Quartier des Spectacles
Photograph: Eva Blue

34 best things to do in Downtown Montreal

Amazing things to do in Downtown Montreal are found on every corner, each bursting with arts, culture, food and drink


You heard it here first. Now more than ever, Montreal’s downtown core is full to overflowing with some of the best things to do in the city all year round. The tightly packed streets of the downtown core are home to world famous food, cutting-edge venues, boozy brunch spots, family-friendly activities, some of the best restaurants the city has to offer, irresistible underground shopping options, gorgeous parks, next-level bars, scandalous strip clubs, a ballet company, an opera house, a symphony orchestra. All that, and the epic food hall Time Out Market Montréal

How to get to Downtown Montreal

Take the Montreal Metro to any station between Guy-Concordia and Saint-Laurent on the Green Line, or any station between Lucien L’Allier and Champ-de-Mars on the Orange Line.

Full guide to the best restaurants in Montreal
21 best things to do in Montreal with kids
33 best downtown Montreal restaurants

Best of the city under one roof

Our local editors have spent their time handpicking and gathering the best of the best restaurants and chefs together onto one central stage, Time Out Market Montréal. It's a 40,000-square-foot culinary and cultural destination that's centrally located downtown in the Centre Eaton de Montréal—the biggest in the city of its kind—stocked with 13 eateries, 6 bars for beer, wine and cocktails (plus non-alcoholic options), a cooking school, and cultural spaces devoted to art, music and more.

Best things to do in Downtown Montreal

Le 9e Montreal, the tea room opened by Flora Eaton in 1931, has been shuttered for 25 years and is finally reopening in all is former glory. In addition the Île de France restaurant's stellar menu by Executive Chef Liam Hopkins and Culinary Director Derek Dammann, there is also a sexy bar (Le French Line) and an event space that will knock your socks off. While you're there, don't miss out on a visit to Time Out Market Montréal on the second floor of the Montreal Eaton Centre.

2. Enjoy skyline views from a rooftop hot tub

The truth is, it’s hard to find somewhere Downtown where you can be truly alone, take a breath and relax far away from the crowded streets. So, heads up: You can soak in gorgeous views from the secluded 12th floor of Hôtel le Crystal, where a spa pass grants you access to massages, facials and other indulgences—for example, a heated terrasse featuring a large hot tub. In winter, it’s an ace place to bask in bubbly, luxurious seclusion.


When you’re about to hit that dreaded wall of midday fatigue, pop in to the Ritz-Carlton to rest and refresh. In the opulent Palm Court, the afternoon tea (2:30–3:30pm) includes all the fixings for a chic cuppa, as well as mountains of dainty, house-made canapés, scones and pastries. You’ve earned feeling fancy AF—at least for one day.

Venturing below street level to enjoy massive seafood platters and seasonal menus (plus cocktails!) is just the start of the night during Soubois’ supper-club hours. Once the lights dim, the jet-setting international DJs crank up the music and the guests get grooving, you’ll want to stick around until last call as you party under the dance floor’s giant central tree. Psst: There’s also a hidden bar behind a bookcase.


5. Puff away

Ever long for those smoke-filled bars of yore? Want to embrace your inner Tony Soprano? Take a load off at Stogies Cigar Lounge. Hiding in plain sight, it has private-club vibes, plenty of old-school décor, and a range of cigars and Scotch.

NewHaūs is fashioned after a bomb shelter, and you can only get inside if you have the Instagrammed password (@newhausbar). Once admitted, you’ll walk down a secret passage behind a wall of Campbell’s soup tins to a dark, intimate dance floor with house beats on deck. Expect to hear from up-and-coming local techno and dancehall acts into the wee hours.


Whether you’re looking for an outdoor activity with the kids, or to escape the elements, downtown Montreal has got you covered. Leave the rain and snow outside and step into one of Van Gogh’s landscapes. Van Gogh - Distortion, the immersive exhibition by OASIS immersion, is a sensory experience at the Palais des Congrès in downtown Montreal where you can spend the day surrounded by the painter’s famous sunflowers, tree branches bursting with blossoms and starry skies. 

