Montreal is one of the great cities in the world. It’s an absolutely beautiful and cosmopolitan city with tons of history and culture. It’s also a foodie’s paradise, with some incredible restaurants. Here are some of the special Montreal restaurants you should check out while in the city.
Montreal has many attractions that attract people from all over the world to visit it. The city is full of museums, park and outdoor activities, and music concerts among many others. But, if you are traveling to Montreal, you may be wondering what to see, do, and eat in Montreal.
Montreal is a city with a lot to offer: friendly people, great scenery, and delicious foods. In this guide we’ll show you where to go, what to do, and what to eat during your trip. You’ll find out which attractions are worth your time and money, and which are more flash in the pan. We’ll also tell you where to stay when you’re in town.. Read more about things to do in montreal during covid and let us know what you think.
I was born and raised in Montreal, which is a popular tourist destination for good reason: it has excellent cuisine, beautiful vistas, a lively party scene, and it’s simple to travel there. So I thought I’d put up an article on things to see, do, and eat in the city, along with some extra tips for other celiacs who need to be a little more cautious with their food.
Below, you’ll discover my recommendations on what to do and how to make the most of a chilly winter visit, as well as the finest rooftop bars and restaurants you must try.
I hope you enjoy your stay in my city!
THE LAST TIME IT WAS UPDATED WAS JUNE 17, 2023. The Tourisme Montréal website has the most recent COVID-19 updates for Montreal. Non-citizens, the immediate relatives of Canadian citizens/have a previously applied-for extended family exemption, and essential employees are now barred from crossing the Canadian border. As of this edit, lockdowns and a curfew are still in effect, thus tourism is discouraged. When things change, I’ll update this article.
Contents of An Opinionated Guide to Montreal
What should you do in Montreal? Where Should You Eat in Montreal? Gluten-free restaurants in Montreal for celiacs The best novels about Montreal to read
From atop Mount Royal, you can get a bird’s eye view of Montreal.
In Montreal, What to Do
Much of the city’s activity revolves on the downtown center, which is now connected not just by metro but also by Bixi Bikes.
- Riding through the Old Port area will give you a wonderful picture of how the city started to take form, with its lovely cobblestone streets and ancient buildings. Don’t miss Basilica Notre-Dame, which was constructed in 1672 and is now North America’s biggest place of worship. Its sanctuary, which sits on the outskirts of the Old Port, is a wonder of stone, sculptures, and stained glass. While you’re there, stroll along the water’s edge and observe the hustle and bustle of the artists and activity in Place Jacques-Cartier. In the summer, the beach by the Clock Tower is a great location to spend a day.
- Also throughout the summer, Piknic Électronik on Île Ste.-Hélène hosts a wonderful outdoor party on Sundays. The small island off the coast of Montreal is simple to reach (take the métro to Jean-Drapeau Park or ride your Bixi bike!) is a great spot to unwind or take use of some of the town’s new free pop-up spaces and boardwalks, such as Au Pied du Courant (at the edge of the current), which is directly on the river. This mini-village is the result of a love marriage of art, cuisine, drink, and music, and it will be open every weekend starting June 1.
- Shakespeare in the Park is an annual event hosted by Repercussion Theatre, with one play chosen to be presented across the city. Romeo and Juliet is being performed all around town in honor of their 30th anniversary. Please bring your own BARD, as well as food and lawnchairs.
- I’d also suggest going to Mont Royal, a little peak that looks down over Montreal. You may hike to the summit, view the sunset over the city, and explore Beaver Lake. Every Sunday afternoon in the summer, you may participate in Tamtams, a large, free drum circle in Mont Royal Park.
- Montreal is also renowned for its massive, expansive Underground City (locally known as RÉSO), which offers a welcome relief from the biting cold during the winter months with its many kilometers of tunnels (32km and counting!). This vast network of subterranean tunnels is available in PDF format.
