Taking A 2 Day City Break in Montreal
It was Victoria Day long weekend for us. It signals that Summer is Coming! It’s a time when families are headed to the cottage, others take the kids to Canada’s Wonderland, and if the weather is decent we all expect sunshine and some serious fireworks to celebrate the holiday.
This year we took advantage of the 3-day weekend went to do a city break in Montreal, Quebec (in Quebec it is National Patriotes Day on May 20th).
There was rain in the forecast for the weekend and we had our fingers crossed they got it wrong! Whether rain or sunshine a few days in Montreal provides opportunities to have a great time. It’s Montreal after all. It’s a great city, lots of art, culture, interesting architecture, shopping and great food (ahhh, the pastries!).
Keeping Montreal Weekend Trip Planning Simple
This was not really a planned trip. It was planned in that we bought tickets a couple weeks before we left and only because we decided to see the Thierry Mugler exhibit at The Montreal Museum of Fine Art (Musée des Beaux-Artes).
We weren’t too committed to ‘doing’ much and content with taking a slow, relaxed unplanned approach to the two days we had in the city.
I checked out a few sites for tips and put together a simple itinerary that included more museums because of the weather. We also asked friends for a list of recommendations for places to eat and decided not to make this a ‘shopping’ trip – we’d save that for another time.
We also decided to stick to downtown Montreal and keep it simple. The last time we visited we checkout a few neighbourhoods and that was great but since this was a last minute trip and we weren’t interested in having a jam-packed exhausting time of it, we were keeping the planning simple.
Where We Stayed in Downtown Montreal
We decided to stay at the Hotel Bonaventure
- It’s about 15-20 minutes drive from the airport (with no traffic),
- It’s downtown across from the Via Rail train station (if you’re taking the train into the city)
- Close to a number of metro stations
- Greenery and pond with ducks
- Heated outdoor swimming pool
There was a lot of places to sit in the stylish lobby, which was great because I sat out there for hours reading and people watching before dinner.
The hotel staff was friendly, check in was easy and the Concierge we met was so knowledgeable and friendly.
We would definitely stay there again.
6 Things to Do in Montreal in Two Days
#1 : Fashion, Art and History
We started the morning at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to see the Thierry Mugler exhibit.
Tip: We got there around 10:00 am, well before the lineups. It’s was perfect as it gave us ample time to take in the exhibit with just a few other early birds and you can then spend some time explore the rest of the museum.
The exhibit was fantastic, btw. It was a large collection of his designs and images. We kept moving from room to room to room. I wasn’t expecting to see so many items on display and each room having a different theme and experience. I’d highly recommend it.
#2. Do A Walking Tour
Since we did not have “must see” items on our list except for the Mugler exhibit, we opted to do a walking tour of Old Montreal to get some history, get a little more familiar with the area and basically kill a late afternoon with something to do before dinner.
We were lucky to get the last spots in the last tour of the day (thanks to the Concierge at the hotel – another reason why I like hotel stays). The tour was 1.5 hours well spent.
#3. Walking around Old Montreal and Old Port (Vieux-Port) on your own (Free)
This is a tourist hotspot and restaurant hub. You can easily spend half a day there, taking a slow stroll on foot or in a horse drawn carriage if that’s your thing, check out some of the historical buildings, buy souvenirs, watch the artists and street performers at work or get ice cream or a drink on a patio at one of the many restaurants. There is something for everyone.
Marché Bonsecours (Free) – in addition to the attractive shiny dome and 100+ year heritage building, Bonsecours Market boasts a number of boutiques for shopping. I may or may not have purchased a watch (shhh!).
#4. Eat, Eat and Eat
Montreal is not only known for it’s fashion but also it’s food. There are loads of restaurant options to choose from and at every price point. We saw some skipped the pricey joints and anything requiring we get dressed up (typically on vacay, I like to be out all day walking and exploring, so no wardrobe changes for me once I leave my hotel).
I’ll be sharing another post about where we ate in Montreal so be sure to check that out but here is the quick rundown of the not-so-fancy, but casual dining, and reasonably priced places where we ate:
- Olive & Gourmando
- Maison Christian Faure
- Pizzeria Mangiafoco
#5. Check out the Wax Museum
It was raining pretty hard so decided to check out a few museums. We discovered the Grevin Museum – Wax Museum of Montreal, a museum tucked away on the 5th of The Montreal Eaton Centre shopping mall which made it a little tricky to find. Also like most of Montreal at the time of writing this, parts of the Eaton Centre was being renovated.
This was a fun museum that was not busy so we didn’t have to worry about line-ups or buying tickets in advance. If you’re looking for things to do in Montreal when it’s raining, this isn’t a bad idea. It’s located inside of a mall so you can hang out with celebs and royalty at the museum and then do some shopping.
We also wanted to check out the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal but it was closed until June 2019 so we’ll have to save that for our next visit.
#6. Old Montreal – Vieux-Montréal
We spent an afternoon in Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal) walking around cobblestone streets and watching horse-drawn carriages with tourists pass by. We lucked out on the weather so this was an ideal way to spend time exploring this part of city at a leisurely pace.
There are lots of restaurants, patios, shops in Old Montreal. It’s also near Old Port (where you’ll also find the Ferris Wheel, zip-lining and other amusement park type attractions). You can easily spend the day here.
It’s been 10 years since my last visit to Montreal. I was reminded of how much I love Montreal and should make it a regular summer travel destination, especially if I’m travelling solo or on a limited travel budget and larger scale travel isn’t doable (….or really if I want to do some shopping!).
For us forty-something women who want to travel solo, this is a great city to do so in that it’s walk-able and the metro (subway) system is easy to navigate – I suck at using maps so that’s important to me. I also like that’s just a cool city for art, food, culture and the pace is just right. I can’t wait to go back.