Things to do in Montreal

Exploring Hidden Gems in Montreal

Gear up for a deep dive into this iconic city — Montreal is more than meets the eye.

On Montreal’s surface lies a gilded land of light and color. Skyscrapers graze the clouds, while riverbanks teem with lush green life. It’s a metropolitan oasis begging to be explored. A first glance reveals countless things to do in Montreal. But closer inspection uncovers a map of buried treasure, unknown even to lifelong Montrealers.

Those willing to dig a little deeper will discover a realm of culture and history. Head out on an adventure through these storied streets. The city sings a secret song to travelers who can peer beneath its outer shell. Here are the hidden gems you’ve been missing in Montreal.

Old Montreal

The city’s oldest neighborhood still harbors a few secrets.

1. Château Ramezay - Musée et Site Historique de Montréal

A quiet slice of peaceful country life sits across from City Hall. The Château Ramezay brings the serenity of a rural French cottage to Montrealers looking to escape from the city’s busy streets. With its stone face and daintily pointed turret, the Château is an open invitation to luxuriate in a time long passed.

Wander through the halls for a peek at genuine 18th-century artifacts. Antique personal effects shine among the preserved furnishings, while guides dressed in period-specific garb illustrate an engaging history.

Take a walk in the Governor’s Garden beneath the shining sun. You can even enjoy lunch in the orchard or sprawl out on the lawn for a much-deserved rest.

2. Marché Bonsecours

Over a century of shopaholics have found their fix within the domed halls of Marché Bonsecours. The building has a crisp white facade, and it's a historic landmark easily recognizable in Montreal’s skyline. Inside, two stories of boutiques and restaurants welcome window shoppers eager to browse away the northern chill.

This hidden gem contains an eclectic assortment of shops. Handmade jewelry and locally designed fashion showcase some of Montreal’s fabulous creators, while decor shops invite onlookers to add regional flair to their homes.

Pop by Le Café des Arts to sip coffee surrounded by innovative artwork, or settle into Pub BreWskey for a casual glass of whiskey.

Photographer: Miguel Ausejo

3. Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours

Montreal is no stranger to historic chapels. This one pays homage to the life and legacy of a local saint. The Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours honors Marguerite Bourgeoys, a teacher and congregation leader who left her mark on Montrealers of all stripes.

A single step inside the city’s oldest chapel reveals two stunning altarpieces. Bourgeoys features in one of them, her luminous profile still shining on present-day Montreal.

Take in the magnificent feat of architecture, its complex carvings and details adding an essential gravity to the space. The adjoining museum also boasts an engaging archaeological site for visitors looking to dive deeper into the city’s history.

4. Lieu historique national de Sir-George-Étienne-Cartier

A legendary Canadian statesman is memorialized at this fascinating museum. The Lieu historique national de Sir-George-Étienne-Cartier offers an immersive trip into the city’s storied past. This is a space to relax and discover another era before returning to your own.

Step into Cartier’s home for a picture of politics and family life in 19th-century Montreal. Intricate architectural details and ornate furnishings offer a thrilling look into the tastes of the time.

A guided tour includes dedicated docents who share interesting anecdotes about Cartier’s life and home. Frozen in time, the house bridges the gap between yesterday and today, ushering in vital moments of reflection.

5. Lieu historique national du Canada du Canal-de-Lachine

As an island, Montreal is an aquatic city at heart. The Lieu historique national du Canada du Canal-de-Lachine connects Lake Saint-Louis with the Old Port, running far and wide through Montreal. For city dwellers, the site is a recipe for active outdoor fun.

Traverse the scenic grounds by bike or on foot for a pleasant afternoon. Manicured paths and trails take guests on a tour of the city’s industrial heritage, complete with stunning natural views. Adventurers enjoy kayaking and paddleboarding with unparalleled views of Montreal’s brilliant skyline.

6. The Alleyways of Old Montreal

The shadowy nooks and corners between Montreal’s oldest buildings are prime hidden gem locations. Old Montreal’s alleyways are infused with a rustic charm you won’t find anywhere else in the city.

These alleys resemble old country lanes, tucked between quaint boutiques and occasionally threaded with string lights. Plant life pokes through stone walkways as locals cut across the streets on their way home from the market.

Passing through, you might find yourself in front of a community garden or a massive mural. When you’re here in the secret halls between buildings, you become a true piece of Montreal’s puzzle.

Photographer: Maria Elena Zuñiga

Le Plateau-Mont-Royal

Hip hidden gems dot these trendy Montreal streets.

7. Murals on Saint-Laurent Boulevard

Creativity blossoms in Montreal. Imagination almost vibrates in the air, a siren’s song for artists needing a place to cultivate unique forms of expression. So, it’s no wonder Montreal’s art scene flourishes on the playful streets of Saint-Laurent Boulevard.

This street doubles as an open-air gallery. Armed with palettes and paint brushes, budding artists tackle three-story canvases. Massive pieces bring art to unsuspecting city dwellers in need of a creative revival.

Every year in June, the MURAL Festival sees dozens of painters craft new works atop the old in a grand showing of artistry that transforms the street itself.

8. Fontaine du Square Saint-Louis

Square Saint-Louis draws chic crowds with the promise of restaurants, shopping, and a hip, laid-back vibe. In the heart of this neighborhood lies Fontaine du Square Saint-Louis, an elegant column of cast iron basins emptying into a geometric base.

Decked with metallic acanthus leaves, the fountain is a crown jewel in the grassy park surrounding it. Visitors flock to this green oasis for peace and quiet. Amid the city’s bustle, park benches around the fountain offer peaceful places to unwind and escape. In such an idyllic scene, you might decide to stay put until the circle of streetlights turns on.