8. Bliss out under a green canopy

Located atop the Hall Building is the student-run Concordia Greenhouse. But you don’t have to be enrolled to step into this beautiful oasis, which is open to the public during the academic term. Urban gardeners should peruse the green space’s houseplant sales, plant-themed music parties, and workshops on everything from vermi-composting to permaculture design. If you lack a green thumb, it’s still worth checking out one of the city’s best-kept hideaways for unwinding with a book.


Somehow Montreal has managed to squeeze in half-dozen museums downtown and there’s something for everyone. The Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal holds shows boasting some of the biggest names in art history including recent expositions on Otto Dix, Toulouse Lautrec, Calder, and Chagall. Conversely, the Musée d'art contemporain focuses on the art and artists of our present day while the Canadian Center for Architecture holds talks and mounts expositions on the history of architecture and its star architects. The McCord Museum celebrates and explores Montreal history.

Montreal’s Village is lively and welcoming, and no matter what flag you fly, you’re invited. Home to cabarets, clubs, karaoke bars, eateries and an antique furniture shop row on Rue Amherst, there’s always something going on. In the summer months, Sainte-Catherine Street is closed to car traffic and endless streams of rainbowed decorations are strung across the street, but there’s plenty of eye candy besides.


12. Go underground

In Montreal’s central business district, Sainte-Catherine Street is host to some legendary shopping, but if you haven’t ventured to Underground City, you’ve literally only scratched the surface. Just under the sidewalks are connected segments of the downtown core that have been strung together by an almost unending warren of passages. You’ll find these are lined with shops, boutiques, outlets, restaurants, jewellers, salons, bakeries and more. It’s especially helpful in the winter when going outside can get downright unpleasant.


13. Follow the light

The cruciform international style skyscraper of Place Ville Marie—built in 1962 by star architect I.M. Pei—has become a renowned architectural landmark of Montreal, acting as the de facto center of the city and nexus for the Underground City below. The upper decks of the tower host a restaurant offering unparalleled views of the city. The building is crowned with a rotating spotlight that lights up the night and can be seen all over town, and the plaza below features the iconic Ring monument by Claude Cormier and his crew.

14. Experience some majesty

Montreal’s religious history is undeniably part of its very fabric and there are a handful of prominent churches in the downtown core that shouldn’t be overlooked. Of the most notable are the Christ Church Cathedral, a gothic revival Anglican church that incredibly hasn’t renovated its interior since 1859; Mary Queen of the World Cathedral which is seat of the Roman Catholic archdiocese (and scale model of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome); and the St. James United Church. These and other downtown churches regularly hold masses and host performances of both religious and secular music including hymns and organ recitals.


15. Hit the books

There are three venerable institutions of higher learning downtown: McGill University, Concordia University and Université du Québec à Montréal. All three of these universities regularly hold events that are open to the public at large including lectures, seminars, workshops, discussions, job fairs, conferences, book fairs, open-house tours, art gallery exhibitions, musical and theater performances, and even astronomy nights!

16. Take a breather

You might not think a city’s downtown core would be home to a lot of greenery, but Montreal’s made space for quite a few lovely parks and urban squares, each bringing something interesting to the table. For history lovers, be sure to check out Square Dorchester, full of monuments and statues documenting Montreal’s past. Place de la Paix is dedicated to the victims of nuclear weapons, has become internationally popular among skateboarders for its unique layout, and is occasionally the site of public movie screenings by Société des arts technologiques. 


17. Enjoy the show

Recently ranked among the busiest arenas in the world, a major part of the Bell Center’s fame is it being home to the Montreal Canadiens. Don’t forget however that the Bell Centre also puts on basketball games, MMA matches and pro wrestling exhibitions alongside huge international musical acts with the likes of Céline Dion, Coldplay, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Barbara Streisand and countless more.

