Planning a visit to Canada’s second-largest city and one of North America’s most vibrant and cosmopolitan destinations? Here is an epic 3 days in Montreal itinerary to see it all!
Young, hip and affordable is the best way to describe this multicultural city of North America which attracts close to eleven million visitors each year, despite having a population of under two million residents.
Travelers visiting Montreal Canada, for the first time will feel as if they are in Europe, because not only everyone speaks English but the food is as good as that you can get without actually having to zip across the Atlantic to relish it.
Best 3 days in Montreal itinerary for first time visitors
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Nestled atop an island in the mighty St. Lawrence River, Montreal is a blend of old-world charm and modern sophistication.
Founded in 1642 by French explorer Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve, Montreal has a rich history and heritage that is evident in its architecture, food, and culture.
The city’s historic Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to some of the best-preserved 17th- and 18th-century buildings in North America. Montreal’s unique blend of European and North American influences make it a truly unique destination.
Whether you’re interested in exploring the city’s French roots, indulging in its world-renowned cuisine, or simply taking in the sights and sounds of this vibrant metropolis, Montreal has something for everyone.
Montreal 3 day Itinerary: Snapshot
- Day 1 of Montreal 3 day itinerary: Full day sightseeing of old Montreal starting with the Arms Square, Notre Dame Basilica, walking tour, Montreal Museum, and other areas.
- Day 2 of 3 days in Montreal itinerary: Explore Mont-Royal and Mile End, check out street art and yummy bagels!
- Day 3 of Montreal itinerary 3 days: Visit the Olympic Park and the Montreal Botanical Gardens, and chill out in downtown.
Read: Montreal bucket list
Planning a trip to Montreal Quebec
Montreal is located in the province of Quebec in Canada. Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL) is a major hub for air travel in Eastern Canada. And this is the best airport to get there, if you are flying.
The airport is located about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from downtown, and is well-connected to the city center by a variety of transportation options.
There are two main ways to get from the airport to downtown Montreal: by taxi or by public transportation.
- Taxis are readily available at the airport, and can be found at the designated taxi stand in front of the arrivals area. The fare into downtown Montreal is fixed at $40 CAD, and the ride takes about 30 minutes.
- Public transportation is also an option for getting from the airport to downtown Montreal. The airport is served by the 747 Express Bus, which runs between the airport and downtown 24 hours a day. The fare for the bus is $10 CAD, and the ride takes about 45 minutes.
Montreal’s central train station, Gare Centrale, is located in the city center and is served by both VIA Rail and Amtrak – perfect for those who wish to do some train travel. The train station is connected to the city’s metro system, making it easy to get around Montreal once you arrive.
VIA Rail offers service from Toronto and other cities in Ontario, while Amtrak provides service from New York City and other points in the northeastern United States.
Montreal is also served by a number of long-distance bus companies, offering service from Ontario, some of the major cities in Canada and the United States.
Montreal is accessible by car from all directions, and is served by a number of major highways. From the United States, the best route to Montreal is via Interstate 87, which becomes Quebec Autoroute 15 once it crosses the border.
From Ontario, the best route to Montreal is via Ontario Highway 401, which becomes Quebec Autoroute 20 once it crosses the border.
Getting around in Montreal
Once you arrive in Montreal, the best way to get around is with the city’s extensive public transportation system. Montreal has an underground metro system, as well as an extensive network of bus and streetcar lines.
A single-ride fare on the metro or bus costs $3.25 CAD, and a day pass is available for $10 CAD. We recommend using public transportation and walk to explore Montreal in 3 days.
If you are driving, note that rates for public parking vary, but are typically around $2-$3 CAD per hour. It’s important to note that the city has a number of one-way streets, and names are in French (and some in English). Be sure to pay attention to signs and follow the flow of traffic to avoid getting lost or getting a ticket.
Where to stay in Montreal Canada?
