Travel Writers' Secrets: Top Montreal Travel Tips

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Get ready and fasten your seatbelts! We’ve just returned from an Epic Canadian Road Trip, driving from our home in Kalamazoo, Michigan all the way out to St. John’s, Newfoundland (yes, a ferry was involved). Why? Well, I’m the co-founder of Writing Walking Women, and we chose St. John’s as the site of our conference this year – MUCH more on that to come! And, our daughter, Lillie (13), said that every teen should have an epic road trip. SO.

To that end, I’ve asked my travel writer friends for their top secrets in all of the major towns we’re driving through (and visiting). I’m learning so much – and can’t WAIT to visit all of these extraordinary Canadian places. Please check back, as I’ll add more travel writers’ secrets to each location’s article – sharing the best of Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia to Cape Breton Island, and, of course, Newfoundland

Travel Writers' Secrets: Top Montreal Travel Tips


Here's an insider's look at Montreal - what to see, do, eat, explore, and more. Montreal is a city that slowly unfurls itself to you - enjoy!

Kerry Dexter, Music Road

Things to see:

The Place des Arts is the a major performing arts venue, home to the world renowned Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, the Opera de Montreal, iMusici chamber orchestra, and Orchestre Metropoltian, and probably other groups I am forgetting. They all give concerts there, of course and you can sometimes find the symphony performing -- at times for free--  at the Basilique de Notre Dame and in city parks. Orcheste Metropolian often does concerts with reduced admission prices in varied venues around the city, too.

Speaking of chamber orchestras, McGill has a good one too, which often performs on the university's campus at Pollack Concert Hall. Other sorts of events take place there too, and you can't miss the hall because a statue of Queen Victoria presides out front.

A walk through the (mostly Victorian) campus of McGill and a visit to the rather eclectic Musee Redpath while you are there could be of interest, too. 

Musee des Beaux Arts is Canada's oldest museum, and its fine permanent collections of Old Masters, contemporary work, and Canadian, Quebecois, and Inuit art are free to see.  

Musee McCord will introduce you to all you ever wanted to know about the history of Canada, often in ways you wouldn't expect.

The Montreal Metro is a place to look for art, too. Check out the Place des Arts station with a mural on the history of music in Canada and the abstract stained glass windows at Champ des Mars Station, for instance.

Chapelle de Notre Dame de Bon Secours is a site woven into the religious and cultural history of Montreal. In addition to the history going back to the chapel founded by Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys and as place where sailors came to give thanks for safe voyages, artifacts of First Nations peoples going back two thousand years have been found in the crypt area.

Where to shop:

Le Marche des Saveurs du Quebec  -- a store which features regional products from Quebec, from soap to cheese to all sorts of maple things.

Marche Atwater -- great artisan and farmers' market, places to eat, too.

Places to eat:

SoupeSoup  -- which serves, naturally, soup...
Olive + Gourmando -- sandwiches, breads, baked goods
Le Vieux Dublin -- Montreal's oldest Irish pub - has decent pub grub food and sometimes live Irish music
Le Commensal -- vegetarian buffett
La Banquise -- more than 20 kinds of poutine including vegetarian. Other sorts of food too, and open 24 hours

While in Montreal there are three things you may want to try to eat: poutine, which is fresh cut fried potatoes with cheese curds and gravy (there are veg versions and ones with added ingredients); Montreal style bagels, which have a taste all their own; and something with maple flavor, which won't be too hard to find as the province of Quebec produces three quarters of the world's maple syrup.


Listen to the music of Le Vent du Nord. History, politics, family, hurdy gurdy, violin, guitar: these four men have it all and with a distinct Quebecois sound you'll not soon forget. Their most recent album is called Tetu.


Dana Howard Freeman - Find and Go Seek

This is a great tip for going in the winter months - I am always baffled by the Underground City of Montreal. It is no wonder, as it it the biggest of all the man-made underground networks in the world! There are 33km of pedestrian walkways, indoor areas and tunnels that link boutiques, shopping malls, hotels, movie theaters, conference centers, universities, train stations and metro stops together. When you are outside on the streets of Montreal, simply look for the blue RESO sign that will lead you indoors. Head to the lower level and start exploring. In the winter months it is easy to imagine never having to go outside, even for ice skating!

