This trip was a spontaneous vacation that I quickly planned with my best friend Marisa. I was supposed to spend a couple of weeks camping my way on a road trip to Alaska with my aunt, but that trip fell through. Instead, my friend said that she had some time off and wanted to go to Canada. I briefly tried to convince her to go to Central America with me instead (Belize was looking particularly appealing for such a short trip), but she was worried about Zika. Instead, we ended up with a week in Montreal!
Normally I travel like a 20-something backpacker and stay in centrally located hostels (maybe I should just start telling people I am 25 again?), but my friend said that she prefers the privacy and comforts of a hotel room. So instead of spending $250 on my hostel bed for a week I gave that money to my friend to use toward whatever hotel room she wanted (her idea).
We ended up at the very nice Residence Inn with a kitchen en suite! I loved the location and the comfy beds, but if your friend doesn’t want to be a pseudo sugar momma, the HI Montreal sounds pretty great to me!
Tip: Get a weekly transit pass if you’ll be in town a few days for $25. You can buy them at the airport when you might be purchasing the $10 fare to take the express bus (747) into town to save A LOT of money. The passes only run Mon-Sun, NOT just 7 consecutive days!
We had a late start our first day because we arrived in the middle of the night so we just had a low key start.
We took a long walk over to Casse-Croute La Banquise for lunch where you can have poutine one of 30 different ways! My friend got the classic plus bacon and I got the smoked meat one. Both were delicious but very rich!
We also wandered around later this day to see Cathedral of Marie-Reine-du-Monde (free). Inside the cathedral, it is simply majestic!
If you are looking for a cheap and delicious casual meal, you should be sure to stop by Boustan. It was seriously the best mixed-shawarma that I have ever had. Their baklava was just okay, though.
Have lunch at Jean-Talon Market: a great place to pick up some maple syrup to take home with you. According to some, it is the “go-to place for Charlevoix lamb – a patented food product, only produced in Quebec, that is deliciously tender and a must-try for foodies.” The best place to purchase Charlevoix lamb at Jean-Talon is a shop called “Veau de Charlevoix.” I also loved the baklava selection at a Middle Eastern stand toward the center of the market.
Or get supplies from the market and take them to Mount Royal for a picnic like we did! Take a bus to the top of Mount Royal (individual tickets are $3.50 and a day pass is $10) or take a hike to the top (bring water and snacks). We wandered around and visited the lake and walked over to St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal where we enjoyed great views!
Check out Deville Diner Bar if you are in the area. We shared the fried mac n cheese wontons and I had the Bad Girl Pasta. The scallops in my pasta were HUGE and the lobster sauce on top was amazing. My friend got a burger that was supposed to be basic but was still pretty large. My friend liked her gummy bear cocktail but thought it was rather weak for the steep cost.
Walk around Old Montreal, be sure to see Rue St-Paul for the cobblestone streets that you might expect. The tourist office there will give you a nice free walking map of Old Town and let you know what the top sites are.
Be sure to see the Notre Dame Basilica $12. We joined a free tour included with our entry ticket that lasted about half an hour. Did you know that there are 7000 pipes here?! The gorgeous lighting and stained glass here is what really blew me away, though!
We also took a walk along the Old Port. If I had kids I would totally do the outdoor ropes course they had here with them, but we were content to just enjoy our wandering stroll around Old Town.
We also went to the Museum of Fine Arts (free after 5PM on Wednesdays otherwise $20 for adults over 31). I particularly enjoyed the visit to their Pompeii exhibit. Even though I visited the real site of Pompeii when I was 21, I still loved seeing all of the mosaics and the room with “erotic” art.
If you plan on going to the Montreal Botanical Gardens ($20 CAD), and I highly suggest that you do, be sure to bring some sunscreen, sunglasses, and perhaps a parasol because if you visit on a beautiful summer’s day like we did then you should expect to be searching for some shade the whole time. My friend got burnt despite the sunscreen, hence the wish for the parasol. Despite the heat, this was one of my favorite things that we did in Montreal.
Explore China Town and eat dumplings. We tried dumplings at both of the top dumpling places in China Town Mai Xiang Yuan which had very flavorless dumplings (but was very cheap and fast) and Qing Hua Dumpling, which was just a half block away. Qing Hua Dumpling looked much nicer in appearance has delicious soup dumplings available for lunch, and the dumplings themselves were incredibly flavorful! Be careful to have cash available as both places only take cash or local debit cards (they both have handy ATMs at the front of their restaurants).
I really wanted to try the Foie Gras at Au Pied de Cochon, but for some reason, we missed the fact that it was closed on Monday and Tuesday when we had planned to go there! Instead, we made our own dinner this night by taking advantage of our kitchen in our hotel room.
Wander around and enjoy the city! We found some great street art and I enjoyed just looking at all of the old building façades.
Find second-hand store Eva B clothing, books, café. This is the craziest second-hand store that I’ve ever visited. It is a seeming labyrinth with rooms twisting leading into one another in unexpected configurations. I didn’t find anything in the half hour that we spent there, but I’m sure that if I spent a few hours there I might come out with some great finds.
Relax, pack, wander around some more.
We happened across St. George’s Church which was free and a beautiful respite from the light showers we encountered our last afternoon there.
Maybe if I return to Montreal with a bigger budget I would head to the Pointe-a-Calliere Museum to take the elevator to the observation deck. It supposedly provides a 360 birds eye view of the city and its historic sites. We also missed out on Bagels at Fairmount Bagel because our hotel included free breakfast. I would also like to return to go to Au Pied de Cochon, but for now, Le Pigeon in Portland will more than suffice!
In conclusion: Montreal is not a cheap city, but I really enjoyed my time there. We spent a week, but I think it could easily be done in a long weekend or five days and still be a comfortable trip.
Budget in USD
$500 flights from Portland to Montreal round trip per person
$250 for a bed in a four-bed dorm for one week
$60 per day for food and activities
$60 total for transportation
$20 Game of Thrones shirt I bought on impulse!
$1250- Total for one week
We used our travel credit cards for most things, but about $200 cash would be good for transit, trips to Tim Horton’s for a coffee break, and a few of the restaurants that were cash only.