- There are several fantastic terraces, rooftop pubs with views of the city, where you may have an evening drink. Terrasse Bonsecours, the rooftop bar of SAT FoodLab, Terrasse Place d’Armes (available for lunch and supper in the summer months) at the Hotel Place d’Armes in the city’s Old Port district, and Terrasse Nelligan are all worth a visit. These rooftop bars are only open in the spring and summer months due to Montreal’s harsh winters.
- If you like discovering new foods and markets, don’t miss the busy Atwater or Jean-Talon fresh markets, which provide an amazing variety of fresh cheeses and vegetables.
- The Olympic Stadium and Olympic Park, which were built for the 1976 Olympic Games, are well worth a visit, particularly if you have time to explore the adjacent BioDome and Insectarium, which makes for a fun day trip with kids.
- With changing exhibits and innovative hands-on activities in a magnificent modernist setting, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is always an interesting way to spend a day, even when it’s raining.
Montreal is known for its festivals
Montreal is renowned for its numerous festivals, and my family used to go to the downtown core in the summer to see jazz performed out in the midst of the streets. When I tell people they should come to Montreal, I always urge them to go during the city’s most renowned event, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. Hundreds of free and paid jazz performances shut down the streets, capturing the energy of the downtown center.
Comedy is the town’s second most well-known event. Just for Laughs has grown into a vast, internationally recognized festival with big names in comedy, younger artists coming onto the scene, and weeks of free performances, exciting food trucks, and other activities downtown.
In the summer, MURAL, a newer free street art event, has been making waves. It honors urban art’s inventiveness by combining it with music, dance, cinema, and street installations throughout the course of the festival.
Montreal’s Francofolies festival
During the summer, the Fantasia Film Festival takes place in the heart of downtown. Known as the world’s biggest genre film festival, it features films from all around the globe. Fantasia celebrated its 22nd year in 2018, with directors, actors, producers, studio representatives, and much more all in attendance.
Montreal’s International Festival of Digital Creativity and Electronic Music (known locally as Mutek!) is a festival that takes place all over the globe, including in Buenos Aires, Barcelona, Tokyo, and other cities. In 2018, the dates were shifted to August to avoid clashing with other major events in town, and the festival is now in its 19th year, according to Canada’s Heritage Minister Melanie Joly, who calls it “an important event for lovers of electronic and alternative music in Quebec.” It distinguishes itself by the caliber and uniqueness of its featured artists.” If you’re in town in August, don’t miss it!
Zoofest is a Montreal comedy festival that began in 2009 as a homage to risk takers and emerging stars, enabling the overflow from the now-famous Just For Laughs festival to begin with something smaller. It’s a completely multilingual event that’s also one of the longest in North America. Over 500 performers performed over nearly a month of wacky spectacle during their 2017 festivities.
See the Montreal Tourism Board’s festival website for additional information about other events, such as the Montreal World Film Festival, a summer series of fireworks displays, and the winter spectacular “IglooFest.” To list them all would take up this whole article, but I wanted to highlight a few since it’s undoubtedly one of the city’s highlights.
Also worth noting is Montreal Museum Day, which occurs once a year and offers free admission to all of the city’s museums. The date for 2016 is May 29.
Winter Sporting Events
Despite the fact that my eyelashes often froze together in the winter, Montreal is not all ice and cold in the winter. The city has a contagious energy and a clever propensity to disregard the weather in favor of having a good time. Even those who wish to escape the cold may find plenty to do in town with over 26 kilometers of subterranean tunnels (and art!). If you visit Montreal during the winter, I wanted to share some of the highlights.
- Écorécréo offers cross-country skiing instruction as well as ski, snowshoe, and sled rentals. Dog sled lessons are also offered for those who are feeling especially daring. You may spend the morning outside at Parc Jean Drapeau and then go inside to the Biosphere to learn more about the ecosystem you just experienced.
