UPDATE, September 2023: From tracking the best spots to see the fall foliage to the hottest new restaurants in town — not to mention the best free things to do across the city — Montreal really brings it during the fall. Whether you are into the idea of a shopping session at the brand new Nike store or the best family-friendly activites, this list is for you.
This essential round-up of Montreal musts is your to-do list whether you're a tourist or a local: from the best bars and speakeasies to the most stellar free museums—it rounds up the most outstanding things to do across one of the best cities in the world that's also home to the world's coolest street and 5th coolest neighbourhood.
Our local editors have handpicked and gathered the best of the best restaurants and chefs under one roof at Time Out Market Montréal. It's a 40,000-square-foot, next-level culinary and cultural destination that's located downtown in the Centre Eaton de Montréal. But don't just take our word for it.
What is it: Once the leaves start to turn colour and fall begins in Quebec, a brief but exceptionally stunning time lasting from late September until late October, it's time to take in the fiery reds, awesome oranges and mellow yellows.
Why go? Take a stroll in Montreal parks, pack up the car for some scenic drives or go hiking. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the fall colours, especially if you have the kids in tow.
Don't miss this secret spot 45 minutes from Montreal that's home to the most breathtaking fall foliage
What is it?The world’s finest burlesque artists are headlining the Montreal Burlesque Festival at Club Soda—one of the city's most epic nightlife spots—alongside Montreal’s own international burlesque legend and festival founder Scarlett James.
Why go: Turn up the heat this October with a naughty, sensual show that pushes seduction to the extreme—and brings all the titillating glamour.
Don't miss the meet-and-greet dinner with festival creators and VIP stars at Le Pois Penché, one of our favourite French restaurants in the city.
What is it? From urban mountains to sandy beaches, hit the trails and explore the best of the outdoors in and outside of the city.
Why go? When you need little break from the bright lights of the city, or to check out fall's foliage at its peak, go for a walk. Hiking is the easiest thing to do in and around Montreal: There are fantastic park trails to be enjoyed within the city itself, and quick road trips from Montreal that are easily done within a day or a weekend.
Don't miss the nighttime multimedia forest light show, Foresta Lumina, in Parc de la Gorge de Coaticook.
What is it? Originally established in the 17th century by the city’s first settlers of New France, the narrow cobblestoned streets and foundations in Old Montreal are what solidifies the European roots of Montreal.
Why go? This neighbourhood looking out onto the Saint Lawrence River united some of Montreal’s top-tier restaurants, long promenades of shopping, a handful of museums, historic structures and attractions upon attractions. There’s never a shortage of things to do by day or by night in this part of town.
Don’t miss: The street performers at Place-Jacques Cartier, Inuit art at Galerie d'art Images Boréales, sunning at the Clock Tower Beach, or the Gothic Revival church Notre-Dame Basilica.
What is it:You'll find bold creativity, traditional fare, and everything in between at the hottest new tables in Montreal. These new players are dishing out some serious quality, each with concepts and executions that are primed to join our list of the 50 best restaurants in Montreal.
Why go? From the newest venture from renowned Montreal chef Antonio Park to the city's highest rooftop restaurant and terrasse, this is your must-eat list of the best new tables in town.
What is it: The 1,200 square-foot St-Henri Suite at downtown Montreal's Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth is getting a Barbie Dreamhouse makeover thanks to a partnership between Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and Mattel, Inc.
Why go? In addition to the epic rose-coloured transformation of the St-Henri suite, guests can also book a Barbie pyjama soirée (Barbie bathrobes and slippers for all!), Barbie dream afternoon tea (cue the rosé champagne and craft mocktails) or a full-on Barbie bash (hello themed birthday cake, gourmet popcorn, ice cream sundaes with next-level toppings, and other tasty treats).
Don't miss the next-level pet stay, inspired by Barbie’s love of her dog Honey, where your best furry friend can bunk in a Barbie-themed pet bed, with bowls and special pet amenities.
What is it? Only 40 minutes from Montreal, the stunning sunflower fields at La Belle de Coteau-du-Lac make the ultimate day trip for a photo opp, stroll, or hang with friends and family — and our favourite secret spot for end-of-summer picnics.
Why go: With more than 60 varieties of sunflowers in one sprawling self-picking area, you can create epic, colourful bouquets surrounded by enchanting fields of black and gold. Bonus: There’s a mini-playground and corn maze for the kids.
Don't miss the self-pick strawberry fields, so you can head home with some fresh berries in addition to your freshly cut flowers.
