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Three Day Getaway: Montreal, Canada

We recently spent ten days traveling from Toronto to Quebec City. The sites, sounds, & snacks of the five Canadian cities we visited were just what we hoped they would be! Our third stop was Montreal where we stayed for three action packed days of sightseeing and tasty treats. We had the best time and saw all the sites. This is what we did complete with loads of pictures and all the important details!

Day One:

Coffee at Crew Collective Cafe

Hike Mont Royal

Visit to St. Joseph's Oratory

Botanical Gardens

Dinner and Sunset


Day Two:

Viator Bagels

Biodome

Notre Dame Basilica Tour

Ruse St. Paul to Place Jacques Cartier - shopping and lunch

Happy Hour Brewery Tour


Day Three:

Breakfast at L'Avenue

Bagel Class

Atwater Market

Bike Ride along Canal de Lachine

Evening in Old Port Vieux


Crew Collective& Cafe is a unique cafe in the heart of old town Montreal. We stopped for pastries and coffee on our way into town. The cafe is on the second floor of a historic building that was once the home to the original Royal Bank of Canada. The pastries and coffee were delicious but the space is the show stealer. We highly recommend at least a quick stop to check out this artfully repurposed space. Public restrooms are available in the basement level.

Mont-Royal is the highest point in Montreal. From the parking lot (be prepared to pay), it is a quick and relatively easy hike to the scenic lookout. At the top, there are beautiful views, ice cream & coffee treats, as well as restrooms. We spent about 15 minutes taking in the views before we took the "stairs" back to the parking lot. To find the "stairs"...at the top, looking at the building, make a right and you will find the walkways and stairs. This route provides several more scenic viewpoints and a quick walk through the park on your way to the parking lot. Throughout the park, there is ample green space and areas for picnicking.

Back in the car and we were on our way to our next destination, St. Joseph's Oratory. The Oratory is Canada's largest church and the site of one of the most important pilgrimages dedicated to St. Joseph. There are 300 steps lead from the parking lot to the front doors of the church. This area was under renovation during our visit but typically visitors will see pilgrims climbing the center staircase on their knees. There is no fee to enter the church and popular areas to visit include the original chapel, the crypt, the basilica, the museum, and (my favorite) the votive chapel.

We stopped for a quick lunch then onto our final stop of the day, the Botanical Gardens. We spent about three hours (but could have spent more!) at the gardens as it is large and offers the opportunity to tour multiple unique gardens. We started in the Main Exhibition Greenhouse then continued outdoors where we discovered another nine gardens to explore! All of us agreed that our favorite gardens were the Alpine Garden and the Chinese Garden. Adult tickets are $22.75CAD, discounted tickets are available for seniors, students with ID, and children. We did not reserve our tickets in advance but were able to easily purchase at the kiosk in front of the building. Parking is available onsite but does have a cost.


Day two in Montreal was all about bagels and beer...with a bit of sightseeing in the middle! We started our morning in the Jewish Quarters of Montreal at St. Viateur Bagels. Oh.my.YUM! These Montreal style bagels are so good! They recommend the sesame seed bagel straight from the oven so when in Montreal....we ate the sesame seed bagel straight from the oven. We also sampled the "all dressed" and poppy seed bagels with fromage frais (cream cheese). This simple, family owned bagel shop serves 12,000 bagels daily and has for the past 60 years. Be prepared...cash only, no seating, no coffee but drinks are available from the cooler as are toppings. There are several coffee spots in close proximity if you need your caffeine fix.

It was pouring rain during this day of our visit so we had to shuffle our plans and find something indoors for our morning sightseeing. Although not on our original agenda, the Biodome did not disappoint. It is a unique structure that was built as the velodrome for the 1976 Olympics. The interior space is really interesting and seems to almost swirl around a center point. From this center point, we were able to visit several animal habitats. Tickets have the same pricing as the Botanical Garden - adult tickets are $22.75CAD, discounted tickets are available for seniors, students with ID, and children. Again, we did not reserve our tickets in advance but purchased at the kiosk inside the building. Parking is available onsite and does have a cost. We were also able to find street parking for a lesser cost.

We returned to the Old Montreal for lunch and shopping along Rues St. Paul and Place Jacques-Cartier. This area is a historic square bordered by Notre Dame Basilica on one end and Old Port Vieux on the other. The cobbled square is filled with shops, cafes, and restaurants. We spent some time strolling through this area enjoying the historic buildings, looking in the shops, and eventually having lunch and later dessert (we just had to stop for a beavertail!). We also visited Notre Dame Basilica. There is a fee ($14 CAD for adults and seniors, $12 CAD for students with ID) to tour the basilica. Tickets can be purchased online prior to visiting or at the entrance of the church. There is an option to bundle the tour ticket with the AURA lights experience later in the evening. To be honest, after visiting the Oratory, I could have skipped the tour of this church as well as the added cost associated with the admission fees but I would have liked to see the AURA experience in the evening. AURA is an immersive, glow experience set to music. Tickets are $32 CAD for adults, with discounted tickets for seniors, students with ID, and children. Bundled ticket packages are available if choosing to do both the tour and the AURA show.

