0; via Wikimedia Commons – Jean Talon Market, Little Italy

What To Do In Montreal – Sightseeing

Notre-Dame Basilica

Montreal’s rich history is woven into its architectural gems and historical landmarks. A must-see is the iconic Notre-Dame Basilica, modelled after its Paris namesake. In fact, it is one of the most popular monuments for sightseers in North America! It is a stunning masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture with its intricate woodwork and vibrant stained glass windows. I especially love the way the Basilica is lit up at night with a blue glow emanating from its windows. So dramatic!

Old Montreal

Tourists flock to this charming area of Montreal. It is an entertainment in itself, just to walk its cobblestone streets. You might even spot a street performer or two. Of course, there is the historical charm to inhale. One of the oldest areas in North America, it was founded by French settlers back in 1642. Today there are still centuries-old buildings here. Many have been converted into boutiques, museums, and restaurants. Some old warehouses have been transformed into loft apartments.

Bonsecours Market in Old Montreal with cobblestone street
By shankar s. from Dubai, united arab emirates – Marche’ Bonsecours/ Bonsecours Market, CC BY 2.0

Old Port

Aerial view of Old Port, Montreal, with many boats and overcast sky
Old Port-Montreal – Photo by: Guilhem Vellut; Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International; Originally posted to flickr

Stroll through the Old Port, a picturesque area that echoes the city’s maritime past, now transformed into a hub of entertainment, boasting cafes, galleries, and street performers.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

An Exhibit room in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts showing viewers looking at iconic poster art
Creator: Picasa – Montreal Museum of Fine Art – one of the galleries

For a touch of elegance and culture, explore the Golden Square Mile, home to elegant mansions and cultural institutions such as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  The museum features renown works from around the world.

Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art  

Prefer modern art?  This museum houses thought-provoking installations and avant-garde creations that challenge conventions. You’ll find cutting edge art here from some of the world’s most renown artists. It was Canada’s first museum devoted to contemporary art.

It is located on the Place des festivals in the Quartier des spectacles (part of the Place des Arts complex.)

Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art - exhibit room showing what looks like an ultra modern skeleton of a dinosaur
By Jeangagnon – Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)


Additionally, don’t miss the opportunity to climb up Mont-Royal, a hill situated in the heart of the city, offering panoramic views and a serene escape from the bustling streets below. As you ascend, you’ll discover picturesque paths, a beautiful lake, and a chance to connect with nature amidst the urban landscape.

What To Do In Montreal – Festivals

Montreal International Jazz Festival

Montreal International Jazz Festival - Jun 2023 - overhead shot showing massive crowd of festival goers
By Benoit Rousseau – Montreal International Jazz Festival – Jun 2023

As summer sets the stage for a musical extravaganza, the Montreal International Jazz Festival takes center stage, drawing music enthusiasts from across the globe. Celebrated as the largest jazz festival in the world, this annual event transforms the city into a harmonious haven, resonating with soulful tunes and creative rhythms.

With over 10 days of non-stop performances, the festival features an eclectic lineup of artists, ranging from jazz legends to emerging talents, captivating audiences with their mesmerizing melodies. The heart of the festival beats in the vibrant Quartier des Spectacles, where outdoor stages and intimate venues come alive with the magic of jazz.

Whether you’re lounging in a café, dancing in the streets, or basking in the glow of a starlit concert, the Montreal International Jazz Festival promises an unforgettable experience filled with musical enchantment.

Montreal World Film Festival (WFF) – Successor to the Montreal International Film Festival

Crowd outside Montreal World Film Festival
Photo Credit: World Film Festival (ffm-montreal.org)

Created in 1977, the Montreal World Film Festival is one of the oldest international film fests in the country. Film buffs make an annual cinematic pilgrimage to watch approximately 400 films over a dozen venues.

What draws in so many cinephiles? Perhaps it’s the promise to view such a diverse selection of films. Or that It embraces emerging filmmakers alongside established auteurs.

Goals of the Festival

  • showcase cinema from around the world
  • stimulate the development of quality cinema
  • present new filmmakers with innovative works
  • promote meetings between cinema professionals from around the world

The festival unfurls its red carpet in late August every year and runs to early September. During this time you can catch diverse selection of thought-provoking films from around the world. Typical fare includes:

  • gripping dramas
  • heartwarming comedies
  • avant-garde experimental works; and
  • cutting-edge documentaries.

Do you love to participate in post-film discussions? You’re in luck! the screenings are often accompanied by discussions and Q&A sessions with directors and actors.

All in all, the Montreal International Film Festival celebrates the universal language of cinema, bridging cultural gaps and touching the hearts of audiences from diverse backgrounds.

Just for Laughs Festival: Laughter, Giggles, and Comedy Galore

Montreal - Just for Laughs Festival performer
License:  CC BY_SA 4.0  Attribution: Photo by Didier Moise

For those seeking the joyous remedy of laughter, the Just for Laughs Festival is a jubilant celebration of humor and comedy. Founded in Montreal, this renowned comedy festival has garnered international acclaim.

Comedians from all corners of the globe descend upon the city to perform stand-up, improv, sketch shows, and more.

The bustling streets come alive with laughter. The air is filled with the anticipation of comedic genius. Will a new, emerging comedic talent be born? That’s the intention of the Festival’s “New Faces” program – to give rise to the stars of tomorrow. Beyond stand-up acts, Just for Laughs features galas, gags, and street performances, turning Montreal into a playground of mirth. As humor takes the spotlight, friendships are forged through shared laughter.

So if you want to tickle your funny bones, you just might want to catch this festival!


Montreal is a unique and vibrant city that blends old world charm with modern glamour. Prepare to be mesmerized by the sheer depth and diversity of the city’s cultural offerings.

Imagine this. As the sun sets over the St. Lawrence River, painting the city in warm hues, you find yourself lost in the magical embrace of Montreal. You enjoy it all! The shopping, the soul-stirring music scene, the exquisite dining and the city’s rich history and culture.

So why not plan a trip to this extraordinary city? Before you pack your bags, you might want to brush up on your French. However English is widely spoken. In the meantime, Montreal awaits, ready to captivate you with its many charms!

What To Do In Montreal
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Susan Cooper

I'm a "woman of a certain age" who loves to travel, preferably in style! There's something exciting about exploring new places, meeting fellow travelers, and experiencing local cuisine. But I also really enjoy relaxing at a cafe. And it's always fun to absorb a little culture and history along the way!

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