Get a feel for Europe without that long international flight with a visit to Montreal, Canada. Here’s our Ultimate Guide to 2 days in Montreal to get you started.
Montreal should top your list if you’re looking for the charm of Europe without the travel hassles of flying across the pond. This French-speaking Canadian city is in the eastern province of Quebec, about 300 miles north of Boston. Hop on a plane or train, and you’ll be sipping coffee in a sidewalk café in just a few hours. Two days in Montreal is long enough to whet your appetite for this island city. As the second-largest city in Canada, Montreal is bursting with vibrant restaurants, dozens of Gothic cathedrals, and quaint cobblestone streets. Trendy designer stores, family-friendly museums, and hip vintage shops mean there’s something for everyone. Here’s our Ultimate Guide to 2 days in Montreal to get you started.
Getting Around During 2 Days in Montreal
Using the metro in Montreal is a breeze, so there’s no need for a car. Uber and taxis are readily available, and Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport is about a 30-minute drive from downtown. You can combine two days in Montreal with a ski trip to Mont-Tremblant or a visit to Quebec City. The trip to Quebec City takes three hours by train, crossing the Saint Lawrence and journeying through scenic countryside.
Historical Sights in Montreal
Notre-Dame Basilica is Montreal’s most important religious sight. Marvel at the stained glass and the blue and gold ornamentation. Don’t forget to look up to see the splendor of the ceiling. Two towers filled with bells might remind you of Notre-Dame de Paris. Explore on your own or book tickets in advance for Aura, a light and show experience inside the church.
Old Montreal captured my heart. The cobblestone streets of Rue Saint Paul, with street lamps and planter boxes, can easily be mistaken for Paris. Browse the shops and stop at a café or patisserie when you need a break. Pop into art galleries or stroll along the path by the river. Don’t miss the evening light show, where historical scenes are projected onto the buildings. Download the app to follow along, or wander and soak it all in.
Cultural Sights to See During 2 Days in Montreal
You might not expect Chinese culture in Montreal, but visiting Chinatown is a delightful surprise. I watched a few residents practicing tai chi in the lightly falling snow in the morning. At night, the streets come alive with small vendors selling meat skewers, noodles, and souvenirs.
Insider Tip: Visit Dragon’s Beard Candy for a unique hand-spun sugar treat.
With its cool bohemian vibe, The Plateau-Mont-Royal district is strikingly different from Old Montreal. Wander the streets with your camera to capture murals and colorfully painted building facades. Look for ornate spiral staircases and painted dumpsters as you wander. There are churches and parks to explore and tempting eateries when hunger calls.
Montreal’s Spa Scene
The BotaBota floating spa is a popular destination in Montreal. Spa-goers dip into the river for cold-water therapy and relax in steam rooms and hammocks in an old, restored boat.
Note some spas only allow guests over 18, and reservations are recommended.
I visited in March when sidewalks were still blanketed in snow. Hitting the spa for thermal therapy at Spa Scandinave was a relaxing break from sightseeing. Alternate between the hot tub with its tranquil waterfall, the dry sauna, the steam room, and the cold plunge pool. I curled up with a blanket and left my cares in the Zero Stress room.
Boutiques for Every Style of Shopper
Floh Marche on Rue Saint-Denis, with three floors of vendors, is heaven for vintage lovers. This funky street has many other vintage and streetwear shops, stores, and cafes. You can easily spend a few hours thrifting and browsing the boutiques nearby.
Rue Saint Catherine, Montreal’s main shopping street, is home to over 1,200 merchants. Shop at landmark Eaton Center Mall and break for lunch at Time Out Market. You’ll find over a dozen local food concepts in one food hall here. Don’t miss the retro video game arcade just outside.
Other Places to Check Out During 2 Days in Montreal
- Mont Royal Park – A green oasis at the city’s edge, with winter sledding and summer concerts.
- Old Port – Ride The Big Wheel, ice skate in winter, or bask on the beach.
- Underground City – Spanning 20 miles, this subterranean network connects malls, restaurants, and metro stations.
- The Biodome – Walk through a rainforest, visit marine life, and view animals in various habitats.
Where to Eat in Montreal
Montreal has one of the world’s highest densities of restaurants, making it a foodie paradise. Wear stretchy pants and plan to indulge.
