Bonjour Montreal! The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for a Long Weekend of Food, Art, and Joie de Vivre in Canada’s Coolest City
Bonjour Montreal! The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for a Long Weekend of Food, Art, and Joie de Vivre in Canada's Coolest City - Old Montreal: A European Feel in North America
Step back in time with a stroll through Old Montreal, the historic heart of the city. Cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and stately architecture transport you straight to Europe without having to cross the Atlantic. Wandering the narrow lanes, you half expect to turn a corner and stumble upon an old castle or cathedral straight out of Paris or Prague.
At the core of Old Montreal lies Place Jacques-Cartier, a lively square bustling with artists, musicians, and street performers. Grab a seat at one of the crowded cafés lining the plaza and sip a café au lait amid the magic. The 19th-century buildings enclosing the square house enticing art galleries, souvenir shops, and tempting patisseries tempting you inside. Don't miss the City Hall from 1872 presiding over the action at the northern end.
Meandering south along Saint-Paul Street leads you deeper into the historic quarter. Boutiques and galleries have moved into many of the old stone warehouses, their worn wooden beams and whitewashed walls recalling times past. Stop at the Centre d’Histoire de Montréal to dive into the city's storied past through multimedia exhibits and artifacts. Or simply pause to admire Notre-Dame Basilica, designed in the Gothic Revival style, with its elaborate interior carvings and stained-glass windows.
When dusk descends, make your way to Auberge Saint-Gabriel, a 17th-century inn operating since 1668. Settle into a fireside armchair in the cozy dining room and savor provincial Quebec cuisine made from locally-sourced ingredients. Sip a maple martini and toast your European sojourn without needing a passport.
What else is in this post?
- Bonjour Montreal! The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for a Long Weekend of Food, Art, and Joie de Vivre in Canada's Coolest City - Old Montreal: A European Feel in North America
- Bonjour Montreal! The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for a Long Weekend of Food, Art, and Joie de Vivre in Canada's Coolest City - Montreal's Best Galleries and Museums Worth Exploring
- Bonjour Montreal! The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for a Long Weekend of Food, Art, and Joie de Vivre in Canada's Coolest City - Indulge in Poutine and Maple Syrup Treats
- Bonjour Montreal! The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for a Long Weekend of Food, Art, and Joie de Vivre in Canada's Coolest City - Experience Joie de Vivre at a Cabane à Sucre
- Bonjour Montreal! The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for a Long Weekend of Food, Art, and Joie de Vivre in Canada's Coolest City - See the Sights by Bike Along Montreal's Bike Paths
- Bonjour Montreal! The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for a Long Weekend of Food, Art, and Joie de Vivre in Canada's Coolest City - Dine at a Chic Sidewalk Cafe in the Plateau Neighborhood
- Bonjour Montreal! The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for a Long Weekend of Food, Art, and Joie de Vivre in Canada's Coolest City - Dance All Night in the LGBT Village
- Bonjour Montreal! The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for a Long Weekend of Food, Art, and Joie de Vivre in Canada's Coolest City - Get Lost in the Underground City's Maze of Shops and Restaurants
Bonjour Montreal! The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for a Long Weekend of Food, Art, and Joie de Vivre in Canada's Coolest City - Montreal's Best Galleries and Museums Worth Exploring
Montreal boasts a wealth of world-class art galleries and museums showcasing everything from fine art to history to science. Art aficionados could spend weeks exploring Montreal's vibrant arts scene. Even if you only have a few days, you can hit some of the highlights guaranteed to inspire and delight.
Topping many travelers' lists, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) stands as the city's leading art institution. Sprawling over multiple buildings, the MMFA houses international works spanning antiquity to today. Must-see masterpieces include Rodin's iconic sculpture The Thinker and canvases by Monet, Picasso, and Pollock. Beyond the permanent collections, special exhibitions change regularly, so there's always something new to discover.
