The world’s second largest French-speaking city is a splendid mixture of historic European heritage and modern thriving metropolis.
Montreal was the second stop on our 14-day road trip through the eastern parts of Canada. It is a great place to spend some time to explore the historic old town along with modern Montreal and some of the areas outside.
Indeed, Montreal is the second largest city in Canada and there are lots of different boroughs ranging from historic old Montreal to a large mix of modern districts.
Unfortunately, due to a tight timetable, I only had one day to explore the city. Researching what best things to see and do in Montreal, I would actually recommend to plan at least two or three days for the city.
However, if you are planning a trip to Montreal and like me only have one day, here are 7 great things to see and do in Montreal in just one day
7 great things to see and do in Montreal in just one day
Vieux-Montréal, the old quarter is one of the oldest urban centres in North America and if you are in Montreal for the first time, this is where you should start exploring the city.
Originally set up as a French trading post by Samuel de Champlain in 1604 at Place Royale, the first colonization of the area did not last long as early settlers were chased away by native Iroquois. Later on in 1642 Old Montreal was then permanently founded as ‘Ville-Marie’, becoming one of Canada’s first fortified cities.
If you visit during summer, chances are high you see lots of street performers and there are also several festivals taking place during that time. Likewise, this will be the time when the city is hit by the highest numbers of tourists. So try to be out early if you want to avoid the crowds.
Many of the buildings lining the small winding cobble-stoned alleys still date back to the 17th century. A particular beautiful spot to soak in the historic charm of the old town is St Paul Street, lined by many beautiful stone buildings and full of restaurants, cafes, shops and art galleries.
Unfortunately, I was followed here by a pattern that currently seems to happen around the world. Indeed, the cutest part of this historic street was closed as construction work was going on! Though you could reach shops squeezing into the still open small path alongside the road works, there was no way to capture the beauty of this place in a photo that would give credit to the beautiful facades.
Works only stopped around Place Jacques Cartier, anther lovely spot to linger in one of the small cafes or restaurants
… or simply stroll around the adjacent alleys.
As mentioned before, Place d’ Armes, the beautiful historic square is the most central square in the old town.
It is also home to one of the most impressive monuments located in the heart of Old Montreal: 19th century Notre Dame Basilica. Built between 1824 and 1829 it was the largest church built on the North American continent at its time. It is dominated by two spectacular towers and inside is decorated with hundreds of wood carvings and stone status whilst its stain glass windows feature scenes of the city’s history.
While at Place d’Armes, head up to the rooftop bar at Hotel Place d’Armes. For there, you will get a lovely view over the square and surrounding areas. Plus they have a nice lunch menu (bistro food).
Another historic monument not to be missed is Cathedrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde, a designated National Historic Site of Canada since the year 2000. The neo-gothic church is lined by 13 statues on its roof representing the patron saints of 13 parishes of the city.
Locally called ‘the mountain’, Mont Royal is Montreal’s hillside city park; and I’ve been told over and over again it’s a great place to visit in summer to just hang out and get some awesome views over the city. However, to enjoy the beautiful views over Montreal you will have to walk up the hill. No other choice, as the area is car-free and there is no other transportation either.
As I not only had just one day in the city and on top temperatures had climbed to over 30°C already from mid-morning, I decided not to make the hike. Should I return (and I am definitely planning to do so), this one will be one of my first places to explore on my list!
Have you been to Montreal yet? How did you like the city? Let me know about your experiences.