With its European air, mash-up of languages and cultures, deep dedication to the arts and delectable cuisine, Montréal is the perfect city for folk who love to explore. But Canada's weather extremes make it wise to pack for the conditions if you intend to explore on foot or by pedal power.

Wandering on foot is most fun in the summer, when locals flock to the city's parks, beaches and the historic streets of Old Montréal. Fall brings lovely colors from September, but also the promise of impending winter; once the snow and cold set in, you'll appreciate Montréal's indoor shopping arcades and heated metro trains and buses.

When you visit will determine how you navigate the city's diverse neighborhoods, so read on to find out all you need to know about getting around Montréal. 

Introducing Montréal & Québec

Walking in Montréal

Montréal is an incredible place to explore on foot – it’s the perfect way to soak up the city’s cultured atmosphere, particularly in the historic districts of the city. Subway stations are fairly close in the city center, and it's easy to save a little cash by walking if you only need to go one stop.

Note that cold winter temperatures may send even the most avid walkers running for public transit. Temperatures in January hover around 16°F (-9°C) and walkers will want to wrap up warm and take advantage of regular coffee shop stops to defrost. The interconnected shopping arcades and dining and entertainment hubs of Montréal's Underground City come into their own at this time of year.

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Woman Cyclist Enjoying View of Lachine Canal, Montreal, Quebec
With plenty of bike lanes, Montréal is an easy place to explore by bike © Pamela Joe McFarlane/Getty Images

Exploring Montréal on two wheels 

Montréal’s bicycle paths are extensive, running more than 500km (310 miles) around the city, and these routes are often protected from vehicular traffic. Useful bike maps are available from the tourist offices and bicycle-rental shops; Ça Roule Montréal is one central rental option near the Old Port.

Useful bike paths follow the Canal de Lachine and then up along Lac St-Louis. Another popular route goes southwest along the edge of the St Lawrence River, passing the Lachine Rapids, then meeting up with the Canal de Lachine path. There are also bike paths around the islands of Parc Jean-Drapeau, the Île de Soeurs and Parc du Mont-Royal.

An alternative to renting a bike from a shop is the public bike-share service Bixi. Short-term subscription fees allowing you to use the system for one day are very reasonably priced and allow unlimited free 30-minute rides (with fees rising steeply after 45 minutes). The 500-plus rental stations are almost ubiquitous, spaced only a few blocks apart throughout the Downtown area (note that your credit card will be charged a $100 deposit that is refunded after you return the bike).

In Montréal, bicycles can be taken on the metro from 10am to 3pm and after 7pm Monday to Friday, as well as throughout the weekend. Officially, cyclists are supposed to board only the first carriage of the train. In addition, eight of Montréal's city bus lines are equipped with bike racks, which may be used at any time of day. The STM website has details.

The bus and metro are ideal for winter and fall travel

STM is the city’s bus and metro (subway) operator, and both buses and metro trains are cozy warm in winter, when you'll be glad of the opportunity to get out of the cold. The network is well integrated, and you can reach most places of interest by either metro or bus.

The metro has four lines that meet at Berri–UQAM, Snowdon, Jean-Talon or Lionel-Groulx, serving most parts of the center and near suburbs. Schedules vary depending on the line, but trains generally run from 5:30am to midnight from Sunday to Friday, and slightly later on Saturday night (to 1:30am at the latest).

Montréal's 24-hour bus network provides access to most parts of the city at all times of day and night. Bus 747 takes 25 to 60 minutes to reach Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport from the Lionel-Groulx or Berri-UQAM metro stations.

Buses take tickets or cash but drivers won’t give change. Effective July 1, 2021, a single bus or metro ticket costs $3.50 – and allows transfers between bus and metro for up to 120 minutes. Two-ride tickets ($6.50) are also available in metro stations.

If you're sticking around in Montréal for longer, you'll save money by buying a rechargeable Opus card; the card costs $6 upfront, but can be recharged at a discounted rate for 10 rides ($30), one day of unlimited rides ($10, actually 24 hours), three days ($20.50), a week ($28) or a month ($90.50).

Note that the weekly and monthly tickets end on the last day of the week or calendar month, regardless of when you take your first ride; similarly, three-day tickets end at midnight of the third day, regardless of what time you take the first ride; conversely, the one day ticket gives you 24 hours from the minute you start your first ride.

