Even with the best-planned vacations, it seems like there’s never enough time to do it all. And when time is tight, squeezing in everything on your wish list feels even more impossible. Quick trips may not be ideal, but if you’re willing to relax and enjoy them for what they are, they can offer a fun-filled peek into a new-to-you destination, especially when it comes to exploring cities like Montreal. Here are our picks for getting the most out of a whirlwind tour in this classic Quebec city.
Go for a Spin & Turn Heads
A bike-friendly city, you’d be amazed by how much Montreal ground you can cover on two wheels. Spade & Palacio runs a number of bike tours designed to give riders a local perspective into the French-speaking city of more than 4 million. (Don’t worry, English is commonly spoken as well.) The Beyond the Bike Lanes tour highlights the city’s rich collection of street art, taking time to stop and explain the history and stories behind the colorful murals.
It also introduces visitors to neighborhoods and charming residential areas they might not discover on their own, as well as hotspots like Montréal’s Gay Village. The canopy of multi-colored balls that come together to create a unique rainbow flag atop the neighborhood’s main drag is smile inducing. During summer months the artery is pedestrian only, so you’ll have to get off and walk your bikes, but that’s just fine because it gives more time to soak in the festive surroundings.
Be prepared to turn heads as you roll through town. The bikes used by Spade & Palacio come from a local bike shop that recycles old bike frames. To add just the right finishing touch, they’re painted hot pink, making it next to impossible not to get noticed.
Go to New Heights
You may not have time to visit all of the city’s iconic landmarks, but you can still see many of them with one scenic trip to the Observatorie Place Ville Marie. Set on the 46th floor, you can get the lay of the land from high above Montreal. Keep your eyes peeled for sights like the Saint Lawrence River, Old Montreal, and the Olympic Stadium.
Go to Church
It’s not what you think. Not even close.
On select afternoons and evenings, the Notre-Dame Basilica (built between 1824 and 1829) hosts Aura, a light and sound show. Projected throughout the Basilica, colorful lasers and lighting combine with the church’s Gothic Revival architecture to create visual effects set to a music soundtrack performed by more than 30 musicians, and 20 choir singers. The Basilica’s organ is also featured. Show goers are encouraged to walk around the uniquely lit Basilica before grabbing a seat in a pew for the main multimedia performance. Plan on about 45 minutes total.
Go to Sleep, Eventually
Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth reopened its doors in July 2017 after a major one-year $105-million ($140 CAD) renovation. Set in downtown Montreal, the hotel boasts 950 guestrooms, a fitness center with indoor pool, and an assortment of bars and eateries.
If you’re in the mood to splurge, you can stay in the John Lennon and Yoko Ono Suite. It’s the room where the iconic couple held their “bed-in” protest, and where the song “Give Peace a Chance” was recorded. Rates start range from $1,686 ($2,249 CAD) to $1,807 ($2,409 CAD) a night.