Montreal is a city with history. It has a very long and beautiful French past (it was one of the first cities in Canada) making it one of Canada’s most historic places. With countless museums and galleries, the second largest botanical garden in the world, and parks scattered all over the city, there is plenty to keep you busy. In addition, the Old Town harks back to medieval Europe and the French-inspired cuisine and eclectic nightlife (especially the jazz clubs) leave little to dislike about this city. I first came here when I was 18 because it was the closest place to where I lived that allowed me to drink. Subsequent visits as an adult have only made me appreciate the city on a deeper level and it remains one of my favorite in North America. Use this guide to help you plan your next trip to Montreal!
Hostel prices – Hostels start around 15 CAD a night for a dorm room and 65 CAD for a private. With several award-winning hostels, there are a variety of options to choose from based on your budget and expectations. Free WiFi is standard, and all the top hostels in the city include free breakfast. Most are also all in the same area of town, so you don’t need to worry about picking the best location. If you prefer camping to hostels, there are a few options outside the city though they are quite expensive (30 CAD per night or more).
During the summer months, you can also rent an empty dorm room any one of Montreal’s universities. Prices vary depending on when you book, though expect to pay at least 50 CAD per night. Dorm rooms are technically available all year, though during the semester they are usually occupied.
Budget hotel prices – Montreal is an expensive city, and hotels (even the budget ones) are moderately priced. A double room at a budget hotel will begin 60 CAD (sometimes less during the winter). While WiFi is standard, you won’t find too many other amenities included with most budget hotels. As for Airbnb, you can find shared rooms for as little as 45 CAD per night. Entire homes/apartments will cost you around 150 CAD per night.
Average cost of food – Restaurants will average 40 CAD for dinner, including a glass of wine or beer. You can find some cheap eateries for around 13 CAD, as well as plenty of cheap sandwich shops, but if you want a nice meal, you’ll pay for it. If you are going to cook your own food, expect to pay between 55-90 CAD per week. Be sure to try Montreal bagels during your visit, and be sure to hit up a deli – the city is known for them!
Transportation costs – Tickets for one trip (including transfer) on the metro and buses are 3.25 CAD. If you purchase ten tickets at once you’ll save 6 CAD. Tourist passes offer unlimited travel on the bus and metro for periods of one day (10 CAD) or three days (18 CAD). Also, check the unlimited evening pass (6 pm-5 am) which is 5 CAD. Weekly passes will set you back about 25.75 CAD.
Suggested daily budget – 70-80 CAD / 52-60 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
- Self-guided walking tour – Montreal is a city best discovered on foot. It’s a cheap way to see the city. For a more serene walk – and less tourist crowded experience – head along the Lachine Canal. The natural landscape and historic buildings are worth seeing.
- Free art – The Museum of Contemporary Art is half-price Wednesday evenings from 5-9pm. Regular ticket cost varies between 10 CAD (student) and 15 CAD (adult). The Center of Design at the Université du Québec à Montréal presents works from Québec, Canada, and international designers. Admission is free and hours are Wed-Sun, noon-6pm. The Center Canadien d’Architecture is free on Thursday nights after 5:30pm, and it remains open until 9pm. For students, it’s free every day. On the last Sunday in May, more than 30 museums open their doors to the public for free, and six bus routes offer free transportation in between locations. Free bicycles are also available that day, too!
- Visit one of the public markets – The markets offer a look at local life and culture while having amazing cheap food and authentic drinks.
- Free ice skating in winter – Parc La Fontaine in the Plateau has a skating rink during the winter that is free. Other free rinks around the city include Lac aux Castors (or “Beaver Lake”) in Parc Mont Royal, the Quays of the Old Port of Montréal, and Parc Jeanne-Mance.
- Free tour of City Hall – From May-October, the city hall has a free 45-minute guided tour.
- Dance for free – On Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday nights during the summer, dance instructors lead-free ballroom dancing lessons in Parc Jean-Drapeau.
- Eat cheap sandwiches – Montreal eateries have great sandwiches that are usually under 8 CAD and will keep your stomach full for a while.
Top Things to See and Do in Montreal
- Museum of Fine Arts – With free admission for anyone under 30, this a cheap place to spend the day while soaking in some culture. It showcases many types of art including textiles. Temporary exhibitions have a separate admission, varying between 12-20 CAD.
- Mont Royal – Whether you like to jog, picnic, or just people-watch, this park offers a little bit of everything. During the warm summer months, the expect some great people watching.
- Old Montreal Walking Tour – Old Montreal is one of the most fascinating parts of the city. Visit a museum, attend one of the many exhibitions, or learn about some of Montreal’s history.
- Jean-Talon Market – The city’s largest market hosts hundreds of stalls in the middle of Little Italy. The square is surrounded by shops and small specialized grocers. It is a great place to have lunch or at least grab fresh food for later.
- Have a picnic at Mount Royal Park – During the summer months, this is a real happening part of the city. People come and play the drums while others relax and have a picnic. Every Sunday from May to October, hundreds of Montrealers gather near Sir George-Etienne Cartier monument to engage in various outdoors activities during a variety of summer festivals.
- Take a half-day bike tour – For about 70 CAD, you can take a three-hour, guided bike tour around the city to all the major sites. It’s a different way to explore this wonderful town and see much of the city in one day.
- Visit the Jardin Bontanique – Montreal houses the second largest botanical garden in the world. Opened in 1931, it offers something for the history buff as well and showcases ten greenhouses — a beautiful day for an inexpensive price.
- Parc La Fontaine – Whether you want to play beach volleyball, tennis, or just have a picnic while people-watching, this park has a little bit of it all and offers a very cheap afternoon. It also hosts a number of free performances.
- Le Plateau – This area combines scenic residential streets with hip shopping and dining. It’s the up and coming area of the city and is quite trendy.
- The Biodome – This biodome is the only one of its kind in the world and features four distinct ecosystems representing the four most beautiful habitats found in North, Central and South America. It is located in the former Olympic Games Velodrome. Admission is 20 CAD, with discounts for students and children.
- Ice skating – In the old port, you will find the only outdoor skating arena. Bear the cold of the outdoors for a few laps around the massive rink, a figure skating class or even a nightly concert.
- Take a boat ride – There are 45-minute tours of the harbor available, as well as 90-minute tours of the Lachine Canal. Boat tours are limited to 30 passengers, which makes for an even more enjoyable experience.
- Place des Armes – This is one of three main squares in the Old City. Near the core of downtown, it contains the Notre Dame Basilica, the first building of the Bank of Montreal, the New York Life building, and the Aldred Building. Very neat place to check out a variety of historic buildings.
- St. Joesph Oratory – Second in height only to that of St. Peter’s in Rome, this dome is an impressive sight and beauty. It is one of the most visited shrines in all of Canada with an incredible view from the basilica.