Any daily or multiday ticket includes free use of bus 747 from the airport, potentially offering further savings. The Family Outings program allows up to five children under 11 years old to travel free when accompanied by a paying adult on weekends (after 4pm Friday to the end of Sunday).

Boat trips on the St Lawrence River

Cruise vessels ply the St Lawrence River for day trips and longer cruises, but they're more useful for sightseeing than getting from point A to point B. The most popular option is the one-day trip between Montréal and Québec City.

Aerial of the Montreal cityscape, including the Biosphere geodesic dome and Jacques Cartier bridge.
The Saint Lawrence River adds boat trips to the list of transport options in Montréal © R.M. Nunes / Shutterstock

Exploring Montréal by car or motorbike

Montréal is an easy city to navigate by public transport, but it's also fairly motor vehicle-friendly. Parking is inexpensive but demand often outstrips supply in touristy parts of the city. The usual international car hire companies are represented at the airport and in town.

Heed the road rules: fines for traffic violations, from speeding to not wearing a seat belt, are stiff in Québec. You won't see loads of police cars on the roads, but radar traps are common. Motorcyclists are required to wear helmets and to ride with their lights on.

Be cautious around schools. Traffic in both directions must stop when school buses stop to let children get off and on. At the white-striped pedestrian crosswalks, cars must stop to allow pedestrians to cross the road.

Turning right on red lights is illegal in Montréal (unlike everywhere else in Québec) unless there is a sign specifically prohibiting such turns. A flashing green light means that you are allowed to turn left (similar to a green left-turn arrow in the United States).

In winter parking on city streets is periodically prohibited to facilitate snow removal. Yellow and black signs marked 'Déneigement' (snow removal) or 'Opération Neige' (operation snow) indicate the hours when parking is prohibited (usually 7am to 7pm, or 7pm to 7am). Heed the signs, or you could find yourself with a towed vehicle and a hefty fine. Québec mandates that cars have snow tires during winter.

Crossing the border to Montréal

Montréal is close to the US border crossings linking Canada to New York state, Vermont and Maine. Convenient US highways leading to Montréal include the I-87 in New York (connecting with the A-15), the I-91 in Vermont (connecting with the A-55), and the I-89 – also in Vermont – which feeds into the A-35.

During summer and on holiday weekends, waits of several hours are not uncommon at the main USA–Canada border crossings. If you have difficulty with the French-only signs in Québec, pick up a decent provincial highway map, sold at service stations and usually free at tourist offices. Visitors with US or British passports are allowed to bring their vehicles into Canada for up to six months.

Walkers enjoying views of downtown Montreal from Belvedere Kondiaronk lookout
When the weather is warm, walking is the best way to explore Montréal © Marc Bruxelle / Shutterstock

Montréal by taxi 

Montréal has plenty of taxis and plenty of taxi companies, including all-electric operator Teo Taxi. A full list of prices is posted inside taxis; flag fall is a standard $3.50, plus another $1.70 per kilometer and 63¢ per minute spent waiting in traffic. A tip of around 10% is customary.

Note that taxis in Montréal can be hailed in the street or at taxi stands (they're all over the city); the convention is to take the first taxi in the line at taxi stands. For spontaneous journeys, it's often easier and cheaper to call an Uber.

Commuter trains serve the Montréal suburbs

Commuter trains operated by Exo serve the suburbs of Montréal. Services from Gare Centrale are fast but infrequent, with two-hour waits between some trains. As most things of interest can be reached by bus or metro, there's not much reason to use commuter services.

Accessible travel in Montréal

While older buildings often have steps and pavements can be awkwardly narrow in the old city, sidewalks usually have ramps and the public transport system is quite friendly for travelers with mobility issues, weather conditions permitting.

STM has a series of measures in place to make buses and metro services accessible to the mobility impaired, including wheelchair ramps on buses and 13 accessible stations on the orange metro line. Listings of accessible accommodation can be found on Quebec For All; you'll also find tips on Lonely Planet's Accessible Travel page.

The nonprofit organization Kéroul is dedicated to making travel more accessible to people with limited mobility. They provide themed accessible travel itinerary suggestions covering Montréal, Québec City and 15 other tourism areas in Québec, highlighting access facilities in each.

Watch for the Tourist & Leisure Companion Sticker, which indicates free access to facilities for those traveling with people with a disability or mental illness. The website www.aqlph.qc.ca has a full list of participating sites throughout Québec.

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This article was first published June 2021 and updated November 2021

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