If you want to truly experience a place, you have to ask a local for tips. And that’s what we set out to do when we asked Canadians in five cities across the country to tailor-make itineraries for visiting Americans that love to discover the unexpected and go off the beaten path. The result? A local’s guide to each city that isn’t so much an itinerary, but instead a collection of things to do, eat, try, and experience.
Big on culture, big on art, big on music. Montreal is basically a traveler’s paradise. Get to know the city through its coffee shops, restaurants, architecture, and most importantly, its people.
Ali of @inayali knows best when it comes to Montreal and he provided a ton of hidden gems for Patrick Janelle of @aguynamedpatrick to explore. Check out their experience in the video above, then read on to plan your own trip getting to know the sights and sounds of Montreal.
Day 1: Coffee and architecture
Say “bonjour” to Montreal with a cappuccino in Little Italy. Try Le Cafe Pista for great coffee and a fresh-made pastry. You’ll love the sleek and modern design — the perfect vibe to start a chill morning. After you’ve fueled up, walk to Marche Jean-Talon, Montreal’s beloved public market. Here, you’ll find a robust selection of open-air stalls selling all sorts of fresh produce and handmade treats. One of the oldest public markets in Montreal, the market has been around since 1933, but still remains the perfect place to grab a snack or some picnic supplies.
Post-lunch, wander through Mile-Ex to take in the contemporary houses and architecture. Be sure to stop and snap a few photos as your weave through the streets towards Dispatch Coffee, home to delicious cold brew. Next, make a pitstop at Phonopolis Records, where you can find one-of-a-kind vinyl, and then check out the Spice Station that boasts impressive walls of teas, herbs, and spices. Pick one up as a unique souvenir.
Now’s the time to hop on the subway and get off at Station Papineau. Why you ask? To see the view of Montreal from the Pont Jacques-Cartier a historically (and Instagram) notable bridge and landmark. After you’ve seen the sites, stop by Bouillon Bilk for dinner. Eclectic and minimal, this restaurant serves up delicious food (including a chef’s tasting menu) that’s impeccably presented. It’s a popular spot, so be sure to make a reservation.
Post-dinner, check out a show at one of the city’s amazing venues — meet locals, dance, and stay up too late. That’s the Montreal way after all.
Day 2: Neighborhood tours and treats
Rise and shine! It’s another opportunity to start your day with a coffee and pastry, Montreal-style. Indulge at Pikolo Espresso Bar, where, you need to try their gluten-free chocolate cake and their cold brew. In the mood for something warm? Their lattes are also not to be missed.
With coffee in your belly and a smile on your face, swing by the Plateau neighborhood to explore the colorful houses, facades, and spiral staircases. Bring a roll or film of two. Then, check out Saint-Louis Square and Rue Drolet, home to some of the best architecture in the city. After a bit of exploring, you might be hungry for lunch at Larry’s. Home to a selection of small plates, this neighborhood spot is as cool as it is tasty. They don’t have a phone and don’t take reservations, so just show up and chow down. If you really like the vibe, you can come back for a nightcap as it’s open until 1am.
Meander to St-Viateur Street post-lunch and shop the vintage boutiques. If you’re still hungry, grab a bagel at the famous St-Viateur Bagel shop before hitting up Standard Coffee for your afternoon cup of coffee. Check out the biggest church in Canada, L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal, then discover trendy boutiques in the nearby Plateau neighborhood. Our fav? WANT Apothecary.
As the sun starts to set, visit Au Sommet Place Ville Marie to take it all in. The newly opened observation deck here offers an amazing view of the city. Once darkness has fallen, grab a bite at Les Enfants Terribles at the top of Au Sommet Place. Cap off your day at Dominion Square Tavern. One of the oldest bars in the city, this spot serves up a fine cocktail.
Day 3: City by bike
Wake up, grab a bike. That’s how the locals do in Montreal, especially on Sundays when BIXI bikes offer free, 30-minute one-way trips. Ride to Crew Collectif & Cafe, located in an old bank building, for coffee and breakfast. If you’re in Montreal for a few days, this is a good place to come to if you have some reading or work to do as it doubles as a co-working space. You’ll want to spend some time here no matter what though — the ceilings and arches in this building are stunning.
Post-coffee, head out to the bike-friendly streets and explore downtown Montreal on two wheels. Head to Mount Royal Park in the early afternoon to experience Tam-Tams. What’s that you ask? A loosely organized drum circle that takes place every Sunday. Meet locals, dance, or join in if the mood strikes you. Also be sure to explore the best underground tunnels and architecture at the Square-Victoria-OACI metro station. Then, it’s time to scope Habitat 67, one of the most unique, recognizable, and photographed buildings in the city. Designed and build for Expo 67, this exceptional piece of architecture is as cutting edge today as it was over 40 years ago.
After a morning of sightseeing, grab a bite at Olive & Gourmando where you’ll find artisanal breads, sweets, sandwiches, and more. Plus, the place is super quaint and has big, beautiful windows to sit beside if you’re visiting on a warm day. If you’re in Montreal from May to September, spend an afternoon at Piknic Electronik, an outdoor electronic music festival that takes place each weekend over the summer. Listen to DJs and artists from around the world, enjoy the balmy summer days, and meet some new friends in the crowd.
Post-show, you might need a pick-me-up for the night ahead. Stop by Cafe Sfouf, for a happy hour coffee. This spot is photogenic, to say the least, and is conveniently a combo between a coffee shop, bakery, and luncheonette. After having your senses dazzled by that charming space, go a little more lo-fi at O.Noir, a restaurant where you’ll dine in complete darkness. Yes, it’s adventurous. And yes, it’s also delicious. Order the three-course menu for the full experience and enjoy a completely unique dinner. As your night begins to wind down, head to Terrasse Place d’Armes for a cocktail on the roof. This historic spot is known for it’s specialty drink: A mojito with fresh raspberries. See and be seen, before your trip is over.
After experiencing Montreal, you’ll understand why this city warrants a repeat visit. Discover more attractions here and start planning your trip.