How To Guides

7 Things to Do in Montreal

Unique sculptures line the iconic Sherbrooke street in Montreal’s downtown center

I feel so lucky to have grown up in Montreal. It’s a really great city despite all its faults. Now, as a tourist in my old hometown, I can appreciate all the highs and ignore all the lows. Here are some of the highlights of the city through the lens of a tourist that once called Montreal her home:

1. People Watch

Montreal is home to some of the most fashionable people. Now that I’ve traveled through many cities and called other cities my home, I can honestly say that Montreal has a certain “je ne sais quoi” in its fashion choices. Walking through the streets of downtown Montreal, I remembered the style that has continued to influence my fashion choices today. We love mixing highs and lows; new with the old; the unexpected with the expected for an all-around eclectic outfit.

Anonymous beauty–this woman paired a tulle skirt with a ruffled blouse and ballet flats.

2. Window shop

Montreal has a plethora of small shops that are entirely accessible on foot. Some of my favorite areas include Mile End, Plateau, Downtown center and Old Montreal. Unfortunately, most of these shops do not cater to my size so window shopping is actually a real possibility–inspiration without the temptation to buy.

Looking at me looking at you.

3. Take a detour through Chinatown

While definitely not the largest Chinatown in North America (it is only 3rd largest in Canada) it’s a quaint, fun walk through one of Montreal’s famous landmarks. The main street is blocked off to most car traffic so it’s an easy area to let your kids run loose. For some of the city’s best Dim Sum, I recommend La Maison Kam Fung. I noticed the ratings have dipped in recent years–has the restaurant really declined that badly or is it the (always) rough decor has started turning away more visitors?

Care for some Dragon Beard treats? It’s just spun sugar with nuts inside but the kids loved the name.

4. Enjoy the street sculptures

The street sculptures are to your eyes what the Montreal restaurants are to your belly–pure bliss! Everywhere you turn in Montreal, the streets are decorated with sculptures and flowers; beautifully painted buildings and architecture fill your eyes with wonder at every turn. Even the areas under construction are appealing. Spend a day walking through the city just absorbing all the sights and sounds of Montreal. You won’t be disappointed.

I could write an entire essay on this sculpture. “The Eye” by David Altmejd in front of Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts.

5. The food

I’ve heard rumors that Montreal has the most restaurants per capita of any city in North America. Is that true? I’m not sure but I’d venture to say that Montreal has the tastiest restaurants per capita in North America. I live in Los Angeles now and I still find myself craving Montreal’s food scene–and LA has some very tasty food! Maybe it really is the water… Apparently Montreal’s bagels are the best in the world because of the water. I know New York City would argue that honor but I stand by my hometown’s claim to fame. Eat almost anywhere and you’ll enjoy good food. The competition is fierce so crappy restaurants do not last long.

I didn’t eat here but I couldn’t resist snapping a pic of this “punny” restaurant’s name.

6. Laugh at the construction

Montreal is defined by its orange construction cones. Without fail, every spring, the city falls prey to a new series of construction sites all around the city. The streets; the buildings; the sculptures; the fountains; the…everything is under construction. But, instead of getting aggravated with the construction zones (a constant source of heartburn as a citizen), I can now chuckle as a tourist. Now, I see all the construction as Montreal trying to better itself–trying to improve all its beauty one orange cone at a time.

A fallen construction cone (this one is actually a cylinder) in the Old Port. An icon of Montreal.


7. Take a breather 

For a large-ish city, I find Montreal has many designated green spaces and “rest” areas. If you walk through the streets on a warmer day (even in the middle of the winter), you’ll see many Montrealers enjoying a lunch in the park, or on the steps of a building or hanging out by one of the city’s many fountains. It’s something I miss about Montreal now that I’m in LA… Montreal is a city designed for pedestrians whereas LA is for drivers. In LA, everything is a parking lot whereas you’d be hard-pressed to find much parking in Montreal’s downtown area. It’s nice to see all the foot and bike traffic–it’s rare to see that in the sprawls of LA’s many cities.

A random green space in Montreal. A place to eat, meet and chill.
A sun-soaked fountain in the middle of the city.
Resting my tired feet.