So, you want to see and do everything Montreal has to offer, but here’s the catch: you only have 48 hours. Though a two-day tour of this jam-packed city might seem impossible, experiencing the best of Canada’s cultural capital can be done in less time than you think — especially if you use this guide as a roadmap. Read on to make the most of your brief but memorable trip!
First things first. After checking into your hotel (may we recommend Le Westin Montreal?), you’ll want to fuel up for the day, and although a poutine or smoked meat sandwich may make your mouth water, we suggest getting a healthier start.
To do so, head toward Old Montreal and dive into the city’s coffee culture, which can be enjoyed at local favorites like Tommy Café or Crew Collective & Cafe. Once you’ve had your fill, it’s time for a proper tour of the city’s historic area that dates back over 400 years. Stroll down Saint-Paul Street — Montreal’s inaugural thoroughfare — to visit sites such as the Notre-Dame Basilica, Bonsecours Market, and any of the neighborhood’s long list of galleries. On your way back, you’ll have a chance to ride the famous observation wheel, explore the Montreal Science Center, or simply wander through quieter, cobbled side streets until you’ve worked up an appetite again.
There are countless places to consider for lunch in the area, but a few choice recommendations are Mandy’s, a vegan and vegetarian restaurant, and Le Cartet, a friendly neighborhood spot that’s been around for nearly two decades. Back on the streets, keep busy by checking out the Montreal Archaeology and History Complex, located at 350 Place Royale.
This facility is not only a national historic site, but it also stands on the grounds where Montreal was officially founded. After spending the afternoon learning about the city’s history, take a seat and enjoy a well-deserved dinner. To help narrow your search, LOV (McGill Street location) is a beautiful, organic, and vegetarian establishment, while Modavie is a swanky spot for nice wine and live jazz music.
For evening plans, you won’t have to venture far, as both restaurants are within walking distance of the “Quartier des spectacles” — the city’s entertainment district. This area is home to a number of theaters and squares that host events such as Montreal’s world-famous jazz, film, and comedy festivals, and it’s no stranger to parades, food trucks, and visual art installations either. You can also stick around the historic side of town and check out AURA, an unforgettable light show at the Notre-Dame Basilica.
Before heading in for the night,, stop by BOHO, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar serving up a tropical, California feel paired with delicious drinks such as the Basil Smash or Miami Vice!
There’s no better way to start a day in Montreal than by heading to Jean-Talon Market, located north of downtown in Little Italy. The year-round market opens each morning at 7 a.m. and hosts an impressive collection of vendors, sporting everything from fresh produce to locally made spices, herbs, meats, and cheeses (just watch out for low-flying birds!). If you happen to be in town on a Saturday, a cool space to check out after leaving the market is Never Apart (open 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.), an interactive art space on Saint-Urbain Street. Its exhibits are always changing, but the not-for-profit group behind the gallery aims to foster “social change and spiritual awareness through cultural and music programming.”
To see more of the city, head south toward the Mile End and Plateau areas. Both neighborhoods boast the three-story residential architecture that’s become synonymous with Montreal. While wandering through Mile End (sometimes referred to as the Williamsburg of Montreal), keep an eye out for street art and breweries, and don’t be shy about popping into other local shops — especially the two famous bagelmakers on Fairmount Avenue, Fairmount and St. Viateur. Moving farther south, stroll along Saint Laurent Boulevard and spend the rest of your afternoon in the Plateau. This neighborhood is constantly buzzing, as it hosts festivals such as POP Montreal, Montreal Fringe, and MURAL Festival (which always leaves behind a few colorful alleys to explore!).
When you can’t ignore your hunger any longer, some places to consider are Schwartz’s Deli or Patati Patata, both of which are close to your next stop: Mount Royal Park. Montreal is quite literally built around the mountain, and the park serves as the city’s central green space, complete with lookout points, walking trails, and even skating rinks in the winter.
Head back downtown for dinner, and try snagging a table at Les Enfants Terribles — Au Sommet Place Ville Marie, a stunning restaurant located on the 44th floor of the Place Ville Marie. From that height, you’ll be treated to a dazzling 360-degree view of the city, which can be enjoyed in all its glory from the outdoor terrace during summer. Another supper-time option is Foodlab, located inside the Society for Arts and Technology (SAT) building, which may work out well if you’re planning on attending the fulldome show, held in SAT’s satosphere projection room.
Finally, to cap off your whirlwind of a stay, head to Bartizen (located in the W Montreal) to try one of their creative gin and perfume concoctions. The hotel bar serves up a laid-back lounge experience that features an impressive collection of Quebec-made gins. Then it’s time to turn in for the night, for you have an early exit in the morning.
It’s amazing what you can fit into 48 hours, but if you’re lucky enough to have more time in Montreal, be sure to check out the rest of our guides!