Montreal is an ideal getaway with kids if you live in the East Coast. It’s close, yet in a different country, and they speak French, so it feels like you’re far from home. Some people drive up there, but we opted to fly after experiencing a super long and painful 8 hour driving trip for winter break. Plus, I was pregnant. We didn’t want to repeat that again! Also, the flight was pretty inexpensive and only an hour and half from NYC!
We went to Montreal during our daughter’s spring break, but to fully enjoy the experience, we suggest you go in the summer time when the weather is much nicer and everything is open.
Want tips on navigating the city? Be sure to read our post on Tips for Navigating Montreal.
Ok, so what’s there to do in Montreal? We’ve gathered up our top recommendations for first time visitors on things to do in Montreal.
1. Try a Montreal Bagel
We started off our day with the famed Montreal Bagel. They are slightly smaller and slightly sweeter than a New York bagel and have a larger hole. Apparently they are boiled in honey water, which makes them a bit sweeter. Make sure you ask for what’s hot out of the oven. They taste the best!
There are two places to get these famous bagels. We ended up trying both during our stay:
263 Rue Saint Viateur
Montréal, QC H2V 1Y1, Canada
Montréal, QC H2T 2M2, Canada
2. Walk Along Mile End
The good news is that when you go get your bagels, you will already be in Mile End. This area has some cute shops and restaurants to look at, so walk around a little bit before heading off to your next destination!
We stopped by a cute little paper shop in Mile End. It was too pretty to resist, and our daughter found a cute coloring item that she loved to keep her occupied during cafe stops and meal times.
3. Place d’Armes & Notre-Dame Basilica
Place d’Armes is the central square where the famous Notre-Dame Basilica is located. If you are into churches and want to see a beautiful interior, this one is definitely worth a visit. We were there on Palm Sunday and had a special experience there with highly decorated palms, some being sold out in front for a dollar, and a Palm Sunday mass in French with beautiful music.
For those who just want to take a look, there is a $6 entrance fee, open outside of mass times. Fortunately the line was short when we wanted to enter to take pictures!
Take a look at this beautiful interior! Stunning.
Also within Place d’Armes are these statues. One pointing to the church, and one pointing to the bank. These were too funny not to take a picture with our daughter, who loves posing for the camera. 🙂 She was also trying to read what they were all about.
4. Walk Around Old Montreal on Rue Saint Paul
Behind the Basilica on Rue Saint Paul is what’s considered Old Montreal. There are cute cobblestone streets with some shops, souvenirs, cafes, and restaurants there. Unfortunately, the restaurants were closed during the afternoon when we were there, strolling around hungry, but we were able to stop by a cafe to grab a bite to eat and take a rest with some coffee.
5. Visit Mount-Royal (Mont-Royal)
Mount-Royal (Mont-Royal) is a large hill/park that is a great place to visit during the summer time. You can hang out in the park, or to get the best view of Montreal, make your way to the Chalet do Mont Royal within the park.
It’s quite a trek up the stairs if you choose to walk. We took a taxi up to get as close as possible and walked the rest of the way because it was so cold that day and we were short on time. Good thing, because although the view is absolutely wonderful, the way down was long with many, many staircases. Good to know if you have little ones with you!
The long way up and down to Chalet du Mont Royal. Lots and lots and lots of stairs!
Also at Mount-Royal is St. Joseph’s Oratory (pictured below), a basilica built in honor of St. Joseph, Canada’s patron saint. This is the highest point in Montreal. We didn’t have time to see this during our trip, but if you do, find more info on it here.
More info on how to get to Mont-Royal and events at the park can be found on Montreal’s Tourism website.
6. Eat Poutine
What is poutine? It’s fries with gravy and cheese curd, something you must try if you’ve never tried it. We’re usually not ones to eat lots of greasy food, but we had to give it a try! You can find it everywhere, but we ended up eating it at our hotel.Make sure you share it because the portion can be quite large! La Banquise is the go-to place for poutine in Montreal if you can make it there!
7. Visit RESO – The Underground City
Oh, the Underground City. When we learned about this, we thought, how cool! It’s a series of interconnected walkways, buildings, and shopping malls underground, hence the name. Montreal can get cold (and humid during the summer), so if you don’t want to walk outside, you can walk underground. Genius! 20 miles of underground tunnels make up the Underground City. Learn more about the Underground City from Montreal’s Visitor’s Guide here.
If you want to stop by a mall while in Montreal to pick up some things, you can head to a couple of the malls we visited. Here are some photos on our way to Complexe Desjardins, at the Place-des-Artes train stop. There is a toy store here in case you need something for your little one.
Below is The Eaton Centre, a mall that is part of the Underground City. You can get to this location at the McGill Metro train stop.
8. Botanical Garden (Jardin Botanique)
The Botanical Garden was closed when we were there. Don’t try to visit on a Monday. We thought about going on another day, but since the weather was still cold, the flowers would not have bloomed yet and the trees would not have been green. We plan on coming back to see it during the summer time some time.
If you’re visiting during the summer, this is worth a visit. Such an interesting garden to see!
Montreal’s Biodôme is located at Olympic Park and allows visitors to walk through four different ecosystems. You can even see penguins there! See more details and hours on their website.
10. Museum of Fine Arts
Another worthy attraction is the Museum of Fine Arts. Unfortunately, we were not able to go because they were closed the day we were planning to go. It’s too bad since it was only a 2 block walk from our hotel! So make note, the museum is closed on Mondays!
See more about hours and current exhibits on their website.
11. Jean-Talon Market
If you are a foodie or love markets, the Jean-Talon Market (Marche Jean-Talon) is where locals go for their produce. We stopped by there for some crepes and ice cream. And we were happy to discover that they had wifi!
Want a classic Montreal photo opportunity? Head over to the Biosphere. Not much to do here during colder weather except take photos, but during the summer you can go inside. It was still a great spot for photos to keep for our own memories. The Biosphere is located on St. Helen’s Island, where you can also find La Ronde, if you are in the mood for an amusement park. It is open during the summer.
13. Have dessert at Juliette & Chocolat
There are several Juliette & Chocolat locations around the city. If you’re a chocolate lover, you must try this place. You can sit down and order desserts or try their signature hot chocolate. We loved the Chocolate Fondant and would highly recommend it! You pour the liquid chocolate over the delicious brownie. Yum!
Want More Things To Do?
If you still have more time after all that, here are some other popular attractions in Montreal:
- Quays of the Old Port – Boat tours, Science Center, IMAX theater, Montreal Clock Tower, ice skating
Place Ville Marie Observation Deck – See amazing views of Montreal
- Walk along Rue St. Denis and Mont Royal Avenue for shops, restaurants, and cafes
- Hang out on Crescent Street for some nightlife
- Take a bike tour of the city
- Go to the Museum of Contemporary Art
- Visit the Grévin Wax Museum
- And many more attraction can be found here
If you’re looking for a more kid-centric trip, here are some things to do with kids in Montreal.
Have you visited Montreal? What were your favorite things to do there? Leave us a comment below!