Best Things to do in Old Montreal [2019 Update]
Everyone knows that Old Montreal is full of history and awesome architecture. But did you know that it is also home to a range activities from the mild to the wild? Check out our list of the best things to do in Old Montreal!
Want to explore outside of Old Montreal? Check out these Top Things to do in Montreal this Spring.
1. Café Olimpico
Montreal’s cafe culture is as hot as your morning cup. Café Olimpico has been a famous neighbourhood gathering place for decades in the Mile End and has recently branched out to the delight of locals and visitors in Old Montreal. A mixed crowd of soccer fans, writers, artists and Montreal legends cram these two spaces to sample delicious caffeinated concoctions, and you’ll want to do the same!
- Authentic Italian coffee
- Rustic stone setting
2. Fondation PHI
A true Montreal experience is to check out some art. La Fondation Phi has carved out a niche for itself and is without a doubt one of Montreal’s foremost institutions for contemporary art. Housed in two beautiful buildings on charming rue St-Jean, this place is an absolute must for any art lover. The current exhibit, Yoko Ono Growing Freedom is on until September 15th and aims to share Ono’s influence in the worlds of activism and contemporary art.
- Intersection of art, film, music, design and technology
- Encounters between artists and audiences
- This Light Never Goes Out: Political Cartoons by Jim Carrey (June 20th – September 1st)
3. Bar Sarah B.
A perfectly plush getaway from the street, nestled in the Intercontinental hotel, Bar Sarah B. is named in honour of the famous French star Sarah Bernhardt. If you don’t know who Sarah Bernhardt was, you should. During her time, she was the greatest star of the stage and travelled the world with her productions. When she visited Montreal in 1880 she graced the locals with a performance in a building that is now part of the Intercontinental. Styled as a nod to her day, the bar serves absinthe, something that should absolutely be on your to do list.
- High quality spirits and cocktails
- Luxurious setting
- Perfect for dates and business meetings
4. Old Montreal walking tour
To truly understand all the ins and outs of this fascinating part of town, be sure to take the Fitz & Follwell Old Montreal walking tour. Over the course of three hours, your expert guide will lead you as you wind your way through the cobble-stone streets, go in and out of some of the most impressive buildings and gain a true understanding of how the events that have happened in this neighbourhood have forever shaped the city.
- Inside perspectives of the city
- Local secrets
- Recommendations catering to your needs
5. Marché des éclusiers
One sure way to know that the nice days of summer are upon us is to see if the Marché des éclusiers has reopened. This seasonal and charming marketplace nestled on the banks of the Lachine Canal is about as Montreal as it gets. You can find a bar, a restaurant, a cafe and stands where local farmers can sell their produce. A typical local might wander by and for example, take a look around the market, grab a drink and lazily swing on the swingset as they watch the boats go through the canal.
- Fresh local food
- Outdoor setting
This is certainly set to be one of the biggest events of the summer! Locals are super excited (and curious) about PY1. Firstly, it comes from the creative mind of Guy Laliberté, the co-founder of the Cirque du Soleil. Secondly, it is having its world premiere here before it travels the world. Moreover, it will combine local passions such as art, entertainment, music and technology. To clarify, this new brand of entertainment will feature no live performers. Similarly, when Laliberté founded the Cirque du Soleil he revolutionized the concept of a circus by having no animals acts. In the same vein, he attempts to change our concept of entertainment once again. Crowds will enter into the pyramid to watch the show Through the Echoes, and be immersed into a world of projections, video mapping and lazers that will transport us back in time to the big bang, then back to the present day. At night, the pyramid will turn into Montreal’s hottest new club.
- Immersive, 3D experience
- State of the art technology
7. Voiles en Voiles Adventure Park
Despite what you might assume by glancing at it, the Voiles en Voiles Adventure Park is not just for kids. In short, this aerial obstacle course on a pirate ship is guaranteed fun (and maybe even a little challenge) for everyone! You’ll find climbing walls in addition to inflatable games and water games and something to entertain everybody in your group.
- Fun for the family
- Adrenaline rush
8. Ecotours Montreal
With summer comes a favourite local pass time: Wandering around Old Montreal and the Old Port. Montrealers have a true love for these historic districts and make it a point to visit them and act like tourists in their own town. So what better way to discover this neighbourhood than by doing it on a segway or a hoverboard? Firstly, Ecotours Montreal offers you a crash course on how to use these machines, so that you don’t crash. Then you can ride around checking out the awesome sights!
- Quick and mobile
9. MTL Zipline
It’s a bird, it’s a plane… No, it’s the MTL zipline! Live out your flying fantasy as you glide over the Bonsecour basin in the heart of the Old Port. If you’re not too freaked out by the speed and the exhilaration you should be able to appreciate the stunning view! On the other hand, if you’re into something different you might want to try the quickjump, the first urban free fall device in all of Canada!
- Adrenaline Rush Guaranteed
- Stunning View
10. Pointe À Callière
Few are the cities that can actually pinpoint the exact location on which they were founded. Montreal is lucky to be able to boast that we have archeological evidence of the beginnings of European settlement. For any history or archeology buff, the Pointe-à-Callière museum will leave you feeling thrilled and satisfied. Built over the largest archeological site in Canada, the experience tunnels you underground to various ruins and remnants of the city’s history, all the way back to an Iroquoian burial ground dating back approximately 1500 years. During your visit, be sure to check out their new multimedia show which recalls thousands of years of history in under 20 minutes!
- Immersive architectural experience
- Voyage back in time through Montreal’s history
11. Le Petit Navire
In recent years, locals have been making efforts to reconnect with the waters. Montreal is an island but for decades the waterfront areas were hard to get to or inhospitable. Over the last few years the desire to give people better access to the water has become very popular. One great example is the charming Petit Navire. This 100% electric and pollution free boat offers a few tour options. Either cruise around the Old Port, the Lachine Canal or under the fireworks. Either way, you’ll be living a local’s fantasy as you navigate the beautiful waters in the shadows of the city.
- Fresh air, wind in hair
- Awesome views of the city and surroundings
There are no words to do justice to the beauty of the interior of the Notre Dame Basilica. The inside was rebuilt over half a century after the original interior and it remains what is certainly one of the most stunning buildings you’ll ever lay your eyes upon. Since 2017, the interior is made even more mesmerizing by a nightly sound and light show called Aura. The show begins by inviting you to walk around and discover how lighting can change the historical artworks. After that, a monumental show immerses you in the details and beauty of the church by painting your surroundings with light. You don’t want to miss this.
- Sensory Overload
- Sublime architecture superimposed with stunning multimedia projections
13. Bota Bota Spa
Since being transformed from an old ferry boat, this spa that sits on the waters of the St-Lawrence river has become a delightful place to relax and unwind. You can follow the water circuit, alternating between hot and cold temperatures, or you can simply lounge on a hammock, or on one of the decks overlooking the city skyline. In addition, be sure to visit the adjacent gardens where you’ll find more pools, a steam room and outdoor relaxing areas. The facilities are complete with a restaurant and treatments rooms where you can treat yourself to a massage. Go ahead, you know you want to.
- Great View
Think of this as your checklist of things you must do in Montreal and see how many of them you can check off. This city has so much to offer that making a complete list would be almost impossible, but it is a challenge we are up for, so stay tuned for further lists full of more amazing suggestions!