Old Montreal Attractions: Things to Do, Restaurants, Museums and… a Few Secret Places!
It’s easy to think Old Montreal is all about the past… cobblestone everywhere, narrow streets, old buildings and layers of history. They all work together to transport you in time to Montreal’s European roots, but, today’s artists and designers have taken this historic canvas and turned it into a playground for the modern imagination. Full of delicious restaurants, museums and so much more – take a look at our list below for suggestions on what to do while you visit Old Montreal.
For similar recommendations all around the city, check out these 17+ Super Exciting Things to Do in Montreal for Winter 2019/20
Eat your way through the restaurant scene
If you’re really hungry check out these 17 Delicious Old Montreal Restaurants You Must Try 2018 or choose from some of our favourites below
Mélisse is the perfect spot to dine at any time of day, what started as a brunch spot has now opened its doors for dinner, too. A light airy atmosphere, minimalist decor, and a breezy terrace make it an oasis in the heart of the city. The food is fresh, simple and well thought out so stop by for a coffee and croissant, or a full delicious meal, whenever you need a rest. At this Old Montreal stop, you can feel new again.
2. Restaurant Hà / Nhau Bar
Restaurant Hà has opened up its second location to serve up traditional Vietnamese food in Old Montreal, but one big thing is different this time: downstairs is their new speakeasy, Nhau Bar. The bar serves up exquisite cocktails in unique dishware (a ceramic conch shell makes a surprisingly great glass) and will make you feel like you’re part of an exclusive underground club halfway around the globe.
The chef at Toqué takes fresh local ingredients, and turns them into culinary works of art. With each decadently plated course, this restaurant is at the top of the food game and was voted Best Restaurant by Canada’s Best 100 Restaurants in 2016. Montreal’s love affair with Toqué is not just a fling, it has been a staple of the local culinary landscape since 1993. If you’re looking for the best refined dining experience, Toqué is not to be missed.
It’s easy to fall in love with LOV the second you walk in. The botanical garden theme is bright and inviting, each table is adorned with a terrarium, and charming wooden wicker seats hang from the ceiling. LOV (Local, Organic, Vegetarian) brings fine cuisine to vegan and vegetarian dishes. Try the kale mac and cheese entrée made with casarecce pasta and a squash cheese sauce. Take a look at their list of organic wine and beer or sip one of their zesty botanical cocktails. For vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters alike, you’re sure to find something to tickle your tastebuds at LOV.
Let someone else be the guide on a food tour
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the choices, especially when it comes to restaurants, take a food tour and you don’t have to decide!
5. Old Montreal Food Tour
The Old Montreal Food & Drink Tour is the best way to experience, taste, and learn about Old Montreal. The tour stops at 5 different tasting locations, including two stops that invite you to try incredible local craft beer and wine. Between the food tastings, your knowledgeable guide takes you to famous Montreal landmarks and dives into the history of the area. Spend time learning about Old Montreal while tickling your tastebuds with the Old Montreal Food Tour.
Discover an exciting pop-up space (only in Summer)
These ephemeral spaces have been taking over the city throughout the last few years. As people develop a thirst for new experiences and community gathering spaces, that means Old Montreal now has its own.
6. Nouvelle Vague
From the people behind Mile End’s Aire Commune, this summer comes the Nouvelle Vague, open May 30, 2019. Details are scarce at the moment, but if their past success is any indication – this pop up co-working space will be a gathering place that allows new ideas to emerge in the open air, fuelled by a spirit of festivity.
Get cultured at an art gallery
Montreal is known as a city full of artists. Mingle with them, and discover works from around the world, at these galleries that just might make you fall in love.
7. Discover new horizons at the Phi Centre
The Phi Centre is home to exciting innovation that blends art, music, film and technology to become a hub for creating and sharing innovative ideas. They present immersive exhibitions that are like nothing you’ve seen before. Step into a VR film or feel the vibrations of mind bending audio... The art venue regularly hosts concerts, film screenings and other events, so there’s always something new to discover. You can even dance the night away, express yourself, and have your imagination expanded all at the same time.
8. Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain
Also founded by Phoebe Greenberg, the Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain (previously known as DHC/ART), is presenting a major exhibition of Yoko Ono’s work this summer, up until September 5, 2019. Up front, here’s one big perk: they always keep their exhibitions completely free. Yoko Ono: LIBERTÉ CONQUÉRANTE/GROWING FREEDOM spans both her work with performance and audience participation as well as The art of John and Yoko, highlighting their peace-oriented artistic interventions. With many works focused on listening, visitors are encouraged to bring their own headphones, while some are also available for rent on site.
Pay tribute at one of the area’s breathtaking churches
What is a visit to Old Montreal, a city full of religious history, without stopping by one of its majestic churches? Today’s artists have even given them an all new cultural significance…
9. Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel
Have you ever heard Leonard Cohen’s song Suzanne? When Cohen sings “And the sun pours down like honey/On our lady of the harbour,” he’s talking about the Montreal sun shining down on Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours chapel’s rooftop statue, on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. You can come get a firsthand experience of Suzanne’s shenanigans, take an audio tour of the Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum and connect with Montreal’s past on the archeological site.
10. Notre Dame Basilica
Well revered as one of the most magnificent and famous churches in Old Montreal, the Notre Dame Basilica, built in 1656, it is the city’s oldest Catholic church. Now, playing throughout 2019, Aura makes the church even more stunning. Projecting lights throughout the building using state of the art technology, the light show highlights the spectacular architecture in ways you’ve never seen it before and takes the audience on a sumptuous multimedia journey.
Browse the shops for local artisanal goods
You’ll find shops selling everything from fine art to souvenirs as you wander around the streets of Old Montreal, but there’s one place to go if you want to be at the heart of all the retail…
11. Marche Bonsecours
The grand and historic building of Marche Bonsecours is home year round to countless boutiques, galleries and restaurants. You’ll be able to find work from local craftspeople, and definitely something to take home for your loved ones if you’re from out of town. If you are from here, there’s always something new to find even in your own community!
Treat yourself to a day at the spa
We know you’re going to need a foot rub after all that walking.
12. Bota Bota
Bota Bota is a ferry-turned-spa and the perfect place to unwind with its Old Montreal backdrop and peaceful setting on the water. Its five decks have every luxurious treatment you could want including: 2 saunas, a eucalyptus steam bath, gardens, outdoor hot tubs, massage stations, a relaxation area, and even a restaurant… all of them accompanied by gorgeous waterfront views!
Bonus! Indulge yourself with the Old Montreal Food, Drink & Spa Experience
How about pairing two of the best experiences in Old Montreal into one ultimate package? The Old Montreal Food, Drink & Spa Experience will undoubtedly have you feeling like a VIP, giving you seats at some of the area’s best tables and a chance to skip the line at Bota Bota, the oasis on the water. After immersing yourself in the city’s food, history and culture on a food tour, there’s no better way to end the day than by immersing yourself in a warm outdoor pool looking out at the city’s skyline.
Make a pit stop at the best local cafés
Perk up with a hot cup of coffee and hide away from the elements at these darling café spots, nestled into the beautiful architecture of the area.
Tommy blends modern style with historic architecture in their bright and elegant two-tier interior. They’re stylish, but they also make one of the best coffees in the city… and you can bite into their warm and gooey grilled cheese or avocado toast with an egg if you need more than a drink for breakfast. Ideal as a study spot, for a quick stop or a full meal, there’s no wonder Tommy is a local Old Montreal favourite.
14. Olive et gourmando
Reviewed by foodies nationwide, Olive et gourmando is one of the best lunch places in town. As a boutique cafe and bakery, they serve delicious sandwiches, fresh salads and scrumptious baked goods such as croissants and brownies, and they do it well. It’s so popular among locals and visitors alike that you might just have to wait in line, but in the cozy boutique atmosphere you’ll hardly notice the time.
15. Crew Collective & Cafe
At Crew Collective & Cafe, you can dine, sip coffee and stay a while… you’ll want to in a space like this! Located at the old 20’s era Royal Bank headquarters, this is not your average cafe: it boasts 50 foot vaulted ceilings, seating for 100 and an abundance of additional coworking space for its members. Live your Gatzby-era dreams and stop by this sumptuous cafe for the best coffee and the best wifi in the area.
Take in some iconic views
The views never stop in this beautiful area, but we’re sure you wont want to miss these vantage points and favourite photo opportunities.