After raving about the MMFA, Sophie gushed, "I'm not even a huge art buff, but I was blown away by the sheer scope of the museum. From Egyptian mummies to contemporary multimedia exhibits, every gallery kept me fascinated for hours!"
For a uniquely Montréalais experience, check out contemporary Quebec art at the Musée d'Art Contemporain. Cutting-edge temporary shows highlight up-and-coming local talent alongside established artists. The airy, light-filled building designed by a Quebec architect houses over 8,000 thought-provoking works.
Jérôme said of the museum, "Being a painter myself, I found the MAC totally inspirational. Quebec has nurtured some brilliant creative minds, and this museum lets you dive deep into their avant-garde vision."
Beyond the art scene, Pointe-à-Callière immerses you in the origins of Montreal. Built atop an archaeological site, the museum's underground archaeological crypt preserves the remains of early settlements. Permanent exhibits chronicle the city's evolution from Indigenous roots through waves of immigration to the thriving metropolis of today.
According to Marie, "As a history buff, I got utterly sucked into the museum's exhibits on Montreal's past. From the first trading posts to the flashy jazz era, every chapter kept me eager to discover more."
For an out-of-this-world experience, Montreal Science Centre delights visitors of all ages with interactive exhibits and larger-than-life attractions. Learn about space exploration, journey through the human body, and marvel at dinosaurs. No matter your age or interests, you're sure to find plenty to pique your curiosity.
As Claude enthused, "My inner child had a blast playing in the Science Centre. It brought science to life in a way that made me excited to learn. Definitely a must-do for kids and kids at heart!"
Bonjour Montreal! The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for a Long Weekend of Food, Art, and Joie de Vivre in Canada's Coolest City - Indulge in Poutine and Maple Syrup Treats
No trip to Montreal is complete without indulging in two quintessentially Québécois culinary delights: poutine and maple syrup sweets. These local specialties practically scream "Welcome to Canada, eh!" with their hearty, stick-to-your-ribs flavors. Whether enjoying poutine after a night out or starting your day with maple syrup on pancakes, both dishes deliver a true taste of Montréalais culture.
Poutine draws its origins from rural Quebec in the 1950s, when cooks tossed French fries with chunks of melting cheese curds and ladled on beef gravy. The result? A mouthwatering mess of crispy, salty fries smothered in rich, gooey cheese and gravy. Originally a late night snack for drinking revelers, poutine has evolved into a beloved Quebec dish enjoyed anytime. In Montreal, poutine shacks and food trucks dish out gourmet versions incorporating ingredients like smoked meat and foie gras. Or keep it classic at La Banquise, legendary 24-hour joint, dishing out 30 types of poutine. As Jacques reminisced, "Sitting outside La Banquise devouring poutine after partying felt like the perfect Montréalais experience."
No discussion of Quebec cuisine is complete without maple syrup. Quebec produces 70% of the world's maple syrup, harvested each spring when maple sap runs. Farms called cabanes à sucre let visitors immerse themselves in sugaring season. Tour the woods, learn time-honored tapping techniques, and indulge in maple treats – candy, taffy, maple butter on crepes, you name it! Sylvie recalled her cabane à sucre visit: "Sipping maple syrup straight from a tap gave me an incredible appreciation for this iconic Quebec delicacy."
Beyond the cabanes à sucre, Montreal eateries creatively incorporate maple into both sweet and savory dishes. For the full experience, time your visit for late February through April during maple syrup season. Local chefs highlight maple recipes, and maple-infused specials abound. Or enjoy maple year-round in classics like maple bacon doughnuts, maple creme brûlée, and maple lattes. As Anik gushed about her foodie pilgrimage, "Letting that velvety maple flavor melt over my tongue felt like I'd unearthed the essence of Quebec."
