The Best Places to Stay in Montreal – Tips and Advice
- Why visit Montreal: Montreal is a city in the province of Québec, Canada. It is known for its deep ties to arts and culture, fine food, incredible views, and its residents’ fantastic taste in wine.
- What is the best time of year to go to Montreal: Winters are incredibly snowy in Montréal. If you can manage the cold, the winter can be one of the most beautiful times of year to visit, particularly during the holidays. But if you dislike the cold, aim for summer or fall instead.
- Can you visit Montreal on a budget: Absolutely. Relative to other Western cities of its size, Montréal is very affordable. Even on a pretty tight budget, you should be able to enjoy a few delightful meals, and maybe even a show or two. Hostel beds in the city are usually around $20-$25 CAD.
Montréal is Québec’s most popular city, and if you’ve ever been you probably know why. With a distinctly European vibe and an affinity for the arts, Montréal has a certain charm that draws thousands of tourists every year.
Montréal’s core is easy to navigate and mostly walkable, although the city’s excellent public transportation can shuttle you anywhere you deem too far to hoof it. However, you may want to walk as this is a city staunchly dedicated to public art; hundreds of sculptures, murals, and photography installations lurk around every turn, and you could miss them by descending into the subway.
Dining, as you might imagine, is taken very seriously here. The French influences on Québecois culture are clear and welcome, and you’ll find many small spots serving elegant French-inspired fare at ridiculously reasonable prices.
And when you consider that you can score a room in some of the cities most luxurious hotels for as little as $200 a night, you might wonder why you haven’t visited Montréal sooner.
Both more affordable and, for North Americans, much easier to reach than the likes of Paris, this mostly French-speaking city draws visitors for business, pleasure, and everything in between. To the uninitiated, Montréal can prove a delightful destination for a much-needed city-break, and you won’t have to break the bank to do it.
Montréal Neighborhood Guide
As a tourist, you’re probably looking to stay in Montréal’s core. But even within the center of the city are several neighborhoods that each have their own character, flavor, and attributes. Your own personal traveling style and itinerary will help guide you to pick a property to some extent, but a little know-how on what each section of town is like can help you make your decision.
Whether you’re in the market for a hotel near quirky cafes or world-class arts institutions, there is a ton of variety here as far as accommodations. From luxury Centre-Ville suites to the hostels of Village Gai, there’s something in Montréal for every type of traveler, no matter your budget.
The 6 Best Areas To Stay In Montreal
1. Centre-Ville (Downtown)
Montréal’s Downtown core is cosmopolitan without sacrificing charm. You’ll find the trappings of any major metro Downtown here – skyscrapers, city and provincial offices, and financial institutions – but you’ll also find some of the greatest cultural touchstones in the city.
Some of Montréal’s greatest museums are in Centre-Ville. If your trip is only a handful of days you may not be able to visit them all, but there are a few that are regular entries on a tourist’s itinerary.
The largest art museum in all of Canada, the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts is not just a powerhouse of fine art in Quebec, but in the nation. Featuring works by both Canadian and International masters spread throughout 5 pavillions, this massive institution is the center from which the arts scene in Montréal pivots.
The McCord Museum, on the eastern edge of McGill University, preserves and exhibits Canadian history. Their collection includes ethnological and archeological objects, textiles, a photographic archive and more.
Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal showcases 20th and 21st century art. Of the 1,500 artists whose work is displayed within, about 1,200 of them are still living. Their exhibitions focus on the display of Quebecois artists, but you will also find work from folks across the nation as well as some crucial pieces by international artists.
But Montréal’s Downtown isn’t all arts and culture, there’s a robust nightlife scene here with a myriad of bars and clubs. The selection of Irish pubs is particularly robust here, and a huge draw for many out-of-towners. There are many, but you can check out Hurley’s Irish Pub, McKibbin’s Irish Pub, and Le Vieux Dublin to give you a good introductory to Montréal’s pub scene.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN DOWNTOWN MONTREAL
($$$) • Hôtel Birks Montréal • Place Phillips
($$) • Entire Condominium • Crescent
($) • HI Montreal • Mackay
2. Quartier Des Spectacles
Within the northern end of downtown lies the Quartier des Spectacles, the Quebecois hub for all things theater, music, and performance. From small independent performance spaces to huge cultural arenas, this is the place to stay if your travel goals include dinner and a show every night.
Probably the most famous performing arts center in the province is located here, the impressive Place des Arts. Home to the Montréal Symphony Orchestra, the Opéra de Montréal, and Quebec’s most renowned ballet troupe, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, this is the center of the classic art performance in the city.
