After spending a week in Montreal I can officially say it’s now one of my favourite cities. I loved the casual and laid-back vibe, the markets, the independent shops and cafes, the European feel and the many distinct and eclectic neighborhoods to explore. Today I’m sharing a few highlights from a recent one week trip to the Eastern Canadian city, of which will definetely not be my last!
I’m already planning to visit again next summer for more eating, drinking, shopping, relaxing and exploring! There is so much to do and see in Montreal. From the history of old Montreal to the churches, parks, restaurants and bars, there is really something for everyone.
What to do for A Week in Montreal
- Climb Mont Royal and take in the view
- Visit Notre Dame and the other historic cathedrals and churches
- Head to an event at Jean-Drapeau park, the location of Expo ’67
- Consider a day trip or go overnight to Quebec City
- Wander around Old Montreal and the Old Port
- Grab some vegan sorbet or ice cream from Havres aux Glaces at Atwater Market
- Wander the Mile End and the rest of the Plateau Mont-Royal area
- Check out the Little Italy area
- Take a walk through Chinatown
- Visit Jean Talon and Atwater Markets
- Get around the city by Bixi bike share and walking
- Spend a few afternoons picnicking in local parks
- Hang out on one the many street-side or back patios for drinks
- Stroll Rue Ste. Catherine
- Eat, eat and eat some more!
- Sip coffee while people-watching at a local cafe
There is so much to do!
Getting Around Montreal
We mainly walked and used the Bixi bike share system but also used the Metro here and there to get around. I would highly recommend using Bixi as an inexpensive way to explore the city while doing double duty to burn off some of the food you’ll be eating.
The Bixi system was fantastic. With stations located every few blocks throughout the entire city you can get just about anywhere quickly and efficiently by bicycle. My favorite ride was from Little Italy to the the McAuslan Brasserie and then back to Old Montreal via the canal path. Bike lanes are numerous and I felt safe cycling even on the busier downtown streets however it’s much more relaxed biking around the somewhat quieter neighborhoods. At just $5 for an unlimited 24 hour pass, you can really beat it!
Bixi, Walk and Metro
I love walking as a way to explore new cities and we typically walked 7-10 miles a day in Montreal just getting from place to place, exploring as we went. I find it’s one of the best way to discover local restaurants, shops and pubs that might not be on any list you research in advance. We walked from downtown to Little Italy, from east to west across the city, up Mont-Royal and strolled nearly every Montreal neighborhood.
The Metro is also very easy to use and we went with a 3 day unlimited pass for the days we went to Osheaga music festival. We used public transport to come in from the airport as well as get from downtown Montreal to Little Italy where we were staying on the days we were a bit more tuckered out. It’s really easy to figure out and you can get anywhere in the city via subway and bus. You can get an unlimited pass for 24 hours for just $10 or a 3 day pass for $18.
Eating in Montreal
Now to the good stuff! I’m going back to Montreal just to eat more, that’s for sure! The city is full of awesome restaurants, cafes, markets, breweries, pubs, healthy and healthy eats that are worth visiting for alone. Here are some of my favourite stops we made. I’m not listing every place we went, you could eat your way around Montreal for months, but these are a few of the places I really enjoyed.
Nestled into a quiet street across from a church, I’ve been told Cafe Parvais is the gem of downtown Monteal. I wouldn’t argue with that. It has a beautiful garden atmosphere, cozy nooks and tables for reading or chatting with friends, delicious almond milk lattes and creative, refreshing cocktails. I didn’t eat there but they also have a full menu with fresh juices, pizzas, salads, entrees and more. I loved the decor of fading painted walls against the large marble bar and. Sit inside for the lovely and relaxed interior or enjoy your lunch or coffee on the garden patio.
Located near Mont-Royal in the Plateau neighborhood of Montreal, Cafe Santropol was one of my favourite places we ate. I loved their outdoor garden patio and the their sandwiches were unreal. I had the mile-high, vegan Sweet Roots sandwich with coconut bacon and a side salad and it was delicious. The gorgeous rye bread they pile their epic sandwiches on is perfection. I only ate their once but I’ve heard their soups and chili are also big hits. There is a Bixi station less than 1 block away, perfect! After we ate here, we biked through the university area to La Panthère Verte downtown to pick up vegan treats to eat at the top Mont-Royal.