The best months to visit Montreal are in spring, from Mid April to May or during fall from September to early October. This is the time when crowds will be less, accommodation much cheaper and the weather ideal for sightseeing.
Much like New York City and Toronto, Montreal too is a city of neighborhoods. The best places to stay are in downtown Montreal where most of the hotels are located or in Old Montreal.
Other good areas to stay are Little Italy and The Plateau. That said, no matter where you put up, there are innumerable bars, restaurants and shops everywhere. Some recommended hotels are:
- Hotel 10: Conveniently located near St Laurent Blvd, this boutique hotel has a lot of style with a plethora of shops nearby. What is best about this place is the excellent Cafe Origine shop right next door. Book your stay here
- Boxotel: Located on a beautiful tree-lined avenue in downtown Montreal, the Boxotel is another boutique hotel with fully equipped rooms providing excellent views of the city. Breakfast is complimentary and best is that you are within walking distance of the Latin Quarter and the Old Port of Montreal. Check prices and availability here
- Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth: If you have dollars to spare, look no further than the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth for the ultimate luxury stay in Montreal. Having hosted celebrities and royals since its inception, this is easily the most prestigious hotel in Montreal. Moreover, the hotel’s bars, restaurants and the full-service spa are local favorites. Book your stay here
This specially crafted itinerary will tell you where you should grab your morning cup of coffee, where to rest on a pillow for the night and how to explore all the major attractions of the City of a Hundred Steeples, in just three days.
Now let’s kick start this Montreal three days itinerary. It is assumed that you have either reached Montreal the night before or early in the morning on the first of your three day trip.
Day 1 of Montreal itinerary 3 days: Full day sightseeing of Old Montreal
Have an early breakfast at your hotel and head straight to Old Montreal by the orange line metro to kick-off the first day of your Montreal itinerary.
If you don’t know where to alight, get down at Place-d’Armes, the most central part of Old Montreal. Once there, wander about on foot in order to get oriented and move around the city better later on.
Go on an Old Montreal walking tour that covers both the sections, East and West. There is always something going on here and at the Old Port and you may want to come back here again as this is a good reference point for visits to other areas.
The Clock Tower at the port, is the most recognizable landmark and a perfect point for photographic views of the St Lawrence river. There are a number of good vantage points along the nearby paths as well.
Get an early history lesson by visiting the Pointe-a-Calliere museum, rich in archeological and historical artifacts from the First Nations of the Montreal region. A visit to this Montreal Museum will make a good addition to your trip.
Make sure the walking tour you take includes the iconic Notre Dame Basilica, one of the major attractions of the old town. The Basilica can be visited at any time of the day, but expect very long lines, especially during the summer.
For a $6 CAD fee, you can opt for the guided tour of Notre Dame which runs every twenty minutes. You will get to learn about the construction, architecture and history of the place.
In the evening, between Tuesday and Saturday, a sound and light show guides you through the history of the Notre Dame Basilica in an impressive visual way. Show cost is $10 per person.
To rest your weary legs, stop at Ikanos for an incredibly good deal for a delicious three-course meal for just $24 CAD.The popular eatery is located on McGill street.
The heart of Old Montreal is undoubtedly Place Jacques Cartier which opens up one end to the Old Port and the City Hall at the other. This place comes alive whenever there is a festival taking place in Old Montreal.
If you go north for two short blocks, you can enjoy the hey day architecture of Canada in the 1888 New York Life Building and the former Bank of Montreal Head Office which is worth looking into.
In the evening from dusk to 11:00 pm, from Tuesday to Sunday you can watch the largest outdoor video projection installation in the world knows as Cite Memoire. The 24 tableaux vividly depict the history of how Montreal was shaped.
You can even download this free app to better understand the circuit. And don’t worry about connectivity, there is excellent free WiFi everywhere.
Old Montreal is a very popular part of the city and most of the restaurants here are tourist traps. We suggest you either go for your evening cocktails at the Coldroom or Carter for a delicious Quebec meal before returning to your hotel.