- On February 15th, Montreal held a Hypothermic Half Marathon. From January through March, the 21km race is conducted across Canada – also in the US city of Eden Prairie, Minnesota – as a winter training challenge for runners. If you like winter running, keep an eye on the Quebec marathon calendar for information on upcoming events.
- If running isn’t your thing, try fishing. During the winter months, ice fishing is accessible in the Bassin de L’Horloge, which is located right in the heart of the city (Montreal Yacht Club). Prices for reservations may be found here. They do not, however, include the cost of the fishing permit, which is required and available on-site. Ice fishing in a city is an uncommon occurrence.
- Skates may be rented throughout old Montreal, but especially near the Old Port, for people who like skating. After then, plan a skate path that takes you through the historic district. Skating at the lovely Parc Lafontaine is another option. Here is a link to Tourisme Montréal’s complete list of winter sport possibilities in the city.
- If you want to skate inside, visit Atrium Le 1000, which is located in an office building. This indoor rink, located in the foyer of Montreal’s tallest skyscraper, is an odd addition to the central business area, but one definitely worth seeing before leaving town.
- Every year, Montreal’s winter spectacular, the Fête des Neiges (snow festival), takes place in Parc Jean Drapeau. Weekends attract families and dogs to the park to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including skating, tubing, and sledding, as well as outdoor concerts, regardless of the weather. The Fete, which runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., is a great place to get a quick taste of a Montreal winter.
- IglooFest is a weekend event for those 18 and over that draws out even the most grumpy tourists throughout the winter months. The Old Port of Montreal is transformed into the setting for a raucous electronic music scene, with people dancing outdoors while the sound reverberates off the freezing water.
- The annual Montreal en Lumière festival is an 11-day extravaganza that combines cuisine, culture, and a plethora of light displays. One of the major winter events, its food and wine track has fuelled its appeal, bringing together local and international chefs for days of cooking. While some of the culinary events are pricey, the website allows users to browse by budget, with a list of activities ranging from $5 to $25. (as well as those for higher budgets too).
- Last but not least, there’s the world-famous Nuit Blanche (white night), a celebration that lasts from twilight to dawn and attracts tens of thousands of people dressed in white who dance the whole night away. Restaurants and museums are open late, with some staying up until 3 a.m. It was an evening to remember.
This list of events for 2018 is an excellent place to start, including ramen bowls and a local beer tour.
Where Should You Eat in Montreal?
You’ll never run out of interesting places to dine in Montreal, which is renowned for its broad variety of culinary pleasures. When I visit my family every summer, I’m eager to explore the new eateries that have opened during my absence. Chefs in the city today are focusing on farm-to-table cuisine from Quebec, with a focus on seasonal ingredients and a profound knowledge of tastes. Ethnic food choices abound, and I grew up eating a constant diet of Ethiopian, Indian, and Vietnamese cuisines in addition to local fare.
- To begin, there are bagels. Bite your tongue if you think Montreal bagels are the same as they are anywhere else. These were my go-to until I was diagnosed with celiac disease, and I found bagels in New York to be nothing more than rolls with holes in them. That’s not the case! If you want to try Montreal-style bagels, go to Fairmount or St. Viateur. See here for additional information on what makes Montreal bagels unique.
- Then go to Schwartz’ Deli for Montreal-style smoked meat, which is a world-famous smoked beef served with dill pickles. It’s a tradition, slathered in yellow mustard and served in heaping meat chunks on rye bread. It’s a must-try for non-celiacs.
- La Banquise is the finest location to experience poutine; start with the classic before branching out into the world of french fries. Poutineville and Chez Claudette have both been highly recommended by readers for excellent poutine. I won’t be able to try these two since their gravy contains wheat, but I’ll pass along the recommendations! (For celiacs, see the section below.)
