Montreal is a city with more to offer its visitors than most cities found across North America.
With a rich and vibrant history, as well as thriving arts and social scenes, there really is something for everyone here.
Having been colonised by both English and French, Montreal offers an incredible mix of classic British and French architecture that is worth a trip to the city all on its own.
If you’ve ever wondered what the child of London and Paris would look like, your answer is Montreal.
For things to do, the city is festival-crazy, hosting almost a hundred arts, music, dance, and literary festivals across all four seasons.
This means that your chances of enjoying a festival or two whilst visiting are pretty high. Montreal also enjoys one of the world’s largest Pride festivals, and its LGBTQ scene is alive and vibrant with an entire Gay Village area to enjoy whatever your orientation.
To top all of this off, Canada is also one of the most multicultural nations in the world.
This means that Montreal is filled with food, design, art, and even architecture from countries across Europe and Asia.
60% of the city’s population also speak French, adding even more to the multi-cultural pride of the city.
Where to stay in Montreal [2020 Guide For First Time Visitors] - Contents
Where to stay in Montreal
The island of Montreal is home to nineteen boroughs (or arrondissements) which can then be subdivided into dynamic neighbourhoods each with their own unique vibe, style, and history.
The metro system here is second to none and it’s incredibly easy to get around the entire city so wherever you’re based you’ll never be far from the rest.
Whether the European style Old Montreal with its Parisian charm is what you’re looking for or, instead, a mingle with the artists of the trendy Plateau neighbourhood, the main thing is choosing the right budget and style for you.
Romantic city centre with a distinctly European vibe, close to the main attractions
Why stay in Old Montreal
Old Montreal (also known as Vieux-Montreal) is the oldest neighbourhood in the city dating back to the 17th-century, easily the most popular neighbourhood for visitors to stay in, it's ideal for people who love walking since this romantic neighbourhood rewards the wanderer with cobblestone roads, stunning European style architecture and picturesque pedestrianised streets. Old-world charm blends seamlessly with the modern and eclectic shops, beautiful art galleries, and hip food trucks are just a few of the things to get up to in this busy district. If you’re in Montreal for the first time and want to be within walking distance of the major sights like the famous Notre-Dame Basilica, the largest church in North America or you’re for the summer music festivals like Igloofest, this is the ideal neighbourhood to consider.
Things to do in Old Montreal
- Step back in time and shop at the historic Boncsecours Market
- Take a horse-drawn carriage around the old streets of Montreal
- Stroll down Place Jacques-Cartier, a fun pedestrian street lined with art galleries, street musicians, and dining options
- People watch in Place d’Arms, one of the oldest squares in the city
- Discover Montreal and Quebec’s interesting 500-year history at Château Ramezay
- Climb the 192 steps to the top of the historic Montreal Clock Tower for epic views of the city
- Cycle the 14.5 kilometres Lachine Canal for pretty riverside scenes
- Photograph the charming Saint-Paul Street, one of the oldest streets in the city dating back to 1672
- Visit the Old Port for modern attractions like the Cirque du Soleil and waterfront views
Where to Stay In Old Montreal
Modern, business hub - full of skyscrapers and things to do
Why stay in Downtown
For those who like a more modern aesthetic or are in Montreal for business then Downtown (or centre-ville) offers that big city vibe. The biggest concentration of skyscrapers in the city and the official business district, you can expect the usual flurry of pedestrians, cars, and taxis. However, the area is very central and has easy access to the rest of the city with several metro lines and bus routes going through here. You can also enjoy the theatre district, underground shopping, rooftop bars, and modern cafes. There are more than enough museums to keep culture vultures happy and getting to the city’s major attractions from Downtown is easy. Perfect for people who aren’t necessarily looking for that European aesthetic and want a wide range of accommodation choices.
Things to do in Downtown
- Escape the cold in The Underground City, a maze of department stores underground -connected to the major hotels and stations
- Explore the largest museum in Montreal, Montreal Museum of Fine Art offers over 41,000 works of art
- Head to the top of Au Sommet, a 607 ft. skyscraper for incredible views and an interactive exhibit
- Watch Broadway shows, opera, and more at Place de Arts, the largest performing arts complex in the city
- Visit Christ Church Cathedral, a national historic site of Canada and catch their weekend concerts
- Browse Montreal’s entertainment district, Quartier des Spectacles for converts, festivals, galleries, and more
Where to Stay In Downtown
Cultural, cheaper alternative to downtown Montreal
Why stay in Griffintown Neighborhood
A cheaper alternative to downtown Montreal but with all of the perks of being based in the city centre. Historic Griffintown is a southwestern district and once a working area mostly dominated by factories and warehouses. Now revitalised in every sense, that’s all been replaced with green spaces to relax in, bike paths to get around on, and a myriad of trendy restaurants and cute cafes. More than a few co-working spaces located here, it’s an ideal area for students or people who are travelling and working. You’ll find modern accommodation options with a lower price range, boutique shopping, and interesting cultural attractions to explore while still being close to downtown and Old City area.