La Panthère Verte
We ended up eating at eco-concious La Panthère Verte three times plus another visit just for cookies during our week stay in Montreal. The vegan cafe and juice bar has 5 locations including two downtown, one in the Mile End area and another in Pleateau Mont-Royal. They all have the same feel to them: fresh, healthy, friendly and casual. I had a large salad on one occasion and tried both the falafel fusion pita and BBQ tofu pita. I also tried their hazelnut truffle and a number of thier vegan cookies, my favourite being the La Montagnard. La Panthère Verte serves up healthy, delicous, vegan eats, fast food style. Order your food at the till and wait to hear your name called. They also offer a selection of organic beer and wine, kombucha and a number of other drinks and snacks to go.
Aux Vivres has a fast-food feel to it but the menu isn’t like any fast food restaurant you’ve visited before. With an extensive and completely vegan menu, I could have eaten at Aux Vivres more than the three times we visited in a week. I would recommend trying their bowls. I had the Buddha Bowl and Thai Bowl and both were really good. My husband had the Mexi-Cali plate and the BLT wrap with coconut bacon.
We also tried their cornbread, paratha bread and tom yum soup. I loved the tom yum soup and I’d recommend trying it as an appetizer. We also shared both a chocolate apple cake, which was incredible as well as their vegan “uncheesecake” which was good but not the best I’ve tried. They also serve juices, smoothies and alcoholic drinks. Aux Vivres is worth a visit for sure!
Havres aux Glaces
You can find amazing vegan sorbet at Havres aux Glaces near Atwater market. I tried the Lait de Coco and it was delicious. I wish I’d had time to try more! They had grapefruit, raspberry, chocolate and a bunch of other flavors! You can get it in a cup or a cone and up to three flavours per order. Grab a scoop and cross the river to to the park to sit back and watch the world go by.
VertU Bar Santé
VertU is located in the Mile End area of the Plateau and is a good option for healthy bowls, smoothies and juices. I tried the vegan tempeh burrito bowl with butternut squash, rice and olives and a Noix-vocado Smoothie, both were really tasty and I left feeling full and satisfied! They have fun decor with indoor vertical gardens, plenty of drinks to grab-n-go and the staff were friendly and helpful. It’s perfect for fuelling up before a WOD at nearby CrossFit Pleateau!
Favourite Montreal Cafes
I loved the local feel at Club Social for a late morning coffee break and people watching. Find them in the Mile End neighborbood on St. Viateur, they have a fantastic little outdoor seating area that’s perfect for relaxing and watching people stroll by. We also went to Cafe Olimpico and Myriad in Mile End. Just a block away from Club Social, I loved Cafe Olimpico, they had great coffee, friendly baristas and a nice ambiance and terrace to chill out on. You can also grab fresh bagels from nearby St. Viateur Bagels to enjoy while you drink your coffee.
We also stopped at Cafe Neve on Mont-Royal and Caffe Italia and Cafe Vito in Little Italy. Cafe Vita was awesome, located off the beaten bath in Little Italy, it’s mostly locals casually milling about, chatting over their morning coffees. Coming from a city of Starbucks on every corner, it was so nice to have so many independent cafes to choose from. I’d definetely recommend slotting out some time in your days to sit back and relax, read or just watch the world go by over espressos and almond lattes.
I probably could have spent our whole trip just drinking coffee at various Montreal cafes. In Vancouver, coffee seems rushed and more of a mean to an end than something to be casually and slowly sipped and enjoyed. I just really loved the old school feel of the city, it was slower, much more laid-back and right up my alley.
Best Markets in Montreal
Visit Atwater Market and Jean-Talon Market for local fruit and vegetables, juices, smoothies and fresh baked bread. Noth are easitly accicible by Metro or Bixi. You’ll find plenty of meats, seafood and cheese available as well as pastries, sweets, jams and other baked goods. They’re both worth a stroll, especially Jean-Talon as it’s quite a bit larger. We grabbed smoothies at Jean-Talon for a quick and inexpensive breakfast a few times during our stay. There are park areas nearby Atwater Market so you can grab ice cream, drinks and snacks and go find a place to sit in the shade!