18. Root for the home team

Percival Molson Memorial Stadium is an outdoor football stadium that sits right on the foot of Mont Royal on the northern edge of downtown, named in memory of star athlete and soldier Percival Molson. Today, the stadium is home to the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League as well as American Ultimate Disc League, the Canadian Corporate Soccer League and McGill University’s various student sports teams.


19. Relish the spectacle

The Quartier des Spectacles is Montreal’s top arts and entertainment district with a total area of almost a square kilometre. Featuring a combination of 30 performance halls, concert spaces, cultural complexes, broadcasting facilities, museums and art galleries, the district is the nerve centre for Montreal’s cultural output. The area is also the main site of the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the Francofolies and the Just for Laughs comedy festival, all resulting in an almost nonstop stream of festivals during the summer. Year round, you can catch shows by world-class Montreal Symphony Orchestra which is pushing, innovating and exploring the likes of Berlioz, Mahler, Verdi and Shostakovich at the 2100-seat Montreal Symphony Orchestra House.

20. Experience a night at the Opera

L’Opéra de Montréal is based in the Salle Wilfred Pelletier on the Place des Arts esplanade in Quartier des Spectacles and has mounted 1000+ performances of over 100 separate operas since its beginnings in the 1980s. That includes four completely novel homegrown productions, including Another Brick in the Wall, an operatic adaptation of the eponymous Pink Floyd album composed in conjunction with Roger Waters.


21. Witness a graceful performance

Les Grandes Ballets Canadiens is a Canadian ballet company based in the Wilder building on the Place des Arts esplanade alongside neighbours L’Opéra de Montréal and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. The company is both a creative and repertoire company, performing beloved standards such as the holiday seasonal classic The Nutcracker as well as avant-garde productions at the boundaries of contemporary ballet.

22. Tour a cultural hotspot

The Belgo Building, an otherwise unassuming six-storey brick and limestone building on Sainte-Catherine Street began its life as a department store for the garment industry and today happens to house 27 art galleries, a handful of artist workshops and number of dance studios. It's a good spot to put your finger on the pulse of the contemporary art world. Consider paying a visit during the hubbub of Nuit Blanche as well when galleries throw open their doors for visits late into the night.


23. Go hunting for living art

Montreal can barely contain its artworks indoors and you’re likely stumble across art spilling out onto the streets. Certain works are seasonal, including Urban Forest in a space adjacent to the McCord Stewart Museum with public pianos to accompany colourful arboreal sculptures. Other works include sculptures by the likes of Henry Moore near the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal as well as hundreds of public murals, light installations and more.

24. Immerse yourself in a digital tapestry

La Société des arts technologiques (SAT) is an organization dedicated to the promotion and conservation of digital and technological art. The building is home to numerous event and research spaces in addition to a restaurant, rooftop terrace and most notably the Satosphere, an immense futuristic dome visible from the exterior that hosts unique immersive 360-degree projections for up to 400 people.


25. Take a walk on the wild side

Montreal has a reputation for its numerous strip clubs have played a large part in building that reputation. Venerable clubs include Wanda’s, Chez Parée, Club Downtown and Le Cabaret Kingdom. Each establishment has its own style and code of conduct, but the guaranteed recipe for a good time is always the following: Be respectful, always tip both bouncers and dancers and, of course, have a good time.

26. Go for a stroll

Since the 19th century, Montreal’s Golden Square Mile neighbourhood has been synonymous with wealth and opulence. The area is easily toured on foot and is brimming with palatial mountainside residences, high-end department stores, university pavilions and luxury hotels. Notable examples include Ravenscrag Manor, the James Ross House, the J.H. Birks house, and the monumental Ritz-Carlton hotel. If you’d rather a more curated experience, try one of the city's walking tours.


