Montreal, Quebec really has everything: lots of nature, exquisite food, a kick ass music scene, and just enough history that you can feel you’ve gone to an exotic location for a few days.
I have travelled to this lovely city in both the winter and the summer, and I can tell you from experience that while you’ll freeze your patootie off walking around in February, the city really is great any time of year. In the summer there are amazing music festivals such as Osheaga, and in the winter you can experience Fete des Neiges (Snow Festival).
So before I give too much away, here are my recommendations for how to rock a weekend in Montreal.
Climb Mount Royal
Mount Royal is a small mountain located directly in Montreal, just a short walking distance from downtown. From its base, for the average hiker, it takes a little over an hour to get to its summit. Part of the terrain is classic hiking trail, but be warned, much of it is stairs. Efficient, but deadly on the thighs. Climbing to the top will give you an incredible viewpoint of the city.
In the summer the hill is overtaken by hikers, joggers, cyclists, and casual picnickers, while in the winter it is a popular destination for sledders.
Fun fact, Jacques-Cartier was the first European to have ever scaled the mountain, having done so in 1535. After getting to its peak with the help of the villagers of Hochelega, Cartier named the mountain in honor of his patron, Francis I of France.
Eat Some Poutine
While poutine may have not originated in Montreal, it did come from the province of Quebec. In its classic form, Poutine is french fries topped with cheese curds and delicious brown gravy. It’s a Canadian staple, and if you somehow leave Quebec without stuffing your face full of it, shame on you.
Optimal Montreal poutineries include: La Banquise, Frite Alors, and La Belle Province. As far as pronunciation goes, I have always called it ‘Poo-teen’, as anyone from Saskatchewan would. However, the further east you go, the more their religion dictates you pronounce it ‘Poo-tin’. They will correct you. Think Vlad.
For more Montreal food recommendations, check out this article on Five Restaurants you Must Visit on your Next Trip to Montreal.
Experience the Nightlife
Montreal is one of the best cities for the rock scene in Canada. Be sure to check out the infamous bar Les Foufounes Electriques, as well as Katacombes. Both host live music regularly.
Fun fact: Once at Foufounes Electriques, I had a guy tell me that his favorite band ever was Ah-ha. And then, when I brought up the song “Take On Me”, he had never heard of it. Bro not so bright. This is not indicitive of all Fouf’s patrons.
Wander Through Old Montreal and The Port
Is Old Montreal the most touristy part of the city? Yes. But that doesn’t mean you should miss it!
Canadians don’t have a whole lot they can call ‘old’, so when they have something with the label, they grab it by the balls. Also known as the Historic City Center, Old Montreal dates back to the early 1600’s when the French colonized the area. The district is now abloom with boutique shops and foreigners with fanny packs. And don’t miss a stop at the Notre Dame Basilica; religious or not the architecture alone is worth a gander!
Adjacent to Old Montreal is the Port. Here you will find a boardwalk spanning much of the St. Lawrence River, pleasantly littered with ice cream carts and bike rentals. Take a cruise of the river, or just lounge about in the nearby park!
Montreal has many great shops for inexpensive one-of-a-kind finds! First, head to Eva B – they incorporate a clothing store, cafe, stage, and costume area all into their little shop. Don’t leave without sipping a delicious latte on their three-tiered back patio!
Once you’ve gotten your fill of Eva, head over to Cul-de-sac on St. Laurent. This little shop offers everything from unique knick-knacks to great vintage clothing.