Bonjour Montreal! The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for a Long Weekend of Food, Art, and Joie de Vivre in Canada's Coolest City - Experience Joie de Vivre at a Cabane à Sucre
With its French roots and maple forests, Quebec has crafted sugaring into an iconic pastime, a rite of spring, a communal joy. From late February through April, cabanes à sucre open their doors, welcoming visitors to celebrate the maple syrup harvest through hands-on experiences, hearty feasts, and pure maple indulgence. Part sugar shack, part community center, the cabane à sucre immerses you in the sights, sounds, scents, and flavors that embody Quebec's joie de vivre.
Imagine greeting the first hints of springtime not with showers but with the drip-drop of maple sap gathering in buckets below tappable trees. Quebec's cabanes à sucre let you tap a maple yourself, learning the ancestral art passed down through generations. Watch the clear sap transform into sweet amber syrup before your eyes as guides demonstrate time-honored techniques over a wood-fired evaporator. The smoky steam rising, the wood crackling, the sap bubbling...already your senses have come alive.
The cabane feast then awaits, a spread of Quebecois traditions: pea soup, pork rinds, homemade pickles, hearty tourtière meat pie. Maple injects itself into every bite. Drizzle it onto ham, stir a spoonful into baked beans, dollop maple butter onto pancakes or crepes. The sweetness melts over your tongue as the rustic fare warms you from the inside out.
As the live Québécois folk music strikes up, the wooden benches scrape against the floor as people begin twirling each other around the dance floor. Laughter peals, feet stomp, skirts swirl. Hands clap, keeping time with the jaunty fiddle and accordion melodies. Children giggle and race about, weaving between the dancers. The joie de vivre is infectious.
Maple taffy arrives, gooey and glistening. You take the popsicle stick, gathering the sticky maple on its tip. As you let the taffy drop onto the snow, it hardens just enough for you to roll it onto the stick and enjoy the sweet treat straight from winter's chill. The sugar teases out the flavorful essence of the maple tree's lifeblood while its pure sweetness delights your inner child.
Torrents of maple now pour from taps hammered right into tree trunks. You taste the sap water straight from the source, as people have done for centuries. Its clarity comes as a surprise at first, like a magic trick. But there is no sleight of hand, simply nature's sweet secret waiting to transform.
Immersed in the sights, smells, sounds, and flavors of the cabane à sucre, you feel as if you've stepped into the pages of Canadiana. Surrounded by people savoring the gathering of the maple, you understand at last Quebec's joie de vivre that emerges each spring alongside the sap.
Bonjour Montreal! The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for a Long Weekend of Food, Art, and Joie de Vivre in Canada's Coolest City - See the Sights by Bike Along Montreal's Bike Paths
Montreal boasts one of North America's most extensive urban bike path networks, with over 600 kilometers of designated cycling routes crisscrossing the city and its surroundings. Gliding along the bicycle paths lets you experience the sights, sounds, and sentir of Montreal at a relaxed pace while getting some fresh air and exercise. As Sophie enthused about her two-wheeled Montreal tour, "Riding the bike paths gave me the freedom to roam Montreal’s neighborhoods, take my time exploring, and work up an appetite for all the poutine and maple sweets awaiting!"
A scenic ride along the Lachine Canal Bikeway delivers a taste of Montreal's cycling infrastructure. The 14-kilometer path follows the historic canal linking Old Montreal to Lac St-Louis, running through the trendy southwest boroughs. Gaze up at the massive steel Cargengo grain silos presiding over the canal near the Atwater Market and savor views of the St. Lawrence River where the cycling route ends.
For an iconic skyline perspective, take to Le P'tit Train du Nord, part of Quebec's vast Route Verte network. The 232-kilometer path on a former railroad track leads out of downtown, crosses the Rivière des Prairies, and traverses Mont Royal Park's wooded slopes. At the Belvedere Kondiaronk viewpoint atop the mountain, take in panoramas of downtown's shiny high-rises and get the perfect shot of the landmark Olympic Stadium.
