Know Before You Go
Why You'll Love
Foodies, art enthusiasts, urban adventurers, there’s something in Montréal for everyone. A world away from English-speaking North America, Canada’s second-largest city feels like you’ve traveled to Europe. Charming architecture, lovely parks, street art, and so much incredible food await you on your visit.
Here’s a quick guide on what to expect. Looking for more? Check out the posts and the travel guide for subscribers!
Wander through the colorful architecture in Le Plateau, eat and drink your way through Mile End and Little Burgundy, get lost in time in Old Montréal, meet the artisan food producers and farmers in Little Italy, look down from Mont Royal, and look up in Downtown. Delight in murals everywhere. This city has something for everyone.
Solo Travel Experience
While I visited Montréal with a friend, I spent a fair amount of time exploring on my own and can heartily recommend the city to solo travelers.
Montréal’s neighborhoods have embraced something known as Ruelle Verte (Green Alleyways), where neighbors have banded together to create useable green spaces in the alleys behind their homes. Many of these are public, and you can explore them! I loved it.
Food & Drink
You’re going to eat so well in Montréal! From hearty poutine to French-inspired fine cuisine, you will not go hungry. Montréal is a food destination, and there’s plenty of recommendations in the guide.
Getting There & Getting Around
Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL)/Metro/Public Bus
Montréal’s public transit is excellent—the easiest transit system I’ve ever navigated, and it’s fast—starting at the airport. Taking the Metro is usually the easiest way to get around the city. Purchase the Opus card at the airport for $6 CDN and then buy 24-hour passes for $11/day. The first time you reload your Opus card, it might be a bit confusing (it was to us, anyway). There’s a small slot where you add your Opus card vertically. You then leave it there for your entire transaction. Once you do it, it will make sense, and you’ll feel like a pro, but don’t be surprised if it takes you a try or two to get it right.
Montréal welcomes walkers, especially in the more touristed areas. Get lost on the winding streets of Le Plateau and stroll the open streets in the summer. If you’re walking in Old Montréal, you’ll want to make sure to have good shoes for the picturesque cobblestones. Do note that streets can be very, very long, so make sure that you know the distance as well as the street before setting out on foot.
Wheelchair Traveling provides information on accessibility in Montréal. Montréal’s official tourism site also provides information, but much of it is in French. In general, Old Montréal is the least accessible part of the city, and there are accessibility challenges, especially with many shops and restaurants requiring stairs.
To get into Montréal proper from the airport, I recommend taking the 747 bus ($11 for a 24-hour public transit pass, plus $6 for the Opus Card), which will take you to the Metro (or you could also get off at a stop closer to your destination). You can buy a 24-hour public transit pass, which will get you on the Metro and around the city for a day, in addition to the bus, saving you money.
Uber is widely available in Montréal and an easy way to get around without having to try the bus. We also took an Uber back to the airport, but had we known about our flight delay, we would have just taken public transit.
If you are flying to the US on your way back, you’ll go through US Customs at the airport prior to flying into the US. If you have Global Entry, be sure to have your card with you to get access to the Global Entry line (will save you a ton of time, in my experience).
For a detailed map, see the main guide
Lodging in Canada can be quite expensive, but food & activities are generally more affordable than the US, though comparable.
Credit Cards, Etc.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Montréal. Always opt to pay in local currency if given the opportunity. ATMs are widely available, for the limited times you need cash.
Tipping for restaurants is typically 15%-20% and is not always expected for counter service. Tipping in bars is $1–$2 per drink. Servers will offer to split your bill.
Canada uses type A and B plugs (same as US)
You need to use ArriveCAN to provide your travel information and public health information (i.e. COVID vaccination records). You can download an app and submit your information 72 hours prior to arrival. You will also need to show your ArriveCAN upon arrival.
Climate & When to Go
Summers in Montréal tend to be warm and humid, and winters are positively frigid, with lots of snow.
When to go
This really depends on your taste in weather. Montréal embraces its cold weather season with lots of activities, but, personally, I would visit in the summer or fall. In the summer, there’s loads of festivals, open streets, and terraces; and autumn in this part of Canada is simply stunning.
Good to Know
Quebec has a very proud identity, and this is intertwined with its use of the French language. While younger people are both fluent in and fine with speaking English, you will have a much better experience if you learn a few basic French pleasantries.
Health & Safety
Routine vaccinations. No proof of COVID vaccine required as of this writing. The Canadian healthcare system does not pay for medical services for visitors, so be sure that you have proper insurance.
Overall, Montréal is a very safe city, and you should be fine with basic street smarts. My friend and I had one notable exception. Walking toward the Metro after viewing the Little Burgundy mural, we walked in a very sketchy area near the Lucien-L’Allier Metro stop. If you go to see the mural, do not take that Metro station. Either walk back the way you came or get an Uber.