Last month, we headed up north for a leaf peeping trip to Montreal. And you guys? It did not disappoint.
Montreal is easily one of my favorite cities in North America. It has a chic, European flair, it’s a haven for foodies, and I loved soaking up the very distinct French-Canadian culture. Not to mention: it’s a very short plane ride away from D.C.!
If you’re looking for the perfect weekend trip, here are several reasons why Montreal should be at the top of your list.
The Ultimate Guide to Montreal:
Travel Guide to Montreal — Best Time to Go
We went the 2nd week of October, and IMO that was an incredible time to go. It wasn’t too cold (highs ranged between 50-55 F), and the fall foliage was nearing its peak. The very next week it snowed in Montreal, so that window of perfect fall weather was a bit limited (yikes!)
If you’re a big fan of winter and can handle frigid temps, I’d definitely plan on a winter trip: Montreal is magical during the holidays, and there are also underground tunnels in town that can get you to some of the most popular spots in the city. If you’re like me and hate winter, I’d visit between Mid-May to Mid-October.
Travel Guide to Montreal — Culture: Language, Tipping, & The Canadian Dollar
The official language of Montreal is French, but you won’t have many issues if you’re an English-speaker: over half of the population of Montreal is bilingual and can also speak English. However, I would still greet people in French (Bonjour, Bonsoir), and ask if they speak English before continuing your conversation, just to be polite. Also, most of the restaurants we went to had menus in both French and English.
I would check the exchange rate for the Canadian Dollar before you go, but when we visited, the rate favored Americans. I took advantage of this, and did quite a bit of shopping while I was there!
Unlike in Europe, you do need to tip in Montreal for meals. You would tip in Canada just like you would tip in the United States: between 15-20%.
Travel Guide to Montreal — Getting There & Getting Around
If you’re from the Mid-Atlantic, it is an absolute breeze getting to Montreal: there are dozens of nonstop flights from all 3 D.C. area airports that leave daily, and the flight is only an hour and 45 minutes. Our trip was so short; I barely had enough time to finish my drink before landing! Just make sure to bring your passport: if you’re traveling by air, passport cards and U.S. driver licenses will not be accepted at an airport.
Montreal has a pretty incredible Metro and bus system in town that will get you around to nearly every part of the city. There is also Uber in Montreal (but no Lyft, just FYI!), and every Uber driver we had spoke English, so we had zero issues communicating.
Travel Guide to Montreal — Where to Stay
We had the pleasure of staying at Hotel Monville during our time in Montreal, and we loved every minute of it. It’s located conveniently in Downtown Montreal and was steps away from some of the best museums, dining, and shopping that Montreal had to offer. You can view my full review of Hotel Monville here.
Travel Guide to Montreal — Things to Do
- Visit the Museum of Fine Arts. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts it the city’s largest museum, and with 140,000 square feet of exhibition space, you could spend an entire day in this incredible space. You can view works from all over the world, from all time periods, and be sure to check out their main exhibit during your trip (we loved viewing the Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor exhibit during our visit!)
- Experience Old Port Montreal. There’s something for everyone at Old Port Montreal: take a ride on La Grande Roue de Montreal and soak up the best views of the city, go ziplining if you’re bold enough, head on a cruise, go ice skating — the possibilities are endless here! This is the one part of Montreal that I wish I had more time to explore.
- Stroll through Old Montreal. Old Montreal is one of my favorite spots in all of Montreal: the cobblestone streets and historic charm make me feel as if I’ve been transported to Europe. You’ll inevitably end up in Place Jacques Cartier, a huge square that’s a tad touristy, but makes for great people watching. We also took a quick stroll by the Notre-Dame Basilica — which is a pretty great replica of the one we saw in Paris. Break for drinks at Hotel William Gray’s rooftop, or coffee at Tommy Cafe.
Travel Guide to Montreal — Where to Eat
I know I overloaded you on the food photos for this guide — but the food in Montreal is impressive. I had some of the best meals of my entire life in Montreal, and I cannot wait to eat my way through this city on my next visit!