Best Walking Streets in Montreal
- Rue Saint Catherine
- Rue Saint Paul
- Rue Saint Denis
- Avenue du Mont-Royal
- Avenue St. Viateur
- Boulevard Saint Laurent
- Rue Saint Urbaine
We literally walked everyone of these streets from end to end, it’s the best way to see the whole city, discover local gems and really get a feel for Montreal is all about. There are plenty of pubs, restaurants, cafes and shops along the way so you’ll never go hungry or thirsty! Montreal seems to have somewhere to eat and drink on just abut every corner, many of them with really cool street-side terraces to enjoy. You could spend days just visiting the best patios!
Favourite Stops for a Drink in Montreal
Take a Bixi bike along the canal over to Verdun and visit the St. Ambroise brewery for beers and a veggie burger! Totally worth the trip. Their huge outdoor terrace is right beside the canal and a large abandoned factory making for quite the backdrop. Their beer was really good too, I had the Raspberry Wheat Ale and Apricot Ale and both were delicious, especially in 30 degrees!
Resevoir near Mont Royal has a great roof-top patio for an afternoon beer.
Dieu du Ciel!
We visited Dieu du Ciel! twice during our week stay. They have a fantastic beer list, chill street side patio and great local vibe. We didn’t eat there but the food looked really good too! It seemed to be all locals both times we went, with an after-work casual beers kinda feel. It was great.
We didn’t visit that many pubs because we were out and about for long days and didn’t really go out much in the evenings. We also prefer to pick up our own beer from the numerous depanneurs and just chill in the park. There are about a million awesome pubs and street-side patios to visit though so if you like to drink, Montreal is definitely the place to be!We did go to Baraca and Plan B in Plateau Mont-Royal and both had really nice, quiet and cozy back patios away from the world. Saint Elizabeth downtown off Rue Ste. Catherine street had a really cool back patio. We hit a few pubs on famous Crescent St downtown but they were nothing special.
We ran out of time but I really wanted to visit La Cagibi, Sophie Sucree and Cruddesence. I also wandered by a ton of awesome local independent clothing shops but didn’t have time to check them out, which is probably for the best but Plateau Mont-Royal, Mile End and Little Italy seemed to have a some really great shopping!
Best Parks in Montreal
We worked out twice in Parc Jarry and had picnics in Parc Laurier and Parc La Fontaine. Both were wonderful for a lazy afternoon laying on a blanket under the trees. Visit a market to stock up on snacks and fresh bread, stop by a dépanneur for beer and wine, grab a blanket and spend an afternoon in one of Montreal’s beautiful parks. It’s a must-do for sure.
We also went to Osheaga for 3 days, the musical festival that takes place at Jean-Drapeau park. The park is fantastic and if you’re visiting Montreal I think it’s worth a visit. It’s really easy to get there on the yellow Metro line. The Biosphere is worth a look and there is also an awesome outdoor swimming pool.
Staying Fit in Montreal
Vacationing for us isn’t complete without visiting a few local CrossFit boxes. We went to CrossFit Plateau, L’usine CrossFit and CrossFit Guierres. I really enjoyed all three and would recommend any of them for a workout! I was hoping to checkout CrossFit Montreal but we ran out of time for a WOD there. There are plenty of CrossFit gyms to choose from in Montreal so if you’re itching for a WOD you’ll have no problem finding somewhere to get your sweat on. We also did outdoor workouts at Parc Jarry and there seemed to be plenty of regular gyms you could drop into as well.
I’ll be back…
That’s a quick overview of the 4 days we spent exploring the city and 3 days we spent at Osheaga music festival. I’m heading back to Montreal again for sure, this time with an even more extensive plan to eat and drink the days away! Montreal is an amazing place to visit with a unique vibe unlike any other city I’ve visited before. While I love Vancouver with all my heart, if I had to move…just sayin’…