- Montreal is also renowned for combining fantastic, sophisticated cuisine with establishments that allow you to bring your own wine (BYOW). Khyber Pass, for delectable Afghani food, is one of my favorites. If you’re on the West Island, I recommend Aryana on des Sources. Their pumpkin starter and Kabuli palau are two of my favorites. See this list of 19 places where you can bring the bubbly for a fantastic overview of BYOW locations. Le Pegase is another fantastic BYOB, regularly ranking as one of the best places to bring your own drink in the city. Their website provides useful information on which wines to match with their delectable cuisine.
- Restaurant Marconi is a great illustration of how a smaller menu can help a restaurant stand out. Plated with care, this dish is very delicious. It’s something I often suggest.
- Damascus is the place to go for excellent Syrian cuisine. It comes highly recommended. Plus, the dining room is lovely.
- For a low-cost meal, In 2023, Time Out magazine will publish 35 inexpensive meals from across town, while Eater Montreal will publish its “18 budget restaurants” for Montreal in April 2023.
- Readers often inquire about wine bars. Alma, Loic, Buvette Chez Simone, and the more expensive Le Diplomate are also good options. Although Larry’s isn’t strictly a wine bar, they have excellent charcuterie and a large selection of wines to sample at a range of pricing. I recommend Cul Sec for biologic / organic wines, and if you want to sample a Joe Beef restaurant but can’t get into the main event, their wine bar Mon Lapin is another option.
- Cuisine de Bangkok, located on the second floor of the Le Faubourg shopping center, serves inexpensive and excellent Thai cuisine. What you lose out on in terms of ambience, you make up for in terms of cuisine — the picture above is from there. Epicerie Pumpui, situated on St. Zotique, serves other excellent Thai cuisine that is “as delicious as it gets outside of Thailand.”
- There are plenty of options for more expensive eating. Liverpool House, the younger sister of Joe Beef, serves fois gras, a large wine selection, and calf’s liver prepared in the Montreal manner. Lawrence is a chic gastropub that offers tender steak and fresh seafood in a relaxed atmosphere, as well as excellent weekend breakfasts. BarBounya takes traditional Turkish cuisine and delivers it with finesse, often blending beautiful presentation with delectable cuisine.
- If you have a larger budget, try Martin Picard’s Au Pied de Cochon, Normand Laprise’s Toqué!, or the mid-to-high-end Shinji for Japanese cuisine.
- Last but not least, the finest. Vietnamese cuisine is my personal favorite. For bun cha, go to Pho Tay Ho, which is located on the intersection of Saint-Dennis and Beaubien. The portions are generous, the wait staff is kind, and it never disappoints. If you’re on the south coast, Pho MC in Brossard offers a fantastic bun bo hue – the closest thing I’ve found outside of Hue to match the genuine thing. Restaurant Nguyen Phi in Cote-Des-Neiges takes the cake for my favorite pho in town.
Montreal’s Gluten-Free Restaurants (Safe for Celiacs)
(If you’re a celiac who travels, check out my regularly updated series of gluten-free travel guides, which are organized by nation.)
In Montreal, I’ve got you covered, mainly because it’s how I have to eat. I intend to create a lengthier gluten-free Montreal guide now that I’ve had to re-establish myself in Montreal owing to health concerns.
In the meanwhile…
Restaurants in Montreal that are gluten-free
- The fries at Cote-St-Luc BBQ are cooked in separate oil, and the gravy is prepared with corn starch rather of wheat flour, making it one of the few restaurants I’ve discovered that regularly serves gluten-free poutine.
- Hero Burgers, located near the Musée des Beaux Arts, offers another gluten-free poutine alternative. The atmosphere is quite relaxed, but if the weather is good, take it outside and sit in the park for a treat. Gluten-free buns, cross-contamination awareness, specialized fryers, and a conspicuous gluten-free menu are all available.
- Kleine Shoppe, a newcomer that serves healthy, gluten-free cuisine without sacrificing flavor, debuted in 2017 and I have no idea where it’s been all my life. A menu that changes according on what’s available and in season, great combinations like banh mi tacos and amazing salted caramel desserts, and everything is gluten-free. Brunch and lunch are the only times the restaurant is open.