Things to do in Griffintown Neighborhood
- Browse The Montreal Art Centre, a hub for 100 resident artists who work in the 65 studio spaces
- Tune your bike and get a coffee at the same time at the quaint European style hybrid store/café Allo Velo – you can even buy bike gear here
- Work at LE 5E CAFÉ, a zero-waste establishment plus café and co-working space, if you’re there for a few hours you can get unlimited coffee for three dollars
- Go shopping at the Boutique La Gaillarde, a group of young designers who create clothes and accessories, and more from recycled materials and old clothing
- Visit the Carré des Artistes contemporary art gallery and enjoy a coffee while admiring in the artworks
- Enjoy a scenic bike ride along the Lachine Canal
- Learn about the history of sound at Musée des ondes Emile Berliner, a unique museum dedicated to the audio industry
Where to Stay In Griffintown Neighborhood
Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie Neighborhood
A well-connected shopping and green space haven
Montreal has the second-largest Italian population in Canada, after Toronto and this long history of immigration has created this peaceful borough just north of The Plateau in the centre-east of the city which also houses the wonderful Little Italy area. You’ll find Italian Canadian-owned restaurant and shops and the range of pizzerias here is nothing short of amazing. One of the highlights of the area is the Jean-Talon Market which is one of the oldest public markets in the city and draws people from all over Montreal. Carrying on the shopping is easy with the chic shopping stretch Rue Saint-Hubert harbouring over 400 boutique stores. You’ll also find over fifty parks and gardens to explore making this a perfect place for a laid-back stay and particularly suitable for families and anyone looking for large spaces and shopping in a well-connected neighbourhood.
Things to do in Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie Neighborhood
- Check out the impressive Church of Madonna della Difesa, a Romanesque church
- Visit the Montreal Botanic Garden for a nature escape
- Head to the Japanese Garden for 15-acres of stunning scenery and tea houses
- Take trapeze lessons at the Trapezium
Chic, arty neighbourhood attached to Le Plateau-Mont-Royal
Once recognised as the north-western corner of the Plateau, it’s now its own separate neighbourhood. Just as ‘cool’ as the Plateau (and many argue even more so) this wonderfully multicultural area will have you overhearing a mix of English, French, Italian, and Portuguese and the restaurants and shopping is just as diverse.
The whole district oozes art and many of today’s most famous bands and musicians have come out of this dynamic area, Grimes and Arcade Fire being just a couple of examples. It’s a fashionable area with boutique and book shopping galore, fabulous bakeries, and cafes.
With a creative and local vibe and within walking distance of the Plateau, Little Italy and La Petite-Patrie, you’ll be spoiled for choice of things to do in Mile End. In both Mile End and the Plateau, you’ll find an eclectic mix of chic boutique hotels and upmarket hostels to choose from.
Things to do in Mile End
- Go vintage clothes shopping along Boulevard Saint-Laurent
- Visit Drawn & Quarterly, the city’s most popular book-shop and well-known publishers of international graphic novels
- Go traditional book shopping in Argo for antiquarian, cosy bookshops vibes
- Try an alternative to the busy Schwartz Deli that’s just as good (or try both!), Lester’s Deli
- Head to Bernard Street for clusters of cafes, shops, and people-watching spots
Hip, artistic neighbourhood brimming with coffee shops and colours
Why stay in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal
Once a working-class francophone area, the Plateau is no well-known as Montreal’s coolest and most laid-back neighbourhood. A favourite local hangout of the city’s young and hip, you’re most likely to find locals cycling around this spacious area or wandering the green gardens. Now very much a gentrified area, this trendy and artist area has a strong bohemian vibe with the largest number of artists in Canada residing here. You’ll find cute cafes, vegan eateries, bakeries, and some of the best restaurants and independent shopping in the city. It’s also well-known for its rows of colourful houses that wouldn’t look out of place in Copenhagen and glorious, brightly painted murals so it’s an ideal area for taking fun and colourful pictures and generally being in the heart of all things cool in Montreal.
Things to do in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal
- Eat at Schwartz Deli, the oldest Hebrew deli in Canada
- Enjoy a picnic and take a stroll at the expansive Laurier Park
- Go shopping and enjoy live music on Rue St-Denis & Boulevard St-Laurent
- Browse the local art exhibits at the Maison de la culture de Plateau-Mont-Royal
- Have fun at Parc Lafontaine, an 84-acre urban park with tree-lined paths, swimming pools, ponds, and an ice-rink in the winter
- Catch a show at the Theatre de Verdure, a 3,000 seat outdoor theatre
- Choose from 25 varieties of poutine La Banquise for a true taste of Canadian cuisine
Where to Stay In Le Plateau-Mont-Royal
The vibrant nightlife hub of the city
Why stay in Gay Village
Known locally as ‘The Village’ this vibrant and fun neighbourhood was once a poor area and one of the seedier parts of Montreal. Very much a distant past, the LGBTQ community completely transformed the area and it has become an entertainment and nightlife hub and perfect for anyone looking for a friendly, alternative night out in the city, whatever your orientation. More than 80 restaurants, bars, and clubs are packed into this area so you’ll be spoilt for choice in terms of things to do. The main area Sainte Catherine St. E is also completely pedestrianised between May and September which only adds to the fun and leads to some great street party style vibes. Staying in this open-minded, affordable yet cosmopolitan area is a great choice for people looking for a fun time while in Montreal.
Things to do in Gay Village
- Visit the nearby Quartier Latin for a fun atmosphere and a sophisticated cluster of theatres, restaurants, and bars
- Laugh the night away at La Comedie de Montreal
- See the celebrated rainbow flag pillars at Beaudry Metro Station
- Drink under the stars at Sky
- Head to the 1920s-themed Cabaret Mado, an iconic part of the drag queen culture for nightly
- Go vintage shopping at the Amherst Street Vintage Shops
- Dance the night away on Sainte Catherine St, a famous club strip