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How to spend a perfect weekend in Montréal

‘Bonjour-hi!’ Montréal’s breezy, unofficial greeting is a fitting welcome to a city where French and English mingle in covered markets, cobblestone streets and postage-stamp cafes. Montréal may be Québec’s metropolis, but it’s snipped into bite-sized neighborhoods, rewarding block-by-block discovery. It’s an explorer’s playground (and a gourmet jackpot). From the historic streets of the Old Port to Little Burgundy’s simmering restaurant scene, Montréal offers a trove of riverside paths, hipster bars and street art worth craning your neck for. Here’s our guide to the perfect weekend in Montréal.

blue and purple clouds cross the sky at twilight as a beautiful skyline of lighted historic buildings is reflected in the waterfront of the Old Port of Montreal
On the right, the Bonsecours Market (opened in 1847) is one of the highlights of the Old Port area of Montreal © benedek / Getty Images

Friday

Afternoon/evening

Historic buildings and cobblestone streets wrap through Montréal’s Old Port, along with a jumble of touristy souvenir shops, galleries, and polished cafes. For help easing into the weekend spirit, head to Bota Bota, a floating spa moored in the St. Lawrence River (the upper-deck hot tubs have great views of the city skyline). If you prefer your relaxation served chilled, try open-air Riva, where bartenders sling lighthearted Prosecco cocktails from a converted van by the water.

Next, stroll into the Old Port’s historic core: Pass neoclassical Marché Bonsecours, check out Inuit artwork in the Images Boréales gallery, and then duck into Crew Collective and Café, an ornate former bank reincarnated as a cafe. Make dinner plans over a house-made yuzu lemonade, choosing from the neighborhood’s buzzy options. If you can score a table, the fancy Quebecois menus at Toqué! are among the city’s most renowned, but the waterfront Un Po’ di Più is a stylish new favorite whose small plates invite sharing. Cap the night with an immersive sound and light show at Basilique Notre-Dame, whose vaulted nave is sprigged with Québec’s emblematic fleurs-de-lis.

A lovely green canal curves into the distance with trees reflected in the water; Perfect Weekend in Montreal
The Canal de Lachine area features parks and locks just right for cycling © Valérie Bélanger-Roy / Getty Images

Saturday

Morning

Amble from the port to the excellent Musée d’Art Contemporain, following Saint Lawrence Boulevard through the compact and energetic Chinatown neighborhood. Turn left down pedestrian-only Rue de la Gauchtière to browse Hong Kong–style bakeries and pass a morning Tai Chi crowd at Place Sun-Yat-Sen. An anchor of the neighboring Quartier des Spectacles, the Musée d’art Contemporain is a juggernaut of modern Canadian and international artwork, but the draws are temporary exhibitions – they range from ground-breaking pieces by Indigenous artists to refreshingly odd head scratchers.

Afternoon

After you’ve had your fill of art, head to the Place-des-Arts metro station and hop a train for Lionel-Groulx in the cool-kid Little Burgundy neighborhood. Make your lunchtime destination the covered Marché Atwater: Choose between homey Réunion cooking at Marmite S’ul Feu, or head for the market outpost of Satay Brothers, whose papaya salads and meaty rendang deliver big Singaporean flavors.

Right next door is the 14-km Canal de Lachine, a national historic site that shortcuts a bend in the Saint Lawrence River. Rent a bicycle at Ma Biciclette to follow the flat, canal-side bike path through a series of waterside parks, locks, and residential areas. If you’d rather not pedal, Canal de Lachine boat cruises depart Marché Atwater and navigate the historic locks before looping back to the Old Port.

Evening

When you return your bicycle to the rental station, you’ll be just across from the floating Canal Lounge, a seasonal boat cafe whose top deck is the perfect place for a canal sunset. When you’re ready for dinner, continue to nearby Rue Notre-Dame West; it’s packed with some of the city’s best restaurants, and plenty of walk-in options mean you can skip reservations. Small plates and natural wine draw crowds to Le Vin Papillon, Foiegwa brings quirky humor to old-guard French cooking, and Middle Eastern Sumac has sharing plates with light, bright flavor. Make a night of it in one of Little Burgundy and neighboring Saint Henri’s ultra-hip bars, from speakeasy-inspired Atwater Cocktail Club to the rum-fueled Broken Coconut.

Four men sit with their backs to us as they look out on a bustline market on a perfect weekend in Montreal.
Marché Jean Talon is the perfect place for shopping and eating Montreal's Little Italy neighborhood © David Madison / Getty Images

Sunday

Morning

Hop the Montreal Metro to the Mount Royal stop, steps away from one of the city’s most beloved pastry shops. There’s plenty to choose from at Patisserie au Kouign Amann, but go for one of the buttery, salty, caramelized kouign amann pastries the place is named for. Skip the shop’s crammed seating and take your pastry to the Frederick Law Olmstead–designed Parc du Mont-Royal, a tangle of paths and ponds that covers Montreal’s eponymous mountain. Every Sunday from spring to fall, a shaggy crew gathers at the Georges-Etienne Cartier Monument for the Tam-Tams, a gregarious drumming and dancing session that’s open to all. (Even if you don’t want to join in, it’s a great spot to eat a pastry and watch.)

Afternoon

With your final hours in Montréal, visit the covered food market Marché Jean Talon in Little Italy to fill any spare corners in your bags with Québecois treats. Graze your way across the market, then stop into Le Marché des Saveurs du Québec, which has a fine selection of Quebecois ice cider – it’s the apple-growing region’s answer to traditional ice wine. A can of maple syrup is also a must-buy, while meat-lovers can pick up locally cured meats at Les Cochons Tout Ronds.

People walk along a cobblestoned street in Montreal with charming shops on both sides and plants, awnings and flags lending color to the gray stone walls; perfect weekend in Montreal
Old Montreal's famous St Paul is a great stop on a perfect weekend in Montreal © Pat Lauzon / Getty Images

Where to Stay

Claiming a walkable location in the Old Port, Le Petit Hôtel is a pitch-perfect match for the neighborhood’s glammed-up history. Stone walls offer a chic backdrop for contemporary design in compact guest rooms, and guests can bring loaner bikes to the nearby path. A flashpacker vibe at M Montreal makes it a good base for a city weekend, with good-value dorms (mixed- and single-gender) and private rooms. Set between Rue St. Denis and the Gay Village, the hostel is walking distance from the Quartier des Spectacles’ festival-fueled action. It's the perfect low-cost lodgings for a weekend in Montréal.

How to Get There

Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport (a 20- or 30-minute drive from the city center) is a hub for domestic and international flights; a 24-hour bus links the airport with downtown. Two train lines merge in Montréal: US-based Amtrak links Montréal to Albany and New York City, while Canadian Viarail connects to Québec City, Ottawa, and Toronto.

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