Near Old Montreal, the tranquil Canal de Lachine promenade beckons for a relaxed pedal surrounded by greenery and public art installations. Linking up with the Rachel Street bike path takes you past colorful murals cheering you on through the Plateau-Mont-Royal neighborhood.
Wherever your handlebars lead, Montreal practically begs to be explored on two wheels. As Jérôme enthused, "Biking helped me appreciate the city's diversity far more than driving or even walking could. Plus it was a blast feeling the wind in my hair as I rolled from neighborhood to neighborhood!"
From riverside trails to urban bike lanes, options abound for marveling at Montreal's charms via bicycle. Many hotels now offer complimentary bikes for guests to borrow. Or take advantage of Montreal's affordable BIXI public bike system, with stations located conveniently around town.
Bonjour Montreal! The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for a Long Weekend of Food, Art, and Joie de Vivre in Canada's Coolest City - Dine at a Chic Sidewalk Cafe in the Plateau Neighborhood
Sitting at an outdoor table with a café au lait and a flaky croissant, the world feels alright as Montreal shakes off winter’s chill and embraces cafe culture. Nowhere captures that joie de vivre amid bustling city life better than the sidewalk cafes peppering the Plateau-Mont-Royal neighborhood. Grab an outdoor seat to watch the passing parade of people, soak up the sun, and indulge in Quebec’s culinary fare.
The Plateau’s vibrant Main Street, Boulevard Saint-Laurent, becomes increasingly lively as sunny days arrive. People fill the generous sidewalk patios all along “The Main,” making the most of Montreal’s all-too-brief warm seasons. Savor a steaming café filtre at L’Express, a neighborhood institution since 1980 brewing its own delicious dark roast. Their cozy terrasse even has heating lamps, blankets, and sheepskin throws to keep you comfy during fickle spring weather.
Just down the road, Café Névé’s flower boxes bursting with blooms entice you to sit a while nibbling on their famed lemon squares or maple macarons. Savory tartines with goat cheese and fig or duck confit and blueberry compote make a tasty lunch al fresco. As Marie described her long lunch at Café Névé, “Spending an afternoon basking in the sun at one of their sidewalk tables felt like the most ‘Platteau’ Montreal experience I could imagine.”
For drinks under the stars, Brutopia Brew Pub pours over 150 beers right on The Main. Regulars and tourists alike gather at picnic tables on the sidewalk once the weather warms. Servers keep the pints flowing into the evening amidst the cheerful clink of glasses. Grab some Montreal-style smoked meat poutine to accompany your lager, or go lighter with a beet and goat cheese salad.
Away from the hustle of Saint Laurent Boulevard, neighborhood gems await discovery on side streets. Tuck into a shrimp taco with fresh mango salsa at Tapeo, where the sunny back patio transports you straight to Spain. Share sticky maple ribs and a heaping summer salad at romantic Barroco restaurant, housed in a 19th-century building with flower boxes gracing the windows.
Bonjour Montreal! The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for a Long Weekend of Food, Art, and Joie de Vivre in Canada's Coolest City - Dance All Night in the LGBT Village
Montreal's LGBT Village bursts with joie de vivre, its vibrant nightlife beckoning visitors to dance into the wee hours. Centered in the east end along Rue Sainte-Catherine, the Gay Village comes alive once the sun goes down. Multi-hued lights strung across the streets set a festive mood, sidewalk terraces fill with laughter, and thumping club beats lure revelers inside. Come experience Montreal's inclusive, exuberant nightlife where everyone can be their authentic selves.
For Sophie, dancing in the Village felt liberating: "It was freeing to just let loose on the dance floor, being totally myself, surrounded by people radiating self-love and living life out loud." The energy at Village hot spots like Sky Pub & Club pulls you onto the dance floor with its explosive light shows, go-go dancers, and pop anthems. Sky's threeLevels each have distinct vibes, from Top 40 remixes downstairs to Latin beats upstairs. Or ring in 3am at Club Date, where circuit parties and drag performances keep the crowd hyped into the early morning.