What is it:Les Premiers Vendredis—a Montreal festival that brings together an enormous number of food trucks—is one of Canada's biggest.
Why go:Expect over 50 food trucks every first Friday of the month starting on June 2 serving a variety of dishes that cater to all types of food enthusiasts. And you can count on it being some of the best cheap eats in the city.
Don't miss the new addition of the "Rue Culturelle" which is a dedicated area within the festival focused on promoting the culture of a different community each month.
What is it? Old Montreal is home to Hang, the city's coolest new restaurant, where elevated Vietnamese dishes with a twist and sophisticated cocktails mingle in an atmosphere inspired by the dense Da Nang jungle.
Why go? Go for the elevated menu—we're talking beef salad (raw beef, onions, sawtooth coriander, rice paddy herbs, lime, fresh chili and peanuts) to banh mi sandwiches made with foie gras—and stay for the sophisticated cocktails.
Don't miss the DIY experience where guests can create their own specialty cocktail, and over-the-top design elements that mimic the greenery of the Vietnam jungle.
What is it? The team behind the Atwater Cocktail Club, one of the city’s most beloved hidden bars and recently ranked on North America’s 50 Best Bars 2023 list, has opened a dive bar with a sophisticated twist called Bon Délire.
Why go? If the hazy, neon lighting or leopard-print pool table don't grab you, the beverage program led by Thomas Yeo, Christophe Beaudoin and Kate Boushel (read: 23 dive bar-inspired cocktails with cheeky names) will.
What is it: Guerlain Spa at Four Seasons Montreal, one of the city's best kept spa secrets.
Why go: A couple’s suite, 24-hour fitness centre, designed by celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak and indoor sky-lit swimming pool with an upstream current generator are only a handful of reasons to pamper yourself at this spa hidden inside a luxiry hotel.
What is it: An opulent café in Old Montreal that marries Gilded Age vibes with third wave coffee.
Why go: If you don't fall for Crew Collective & Café's soaring 50-foot-high ceilings and inlay marble floors, make sipping an espresso (below an ornate painted plaster ceiling) feel like a romantic experience—or transform a simple lunch featuring local classicsfrom an ordinary to an extraordinary moment.
Don't miss the next-level coffee—and vaulted coffered ceilings, gleaming marble, lofty archways, grand staircases, brass chandeliers and burnished gold touches everywhere.
Complete guide to the most romantic restaurants in Montreal here.
What is it? Best bakeries? Best restaurants? Best bars? Best time? Part of the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough, Mile End—ranked 5th coolest neighbourhood in the world—is a fun-filled pocket north of Mont-Royal Avenue that's home to some of the city’s world-famous institutions.
Why go? It’s a walkable nook that’s home to rival bagel shops, a tea room that transforms into a champagne salon after dark, a skate park that hosts ‘digital block parties’ (complete with dazzling projection art) and a watering hole that’s transitioned to crudo and caviar service. Add a couple of the best brunches in town and a heavy pour of expertly crafted cocktails, and you’ve got one heck of a neighbourhood.
What is it?Sprawled across the 45th and 46th floors of Place Ville Marie — one of the city’s most iconic buildings — Hiatus is a top tier rooftop experience.
Why go? Who doesn't love a new restaurant. Breathtaking, panoramic views of the city? A stunning dining room, bar, and open kitchen that promises a one-of-a-kind culinary experience? A stunning terrasse that's also the highest outdoor vantage point in Montreal? Let us count the ways.
Don't miss the outdoor patio’s lush greenery where you can take in the city's magnificent sunsets.
What is it?Have you heard? It’s official: Rue Wellington in Montreal was named coolest street in the world according to this year’s Time Out Index. Time Out asked 20,000-plus city-dwellers which streets they think are the coolest, and this year only two Canadian cities made the list.
Why go? Rue Wellington is flanked by one of the best restaurants, and one of the best new restaurants in the city, so there’s no questioning its cool factor. Add some next-level cocktail bars, stellar brunch spots, some of the best sandwiches in town and even a sandy urban beach into the mix, and you’ve got the coolest crowd in the city.
Head down to the Old Port and keep a look out for a big red molecule sculpture. There you’ll find this interactive museum located smack dab on the harbour. The exhibits rotate fairly regularly, but the Tiny Tots room and IMAX cinema are always available. Located on a pier that’s surrounded with important historical buildings and lunch spots, you could easily plan for full day visiting this place.
What is it? It's your eat-like-a-local bucket list for iconic Montreal food.
Why go? If eating an abundance of insanely delicious Portuguese, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Middle Eastern and Caribbean options sounds good—plus poutine, the best delis and sandwich shops, smoked meat and bagels—don't waste another second.
