What to do for a day in Montreal

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Canada is one of those countries that really has a distinct feel to each of its major provinces and cities. Nowhere is this more true than in the French-speaking region of Quebec and Montreal, a hotbed of activity waiting to be explored. While many of us may know more about cities like Toronto or Vancouver than Montreal, this city has lots to offer visitors.

From the buzzing music scene (Arcade Fire are just one of several fantastic acts to emerge from this city in recent years), to the history and European influence in this region, Montreal has lots to be discovered whatever your length of stay. However, if you only have one day to make the most of Montreal, here’s a guide for you to work from.

9am - Grab a coffee at the smallest café in North America

Grab n'go latté featuring my hand model ✋

A photo posted by Christina Chehade (@cchehade) on

Most of us love a coffee to set us up for the day and you’ll definitely get a great one in La Distributrice at 408 Mont-Royal. This teeny, tiny space packs a punch, serving hot or cold coffee and the staff are pretty friendly too. Grab your take away and hop on the subway to start your day exploring the city.

9.30am - Visit the Old Town

view of the marché bonsecours in the old town in Montreal

More perhaps than other regions in Canada, Quebec province and Montreal still evoke thoughts of the area’s colonial past. Get a sense of this European influence in the Old Town where the streets are far smaller and the grey stone buildings have a distinctly French feel. Take a view of the Hotel de Ville or pop into the Marché de Bonsecours to see some of the local design and craft in the city. If that doesn't take your fancy, the old port has plenty of spots for you to kick back and relax as well as amusements and market stalls during the summer months.

11am - Take a peak inside the Basilique Notre Dame

colourful wooden alter of the notre dame basilica in montreal

For anyone interested in design or architecture, a visit to the Basilique Notre Dame is a must. While this church may not look spectacular from the outside, inside the ornate, painted wood panelling is really quite spectacular. While there is an entry charge to the church of around $5CAD, free tours in French and English do take place within the church to give you a bit more information about what you’re looking at.

12pm - Grab lunch in Muru Crêpe

• C͟͟r͟͟i͟͟ d͟͟'A͟͟m͟͟o͟͟u͟͟r͟͟ fresh strawberries, banana, nutella

A photo posted by Muru Crêpe (@murucrepe) on

The French influence never strays too far in Montreal and there are plenty of French cafes and restaurants dotted about the city. For a casual bite to eat however, you can’t beat a traditional French pancake. Head to Muru Crêpe at 362 Rue Notre Dame Est to chow down on a sweet or a savoury crepe. Or have both, no one judges when you’re on holiday.

1pm - Explore the underground city in Montreal

image of man descending escalators to the underground levels of Montreal

Image courtesy of Emilie.

With winters as extreme as those in Montreal, it’s not surprising that locals will do all they can to keep warm. Their solution? Build an extensive underground network of subway stations, shopping malls and interconnection passageway for all the city's major buildings. The underground network of Montreal is one of the biggest in the world so pop down and allow yourself to be disorientated by this other world.

3pm - Pop back up for air and grab a bagel in St. Viateur

ring of bagels being held by a baker in St Viateur bakery in Montreal

Image courtesy of Tmab2003.

Get on the subway to Station Parc and explore the Jewish neighbourhood of the city. Ask any local what to do in this area and without question they will tell you to head to the renowned St. Viateur Bagel at 263 Rue Saint Viateur Ouest. This is a do-it-yourself style sandwich, where you can buy the bagels individually to enjoy later or pick up some smoked salmon and cream cheese from their fridges for a picnic in a nearby park. The bagels are freshly made in the oven which dominates the bakery and the store, and has been in existence since 1957. It's open 24 hours a day so you can always get your fix.

3.30pm - Explore the cafes in Mile End and the Plateau districts

view of the bar in le cagibi cafe in montreal

Head from St. Viateur along to Boulevard St. Laurent to explore some of the coolest cafes and bars in the city. Montreal by day and by night has a distinctly laid back and chilled vibe. Weave your way through these cafes and sit out in the sun and enjoy the vibe. Try Le Cagibi (pictured above) at 5490 Boulevard St-Laurent for a coffee or a cocktail with a friendly, slow-paced vibe.

5.30pm - From Le Plateau head to the viewing platform at Parc du Mont-Royal

view from the viewpoint at Mont-Royal at sunset in Montreal, Quebec

From here make your way along to Avenue do Mont-Royal and along the hiking trails in the Parc du Mont-Royal to the lookout point where you can take in all of the city. It’s a short but at times steep journey so perhaps not best for those with small children or buggies but it’s a great spot to see the sun set and take a selfie!

8pm Taste the best poutine in the city in La Banquise

queue for la banquise poutine restaurant in Montreal

By far the most famous dish in Montreal is poutine and it will be no surprise to hear that the best place to grab your fix of chips, cheese curds and gravy is hotly contested. If the queues outside La Banquise are anything to go by however, they most definitely are the winner. Grab yours to take away and chill in the Parc La Fontaine nearby.

9.30pm - Polish it off with a night cap in Apt. 200

If you’re not exhausted with all the fresh air you've had all day, head back up to St.Laurent to the trendy Apt.200, which is a bar laid out like an oversized apartment. Chill in the lounge, hang out in the kitchen or have fun in the games room. If that’s not to your liking, try Big in Japan Bar, which specialises in whiskey and has a quieter, more intimate vibe.

Do you want to stay in Montreal? Find your host in the city or browse all our listings for Canada to find the host that's right for you.

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