Day 2 of 3 days in Montreal itinerary: Explore Mont-Royal and Mile End
Mount Royal Park is the highest point in the city at 243 m and if you want to reach the top for spectacular city views start your second day Montreal itinerary by reaching there early.
Take the Metro Line 2 to the Mont-Royal station and then bus 11-0 (West) to the park.
From jogging to cross-country skiing there are plenty of outdoor activities to participate in. The park has paddle boats and a nice picnic area as well. Every Sunday, during the summer the famous tam-tams play by the Cartier monument. The chalet and beaver Lake are the other name spots to hang out in.
Mont Royal is home to the highest terrace in the city Cafe Suspendu. This hanging cafe is a top draw during the summers and provides astonishing city views.
You can also spend a bit of time at the Soleil Belvedere which offers unparalleled views of the mountains and the surrounding areas. You can access Cafe Suspendu either on foot or bus numbers 711 or 11. (Note: Cafe is open only Friday thru Sunday)
Your next stop is Mile End, but before that unleash your taste buds at the Jean Talon Market, the largest open-air market of North America. It is located in the cool neighborhood of Mile End, between Le Plateau Mont Royal and Little Italy. Even if you don’t feel like buying anything you can interact with the locals and still have a gala time.
The Mile End also has the highest concentration of street art and musicians at Casa del Popolo. For shopping buffs there are some excellent outlets selling locally designed clothes like Unicorn or Annex Vintage. You can shop here for thrift clothing and used books.
There are two other nice spots which operate during Summers. One is the Le Marche des Possibles which serves good local food and beer and another is the terrace Aire Commune with activities like yoga and parties.
Just a bit south of Mile End is Plateau Mont is a fun neighborhood with quirky shops and third-wave coffee joints. You will find the best murals at Saint-Laurent Blvd, a place referred to as Little Paris.
Before you leave Mile End you just have to try out Montreal’s famous bagels. The two bakeries which try and outdo each other are Fairmount Bagel and Bagel St-Viateur. The latter however is a personal favorite especially the sea salt and rosemary ones.
If you still have some space left in the tummy, you get some of the best homemade gnocchi and salsa della nonna at La Drogheria Fine and round it off with an ice cream at Kem-Coba.
Day 3 of 3 days in Montreal itinerary: Visit the Olympic Stadium and hang out in downtown
The Line-1 subway will whisk you away from downtown Montreal to the Olympic Stadium complex in just 21 minutes. This is where all the magic of the 1976 Olympic games happened at the Space of Life.
There are several museums and science centers here as well, the Olympic Park and the Montreal Botanic Gardens.
The gigantic Olympic Stadium has not changed much since it opened and while the frenzy of the games is a thing of the past, a guided tour will take you to the observation deck of the Montreal Tower, which at 45° is the tallest inclined tower in the world.
If you happen to be here between May and October, you can enjoy the First Friday street food festival when food trucks line up here from all parts of the city.
Walk along the velodrome cycle track and a replica of the four ecosystems of America at the Biodome. While you see animals from boreal forests to the penguins of Antarctica, one thing sad is seeing such wonderful animals in captivity.
The Montreal Botanic Gardens are some of the best in the world, and are home to some fine horticultural marvels such as the First Nations Garden and the Chinese Garden which especially garners a lot of attention during the Lantern Festival.
The gardens were listed in 2008 as a National Historic Site of the country.
The Chinese Garden is a favorite as it is landscaped in the Ming Dynasty guidelines, complete with artificial mountains and a number of bonsai plants. The First Nations Garden, on the other hand, showcases medicinal and food plants of the First Nations community.
After you are through with strolling around the lush botanical gardens head back to the city center to visit the Gay Village and Quartier des Spectacles. The downtown core area is also a prime shipping destination with as many as five shopping centres located here, as also the Montreal Fine Arts Museum.