Montreal has so many cozy cafes and artisan bakeries you’ll want to stop and linger. My favorite is Crew Collective & Cafe for its stunning architecture. It’s not every day you can sip a cappuccino in the old Royal Bank of Canada building. It’s gorgeous, with soaring gold ceilings and chandeliers. Arrive early to get a seat.
Le Petit Dep is postcard pretty, with a green façade and twinkling lights. Stay for coffee and pastry, or pick up gourmet groceries for later.
It’s Montreal, so poutine is a must-try. This classic dish is a hearty combination of French fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds. Pitarifique sells pita sandwiches and poutines with creative toppings. Stick with the classic as I did, or add gyro meat, bacon, or mushrooms. Unless you have a teenage appetite, order the smaller portion.
You could spend the whole day in Little Italy browsing Jean-Talon Market, an open-air market, and the nearby Italian grocers. Look for beautiful produce, cheeses, and pastries. Don’t tell, but I stopped for a quick slice of pizza before lunch. Ristorante Pizzeria Corneli is a short stroll from Jean-Talon on Little Italy’s main street. I’m glad I saved room for their salmon linguine.
At Restaurant Holder friendly waiters in long white aprons serve duck confit, steak tartare, and salmon carpaccio. This elegant French bistro is a great way to kick off two days in Montreal.
Visit Brit & Chips for a casual meal and a pint of Lion Ale. Choose from cod, salmon, or haddock in maple syrup batter. Battered and fried to order, this is fish and chips at its finest. Substitute chips for poutine if you haven’t had a chance to try this dish.
Crêperie Chez Suzette offers a full menu of savory and sweet crepes, fondue, salads, and sandwiches. Grab a table near the window, order French onion soup, and enjoy the good life.
Craft Beer and Cocktails
Since it was winter, I warmed up mostly with coffee and tea. I’d love to sip a cocktail on a terrace with a view on a warmer visit. Here’s a great list of rooftop bars. I also wish I’d had more time to explore the growing craft beer scene. You can even book a beer tour to sample the breweries. It’s just another reason to come back!
Insider Tip for Eating in Montreal: Vegan travelers will find lots of choices, including beautiful vegan rolls and sashimi at Bloom Sushi.
Other Foodie Finds in Montreal
From cafes to chocolate shops, there are so many delicious places to try I couldn’t possibly sample them all in 2 days in Montreal. Here are a few more recommendations:
- Gibbys for steak and seafood in an elegant historic building
- Schwartz’s Deli for smoked meat sandwiches
- Patati Patata for fries and poutine
- La Fabrique de Bagel for Montreal-style bagels
Where to Stay in Montreal
Hotel Nelligan is an elegant luxury hotel on Rue St. Paul in Old Montreal. Explore the cobblestone pedestrian streets around the hotel for shopping or linger in a café. You’ll find everything you need within walking distance, and the subway is nearby. Exposed brick walls and views over the city or lush hotel atrium add to the charm. Down comforters and Nespresso machines make it hard to leave the hotel.
Hotel Nelligan Dining
Nelli Cafe is the place to enjoy a morning coffee and chocolate croissant. Mechant Boeuf Brasserie serves dry-aged steaks, oysters, and craft cocktails. In summer, drink in city views and have a glass of sangria on the rooftop, Terrasse Nelligan.
Insider tip: For a romantic tete-a-tete surrounded by greenery, look for the alcoves tucked into the brick walls of Nelli Café.
Other Lodging Options in Montreal
If you want more space, consider an Airbnb luxury loft apartment in Old Montreal. This charming rental can accommodate eight guests and even has a pool table. The exposed brick walls, accent lighting, and quirky furnishings make this place stand out. There’s ample lounging space, just steps away from the Old City.
Insider Tip: Le Beau Marche gourmet food shop is just around the corner from this Airbnb. Grab a coffee and baguette or some wine and cheese to enjoy in the apartment.
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2 Days in Montreal—When and Why You Should Go
Montreal is charming in any season. Winter brings Christmas markets and snow sports. Sidewalk cafes and festivals come alive in Spring and Summer, and in Fall, foliage peaks. From food and fashion to spas and shopping, there is so much to discover during 2 days in Montreal. Whether you’re planning a trip to Montreal, Quebec City, or anywhere in Canada, or want to find the Ultimate Guide to 2 days anywhere, let Wander With Wonder guide you to the best places.