- Ottavio’s is a well-known place for gluten-free pizza that considers cross-contamination. Here’s Ottavio’s gluten-free menu. If you can’t make it to Pizza 900 Monkland, below, there’s a better alternative for safe pizzas.
- Pizza No. 900 is a solid choice if you’re looking for Neapolitan-style pizza. It’s worth noting that each of their sites is a franchise, thus understanding about celiac disease may vary. The Monkland location is the ONLY safe place in my experience. The cooks told me that the gluten-free pizzas were cooked off-site (the gluten-free dough is produced from brown rice flour), and that they always cleaned their hands and prepared my pizzas in a separate area away from all the flour. They also baked the pizza on a surface tray to avoid coming into touch with any leftover flour from the normal pies. Other places, however, did not follow the same procedure.
- I leased a house near Restaurant MAIS on St. Laurent a few summers back, and it quickly became a favorite. Mais, which means maize in French, is a Latin restaurant that specializes on corn-based cuisine. Tacos, chilaquiles, tostadas, and more are all available. It’s not Oaxaca, but it’ll suffice.
- Also on the latin front: Arepera du Plateau, gluten-free corn arepas (fully gluten free facility), with chicken, cheese, and many other delicious fillings – plus fried plantains <3
- Venice is an excellent option for poke bowls, tacos, soups, and more, with properly labelled gluten-free menu items and a knowledgeable staff.
- One of my favorite places to get sarrasin (buckwheat) crepes is Crêperie Du Marché in Marché Jean-Talon. It has a specialized gluten-free facility, with gluten-free ingredients and crepes, and it’s right in the heart of the crowded market. Grab a crepe and go for a walk. Consume a few raw oysters. Take pleasure in the crowds. You can’t go wrong with this!
- Boris Bistro, which started 20 years ago, is a certified gluten-free establishment that provides a new gluten-free bistro menu – with the exception of the baguette, which is available for non-gluten-free customers. Organic wines round up the list of possibilities. Near Victoria Square, this is a fantastic choice.
- Mucca, a newcomer in Little Italy, has a separate prep station for gluten-free pastas, bread, and meals, according to Eater. I haven’t been there yet, but Eater says that it has a separate prep station for gluten-free pastas, bread, and meals. I contacted the owner personally, and he confirmed that the staff is aware with celiac illness, and that his wife, who is gluten-free, would be able to help with food choices.
- Abe & Mary’s on de la Montagne offers gluten free soups and salads, as well as bread toasted separately. Staff knowledgeable about celiac disease, and there are lots of snacks at the cash to grab on-the-go that are gluten free.
Despite the fact that the city is mostly multilingual, some non-French speaking readers have experienced difficulty as celiacs outside of Montreal. If you’re concerned about celiac disease, you may get a French celiac translation card.
Montreal’s gluten-free bakery
- Le Marquis Sans Gluten offers gluten-free bakery choices as well as online ordering.
- Petit Lapin’s products are gluten-free, lactose-free, and vegan, as well as free of the 10 most common food allergies (peanuts, tree nuts), sesame seeds, milk, eggs, shellfish, soy, wheat, sulphites, and mustard). SOMEHOW, they’re still enjoyable to eat. You may place an order on their website ahead of time. You will not be sorry.
- Cookie Stephanie is mainly a bakery, as the name implies. It also happens to be gluten-free. Breads, cupcakes, cookies, and more — delectable and gluten-free.
- If you’re in Dorval, Louise Sans Gluten is completely gluten-free, as the name implies, and offers a varied and tasty cuisine. I grew up on the West Island, so knowing there was a place to buy goodies when I went back to see my mother was a huge relief.
