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BlogFive Musts for First-Time Visitors to Montreal

Five Musts for First-Time Visitors to Montreal

Written by E-QIP on January 16, 2020

If you’ve come to Montreal for work or school, it’s possible that checking out all of the city’s best attractions wasn’t high on your list of priorities. Even if you're surrounded by longtime residents, it’s common for locals to be far less familiar with their cities’ most-visited spots than the average tourist; how often do your local friends get to Beaver Lake or take a stroll along Old Port?

But those are exactly the type of activities that visiting friends and family will want to do the most, which gives you the opportunity to become a tourist in your own city. If you need a little inspiration before filling the role of tour guide (or simply want to know where to start with your own sightseeing), check out our list of sights, attractions and activities that will make both you and your guests fall in love with Montreal!

Experience Notre-Dame Basilica in a new light at Aura

Notre-Dame Basilica in Old Montreal is one of the most famous attractions in the city, and now there’s even more reason to visit thanks to AURA Basilica, a light and sound show that highlights and enhances the existing beauty of the architecture. The show runs Thursday to Saturday evenings in January (and Monday to Saturday from March to October) and includes multimedia installations and an immersive light show. The decadent, centuries-old basilica is open to visitors in the daytime as well, but we recommend an evening visit if you want to show your guests a side of going to church they haven’t seen before. 

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Put the culinary introduction into someone else’s hands with a food tour

Montreal is worth a visit for the food alone, but with so many iconic items to be found, figuring out which spots to check out can be an overwhelming task. Luckily, walking food tours exist to take the decision making process out of your hands. Local Food Tours takes hungry visitors and locals alike on culinary journeys through Mile End, Old Montreal and the Plateau, stopping at some of the best spots for Montreal classics like bagels, Portuguese chicken and smoked meat. 

Discover the murals of the Plateau

Montreal is full of gorgeous street art, the biggest concentration of which is in the Plateau. It’s entirely possible to live in the Plateau for years and still discover new murals all the time. There are a few solid guides available online, but if you’re looking to be surprised, grab a hot chocolate and simply wander east or west from St. Laurent and see what you can find. 

Get your five a day at Jean-Talon and Atwater markets

Playing tourist typically involves a lot of dining out, but even in a food-lover’s paradise like Montreal, the lure of a fresh, home-cooked meal can sometimes trump even the best restos (especially when your body needs a break from the fries and cheese curds). In a city full of markets, our favourite are Jean-Talon and Atwater, where you can find fresh produce as well as merchants hawking cheeses, meats, oils, maple products, flowers, baked goods and other snacks. Stock up on veggies and create the locally-grown salad of your guests' dreams, or fill your basket with fruit, cheese, meat and bread (and a bottle of wine) and treat them to a winning charcuterie board. 

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Get jazzy at a jazz club 

The International Jazz Festival is one of the most anticipated events of the year, but you can enjoy jazz all year round at one of Montreal’s beloved clubs. Montreal has been a hub for jazz since the days of Prohibition, when Americans shut out of alcohol-serving establishments south of the border flocked to the suddenly-flourishing cabarets of Montreal. Downtown’s Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill is considered one of the very best and has live music seven nights a week, but there’s jazz to be found throughout the city.

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