Planning a solo trip to Planning a solo trip to Montreal? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- Second largest city in Canada (after Toronto), with a population of 1.8 million.
- Originally named Ville-Marie (City of Mary), it was named after Mount Royal – the triple peaked mountain in the heart of the city.
- Once the industrial and financial capital of Canada, Montréal eventually lost the edge to Toronto in the late 20th century. Regardless, the city remains a cultural, technological, media and financial powerhouse (second largest economy in Canada by GDP).
- Located on the Island of Montreal, as well as on smaller islands (including Ile Bizard).
- Nicknames: The City of Saints, The 514, Real City, La Métropole, Sin City, MTL, Mount Real, La belle ville.
- Currency: Canadian Dollar (CAD).
- Spoken languages: predominantly French (with a sizable English-speaking population).
- Best time to visit: from May to October. Summers are humid, while winters can get very cold (with frequent blizzards).
- Arriving via airport: the airport shuttle costs $9.00, while regular public transport can get you to the city for just $3.00. A taxi from the airport will cost approximately $45.
WHERE TO STAY
- Best hostel for solo travelers: Auberge Saintlo Montreal. One of the few hostels in the city, this one is a clear winner – very clean, with friendly staff, and conveniently located for exploring the city. Breakfast included. Book ahead to reserve a spot, especially in the summer (when accommodation prices in MTL go up like crazy).
- Rue Sainte-Catherine (St. Catherine Street) is great for shopping and is close to Old Montréal.
- You can’t go wrong with accommodations near or within Chinatown, St. Denis, Sherbrooke and St. Laurent, all located walking distance to the city’s top tourist destinations.
- For more upscale and trendy hotels, try the city’s Old Port area.
- STM is Montréal’s public transit system. The STM includes buses, subway (Métro), Paratransit, senior shuttle bus and a taxi bus. A single ride is $3.00, which includes subway and bus (with transfers). Daily, weekly, and monthly passes are also available – a pass offers unlimited rides on subway and buses (including the airport bus).
- Taxi companies servicing Montréal include: Atlas (514 485-4888), Taxi Rosemont (514 255-1313) and Diamond (514 273-6331). Taxi fares start at $3.30 and increase $1.60 per kilometre; or $0.60 per minute.
- Uber has arrived in Montreal! A great alternative to traditional taxis – cleaner cars, faster service, and (usually) cheaper rates.
- BIXI Montreal is the city’s popular bike rental service, available from April to November . Rent a public bike from one of the many automated BIXI stations around the city.
- Drinking age is 18, last call is officially 3 AM (many clubs and bars stay open all night).
- Note: with over 300 bars and 50 strip clubs, Montréal is one of the world’s top nightlife destinations.
- Main nightlife: Francophone scene on Saint-Laurent (between Sherbrooke and Pine), Anglophone scene on Crescent Street (between Sherbrooke and Maisonneuve).
- Hip/local scene: Mt. Royal (Le Plateau Mont-Royal), Old Port.
- Other nightlife areas: St. Catherine Street West, The Latin Quarter, and the Gay Village.
- Great bars in Montreal for solo travelers: Diese Onze (live jazz), Le Système, L’Escogriffe Bar (live music), and Sans Soleil Bar.
- Looking for clubbing? Try Bar Datcha or Stereo (techno).
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Roam around through the Underground City, a giant complex filled with restaurants and shopping. With over 20 miles of tunnels, the also includes residential and office space. If you are visiting during the winter, this is a great place to take a break and warm up.
- Check out the Olympic Park. Located in the heart of Montréal, this dome once held the 1976 Olympic Summer Games and now includes the Montréal Biodome, Insectarium, a municipal golf course and the Montréal Botanical Gardens.
- The Montréal Botanical Gardens contain over 20,000 plant species in over 30 different (specialized) gardens. Two of the gardens include a full Japanese Garden and the largest Chinese Garden outside of Asia.
- The Notre-Dame Basilica is the city’s oldest church. Finished in 1656, it features an amazing interior of stained glass windows depicting scenes of the city over time.
- The Canadian Railway Museum is a treat for any railroad enthusiast, featuring over 150 locomotives and railway cars/vehicles.
- The Old Port always makes for a great walk. Start at St. Paul, and continue to the old port along any of the streets.
- Hike up Mont (Mount) Royal. This 200 hectare park sits on the mountain on Montreal Island, and boasts the highest spot in the city (234 meter elevation).
- Walk along St. Laurent Boulevard for a mix of everything. If you’ve got the energy, try to go all the way from Little Italy to City Hall (or vice versa). You’ll pass by different neighbourhoods, unique shops, and will be overwhelmed by food and drink options.
- Don’t forget that you’re in Quebec, and French is the official language. Even if you don’t know the language, try to learn a few key phrases. Locals will appreciate your effort. You will find that many residents actually speak English, and will switch over once they realize you’re not a local. Don’t worry: no one expects tourists to speak French!
- Great restaurants in Montreal that locals love: Le Filet ($$$ – seafood), Le Pégase ($$ – French), Sparta Poulet Grec ($), Pamika Thai ($$), Antep Kabab ($ – Turkish), McKiernan ($$ – great chicken), ChuChai ($$ – vegan/vegetarian), Ohana Sushi Vegan ($$).
- Where to find good cheap eats: just about anywhere! While in town, make sure to try the famous Montreal smoked ham, bagels, as well as some authentic poutine. A time-honoured local tradition is also to have a beer at a bar with a terrace. Pop by any of the Falafel St. Jacques locations for delicious food on a budget (great vegetarian options).
- Dangerous areas: while the city is generally safe, it is best to avoid the following areas (especially at night): Ontario Street East, St. Catherine East (except the Village), and the far east end of Montreal (past Papeneau).
Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days