What is it? Montreal’s superpower: its food scene.
Why go? From some of the world’s most famous and best restaurants to new affordable discoveries, Montreal can guarantee one thing: there's always something incredible to eat. No matter the cultural leanings, local fare generally puts an emphasis on fresh market vegetables, a fuss-free aesthetic (bagels, anyone?), and atypical cuts of meat (hello, smoked meat).
Don’t miss: The 12-plate tasting menu of Le Mousso, or for a pared down experience, the shaved Québec ham topped with local cheeses (and a bottle of wine of course) at Vin Mon Lapin.
What is it? The premier drag cabaret destination from Mado Lamotte, the Village's queen diva.
Why go? In a city known for its nightlife—and the best gay bars and LGBTQ+ clubs—this performance venue of three decades delivers the city’s wildest evenings of drag performances. Any given night’s a festive no-filter display of costumes, music, comedy and dancing that regularly features new performers (including star players from RuPaul's Drag Race). Shows are generally in French with Madame Mado translating for Anglos if they ask nicely. Remember: The closer you sit to the stage, the more likely you’ll get roasted by the hostess.
Don’t miss: The regular Friday and Saturday nights series Mado Reçoit, MCed by the doyenne herself. It’s the classic Cabaret Mado experience.
What is it? An indoor zoo and aquarium which hosts recreations of four different ecosystems found in North America, plus some Sub-Antarctic Islands.
Why go? Originally built for the judo and cycling events of the 1976 Summer Olympics, the Montreal Biodome features thousands of animals from over 200 different species and 500 different plant species to explore. A visit to its immediate neighbour of the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium will yield an equally fascinating time.
Don’t miss: The greenery and humidity of its tropical rainforest, or its collection of penguins that’s unique to Canada.
From the largest beer garden in the city with a selection of European beers and a killer, Bavarian-inspired menu by chef Paul Toussaint, to a partially-covered, heated terrasse with 20 different types of craft beer on the world's coolest street, we're heading to the nearest beer garden to soak up the autumn sun.
What is it? See work from local and international artists alike at some of the city's best art galleries.
Why go?Montreal is packed with artists, partly because it’s got art programs that draw students from far and wide, partly because it’s still the cheapest big city in Canada to live and artists like things cheap. As a result, the cultural scene here is rich and varied, with dozens of independent art galleries and artist-run centres to visit for free. Whether they’re commercial galleries (bring your wallet if you’re looking to furnish your space) or not-for-profit exhibition centres, they’re all different in flavour and a perfect complement to the city’s world-class museums.
Don’t miss: the legendary opening parties at Centre Clark
What is it? A huge, sprawling network of connected subterranean tunnels running throughout the downtown core with easy access to the metro system. Air-conditioned in the summer, and heated in the winter.
Why go? Walking the full circuit numbers in at over 30 kilometers, so one visit to this multi-level maze is never enough. It’s a functional web of passageways to get from restaurants to malls to downtown attractions, one of the largest of its kind in the world with half a million people using it every day.
Don’t miss: The indoor ice skating rink of 1000 de la Gauchetière, the fragment of the Berlin wall at the World Trade Centre and Eaton Centre, the site of Time Out Market Montreal.
What is it? Montreal’s premier destination for curated collections of contemporary art numbering at over 8,000 pieces by over 1,500 artists both national and international.
Why go? Founded in 1964, the MAC is Canada's first contemporary art museum and combines exhibits of both visual and performing arts regularly. With its HQ currently undergoing massive renovations, it has relocated to an even more central spot at the heart of Place Ville Marie. It remains a gathering place for locals and tourists to check out art both provocative and contemplative, in addition to lectures, workshops, and fresh new exhibits every single year.
Don’t miss: Visiting this museum during Montreal’s annual Nuit Blanche festival with DJ and VJ performances, art workshops, and temporary installations.
What is it? A farmers market going back to 1933, Jean-Talon hosts a variety of local growers, fishmongers, butchers, bakers, restaurants and grocers.
Why go? Whether it’s here or at other spots like Atwater Market, Montreal’s markets are hubs of the city’s gastronomic building blocks full of local produce and products. In the summer they’re open-air areas to explore and sample with seasonal pop-up restaurants, while the winters carry a steady collection of vendors indoors.
Don’t miss: Fresh produce and sampling the charcuterie and cheeses of Quebec are the main drawcard but be sure to grab a meal at El Rey Del Taco or Le Petit Alep.