Within the complex, there are actually six different halls for different purposes, and they also showcase cinema, theater, and sometimes even multimedia exhibitions.
If your taste in entertainment isn’t quite so “refined,” La Vitrine should be able to sort you out. This cultural center offers information about the arts scene in Montréal, as well as a box office carrying tickets for various shows all over town.
Their offerings span several genres, including comedy, contemporary music, and improv shows. If you check out their box office midday, there’s a good chance you could get a great deal on a show that evening.
One thing you’ll definitely want to do before you leave is experiencing the Luminous Pathway. From Thursday to Sunday from dusk until 11 pm, lights and projections colorfully illuminate the buildings along a designated path.
Quartier des Spectacles is home to several public spaces and squares. If you ever have a few minutes free, grab a coffee and head to any of them to do a little people-watching and get a feel for the neighborhood. The Place des Festivales is the most popular, and as its name might imply, it is used frequently for public events and festivals.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN QUARTIER DES SPECTACLES
($$$) • Grand loft avec cuisine et charme • St. Laurent Blvd
($$) • Hotel Zero 1 Montreal • René Levesque
($) • View of Montreal • Sherbrooke
3. Vieux-Montreal (Old Town)
Packed with character, Old Town is a walkable neighborhood on the edge of Downtown. Here you’ll find postcard-perfect streets, historic architecture, and some of Montréal’s most enviable addresses. While real estate and rental prices here can be staggering, there are still some great deals to be found if you’re visiting Old Town on a budget.
When you first arrive, a great way to get the lay of the land is to climb the clock tower. Demarcating the entrance to the port, this hundred-year-old clock tower has also served as a lighthouse. Inside are 192 steps that you can climb to see an incredible view of the St. Lawrence river. It’s open every day from 6 am until midnight, and the entrance is free.
Once you’ve climbed the clock tower, you’ll be ready to see the rest of the Old Port. To simplify things, you can pick up an Attractions Card that will give you discounted admission to a bunch of fun activities in the area. The Old Port attractions card features a ride on La Grande-Roue de Montréal, a day cruise aboard the Bateau-Mouche, a zip-lining excursion, and pedal-boat rental.
Built during a time when Montréal was gripped by a revival of gothic architecture, the Notre-Dame Basilica, though not as old as it might appear, it has nonetheless been standing for nearly 200 years. Situated on one side of the Place d’Armes, it attracts thousands of tourists a year who come to gape at its incredible interior.
Maybe most impressive are the stained glass windows that depict the founding of Montreal. The windows were designed in Canada, but they were crafted in France and shipped across the Atlantic for installation.
And when the sun is about to fall, you can head to Rue Saint-Paul, the oldest street in Montréal. In 1672 when it was first paved, it was the major thoroughfare of the city. Today, many sections of the road are still paved in cobblestones, a nod to its historic past. Lines with boutiques and galleries, you’ll also find the impressively domed Bonsecours Market.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN OLD TOWN
($$$) • Lux Rustic Home • Notre-Dame St. East
($$) • Le Petit Hotel Montreal • Saint-Paul
($) • The Alternative Hostel of Old Montreal • Rue Saint Pierre
4. Plateau Mont-Royal
The city’s sanctuary for students and artists, Le Plateau is an affordable neighborhood just next to Mont-Royal National Park. Creatives of all types use every opportunity to express themselves along the streets of Le Plateau, and you’ll see public art, indie theaters, and even the occasional ad-hoc concert held down a hidden alleyway.
To help you get into the spirit of things, stop by one of Le Plateau’s quaint bars for Montréal’s version of happy hour, called a 5 à 7. Whether you prefer a classic French brasserie like at Buvette Chez Simone or something a little more divey like the beloved Bar le Sparrow, taking an early evening respite for a glass of wine and a bite will help acclimate you to the neighborhood.
If you decide to stay in Le Plateau, definitely use the opportunity to see a local show. If you prefer the theater, you can check out what the neighborhood’s quirky, community-run darling, Mainline Theater has on its calendar during your stay.
If comedy is more your vibe, Impro Montréal has live improv in both French and English. And if you love independent film, the vintage-esque Cinéma du Parc shows a selection of carefully curated indie movies.
Although Le Plateau has a vast selection of elegant fine dining and inventive eateries, this neighborhood is most famous for its poutine. This Canadian comfort food is a staple in Montreal, and staying in Le Plateau will give you the opportunity to find your favorite.
