The visit to Montréal was my first trip within Canada. I had just stepped outside a plane and literally stared at everything with my mouth wide open.
Don’t get me wrong, Belgium does not differ that much from Canada. The differences are rather subtle.
My first all-alone Uber ride turned out to be my first lecture in Canadian culture. I learned about the weather, the monarchy and some famous Canadian singers such as Garou.
The three days I spent in Montréal made my emotions flip back and forth from ‘amazing’ to ‘what the hell am I doing here again?’ and back to ‘wow!’. I arrived all alone and it was by far one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. So this is the story of a girl who overcame her culture shock in Montréal.
First things first; there are squirrels EVERYWHERE! And they are without a doubt the most adorable creatures I have ever seen. Now you should, for a second, imagine the face of someone who has never seen a squirrel in real-life and just landed in squirrel-land. That was me ;).
What follows now is an overview of things I have seen and you absolutely cannot miss when visiting Montréal. These will form a great Montreal itinerary for you too! For other city trip recommendations in Canada take a look at my post about the best cities in Eastern Canada!
Related: 6 top Quebec road trip destinations
Montreal itinerary: what to include
1. St. Patricks Basilica
Although this one only applies to church-lovers: visit the St. Patricks Basilica (or any church in general). If you come from Europe, or anywhere else, you will clearly see a difference in design and architecture (if not, it is simply beautiful ;)). It really made me think of a Harry Potter scenario and I liked it!
2. Walk along the waterside
Honestly, outside the old town, the waterside might not be the prettiest sight you can get on your visit to Montréal, but it gives you a nice view over the islands. Moreover, the Montréal Science Centre is located there and might be interesting if you are a science-lover.
In addition, there is a theme-park kind of thing located at the Vieux Port which might be fun if you’re a child at heart ;).
3. Visit the Biosphere
The Biosphère is the only environmental museum in North America and it is all about climate change. This museum is full of valuable information and certainly worth a visit!
The building is located on one of the islands and the big bowl is easy to see when you stand near the waterside.
4. Give yourself a well-earned wellness break
Yes, wellness! I know, not exactly a typical tourist thing to do… but certainly as much fun! THE place to include in your Montréal itinerary to treat yourself is called BOTA BOTA. And I think you guessed it right, it is a boat!
BOTA BOTA consists of saunas, swimming pools and massage rooms… all floating on the water. Considering prices, it resembles most of the mid-range wellness centra, but way more original.
Because I didn’t have a lot of time I booked a massage, but you can go for a whole day or afternoon retreat as well. The staff is very professional and after each massage, you can rate the therapist while nipping from a cup of hot tea.
5. Enter the Notre-Dame de Montréal! (yes, I’m begging you…)
The Notre-Dame de Montréal is ABSOLUTELY the most beautiful church I have ever seen (and believe me, I have seen a lot of them)! You pay 8 CAD to get in but it is worth every dollar.
Free of extra charge they give you a 20-minute guided tour around the Cathedral with some interesting information about the origins of Montréal.
6. Go shopping underground
Apparently, this is what Canadians do when it gets too cold in winter… they pretend to be moles and hide underground.
But underground you can find dining places as well as shopping stores. The tunnels connect major buildings in the city centre and are easy if you don’t like traffic or cold weather.
7. Climb the Mont-Royal (and spot this man)
If you are looking for a little hike and an amazing view, this is the place to be! Mount Royal is a hill in the city of Montréal that functions as a park where people go walking, running etc.
But the main reason to make it all the way to the top is, without doubt, the amazing view over the city. When you look over the city you might as well see someone staring back at you…
8. Flowers, plants and culture… the botanical garden of Montréal!
Yes, yes, yes! Flowers! The botanical garden of Montréal is not something you walk through in an hour. Be prepared to take your time, choose a sunny day and enjoy all of nature’s beautiful colours. It is located somewhat outside of the city, but easy to reach if you take the metro.
Some gardens make you feel like you just arrived in paradise while others guide you through another culture. There is a Chinese and Japanese garden as well as a tropical hall and a place where you can walk through all the mountainous areas of the world within 5 minutes!
9. Shop in Place Desjardins
This is on my list, not necessarily because it is the best place to shop, but because it is a very pretty hall that definitely captured my attention.
So yes! I would recommend taking a look!
It is very important to note that in Montreal you’ll have to pay with Canadian dollars and that it is polite to give tips of about 15%. This is not only customary in Montreal but in the rest of Canada as well, so be aware of this!
Montreal is quite easy to discover on foot but you might also want to use the metro when distances are too far. Especially for your visit to the Botanical Garden, I recommend taking the metro, the old town is perfect to discover on foot.
Packing for Canada can be quite difficult as winters are very cold (especially in Montreal as well!) and summers can be comfortably warm. If you need more packing tips for your trip to Montreal I recommend reading my post about packing for Canada!
Also important is the language, in Montreal, you’ll hear both French and English. The main language in Quebec (and thus Montreal) is French. However, as they are so close located to Ontario, most people are perfectly bilingual and speak English as well.
This is everything I recommend you to include in your Montreal itinerary. Of course, there is a lot more to see if you have more time, such as the National Circus School outside of the city that gives performances or other places I have not touched upon.
But these are my personal experiences and that is exactly what I want to tell you; my experiences in the best places I have seen!
If you’re looking for other city trip recommendations in Canada, you can visit my blog post about the best cities to visit in Eastern Canada.
Feel free to add any other special places readers should include in their Montréal itineraries in the comments! Looking forward to reading your suggestions.
Related: fun facts about Canada