Lying East is the ultimate entertainment district of Montreal, Quartier des Spectacles which hosts hundreds of shows and festivals each week. This place is also the venue of other major events like the Montreal Jazz Festival in summer and Montreal en Lumiere in winter.
It is suggested to visit this part of the city late afternoon or after dark when it is at its liveliest best. An absolute must on any Montreal itinerary.
Further east is the Montreal Gay Village, another vibrant neighborhood, which as the name suggests comes alive during the summers with fun gender-bending cabaret performances.
Again since this area is very popular with visitors, eating dinner can result in paying much more for less. My advice is to stick to some reputed eating outlets like Pullman and Moleskin.
Alternate tour recommendations for Montreal 3 day itinerary
First-time visitors usually follow the tourist guide books to see all the top landmarks, but there is so much happening in this vibrant city that you can keep yourself thoroughly amused trying out some these things:
Montreal Food Tour:
An increasingly popular way of getting to know any new city is by way of a food tour. Not only that, this guided culinary excursion will not only introduce you to a variety of food stations, but past many historical landmarks as well. A delicious way to explore the iconic neighborhoods like Mile End and Old Montreal.
Apart from enjoying some of the best cuisine, guests get to meet new people and make friends, an ideal end to a day in Montreal.
There is much more than a park when you visit Parc Jean, it is a day spent in two islands which are full of adventure at every corner.
Jean-Drapeau is home to the large amusement park La Ronde, full of water based activities like an aquatic complex with a swimming pool, plus the Biosphere which hosts the notorious Osheaga Music Festival from August 2-4 every year.
Twilight Sculpture Garden:
Tucked away in the corner of Van-Home Avenue and Saint-Urban street the Twilight Sculpture Garden is an oasis of creativity and a living example of Montreal’s joie de vivre attitude of art. This former gas station turned home for the many works of Le Mesurier, the place is a fantastic spot for a photo shoot or to rest weary legs.
Montreal itinerary 3 days sightseeing map
Day trips from Montreal Quebec
Whether by bus, car or train, you are never more than a couple of hours away from exploring exciting and incredible day trips when visiting Montreal. You can also opt for a day tour on any of the 3 days in Montreal.
To help you on the way, we have outlined a few of them.
Mont Tremblant: (less than 2 hours by car)
Known better by most Canadians and international travelers as a popular ski resort, Mont Tremblant turns into a piece of paradise once the snow has gone. This picture-perfect town on the slopes of the Laurentian Mountains lies just 90 minutes northeast of Montreal inside a national park and is considered a great one day getaway from Montreal.
For hiking enthusiasts, there are dozens of walking routes, notably Grand Nord and Manicou.
Omega Park: (less than 2 hours by car)
For nature buffs, the Omega Park is the ideal place near Montreal to disappear for a day.
The place lies approximately ninety minutes away from Montreal and provides an endless photo opportunities to capture images of the iconic wildlife found here. This historical sanctuary, right in the heart of Canada, allows visitors to embark on a drive-thru safari for spotting bears, bisons, moose, elk and wolves in their natural habitat.
The safari inside the park takes about four hours to complete, with stops enroute for photography or short hikes.
The Eastern Townships: (less than 2 hours by car)
From lush green countryside to stately manor homes and thriving wineries, The Eastern Townships have it all. Located only two hours by road from Montreal this place is a collection of 31 villages and towns set amidst a backdrop of some breathtaking mountain scenery.
One of the must-see destinations is the quaint village of Magog where you should jump on a boat to cruise down Lake Memphremagog to try and catch a glimpse of their very own legendary river monster.
Still better is Bleu Lavande, Canada’s largest lavender farm where you can enjoy a picnic in a field blooming with lavenders.
Quebec City: (3 hours by car)
One of the oldest cities in Canada and home to Place Royale, the most photogenic and historical landmark, Quebec is a great option for a road trip from Montreal. Moreover, Old Quebec is the only walled city you will come across this side of North of Mexico and a UNESCO World Heritage site as well.
