What to do in Montreal

My friend Shannon and I decided we’d escape to Montreal over the 4th of July holiday last summer because we’re patriotic like that.

We thought we’d find cooler weather up north, but as all great plans go, we landed during one of the worst heat waves they’ve ever had.

We had a few cooler days at the end of our trip, but the beginning was filled with finding relief from 100+ temperatures. That means many of my recommended spots have air conditioning or breezy rooftops.

For anyone traveling to Montreal during the summer months, it’ll be hot hot hot in July and August, even without a heatwave. And like most of Europe, AC is not a big thing there. Make a note and plan accordingly if you can’t live sweaty AF.

Where to Eat In Montreal (and Drink)

Terrasse Nelligan: Rooftop bar and restaurant with stunning views of Old Montreal. We came here twice because nobody can keep us away from a solid rooftop. We had cocktails and a charcuterie board on our first night, and brunch before our return flight on our final day. Lobster poutine? Um yes, plz.

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Schwartz’s: Famous for smoked meat sandwiches. If you haven’t heard of this deli already, you probably will before you leave Montreal. Get here early. The line wraps around the building during peak hours.

There’s a takeaway area next to the main dining room, but that line seemed equally as long. So don’t count on that as an alternative.

Darling: Café and bar in the Jewish quarter. It looked beautiful on the inside, but we came on a heatwave day and they didn’t have air conditioning so we didn’t stay. Tip: the unassuming diner next door has air conditioning.

Bagel, Etc.: Next door to Darling in the Jewish quarter. We came here because we wanted air conditioning, but stumbled across a good find. Locals have been coming here for decades because it’s a convenient place to get quality food. Did I mention air conditioning? The Eater wrote about Bagel, Etc.

Canal Lounge: It’s a boat. It’s a bar. It’s a boat bar. This little gem is located inside a refurbished boat. Get there early because we heard it gets busy. Late afternoon was ideal for us. No wait, fast service.

Ask to be added to the rooftop list. It’s a tiny little area for four people (or two groups of two) that overlooks the river. Great for cocktails and an appetizer.


Modavie Restaurant: Nice sit-down restaurant. We had steaks with mashed potatoes, red wine and tiramisu, which is my favorite dessert in the history of desserts.

Cold Room: Speakeasy walking distance from the restaurants in Old Montreal. We went here after dinner at Modavie. It’s hidden and difficult to find, but don’t give up. Once you find the black door, ring the doorbell. The host will escort you downstairs.

I’d explain how to find it, but someone else already did a great job with step-by-step instructions.

Pizza II Focolaio: One of my favorite meals because of the food quality and atmosphere (and the heatwave had finally ended). Or maybe it was because I showered and took off all my makeup right before I went, so I wasn’t concerned about pictures for Instagram.

There’s nothing like a clean face, comfortable gym shorts and a patio in high-60-degree weather during sunset. With pizza, cannolis and sangria. Am I right?


Things to Do in Montreal

Montreal Botanical Garden: We read this was one of the best botanical gardens in the world and we like things that are the best in the world. So we went.

It was just alright to us. If you’re nearby and have an extra afternoon, go. If not, don’t worry about trying to squeeze it in. The line wasn’t long.


Hike Plateau Mont Royal: If you like incredible views of the city, do this. It’s hardly a hike, as the paths are well defined, but you’ll still want to wear comfortable shoes.

You can also take public transport up and back down. We hiked up and took the bus down. Because heatwave.

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Top of Mont Royal

Walk Mile End : Montreal’s premier hipster district. Sidewalks, cute walkups, plenty of charm. Walk the neighborhood–it’s only a few blocks, and grab a drink on a patio.

We stopped by a yard sale, wandered into a few shops and had mimosas one morning.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: One of my favorite stops of the trip, and rated the best art museum in Canada. GO. It’s located on the historic Golden Square Mile on Sherbrooke Street.

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There’s a lot to explore here, but I loved the Decorative Arts and Design exhibit, which had objects from 1400 through today. It’s like walking back in time.

We also spent a lot of time in Picasso: From Africa to the Americas, which showcased how he appropriated African art in the west, but it’s not there anymore. (Now I know that Picasso was a misogynistic jerk, bummer.)

Notre-Dame Basilica: We didn’t go inside, but I recommend at least walking by when you’re in the historic district. The church is located at 110 Notre-Dame Street West, at the corner of Saint Sulpice Street.

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Walk Old Montreal: Explore by foot. Walk along Rue St. Paul for cobblestone streets, patios and an old-world feel reminiscent of Europe. You’ll find a few of the restaurants I mentioned in this blog post, including Terrasse Nelligan.

We stopped for ice cream a few times in this area. You’ll see plenty of places and they’re all great. We didn’t shop, though, as this street does get a bit touristy.

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Where to Stay in Montreal

There are plenty of neighborhoods to choose from, so it depends on your budget and travel style. We stayed downtown and thought the location was great. The proximity to restaurants, shops and public transportation checked all of our boxes.

Similar to Europe, air conditioning is not standard in Montreal. If you’re going over the summer, look for an Airbnb that has it. Temperatures are hot in July and August.

The interior of our Airbnb was basic, but this view of the city from our balcony was what we were after. The listing isn’t active right now, but you’ll get a view like this at any high-rise downtown.


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