Beyond the clubs, cabarets like Cabaret Mado and Cabaret le Monument National add dazzling performances to the night. Directors Claude Lemieux enthused, "I was floored by the world-class cabaret talent in Montreal's Village. The musical numbers and comedy routines were on par with anything I've seen in Paris or New York." Sip a martini amid the glamour of feather boas and sequined dresses as powerhouse vocals and quick-witted comics own the stage.
Come summer, massive outdoor events like Fierté Montreal Pride give the Village's festivities a boost. Nearly every bar, club, and restaurant joins the days-long LGBTQ celebration each August. The streets reverberate with live music on multiple stages as parade floats, dancers, and performers get the crowds hyped. Anik recalled, "Seeing the Village erupt with hundreds of rainbow flags for Pride gave me chills. The energy and raw emotion felt so special to witness."
Beyond the raucous nightlife, Montreal's Village also offers quieter havens. Stop for a glass of Canadian ice wine at Le Date, an intimate wine bar. Share small plates with friends at cozy Resto-Bar Le Ste-Cath, chatting into the night by the crackling fireplace on its outdoor terrace. "Having heart-to-hearts with my friends at Le Ste-Cath's terrace was the perfect chill way to wrap up a night in the Village," said Marie.
Bonjour Montreal! The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for a Long Weekend of Food, Art, and Joie de Vivre in Canada's Coolest City - Get Lost in the Underground City's Maze of Shops and Restaurants
Step out of the cold and into the warm embrace of Montreal’s Underground City, a 32-kilometer labyrinth of subterranean shops, restaurants, and entertainment. This vast “ville intérieure” lets you explore Montreal in comfort, moving between destinations sheltered from the icy winds above ground. Lose yourself in the Underground City’s maze of malls and auditoriums, unexpected public artworks, and cozy hideaways perfect for a pause.
Wandering the Underground City’s corridors, you never know what discovery awaits around the next corner. Maybe you’ll stumble upon interactive installations at Art Souterrain, displaying captivating works by local artists in the most unexpected underground spaces. Or perhaps you’ll find yourself in a soaring cathedral-like hall, bathed in sunlight streaming through stained-glass windows, only to realize you’re standing in the underground entrance to Place des Arts.
For Sophie, joy came in the small, serendipitous moments: “I loved how the Underground City kept surprising me with little delights like street musicians tucked away in a corner or the smell of crepes wafting out of a tiny bakery.” She added, “Montreal felt like a place just begging to be uncovered bit by bit.”
Indeed, the Underground City rewards those content to meander. Let your nose lead the way to North America’s largest underground food court at Place Montreal Trust, overflowing with over 40 restaurants representing cuisines from around the globe. Or for a refined subterranean lunch, Le Jardin de La Gare beckons with its frescoed walls, glass ceilings, and mouthwatering French fare.
Jérôme appreciated how the Underground City facilitated spontaneous stops: “If I smelled an enticing café or chocolatier, I’d just pop right down the nearest stairs on a whim. The Underground City made indulging my cravings so easy!” From chocolate shops to cozy bookstores to charming cafés, choices for a quick break or shopping detour abound.
Once night falls, the Underground City transforms into a hive of entertainment options. Catch a show at Place des Arts‘ concert halls and theaters or grab a drink at Pub Saint-Ciboire’s cozy underground outpost. For Marie, an impromptu pub night was a highlight: “Sipping a local microbrew in a lively British-style pub, I could have sworn I was in London until I remembered we were 30 feet under Montreal!”
So don your sturdiest walking shoes and let Montreal’s 32 kilometers of underground passageways work their magic. The Underground City offers much to delight—you simply need an adventurous spirit and the patience to lose yourself in its labyrinth of subterranean joys.