Some of the major tourist draws here are the Montmorency Falls and the beautiful shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre. It is recommended not to miss the National Assembly of Quebec and the National Museum of Fine Arts, one of the best art museums in Canada.
You will need to start early to return to Montreal on the same day as the one way drive takes about three hours. Alternatively, you can also book a day tour and let someone else take you there 🙂
Additional Montreal travel tips
When visiting Montreal, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make the most of your trip.
First, be sure to pack appropriate clothing for the season. Montreal can be very cold in the winter, so if you’re visiting during that time of year, be sure to pack accordingly. Spring and summer are typically much milder, but you’ll still want to pack a jacket or sweater for cooler evenings.
Don’t forget to wear comfortable walking shoes!
Another thing to keep in mind is that Montreal is a very French-speaking city. While many people do speak English, it’s always helpful to know a few key phrases in French. This will help you navigate the city and make the most of your trip.
We did cover transportation modes and costs above. We recommend getting the Passport MTL. This will come in very handy, especially the three day version as it will give you access to nearly 30 of the best Montreal attractions and unlimited use of public transport.
An excellent way not only to save money on entrance fees, but also saves time by jumping the regular queue lines.
Note that a single-ride fare on the metro costs $3.25 CAD, and a day pass is available for $10 CAD. If you’ll be using the metro frequently during your stay in Montreal, it’s worth considering purchasing a multi-day or weekly pass.
Taxis and Uber are also available in Montreal, and offers a convenient and affordable way to get around the city. Uber fares are typically cheaper than taxi fares, and can be paid for directly through the app.
Budget travelers to Montreal should plan on putting aside $100 CAD per day, which includes a night at a hostel dorm or budget hotel, food from the supermarket and limited sightseeing. Mid-range visitors should budget between $150 – 250 CAD, with stay in an appropriate accommodation, meals out and all attractions.
There are a number of ways to save money in Montreal:
- Early spring and late fall is the shoulder season. If you travel during these times you pay much less on hotel rates.
- Montreal is a very walkable city, so rely on your two feet, especially if you want to explore it neighborhood by neighborhood. If you do get tired, switch to public transport, which is not only very cheap but convenient as well.
- When you go sightseeing, keep in mind that many popular attractions like Vieux-Montreal, St Joseph’s Oratory and Parc du Mont-Royal do not charge any entry fee.
If you want to change money, banks are best avoided as they charge heavy transaction fees whenever you try and buy something across the border. So either carry enough Canadian dollars or hit the ATMs to withdraw cash for your day-to-day expenses.
You are bound to come across 5-a-7 signs when moving about in Montreal. These will be displayed outside bars, clubs and restaurants which are offering heavy discounts in drinks and food during certain hours of the day. So keep your eyes open, especially if you are on a budget trip.
For food, don’t miss out on poutine. Poutine is a mouth-watering French-Canadian dish which is a must-try for anyone visiting Montreal. You will find these chips with cheese curds being sold on food trucks all over the city, but the best place to taste them are Brown Sauce at Restaurant AA or Tandoori at Chez Claudette.
The safety factor of Montreal is another reason why the quality of life of the people of Montreal is outstanding. Still, it is not the safest city in Canada and one needs to be wary of suspicious people.
Montreal is much safer than most American and European cities, but it is always advisable to exercise some common sense, especially after sundown. Avoid hot spots like rue Ste-Catherine and rue Ste-Denis as they attract rowdy crowds after dark.
Finally, be sure to enjoy all that Montreal has to offer. From its food and culture to its history and architecture, there is much to explore in this vibrant city. By following these tips, you can ensure that your trip to Montreal is a memorable one.
Are three days in Montreal enough?
To be honest, three days in Montreal, either as a getaway or as a part of a longer Canadian trip, is just about perfect. It will give you plenty of time to see all the important landmarks, try some great food and get to learn quite a bit about the city’s history.
In the end, it is all about good planning, which has been aptly reflected in this Montreal three-day itinerary.