27. Wine and dine

Montreal is full of excellent restaurants, and although it might be a tight squeeze amongst all of the office buildings and commerical strips, some of Montreal’s best are right downtown. The offerings range from the elevated traditional steakhouse fare of Queue de Cheval to the cutting edge creations of Bouillon Bilk or the playful Japanese dishes of Kazu. It’s not all fancy, as the authentic Montreal hot dogs at the Montreal Pool Room and just as good for a nosh. For whatever you’re craving, there’s a spot to satisfy downtown.

28. Have a drink on us

Montreal has a staggering number of bars and the downtown core has an excellent cross section of the myriad options for whatever imbibing mood you might be in. For classy cocktails there are hotel bars in the Golden Square Mile. When you’ve got to let loose, there’s Crescent Street, Montreal’s renowned nightlife strip. Otherwise there are craft cocktail spots, seedy taverns, sports bars, college pubs and more to wet your whistle.


29. Get lost in a book

Downtown can wear you down and even the most jet-set need to unwind. Montrealers flock in droves to the Grande Bibliotheque, an impressive library complex with loads of natural light, helpful staff, a massive collection of books in multiple languages, audio and visual stations, comic books, microfiche, public computer terminals, electronic music facilities and more. Additionally, the library hosts regular events in its language laboratory, exhibition spaces, theater, conference rooms and auditoriums.

30. Catch a flick

Want a break in the dark? Head to one of the cinemas downtown, which range from alt to mainstream. All the latest blockbusters in both English and French versions (if you feel like testing your skills) will be showing at the Cineplex Forum or Cineplex Banque Scotia. For more recherché programming, keep an eye on the listings at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ Cinéma du Musée, or check what’s on at the Cinémathèque québécoise or at the BAnQ.


Come glide into one of Montreal’s most spectacular little secrets. Bring your own skates, summer or winter, to the Atrium Le 1000 indoor skating rink right smack-bang in the centre of the centre of the city, in the lobby of an office tower. It’s a charming spot, not least because it’s surrounded by a food court so you can refuel lickity-split.

It’s a sight to behold: 1,000 Barbie dolls in a single space, which amounts to the largest permanent Barbie exhibition in the world. The free-of-access Barbie Museum is in Cours Mont-Royal, an appropriately fashionable setting for this show featuring couture on a small scale: our girl sports outfits by Christian Dior, Versace, Donna Karan, Giorgio Armani, Vera Wang, Hervé Léger and Bob Mackie.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Barbie Expo (@barbieexpo)


33. Take a breather

The warmer months in Montreal means a million things to do outdoors, so when a breather is needed—hey, we all have to recharge—Aire Commune is here to serve. Designed for a joyous mix of work and play, their free, open spaces are dotted downtown, notable for their stylish wooden structures that provide shade, free Wi-Fi and electric plugs (especially useful when your phone needs a recharge). Some spots are first-come, first-serve, while others require you to book online.

Montreal is known for its spas, but you wouldn’t know at first glance how many of them are hiding in downtown’s towers and hotels (or rivers, hello Bota Bota). You can get a blow-out and mani (or how about a scalp massage!) at Avie Spa & Coiffure, or a facial, massage and body treatments using organic products at MBIOSPA within either the Delta Marriott or the Mount Stephen hotels. The Wellness Spa in Le Nouvel Hotel offers medical treatments like kinesiology and osteopathy in addition to the more standard massages. And for dudes, look no further than Mann for treatments tailored to your needs.


If you’re looking for a grander experience, this here’s Canada’s largest: Tucked inside is an indoor Japanese garden that leads into a 6,000 square foot dining room that has a 15-foot-tall Geisha statue towering over it and a menu heavy on Nikkei cuisine from chefs Andrew Bambino and Hakim Chajar. If you want to drop a few thousand, consider booking one of their bottles of Rémy Martin Louis XIII Cognac kept in glass cabinets with a white glove service.

Discover Time Out Market: the best of the city under one roof

The best Downtown Montreal restaurants

The best Downtown Montreal bars

More of the best things to do in Montreal

    You may also like
    You may also like