If you want to try the “fancy” stuff, check out La Banquise, where they add all manner of additional ingredients to the requisite fries, cheese curds, and gravy to create a truly unique experience. But if you just want to stick to the traditional variety, Patati Patata is widely known for having some of the best traditional poutine in all of Montréal.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN PLATEAU MONT ROYAL
($$$) • Experience Luxury • Rue Garnier
($$) • Le Gite du Plateau Mont-Royal • Rue Sherbrooke
($$) • Pied-A-Terre • Christophe Colomb
Formerly a very industrial part of town that housed most of Montréal’s factories, today Hochelaga-Maisonneuve is part working-class residents and part opportunistic hipster. As the manufacturing industry continued to decline throughout the 20th century, the demographics of this neighborhood began to shift dramatically.
Falling rental prices brought young people from across the city to take advantage of relatively affordable apartments. This mix of influences has made today’s HoMa, as the locals call it, quite an interesting place. Here you’ll find trendy cafes immediately next door to a generations-old, family-style diner, and everything in between.
In the very north end of HoMa is where you’ll find the Olympic Park. Originally built for the 1976 Summer Olympics, today you can visit to go rock climbing, skateboarding, or swimming in their literally Olympic-sized pool. You can also take a funicular to the top of the tallest inclined tower in the world, the Montréal Tower.
But probably the most unique attraction in HoMa is the Space for Life museum district. Bringing together several like-minded institutions under one umbrella, Space for Life combines a botanical garden, a planetarium, an insectarium, and more all on one museum campus.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN HOCHELAGA-MAISONNEUVE
($$$) • Gite Du Survenant • Avenue Desjardins
($$) • The Perfect Montreal Apartment • Rue Hochelaga
($) • Maison Montplaiser • Avenue Desjardins
6. Village Gai (Gay Village)
As you might infer from the name, Gay Village is the spiritual and literal home of the LGBTQ+ community in Montréal. It is a hub for some of the most incredible nightlife in all of Montréal, as well as for counterculturalists of all stripes. This is a neighborhood for creatives and professionals alike, though it certainly caters to those who like to burn a little midnight oil.
Flanking the mile-long Rue Sainte-Catherine, this compact neighborhood is extremely welcoming to tourists. If you’ve found yourself at a cafe or on a barstool unsure of where to go next, feel free to ask someone! Locals in this neighborhood are often excited to share their personal favorite haunts.
If you’re not sure where to start, drop by O’Thym which has a small, but exquisite menu. But be sure to stop by the nearby SAQ Express for a bottle of wine before you go, because this restaurant is a BYOB, meaning you are more than welcome to bring the booze of your own choosing.
After the sun goes down is when the neighborhood really comes alive. If you want to start out a bit more slowly, try the rooftop patio at Complexe Sky, which even has a jacuzzi if you’re so inclined. When you’re ready to visit a proper club, the legendary disco Unity Club should fit the bill with its signature touring DJs and room for thousands of dancing bodies.
While you’re in town, you should make time to see at least one drag show. With its weekly shows interspersed with special events, there’s bound to be something that piques your interest at the iconic Cabaret Mado. Or, if you’d like to join in on some of the fun, you can check out Le Bar Cocktail which also has karaoke.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN GAY VILLAGE
($$) • Logan Studio • Visitation Street
($) • Alexandrie-Montréal • Atateken
($) • M Montreal • Rue Saint Andre
Montréal is a culturally diverse city divided into many different pockets of life and activity. Just in the center of town alone, there are so many different locales to choose from when you’re considering your first visit.
But in addition to the different offerings of each individual neighborhood, it’s good to take into account the reason for your trip. Are you in town on business? For a bachelorette party? Your own personality and needs are just as important to consider as the character of Montréal’s various neighborhoods.
But no matter why you’re visiting Montréal, this storied Québec metropolis is certain to meet your expectations. Over 10 million tourists visit Montréal every year, and hopefully, soon you’ll be one of them.
Best Luxury Hotel in Montréal: ($$$) • Hôtel Birks Montréal • Downtown
Best Boutique Hotel in Montréal: ($$) • Le Petit Hotel Montreal • Old Town
Best Cheap Hotels in Montréal: ($) • M Montreal • Gay Village
Best Family Hotel in Montréal: ($$$) • Grand loft avec cuisine et charme • Quartier Des Spectacles
Best Romantic Hotel in Montréal: ($$$) • Le Mount Stephen • Downtown