Our busy day two may have started with bagels but we ended with beer! We had reservations for the Happy Hour Montreal Brew Tour. Tickets must be purchased in advance and can be reserved here. This four hour experience included visits to three local microbreweries, a brief lesson on beer making with a behind the scenes tour, and a full meal at one of the breweries. Our tour guide was fun, high energy, and clearly loved her job! Our group was eclectic including our family, a couple from California, twin brothers from Germany, and another couple from the east coast. We chatted, sampled beer flights at each of the stops, laughed, and cheers'd our time in Montreal. It was a great way to end our second day in Montreal.


Day three was sunny again! We started with breakfast at L'Avenue. This restaurant typically has long lines so if you go...go early! We lucked out and were able to grab a table quickly. We enjoyed the unique coffee and drink menu as well as the diverse and delicious food offerings. I always order eggs benedict when out for brunch. I was thrilled the menu offered not only the classic but seven additional EB offerings. Yum! The menu also includes pancakes, omelets, and more! Check out the menu offerings here.


With full bellies, our next stop was a Montreal Bagel Making Workshop. We loved this class! Hosted in his historic home in Montreal, the instructor (Will) teaches bagel making 101 to small groups. For a couple of hours, we measured, kneaded, formed, cooked, and ate Montreal-style bagels. At the conclusion of the class, we left with a bag of bagels, the recipe, and a few basic supplies to make them at home. Our class included children, adults, & seniors in couples and family units. One note, we opted to purchase the additional supplies at the conclusion of the class - Will takes both cash and apple pay.

Just around the corner from the class is the Atwater Market. We spent some time strolling through the market and purchasing items for dinner that evening. The market has everything needed to create a simple meal, picnic, or elaborate dinner - flowers, chocolates and desserts, fruits, vegetables, bread, cheeses, meats, beer and wine.


The rest of our day we spent bike riding along the Lachine Canal. We rented bikes (both standard and electric) from Ca Roule Montreal On Wheels located in Old Montreal. The bike shop provided the bikes, helmets, and a map with suggestions on where route to ride. Initially, we thought the map markers were a bit confusing with the actual physical markers. In the end, we plugged the route into our google maps, told google we were on bikes, and followed the voice from our phone. The google route took us along the canal for a short way, stopping at the Atwater Market, before turning left over the bridge to the bike path along the St. Lawrence River. Whichever path you choose, the bike path is looped with a slight detour to the Parc Rene-Levesque. We enjoyed our ride along the river with a detour to see the art and scenic views from the Parc Rene-Levesque. Then we returned along the Lachine Canal path. Restrooms and water are limited so be sure to plan ahead - both are available at the Atwater Market and again at the Parc Rene-Levesque. Another option for bikes is to rent by the hour a BIXI bike. We may have paid a bit more for our bikes but we were grateful to have well-maintained bikes and helmets.


The bike rental shop is across the street from Old Port Vieux. So after turning in our bikes we headed over to Old Port Vieux. This is a busy area with multiple tourists attractions including the Bota Bota Spa (spa on a boat), ziplines, paddle boats, a ferris wheel, and evening activities like concerts and Cirque de Soleil. Across the street from the Old Port Vieux is the Rues St. Paul and Place Jacques-Cartier. For an evening out, you wouldn't need to leave this area. There are plenty of activities, sounds, and food options to entertain all ages and groups.

Know Before You Go:

  • We loved the Old Montreal Area. There are great hotel and airbnb options in this area which allows visitors to park once and walk everywhere.

  • We did not have a problem getting into restaurants. However, we were there during the week. I think if traveling over a weekend, dinner reservations would be ideal.

  • Wear comfortable shoes! There is a lot of walking and most of the walking involves cobblestone streets.

  • Take full advantage of my love of travel and planning skills, connect with me here to book your travel and/or free quote for my planning services.

When to Go:

In our opinion, the summer months are the best time to visit. The weather is 75-80 degrees and all of the attractions are open.


Is Montreal Safe?

Yes! Montreal is safe for visitors. However, Montreal is a busy area filled with tourists so we recommend taking the typical city precautions – don’t walk alone at night, park your vehicle in well-lit locations, ensure valuables are stored out of sight, be aware of your surroundings.


Lodging

Our overnight accommodations were located in the Old Montreal area. Several great options include the following: Lofts du Vieux-Port by Gray Collection which offer several lofts sized for parties of 2 up to 4. The Hotel William Gray which overlooks the Place Jacques-Cartier. And finally Maison Saint-Vincent By Maisons & Co which offers several apartments of varying sizes that can be booked individually or together for groups.

Getting Around:

For the greatest level of flexibility and site-seeing opportunities, we recommend using a rental car. We found both the Waze app and Google maps to be easy to use to navigate from one destination to another.


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