What is it? A Mile End bookstore belonging to a Canadian publishing company specializing in comics and graphic novels by authors both international and national.
Why go? Drawn and Quarterly, one of many beloved bookstores in the city, has been a publisher of comics since 1990. Its popularity prompted the opening of this bookstore in 2007 and is now a gathering place of the city’s literati that organizes big name book launches. It’s not just about comics either, as the store curates solid selections both in fiction and non-fiction.
Don’t miss: Regularly scheduled readings by authors that make for high-spirited events, but May is the month to visit for Free Comic Book Day or the Montreal Comic Arts Festival.
What is it? If there’s one thing Montreal is known for, it’s the nightlife, with DJ events and torn dancefloors across this central borough.
Why go? With a legal drinking age of 18, a prominent presence of inner-city university campuses and its bars closing at 3 a.m., this city holds a longstanding reputation for being a party town most days of the week. Bass-pounding joints like the underground forest supper club and nightclub Soubois are popular for spending the night, followed by the after-hours spot Stereo to literally dance until the sun comes up.
Don’t miss: Visiting a stretch of bars and clubs like Crescent Street during the weekend, especially during F1 Grand Prix, when that street goes wild.
What is it? A walk along the Main (one of Montreal's most famous streets) and its accompanying alleyways to view graffiti from artists both raw and recognized.
Why go? Come summer, the core stretch of Saint-Laurent Boulevard between Maisonneuve Boulevard to the south and Saint-Viateur to the north sees a wide array of artists throwing up fresh paint while spectators enjoy street fairs, food, and expanded bar terraces. The result is large artistic pieces that remain for the rest of the year.
Don’t miss: Keep an eye out for local talent like Miss Me or Stikki Peaches, and focus on checking out Mural Festival in June.
What is it? A 60-metre tall observation wheel that’s kaleidoscopically lit and equipped with climate-controlled booths running throughout the year, offering a full view of Old Montreal and downtown.
Why go? Also referred to as the Montreal Observation Wheel, La Grand Roue was set up in Old Montreal to commemorate the city’s 375th anniversary. Fashioned after similar structures found in Chicago and Hong Kong, the panoramic views aboard this illuminated wheel make this a picturesque attraction for tourists and a romantic evening for locals.
Don’t miss: Climbing aboard for the day and night package to get two alternate views of the city, or early bird specials that cost half the price.
What is it? A ferryboat that’s been repurposed as one of the finest spas in town, giving a great view of Old Port and Habitat 67 in the distance from relaxing quarters.
Why go? Billed as a ‘spa on the water’, this multi-tiered floating building may not physically unmoor and drift down the river, but a day spent there sure feels like it. There’s a Nordic water circuit to enjoy throughout the year with saunas and baths, and gardens for lounging about in the summer.
Don’t miss: Springing for any one of its massage or beauty treatments, followed by wining and dining at its onboard restaurant La Traversée.
What is it?The performing arts centre that makes Montreal a top live music city, from local acts to international extravaganzas.
Why go? First an indoor skating rink in the 19th century, then a cinema, then a theatre, the building that houses MTelus has been delivering entertainment for over a century. Known to locals as Metropolis, this is the site for some of Montreal’s biggest acts (besides the Corona Theatre) with none of that stadium show feel.
Don’t miss: Grab some pre-drinks at Time Out Market Montréal and then hop on the metro, or head to Foufounes Électriques or cocktails at Taverne Midway, topped off with hot dogs from Montreal Pool Room (sorry, no pool tables).
What is it? A prime example of Montreal’s neon-soaked history of exotic dancers on the ground floor strip club, with an upstairs cabaret featuring burlesque, vaudeville and drag shows.
Why go? One of the few businesses to remain intact since Montreal’s red-light district was given a major facelift, Café Cléopâtre is part of the reason why this city was formerly known as the Paris of North America.
Don’t miss: The first Saturday of every month has Bareoke, combining karaoke with stripping by anyone who wants to participate. It’s more wholesome than it sounds with a respectful and fun vibe.
What is it? The city’s go-to district for entertainment and cultural events spaced out across eight areas, and the main site for some of the city’s most famous festivals.
Why go? With a summer roster of Montreal’s biggest events like the Just for Laughs comedy festival and the International Jazz Festival (the world’s largest), plus regularly scheduled public art, this area prides itself on being the center of attention most days of the week. It’s also where the dapper performances of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Montreal Opera can be found.
Don’t miss:The free outdoor performances that animate the whole area throughout the summer festivals, and screenings at the Cinémathèque Québécoise, which never fail to satisfy.