9. Café Santropol

Some days, you just crave a hearty plate of comfort food. If you’re in Montreal when the longing hits, this darling hole-in-the-wall should be your next stop. A quiet space with quirky decor and natural touches, Café Santropol is a comfort-seeker's dream.

Get cozy in this bright dining space, dotted with black-and-white photographs and adorned with hanging ferns. A trip here is like visiting an old friend with top-tier cooking skills. Warming soups and crunchy salads rule this vegan-forward menu. Towering sandwiches are a house specialty stuffed with fresh veggies and homemade spreads.

Desserts round out a stellar meal — six-layer carrot cake, anyone? — while inventive milkshakes add a cool sweetness to any meal. When the sun shines, nab a seat on the outdoor patio, where string lights reflect off the rock pond, and birds chirp in the branches above.

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10. Outdoor Staircases

There are countless things to do in Montreal. While you’re here, take some time to seek out a true local icon: the outdoor staircase. Spiral stairs line the city streets, a metal rainbow among the bricks and balconies.

The product of ancient zoning laws, these staircases are the product of a bygone era. Today, they’re an enduring symbol of Montreal’s past. Twisting steps and ornate handrails are sprinkled across Plateau-Mont-Royal. A trip through this neighborhood offers a glimpse into the city’s rich architectural history.

Lace up your walking shoes and keep your gaze trained on the next step as you watch these engineering marvels coil toward the clouds.

Mile End

Artsy mysteries abound in this creative capital.

11. Street Art Alleyways

True to its artful nature, Montreal’s Mile End blooms with creative expression. Art overflows onto the streets of this neighborhood, and there isn't a brick that's uncolored. Stroll through here on a clear day for a monumental art show teeming with imagination.

Keep your eyes trained on the walls as you navigate this maze of alleys. These pieces soar several stories high into the air for a larger-than-life viewing experience. Limited wall space means doors, fences, and sidewalks are fair game.

Meander through these streets, and be awestruck by the diverse group of artists turning Montreal into a city-sized museum.

12. Librairie Drawn & Quarterly

As master storytellers ourselves, we know the value of a good tale. And stellar stories are just what you’ll find at Librairie Drawn & Quarterly. Here, otherworldly adventures line the shelves, waiting for curious passersby to take a peek inside their pages.

Bookstore connoisseurs will find an immaculate atmosphere within these walls. Wooden shelves and warm lighting against a brick backdrop make for a deliciously cozy browsing experience. Literature, graphic novels, and a sprinkling of nonfiction titles dot the shelves and tables.

A full events calendar means you’re always on time for a reading. Carry your newest read to one of Montreal’s many parks for a delightful story session under the sky.

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13. Café Olimpico

Scrumptious coffee and tasty treats — a memorable Montreal morning doesn’t need much else. Grab a pal and head to Café Olimpico to partake in a decades-old local tradition. What began as a family gathering space quickly became a neighborhood staple.

Serving up traditional Italian desserts with a side of strong espresso, this café is the perfect place for a pick-me-up. Indulge in a toasty cappuccino on a cold day, or refresh yourself with a smooth iced Americano.

Whatever you do, don’t skip dessert. Sugar-dusted cornetti hides sweet almond paste, while cream-filled bomboloni turns any day into a special occasion. Buy a treat to share, or order two of everything — we wouldn’t blame you.

14. Vintage Shops in Mile End

What’s old is new on Avenue du Parc. A city with as much history as Montreal has plenty of bits and bobs to repurpose. Naturally, the local assortment of hand-me-down items makes for a hip thrifting scene.

Avenue du Parc hosts a high concentration of vintage boutiques. Here, you’ll find all the fixings for your home and closet. Try Annex Vintage for retro clothing and a fun array of glittery cosmetics. LNF Shop and Thrifterie both offer curated collections of clothing and accessories.

Spend a day here, and you’ll have a whole new outfit to wear to a Montreal live music show. If home decor is more your style, pop into Vintage Parc or BOND vintage to pack your place with flair.

Downtown

The heart of Montreal hides an epic subterranean secret.

15. Montreal’s Underground Tunnels

True buried treasure lurks beneath Montreal’s busy streets. The underground tunnels at Concordia University are just a part of a vast, underground network that resides below the city. The closer you get to the downtown core, you’ll be able to access a massive subsurface city beneath your feet. Don your explorer’s cap for an upside-down look at this sky-high metropolis, connecting metro stations with malls and high-rise buildings.

Far above, cars and buses race across crowded roads. But travelling by tunnel makes for a charmingly clandestine trip through the city.

When you’ve had your fill of underground thrills, pick a destination and catch a ride for easy access to landmarks and shopping centers — and maybe some of the best poutine in Montreal. No matter where you end up, the journey through these underground halls is a treat in itself.

Photographer: Steven Wright

Unlocking Montreal’s Hidden Wonders: A Final Reflection

To the newly trained eye, Montreal is an uncharted wonderland. Step onto its streets, and pass through a gateway of awe and fascination. Rediscovered history, creative exploits, and tasty marvels open the door for curious explorers who know where to look.

Follow us into the dark for another mystery unveiled. When the curtains are drawn and the lights flick on, we take you on a trip to a dream world of our own making. Outlandish is our signature trait. At the hands of our offbeat troupe of acrobats, you’re in for a performance unlike any other.

Get acquainted with a charming cast of characters as they set off on adventures with you at their sides. Studded with thrilling tricks and moving moments of enchantment and intrigue, this experience is so marvelous it begs to be shared. At our shows in Montreal, we'll take you on a journey through space, time, and dimensions.

The circus is in town, and it's calling your name. Get your tickets, and prepare to be amazed.

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