Travel Writers' Secrets: Top Montreal Travel Tips
Dana Howard Freeman, Find and Go Seek

The new Voiles en Voiles - this challenge course looks like so much fun. It is anchored by a 3-story Pirate Ship and a Royal Boat. Kids ages 3-3333 can cross nets, bridges, ropes, hanging beams and more. 

Voiles et Voiles. Travel Writers' Secrets: Top Montreal Travel Tips

Dana Howard Freeman - Why Families Love Montreal

I won’t lie. I don’t eat red or smoked meat and I don’t usually seek out “touristy” places. However Reuben’s Delicatessen apparently is a “must do”. Located smack in the middle of bustling Saint Catherine Street, and right around the corner from the Omni Hotel, it seemed like the ideal spot for Friday night’s dinner. As one might expect at a deli, the menu is huge.  Even the pickiest kids are sure to find something to eat.  The portions are gigantic, so consider sharing and be sure to save room for dessert.

Rueben's Deli. From Travel Writers' Secrets: Top Montreal Travel Tips
Dana Howard Freeman - 36 Hours in Montreal Again

Eileen P. Gunn, Founder, FamiliesGo!

Where to Stay:

The Hyatt Regency Montreal. It’s well positioned near the old Town, Chinatown and Mont Royal. And the Metro for points beyond. It is next to the Complexe Jardin, which has a small supermarket (where we went often).  And near the Place Des Arts, where some festivals happen (and where there are performances, etc.). And it has a kid friendly pool. You can often find a good deal on Expedia, etc.

Where to eat/shop:

The Atwater Market: it’s a mostly indoor market a little out of they way, but worth it. There is a cafe with AMAZING croissants, pastries and coffee. you’ll think you’re in Paris. It’s also a good source of edible souvenirs, Moose jerky, maple syrup and maple products, etc. We loved it.

Nancy D Brown,

Montreal's Botanical Gardens. Be sure to check out the Magic of Lanterns in the Chinese Gardens in the fall. 

Mariellen Ward, BreatheDreamGo

Montreal is known for many things, especially fine food, the Jazz Festival, great neighbourhoods, and shopping. But I decided to experience the more peaceful side of the city by staying in the John Lennon - Yoko Ono Suite at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel -- where the anthem Give Peace a Chance was recorded in 1969 -- and by travelling north of the city to Canada's most authentic yoga ashram. 

The John Lennon - Yoko Ono Suite at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel -- where the anthem Give Peace a Chance was recorded in 1969

Mariellen Ward, Peace Canadian Style

Melissa Schwartz, A Little Time and a Keyboard 

Kids definitely need time out when traveling especially when spending time on tours and at museums. Our favorite spots in Montréal to unwind and let out some of that energy are the picturesque Parc La Fontaine with its spectacular fountain, engaging playground, mini train and summer wading pools, Mount Royal Park with its breathtaking view of the city, and Old Port where kids not only enjoy a playground but also views of the St. Lawrence River and in summer months exploring a seasonal beach.

Mont Royal. From Travel Writers' Secrets: Top Montreal Travel Tips

Mont Royal

Parc la Fontaine. From Travel Writers' Secrets: Top Montreal Travel Tips

Parc la Fontaine

Montréal was founded in 1642, making it one of Canada’s oldest cities. Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History, provides a unique way for families to literally see the underpinnings and foundations of the city as you explore underground! Pointe-à-Callière is easily one of our favorite museums with many interactive ways families can explore Montréal history from its city walls, to the market to the first cemetery. Really cool!

The Montréal Botanical Garden easily sweeps us away every time we visit. The star is definitely the Chinese Garden with its inclusion of magical structures like a full size pagoda, arches and stone boat. If you visit during the lantern festival, you are in for a special treat with the garden lit up by lanterns of all shapes and sizes including animals and people!

Montreal Botanical Garden. From Travel Writers' Secrets: Top Montreal Travel Tips

Having indoor venues on your itinerary is always a good idea given the unpredictability of weather. The Montréal Biodome houses four different natural habitats complete with flora and fauna. During our first visit to Montréal it rained the entire time, so a walk through the Tropical Forest, Laurentian Forest, St. Lawrence River Eco-system, and even the polar region  was very welcome—who can resist a chance to visit with penguins and puffins! All weather fun!

Parc La Fontaine:
Mount Royal Park:
Botanical Garden:
Old Port:

Melissa Schwartz photos: Ooh la la a lovely time in Montreal



Have you been to Montreal? What did you love most? Please share!