Editor’s Note: While we can’t travel to Montreal right now, we can dream and plan for travel ahead. Here’s some inspiration for future adventures. We share places, products and activities we recommend. If you make a purchase using a link on our site, we may earn a commission.
So many things to do in Montreal! As the largest city in Canada’s Québec province, Montréal offers something for everyone.
Add Montreal, Quebec as your next summer vacation destination with our suggestions for the best things to do in Montreal.
Best Things to Do in Montreal
Located on an island in the Saint Lawrence River, Montreal is a beautiful city, filled with hundreds of world-class restaurants, colorful markets, and a dizzying array of attractions.
Explore its boroughs, once independent cities. Experience something different at each one, from cobblestoned, French colonial Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal), home to the Notre-Dame Basilica, to bohemian Plateau.
No matter where you visit, you’ll discover some of the best attractions and things to do in Montreal.
Biodôme de Montréal
The Biodôme de Montréal was originally designed as a velodrome (cycling stadium) by Frenchman Roger Taillibert, the same architect who designed the city’s Olympic stadium.
This gigantic domelike structure was converted to an environmental museum after the 1976 Olympic summer games.
The Biodôme showcases replicas of four ecosystems: the Laurentian Forest (a representation of the North American wilderness), the Tropical Forest, the Saint Lawrence Marine ecosystem, and Polar World.
Since this city (greater metro area population: 3.6 million) is one of the largest French-speaking cities in the world, find most tours available in both French and English. www.biodome.qc.ca
Find a hotel or Airbnb in Montreal
Explore the Underground City
The residents of Montréal, the second-largest city in Canada and the largest metropolitan area in the province of Québec, escape traffic congestion or harsh winter weather by ducking into the city’s underground, RÉSO.
Montreal’s Underground City offers locals and travelers the advantage of all la ville souterraine with its shopping malls, banks, hotels, subway and bus stations, even an event arena.
With some 20 miles (32 km) of tunnels linking the various buildings, this city under the pavement is an impressive urban planning achievement that’s both convenient and efficient.
Top Things to do in Montreal: Festivals
Montréal comes alive when the temperature rises, as the city hosts more than 100 festivals each year, many of them in the spring and summer.
One of the most popular events is the Just for Laughs Festival, giving Montreal the title, “the funniest city in the world.” Founded in 1983, it is the largest festival of its kind and considered the king of comedy festivals.
Each year the festival attracts top acts, such as comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Kevin Hart. The largest festival of its kind in the world, the Just for Laughs Festival is held each July and features seasoned comedians as well as new faces, anticipating more than 2 million in attendance each year.
The annual Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (Montreal Jazz Festival) features nonstop music, with more than 350 free concerts.
The Montréal Insectarium
If creepy-crawlies are your thing, then you’ll enjoy a trip to the Montréal Insectarium. This unique space has bugs galore.
Feeling more adventurous? You can even taste some of the critters. The Insectarium has released hundreds of monarch butterflies raised in captivity each year since 1994, to study and track their migration.
Monarch Odyssey takes place over three weekends in late August and early September. During the Odyssey, learn about monarch butterflies and watch them being tagged, so they can be tracked from Quebec to Mexico.
The monarch butterfly has a longer migration than that of any other insect.
This elegant two-story Art Deco building with an impressive clock tower houses a vibrant farmers market that’s been here since 1933. More than 50 vendors offer everything from mouth-watering pastries to fresh meats and cheeses, wine, and, of course, maple syrup.
In the summer, outdoor stands filled with fragrant flowers and fresh produce dazzle the eyes as well as the appetite. Inside, Boulangerie Première Moisson bakery makes more than 40 different kinds of bread.
The intermingling of freshly brewed coffee and delectable pastries entice passersby to stop in and partake of the homemade goodies. www.marchespublics-mtl.com
At 764 feet (233 m), Mount Royal (French: Mont Royal) looks more like a hill. Yet it has always been referred to as “the mountain” by the proud residents of Montréal.
Mount Royal, located north of downtown, in the center of the 31-mile-long (50 km) island of Montréal. Of its three peaks, Colline de la Croix is the tallest.
French explorer Jacques Cartier was the first European to scale the mountain, in 1535, and he gave the mountain its name. A broad path and a winding road climb to the summit of the peak. Once atop the mountain, enjoy spectacular cityscape views.
Just north of Mount Royal lies Mount Royal cemetery, a national historic site. The 165-acre (668,000 m²) burial ground dates to 1852. Take guided tours of the gravesites of famous figures buried here, including brewing tycoon John Molson (1763-1836).
Notre-Dame de Montréal Basilica
Built in the neo-gothic style, this grand structure is chock full of beautiful details, with extensive stained glass windows, beautiful works of art, and wood carvings.
The Notre-Dame de Montreal Basilica also houses le Gros Bourdon, one of the largest bells in the world, weighing in at more than 12 tons (11,240 kg). The building’s foundation dates to 1672; numerous renovations expanded the church throughout the centuries.
When built, the church was the largest in North America, with 216-foot (66m) towers and a 253-foot-long nave (77 m). A fire in 1978 destroyed the chapel, and renovations were once again necessary. Today the basilica is one of the top things to do in Montréal.
The city’s oldest neighborhood, the once-walled district of Vieux Montréal (Old Montreal), is a five-minute walk from downtown. Along the banks of the St. Lawrence River is where Ville Marie, the settlement that became Montréal, was founded in 1642. Nearly 4,000 people live in Vieux Montréal, one of the oldest urban areas of North America.
Check out Montréal’s Museum of Archaeology and History, Pointe-à-Callière, rising above the birthplace of Montréal. View archaeological artifacts, including the city’s original foundation and an underground aqueduct, here in an underground exhibit.
Learn all the insider knowledge of the West Side of Old Montreal on a private walking tour here.
Much of the charm of Vieux Montréal remains intact, carefully preserved in the beautiful old architecture. Cobblestone streets throughout Old Montréal link restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and residences. The riverfront is made up of maritime facilities surrounded by vast recreational space.
In addition, it is home to a variety of museums and attractions. Place Jacques Cartier, the main street alongside the Old Port is a playground for street artists in the summer.
Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, built for the 1976 Summer Olympics, includes the tallest inclined structure in the world, a tower that stands 583 feet (175 meters) tall that’s built at a 45-degree angle.
For a spectacular panorama of the city, visitors can ride in a funicular up to the observation deck at the top of the building. Getting the stadium built proved to be an arduous task when, in May 1975, construction halted as the workers went on strike until October of the same year.
The project was in jeopardy, with everything greatly behind schedule. Adding to the problems were financial difficulties. Several temporary structures had to be erected, as the Olympic Stadium was only half completed when the summer games began.
Founded in 1642, Montréal is located on Montréal Island in the St. Lawrence River, near the confluence of the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers.
For a relaxing way to take in the sights of the city, look no further than the riverboat cruises aboard Le Bateau-Mouche. The boat holds about 180 passengers. Enjoy the ride from either the open-air top deck or the enclosed lower deck.
Once aboard, passengers delight in riverside sights. Look for the Old Port of Montréal, La Ronde amusement park (the second-largest such park in Canada), and Biodôme de Montréal.
Book your private cruise around Le Bateau-Mouche here.
If You Go: Things to do in Montreal
Montréal Tourism: www.tourisme-montreal.org