A pro tip: download the app DINR to search for same-day reservations at the best restaurants in Montreal. We snagged reservations at really tough to get into spots, all thanks to this app!
Breakfast & Brunch
- Tommy: A super cute, Instagrammable cafe that has two locations in Montreal (and serves up a pretty great cup of coffee).
- Ibéricos: This Spanish restaurant just recently started their brunch service, and it did not disappoint. For only $20, you can get a 2-course meal with your choice of either a cheese and charcuterie plate and an entree. Since their brunch is still super new, their menu isn’t up on their website — but this Eater article shares a few more details about their new brunch!
- Foiegwa: Really any meal is fantastic here, but Foiegwa is known for their brunch. You can add foie gras to pretty much anything on their menu — and if your server recommends it, I would go for it. I love the selection of sweet and savory dishes on their brunch menu, and the scallops with foie gras on their dinner menu was one of the best meals I had while I was in town.
- Lawrence: Lawrence closed earlier this year to completely renovate their space, and the result is incredible: it was one of the chicest, sophisticated spots I visited in Montreal. If you’re on the hunt for one of the best burgers in Montreal, Lawrence is your spot.
- Emilia Cantine Portugaise: Cantine Emilia is a casual Portuguese Grill that serves up some of the most innovative fusion dishes that the city has to offer. If you’re a fan of poutine, you won’t want to miss Emilia’s take on the dish: the offer three different, very unique versions, and each features their special ‘Emilia Poutine Sauce.’
- Joe Beef: This restaurant was named one of the best restaurants in the world, and I couldn’t agree with the critics more: I had one of the best meals of my entire life at Joe Beef (Real talk: I shed a tear while eating the veal plate). The menu at Joe Beef changes daily, but they have one staple that you can order at any time: the lobster spaghetti (it’s a must!) It is tough to get a reservation here, but we snagged a last-minute spot with the DINR app!
- Au Pied de Cochon: Au Pied de Cochon offers innovative takes on rustic cuisine, and has consistently been named one of the best restaurants in Canada for years. I was mind-blown by the presentation of some of the dishes: for the cavatelli, a server comes with a giant cheese bowl and will mix the pasta, cheese, and sauce right in front of you. They paired cured ham with pancakes and maple syrup, which was an unexpected yet delicious combo. I could go on, but this article is already getting pretty lengthy — try your best to snag a reservation here, you will not regret it!
- Pullman: Pullman was one of Montreal’s very first wine bars, and they offer a fantastic selection of small plates and an extensive wine list. Dinner here was a little more intimate and cozy, and IMO, this is the perfect spot for date night.
Travel Guide to Montreal — Nightlife
- Bar Cloakroom: Bar Cloakroom is a cozy speakeasy that seats 25 people, and that exclusively serves dealers choice-style beverages. Trust me: it is worth the wait, and they will whip you up a drink that’s exquisite and delicious.
- Brasserie Harricana: An upscale brewery that offers an incredible selection of craft beer and comfort eats.
- Atwater Cocktail Club: This back-alley bar serves specialty cocktails and snacks. It has a great ambiance, and we were blown away by the presentation (get the Smoke Show, you won’t be disappointed!) You can also order snacks from the attached restaurant, Foiegwa, at the bar.
- Dieu du Ciel!: Dieu Du Ciel is a craft brewery that isn’t afraid to experiment with bold flavors. We loved that they incorporated unique ingredients (their hibiscus beer was my favorite!), and we thought the staff was incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. Overall, Dieu du Ciel! had an incredible vibe, and we cannot wait for our next visit.
- Hotel William Gray Rooftop: This bar is only open seasonally, but we made it in before the season closed and got to experience one of the best views of Montreal. They offer their full menu at the rooftop bar as well, so you can order brunch/dinner/etc. in addition to drinks.
Have you ever been to Montreal?