Whether in the warmth of summer or the dead of winter, Montréal—Canada’s multilingual, multicultural heart—resonates with energy, and two days here offers plenty of sights to see and things to do. From the French, Montréal inherited a tongue, an old-country architectural style, and a love of good food, running the gamut from Jewish delis to hand-pulled noodle joints. Yet along the river, the city has none of the buttoned-up reserve of the old European cities: a nonstop parade of block parties light up the streets when the weather’s nice and world-renowned music festivals bring Montrealers together year-round. If you find yourself with 48 hours to explore Montréal, this itinerary can help you get the most out of your stay.
Knock a few major tourist (but totally worth visiting) attractions off your list early with a a visit to Montreal’s pretty city park and a tour of Notre-Dame Basilica.
Morning: Stretch your legs with a stroll in Parc du Mont-Royal
Inaugurated in 1876 and designed by skilled landscaper Frederick Law Olmsted, Mount Royal, Montréal’s sprawling 700-acre park, lies atop a large hill right in the center of the city. The summit was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, most famous for his work on Central Park in New York City. For the absolute best views, make the 400-step climb to popular lookout point Kondiaronk Belvedere or head to the lookout points on Camillien-Houde Drive or Crags Trail.A nighttime city tour is also a great way to see the Montréal skyline completely lit up in all its glory.
Lunchtime: Slurp up a bowl of noodles in Chinatown
Walking around a 700-acre park builds up an appetite, so you’ll some hearty food to replenish all the calories you’ve burned. Hand-pulled noodles are a thing, and you’ll definitely want to try them when you’re here. They’re plopped by the fistful into a rich, complex broth, topped with fresh veggies and meats, and drizzled with chili oil globules if you’re feeling spicy. They’re as close to China as you’ll get in a meal in Montréal.
Afternoon: Take a guided tour of Montreal’s gorgeous Notre-Dame Basilica
Located in historic Old Montreal, Notre Dame Basilica is a stunning sight to see. Aside from its jaw-dropping blue and gold decor, look for the 24-carat, hand-painted gold stars on the ceiling and the stained-glass windows depicting Montreal’s religious history. It dates back to the 1820s—not super old by church standards, but its soaring ceilings, intricate carvings, and palatial presence more than makes up for its young age. A free tour is included with admission. If a tour of the cathedral isn’t enough to satisfy your curiosity for all things Montreal, a private walking tour is a great way to see all the other sites Old Montreal has to offer.
Evening: Relax with a craft beer
We hope you packed your flannel shirt and thick-rimmed glasses for your trip here. The city is home to to many breweries with man-bunned bartenders pulling foamy pints of ales brewed on-site. If you’re hungry, look for a spot that lets you bring your own food picnic style or a brewery with a rotating slate of food trucks.
Flowers, thrift shopping, and the city’s best gnocchi are definitely how you want to spend your second day in Montréal.
Morning: Wander among the flowers at Montréal Botanical Garden
Located right in the heart of Montréal’, the botanical garden is a sprawling, 190-acre oasis of themed gardens, greenhouses, and outdoor activities for all ages. It’s considered one of the world’s most important gardens due to its impressive collections and facilities—in fact, it earned the title of National Historic Site of Canada in 2008. Spend a few hours wandering around the Chinese, Japanese, and First Nations gardens and check out the incredible views of Montréal’s equally sprawling 1976 Olympic Park. If you have bug-loving kids in tow, the Insectarium (included in the ticket price) is a must-see (we recommend sampling the shiitake turmeric crickets and lime grasshoppers from the vending machine here!). Pro tip: your ticket will also gain you access to the nearby planetarium.
Lunchtime: Chow down in Miles End
This area of town is a favorite on foodie tours of Montréal’s. From old-school bagel shops and trendy brunch spots to authentic Greek-style restaurants and Italian eats, it’s easy to spend the afternoon eating your way through this neighborhood. Visit on a hot day when you can eat outside and grab a cone at any of the many ice cream shops nearby.
Afternoon: Shop for bargains in Montréal’s Mile End
If you love vintage clothes and indie shops selling old record and used books, you’ll definitely want to while away your afternoon on Rue Bernard in Mile End. This artsy neighborhood exudes a laid-back vibe that forces you (in a good way) to slow down and just enjoy the hustle and bustle around you. Grab a coffee and a snack from any one of the old-school bagel shops and spend a few hours bargain hunting for the perfect souvenir to remember your trip by.
Evening: G&Ts and jazz music
Spend your last night sipping a G&T while jamming out to an awesome local band. Hipster haven Plateau-Mont-Royal (check out the street art while you’re in the neighborhood!), is the best place to go for a night of cocktails and the aforementioned live jazz. The clientele skews crunchier than the vegan nachos, but strong drinks and live music are decidedly dope.
Late night: End your stay with a hearty helping of poutine
You didn’t think we’d forget to mention Montréal’s most well-known dish, did you? Before you call it a night, you simply must sample this city staple of French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy (yum!). We promise—it’s the perfect food to soak up all those G&Ts you just had. The good news is, you can find late night poutine pretty much anywhere. We recommend finding a spot with a long line of hungry-looking night owls like yourself—their taste buds are probably pretty reliable.