Montreal Weekend Getaway Guide: Experience Two Days of French Canadian Culture

From cathedrals to night clubs, Montreal is a paradise for lovers of food, art and entertainment

Credit: Claudia Chan

In a matter of hours, the streets of Montreal can go from quaint and serene to loud and vivacious

Radiating allure, history and romance, Montreal is the ultimate place to indulge yourself in international cuisine, local art and endless shopping

As the second largest city in Canada, Montreal is anything but lifeless. From famous cathedrals to multinational music festivals, the city exudes not only culture and refinement, but also warmth and vivacity. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for quality time with your family or significant other; Montreal is definitely the vacation spot for you.

Where to Stay in Montreal

With only a weekend in the city, you cannot possibly waste time travelling to and from downtown, the fountainhead of all Montreal food and entertainment. Ideally, you should pick a hotel between Old Montreal and downtown. That way both your shopping adventures down Sainte-Catherine Street and your late night strolls along the Old Port will only be footsteps away.

A parking meter in the Village (on Sainte-Catherine St.) decorated by local artist
A parking meter in the
Village (on Sainte-Catherine St.)
decorated by a local artist
(Image: Claudia Chan)

How to Travel around Montreal

Montreal is one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in Canada. Not only are the streets incredibly clean, but the transit system is also simple and reasonably priced.

For eight dollars, you get an all-day pass around the city and for only $16, you can get a three-day pass – perfect for your short weekend getaway.

If that’s not cheap enough, Montreal’s museums have partnered with the metro system (STM), so that tourists can visit all 38 museums with unlimited access to the bus and metro network for only $65!

If bussing isn’t your thing, how about biking? Accessible from April to November, Bixi is a public bike sharing system that provides over 400 stations and 5,000 bikes around the city, allowing locals and tourists to borrow its products for the small fee of $7/hour (with the first 30 minutes free).

Where to Shop in Montreal

While there are countless shopping districts in the city, the busiest street by far is Sainte-Catherine Street. Seemingly endless, this area will definitely satiate your consumer needs. If you’re interested in finding local deals, from July 14 to 15, Sainte-Catherine will be holding its annual sidewalk sale – the largest known in Canada!

Where to Explore in Montreal

Featuring Montreal’s oldest architecture, Old Montreal is the prime location for your touristy photo shoots. Day or night, you and your beloved can enjoy a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride through cobblestone streets and marvel at the neighborhood’s neo-gothic beauty, the Notre-Dame Basilica.

Looking for some fresh air? With 200 hectares, Mont Royal Park welcomes four million visitors every year. The park is the ideal backdrop for your paddleboat and biking adventures.

Tour de Ville ride at La Ronde, the second largest amusement park in Canada
Tour de Ville ride at La Ronde, the second largest amusement park in Canada (Image: Claudia Chan)

If you’re seeking an adrenaline rush, how about a visit to La Ronde, the second largest amusement park in Canada? Only a metro ride away from downtown, La Ronde guarantees you a full day of screams and laughter.

Festivals, Festivals, Festivals!

Whether you’re passionate about music, fashion or comedy, Montreal has a festival that caters to your every interest.

Free for all, Les Tam-Tams du Mont Royal is held every Sunday from May to September, where dancers and musicians gather to demonstrate their talents. And every June, the city hosts the International Jazz Festival, inviting 3,000 musicians from over 30 countries.

Similar to Vancouver’s Celebration of Light, Montreal presents its own multinational fireworks competition, International des Feux Loto-Quebec. On selected dates during June and August, nine countries compete in front of hundreds of onlookers.

The must-have combo - smoked meat sandwich, cherry coke and pickles - from Schwartz's, Montreal's famous delicatessen
The must-have combo: smoked meat sandwich, cherry coke and pickles from Schwartz’s, Montreal’s famous delicatessen (Image: Claudia Chan)

Where to Dine in Montreal

Like Vancouver, Montreal boasts countless first-rate restaurants and cafes, so much so that it’s hard to pick favourites. You could walk down the streets of Sainte-Denis or Sainte-Catherine and encounter hundreds of sidewalk cafes and bars. If you’re the adventurous food lover, you’ll have fun restaurant hopping all weekend long.

Relaxing on the "Big Green Chair" by Mont-Royal stationRelaxing on the “Big Green Chair”
by Mont-Royal Station
(Image: Claudia Chan)

For those who live by recommendations, you cannot go wrong with the classic Montreal delicatessen, Schwartz. Renowned for its smoked meat, Schwartz’s is a long-established Hebrew delicatessen. Every day, locals and tourists line up for a smoked meat sandwich (medium-fat is the best!), and a traditional accompaniment of cherry coke and pickles.

However, if you’re looking for a chance to slip into your favourite cocktail dress or sport a new pair of cufflinks, there’s a unique dining experience waiting for you. Le Bateau Mouche provides over three hours of food and entertainment as you and your significant other drift along the St. Lawrence River and watch the lights twinkling from the historic buildings of Old Montreal. If that’s not romantic, I don’t know what is!

Most Importantly…

Although French is Montreal’s official language, most businesses and their employees are extremely fluent in both English and French. So don’t be afraid to mingle with the locals!