Montreal is a vibrant, fun city with a rich culture. It deserves its reputation for being the European destination in North America. The wonderful food, some of the oldest architecture on the continent, the romantic French language, fabulous fashion… it’s a city one can return to over and over again for a great time.
On your first trip to Montreal, however, It’s good to get the lay of the land. The tour I’m suggesting will take you north from the old ports as far as the Jean Talon Market and Little Italy and then south again into the center of the city – centre ville. It can be done in a day but it is a very full day and while it misses many highlights it covers a lot of ground in a manner that flows.
This tour starts in Old Montreal but you can start anywhere in center of the city and, if the weather isn’t great, you can take the Indoor City to Old Montreal. Sometimes underground, sometimes at ground level, the Indoor City covers 32 km of Montreal linking up with the Metro stations. Just follow for any RESO sign to enter.
The Montreal Museum will take you 60 to 90 minutes and it gives you a complete overview of the city’s history. Its’ a good place to start.
You could take a Caleche ride at the beginning of your day or you might want to end your tour back in Old Montreal, eat at one of the fine restaurants there, (I can recommend Chez L’Epicerie) and end the evening with a Caleche ride. It’s up to you.
Have your Caleche drop you off on Rue St. Laurent or walk from the Montreal Museum along Rue St. Paul to St. Laurent. From there walk north a block or two to China Town.
Unlike many China Towns in North America, the Montreal China Town has not kept on growing and expanding – it’s still a relatively small, contained area centered on Rue St-Laurent at de la Gauchetere.
Rue St-Laurent is referred to locally as the Main as it tends to divide the east side of Montreal which is more French and the west side of Montreal which is more English. It was a major commercial street that became quite seedy in past decades and is seeing a wonderful renaissance. After China town, take Bus #55 north to Little Italy. Get off at Rue Jean Talon and walk east a block or so to take in the Jean Talon Market.
The market is full of fruit, vegetables, flowers, wine and Quebecois specialties… If you like markets its worth the trip because it’s also in the heart of Little Italy. You might want lunch there.
From the market I suggest grabbing a cab and going to Fairmont and St. Urbain St to pick up some of the best bagels in the world. They are my personal fave and I never leave the city without some.
From Fairmont you can walk south to Cafe Santropol at the corner of Duluth and St. Urbain in the Plateau area for a coffee.
Walk east of Cafe Santropol along Duluth to Park Avenue and walk down the side of Mount Royal back into the city.
It’s maybe a 10 minute walk down the mountain before you arrive in the center of the city again. Park Avenue turns into Rue Bleury which is one block east of Jeanne Mance and the the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The Museum of Contemporary Art is open until 9pm on the first Friday of every month so you have a choice, you can take in the museum at a leisurely pace or experience one exhibit and head out for dinner. If your feet can stand it, you’re about a twenty minutes walk to the Old City again, though there are plenty of great restaurants in other areas especially the Plateau.
For information on my trip Montreal you can read Dating and the Solo Traveler.
Thanks to Montreal Tourism for their support with this trip.