Photo Diary and Guide: Montreal, Canada

What to Do in Montreal Canada, Montreal Photo Diary // Pearl Girl

Montreal has been on my to-visit list for longer than I can remember. I took French from ages 11 to 18, so it’s always a place that I studied in school. And when I was at Syracuse, I meant to plan a weekend trip up there (it’s a fairly short drive!) but things were constantly going on on campus and I never made it up. And in my first three years in the city, I always thought ‘Hey, Montreal would be a quick weekend trip,’ but up until now, never got my butt in gear when it came to planning.

I got the kick in the pants I needed when I was given an Air Canada gift card that would cover the bulk of a flight to Montreal. I was easily able to talk my roommate Taylor into coming with me, we booked our flights and an AirBnB and we were off! We visited for four days, Friday to Monday, with a day trip to Quebec City on Sunday. It was the perfect amount of time to explore the city without overdoing it. I’ll cover Quebec City later, but here I’ll take you through our Montreal itinerary.

We took an early morning fight out to Montreal (all the while thinking WHY WHY did we do this?!) on Friday, and unfortunately, couldn’t check into our AirBnB until that afternoon. We were able to drop our stuff off in a storage space, and then headed to a restaurant called Cafe Imagination for breakfast. It wasn’t anything special, but it was in nearby and we were starved.

We then headed down to the Old Port neighborhood, which is super cute and looks very European. There are walkable streets lined with restaurants and gorgeous architecture. You can also head down to the waterfront, where there’s ziplining, outdoor shops and food stands. We rented a paddle boat and rode around for a bit. It was a fun way to spend an hour for the afternoon!

After a much-needed nap back at our AirBnB, that night we went to dinner at Robin Square, and it was excellent. We split the burrata pizza, pork belly and mac and cheese, all of which were so, so good. This spot is near the Old Port area, but not quite in the thick of it. Highly recommend. The best meal we had the whole weekend!

Another note: We took a few Ubers in Montreal, but for the most part found the subway to be extremely reliable and affordable. There were a few neighborhoods we couldn’t reach, but for the most part, it was very easy to get everywhere by subway.

We walked around the Mont Royal park and the surrounding neighborhood (which is gorgeous and filled with pretty houses, like the one above) on Saturday morning. We were hoping to find the Chalet Mont Royal for a view of the city, but that proved a bit difficult. Instead, we got out of an Uber at a lookout point. Though we would have started trekking on more to try and find the Chalet, which is one of the most famous views in Montreal.  But it started pouring and I leaned against a maple tree and accidentally got syrup in my hair. (#Canada) So we decided to head back to our AirBnB so I could wash my hair, haha.

We spent the afternoon walking around St. Catherine Street, which is the major shopping drag in Montreal. Along it are the entrances to the famed underground shopping malls, which we walked through though didn’t buy anything. They feel sort of like a non-luxury American mall, nothing special, but they sure are expansive!

Honestly, the real highlight of our second day was the FOOD. We started the day with bagels from St. Viateur, which makes authentic Montreal bagels. They were so, so good. They’re a little small, but very doughy and chewy, which sounds like a contradiction, but if you’ll try them, it makes sense. Sort of like Black Seed in NYC, if you’ve ever been there!

For lunch we stopped at a place near our AirBnB called MooseBawr where we got a pitcher of sangria (DELICIOUS!) and poutine, a must-have if you’re ever in Canada. If you don’t know, it’s french fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. Not healthy, but definitely tasty.

And then for dinner, we went to Schwartz’s, a Montreal staple deli. There’s almost always a line outside, but it goes pretty quickly. And oh, the food is so worth it. You don’t have a ton of options on the menu, so we ordered smoked meat sandwiches, fries, and coleslaw. I normally don’t eat coleslaw, but this one is amazing. So tasty and refreshing to eat alongside the heavier sandwich and fries. And the sandwich was so good. Just thinking about it has me wanting to plan a trip to Second Ave Deli in NYC.

Our last day we got breakfast at Tim Horton’s — I ate so many TimBits, their version of donut holes, that weekend, I thought I was going to turn into one. The birthday cake ones are my favorite. SO. YUMMY. We then made our way up to Chalet Mont Royal. It took a bit of a walk through what seemed to be the woods, but we finally reached a park and then found the crowds heading up towards the spot. It was definitely crowded, but worth it for the view. I always love to get to a good viewpoint in whatever city I’m visiting, and this one didn’t disappoint.

We headed back down to the Old Port area for lunch, where we ate poutine topped with smoked meat. Again, so tasty. I need to find a place in NYC that can do the dish justice. We also popped into the Notre Dame Basilica, which is enormous and stunning.

After seeing the ziplining on Friday, we both knew we wanted to try it on Monday. It wasn’t very expensive and there wasn’t a long line, so we thought why not? Both of us had done it before and if you haven’t, seriously, try it! It’s so fun and such an adrenaline rush. We got churros from one of the food trucks around the area afterward.

One thing I will note is that we tried to take the bus back to the airport and it ended being an epic fail. The wait for the bus was crazy long (with a ton of people) and when a bus finally arrived, we didn’t have enough money to cover the trip — even though we specifically added enough money to our cards to make it work. In the end, we got an Uber and got there on time, so all was well, though we were definitely annoyed

If you’re interested in our AirBnB, email me and I’m happy to send you the link. However, I wouldn’t hugely recommend it. Though it had a good location and they helped us with storage, the WIFI DIDN’T WORK. Not trying to be an internet addict, but it was essential for looking up locations and directions. Thankfully, we both had working data on our phone or we would have been lost. (Literally.) We honestly wouldn’t have booked the place had we known this, so I don’t want to give it a full endorsement when I don’t mean it.

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  • I need to go to Montreal again! I went twice during college but it was over Thanksgiving so obviously FREEZING. Quebec City is on my shortlist right now, so excited to hear about your time there, too!

    • You need to go! Such a great weekend trip. I loved Quebec City too, it’s so picturesque.

  • It looks like you had an AMAZING trip! I have never been to Montreal, but am dying to get there and back to Quebec City!

    ​xx katie // a touch of teal