16. Terrasse Nelligan
This Old Port restaurant offers sweeping views of Old Montreal, the Saint-Lawrence River and puts you eye-to-eye with architectural icons such as the Notre-Dame Basilica. Five stories up the Nelligan Hotel, this rooftop terrace beckons to patrons with the delicious scent of meat and fresh fish cooking on the outdoor grill, and keeps it fresh with some delicious summery drinks.
17. Habitat 67
Designed for Expo 67, Habitat 67 is an architectural marvel. Originally designed to introduce the outdoor space and multilevel environments that come with suburban homes to affordable urban housing, it is made of 354 identical, prefabricated concrete forms. While the demand to live in the stunning property drove prices up, taking in its weirdness, scale, and vision of the future are all free from the banks of Old Port.
Explore with the whole family
Visiting galleries, restaurants and churches all day can become a bit tiresome for the young and young at heart, but these recommendations will give your sightseeing a much needed sense of adventure.
For more kid-friendly activities around the city, here’s 17+ Amazing Things to do in Montreal with Kids year round.
18. La Grande Roue de Montréal
Hop aboard one of the enclosed gondolas of the 60 meter tall observation wheel and take in breathtaking views of the city, the river and the mountains! As the lights twinkle in the evening it’s particularly magical, making it a perfect experience for capping off a long day of fun, no matter what the weather.
Expand your mind at these museums
In a location full of history, it’s no surprise there’s lots to learn! You can also choose from these 11+ Montreal Museums to Visit while exploring the rest of the city.
19. Montreal Science Centre
The Montreal Science Centre is another exciting family-friendly adventure. With hands-on exhibits that let you explore the environment, biology, culture and technology in all new ways. There’s also IMAX 3D movie theatre screening breathtaking nature documentaries. No matter what your age is, you’re sure to learn something new – a day at the Science Centre is never dull!
20. Pointe-à-Callière Museum
It’s a museum about Montreal‘s history and archeology, but Pointe-à-Callière is far from boring. They’ve got a wide range of exhibitions: from the beginnings of Montreal, to local pirates (perfect for kids), contemporary culture, a hands on archeological adventure – and so much more to discover!
21. Chateau Ramezay
Chateau Ramezay is a historic site and museum that’ll allow you to get in contact with the city’s past on a more personal level. The building itself is full of history, from its inception in 1705 as a residence for then Governor of Montréal, Claude de Ramezay, to its occupation during the American Revolution. Now, the builiding has spent its last 120 years of as a museum, so they know what they’re doing. Come by and step on into the past.
Shop a little, or a lot
Full of designer boutiques, even hitting the mall can be a cultural and artistic event here in Old Montreal.
Rooney, a clothing and accessory boutique, seeks to provide its patrons with the best of the latest trends, from both well known and independent up-and-coming designers. That means a more intimate shopping experience: the items you take home aren’t just another consumer good, they’re a quality product with a story. Come shop here worry-free, Rooney’s collection promises to be right on fashion’s cutting edge.
23. Michel Brisson
This high end men’s clothing store could actually double as an art gallery. That’s because the collections you’ll find at Michel Brisson are so meticulously chosen that just perusing through the items transports you into the minds and worlds of some of the best international designers.
24. Denis Gagnon
Denis Gagnon clothing is an architectural marvel in itself. His designs are at the forefront of fashion, stemming not from trends but from his imagination. Taking a precise and delicate approach to leather, famously Gagnon’s favourite material, the clothes may not be in the average shopper’s price range. They are instead works of art, hanging on racks in the minimalist boutique (along with the clothes of a few other designers) the way paintings hang on the walls of a gallery.
25. Le Petit Dep
There are plenty of dépanneurs (convenience stores) all around Montreal, but this one’s unique. Le Petit Dep is a charming little boutique full of local goods. You can get their homemade salads, sandwiches and soups, bring home a jar of local syrups, honeys, oils and more, snack on quality local cookies, chocolates, and pastries, cool off with an ice cream from Les Givrées, and have a coffee or beer from a local microbrewery. There’s even more to discover, but you’ll have to check out the store to explore the rest!
Discover the rest of this wonderful city!
As incredible as Old Montreal is, the rest of the city is also vibrant, buzzing with life and full of amazing things to discover… check out our other neighbourhood guides for the Plateau, Mile End, Mile Ex and Little Italy to continue your Montreal adventure!