- Doughnats sells gluten-free doughnuts, and according to The GF BFF and an interview with the creator, they are safe for celiacs. Also, The GF BFF suggests La Brunelle, a BYOB restaurant where they would gladly modify your meal for celiacs, and bringing your own wine is a nice summer sell!
- Audicieuse Vanille (audacious vanilla might also be a fantastic band name) is a new bakery in the Montreal suburb of Verdun that opened in 2019.
- Du Gout, a 2019 bakery on Duluth Street with lots of excellent restaurants around, is the ideal dessert destination. Du Gout’s cuisine is gluten-free and vegan, and includes cakes, cupcakes, desserts, and more.
The final line is that you should pay us a visit. You won’t be sorry – but you may gain a few pounds in the process.
The Best Montreal-Related Books
Pre-trip reading always adds to the enjoyment of your stay in a new location. Many novels are set in Montreal, and reading them always makes me want to go for a walk around the city, imagining myself as the characters.
Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Richler’s humor and caustic comments on growing up as an immigrant in Montreal made his novels a popular requirement for schools when I was a kid, and this book is still considered one of his masterpieces. In their article “Mordecai Richler’s Montreal,” the Guardian offers a nice overview of the sites still surviving in town that are mentioned in his novels. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is equal parts coming-of-age tale and family comedy, and it’s a lot of fun. I’ve read it many times and have a copy on hand at my parents’ house for my trips.
John Kalbfleisch’s This Island in Time: Remarkable Tales from Montreal’s Past. This book has no reviews on Amazon (which I should fix), but it’s a fascinating account of the insane spies, royal visitors, priests, fur trappers, and other characters that helped build what is now Montreal. This is a fascinating book that is highly recommended if you wish to learn about the city’s brief but eventful history.
Gabrielle Roy’s The Tin Flute The novel is set in the 1940s and follows one lady as she grows up in the Montreal slums amid a period of war, poverty, and social inequality. This is a fascinating novel that was first written in French before being translated into English.
Leonard Cohen’s “The Favourite Game.” Many people associate Cohen with singing rather than writing, yet this semi-autobiographical novel follows Lawrence Breavman as he grows up in Montreal.
Taras Grescoe’s Sacré Blues: An Unsentimental Journey Through Quebec. I first encountered Taras via his wonderful book The Devil’s Picnic, which explores why certain locations prohibit particular foods or activities. In Blues, the author delves into the early 2000s Quebec, from a referendum question to secede from Canada, to concerns of assimilation inside an English-speaking nation, to the province’s sense of humor and connection with France. It’s entertaining and gives you a glimpse into what makes Quebec so unique.
David’s Balconville. The multilingual drama follows English and French-Canadian people from Montreal’s working class who live in a neighborhood known as “Balconville” because of its many balconies. For those of us who grew up in Montreal, it’s a classic, and it’s wonderful that it’s now accessible in Kindle format to provide insight into the metropolitan regions that gave birth to the city we know today.
Paul-Andre Linteau’s The History of Montreal: The Story of a Great North American City, translated from the French by Peter McCambridge. This book goes farther than “This Island in Time,” starting in antiquity and zooming all the way to the twenty-first century. It’s one of the few lengthy history books of Montreal written in English, and it’s an excellent introduction on global influences and the city’s cultural melting pot.
Montreal is one of the most culturally diverse cities in North America. In fact, the city boasts the largest French-speaking population outside of France. This unique mix of cultures has led to thousands of years of French history, language, and traditions, as well as the creation of amazing cuisine.. Read more about places to visit in montreal during covid and let us know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can you do in Montreal during Covid?
The city of Montreal is a beautiful place to visit during the summer. You can go see some museums, enjoy the parks, and eat at some great restaurants.
What is there to do in Montreal for 3 days?
Montreal is a beautiful city with many attractions for tourists. You can visit the Notre-Dame Basilica, the Olympic Stadium, and Old Montreal.
What is there to do in Montreal this weekend 2023?
This weekend in Montreal, you can attend the Montreal Comiccon.