The Ultimate Self-Guided Montreal Walking Tour

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The Ultimate Self-Guided Montreal Walking Tour

Ah… Montreal. One of the most delightful cities in all of Canada, Montreal has endless amounts of incredible sights to see, from the enchanting architecture in Old Montreal to the breathtaking views from Mount Royal. And what better way to explore the city than on a self-guided Montreal walking tour?

Now, exploring Montreal on foot in just one day might sound impossible, but with this ultimate Montreal walking tour in your back pocket, you’ll be ready to rise to the challenge.

Granted, we won’t be able to see the entire city of Montreal — it’s the second-largest French speaking city in the world, after all. But if you’ve only got one day, this free Montreal walking tour will show you the best way to spend it. 

The side of a building in downtown Montreal

And not to worry, I’ll take you through this travel itinerary from morning til night, including tips for getting around Montreal, costs, and the best places to stop!

My Self-Guided Montreal Walking Tour at a Glance

  1. Mont Royal Park and Lookout
  2. Saint-Laurent Boulevard
  3. Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal (Optional Stop)
  4. Chinatown
  5. Montreal Underground City (Optional Stop)
  6. Old Montreal
  7. Old Port of Montreal
  8. La Grande Roue de Montréal

How Long Will This Montreal Free Walking Tour Take?

Not including the time spent at each stop, this self-guided Montreal walking tour will take an estimated 1 hour and 45 minutes of pure walking from place to place. 

However, plan to start relatively early in the morning and set aside an entire day. That way, you can really take your time and check out all the cool things to see and do. As you’re about to find out, there are lots!

A view of downtown Montreal at dusk, with the buildings lit up and the dark blue sky covered in wispy clouds on a free walking tour Montreal

Tips for Making the Most out of your Walking Tour

  • Choose a relatively small area packed with interesting sights (done — just read below!).
  • Pack a light load with some snacks and a bottle of water.
  • Wear comfortable shoes that you know won’t give you blisters.
  • Bring a change of socks, just in case.
  • Wear layers, as the temperature may rise and fall from morning to afternoon and night!

Now, let’s begin with the tour!

The Perfect Self-Guided Montreal Walking Tour

1. Mount Royal Park and Lookout

The viewpoint of the Montreal skyline and buildings from Mount Royal Lookout in the winter, with the light sky streaked with white clouds - the first stop on our Montreal walking tour!

Say “Mount Royal” three times fast. Does it sound familiar?

That’s right, this park is where the city of Montreal got its name! Needless to say, there’s no better place to start your free walking tour of Montreal than at its namesake. 

Mount Royal Park is located on a hill, so be prepared to do a little physical exercise. If you’re really not feeling it, you can also take the bus number 11 from the corner of avenue du Park and avenue du Mont-Royal Est to the Remembrance/Chemin du Chalet stop. This will leave you a short walk away from the Mount Royal Lookout!

A snow-covered wooden staircase surrounded by barren trees and thick snow on the hike going up Mount Royal - one of the best things to do in the winter in Montreal!

However, as the day is young and your tour has just begun, I recommend doing the 25-minute nature walk up the side of the mountain on foot. 

After all, that’s what Canada is known for — rocks and trees and trees and rocks — and it wouldn’t be a true Montreal walking tour without seeing any!

Take the Chemin Olmsted from the monument up to the staircase. There will be signs for the “Chalet du Mont-Royal,” “Belvédère,” and “Point de Due” — the latter is what you want to follow to reach the breathtaking view of the city skyline. 

Several people lazing around on the green grass and walking and biking around a small clear pond in Mount Royal Park in the summer!

In the summer, you’ll find dozens of joggers, bikers, and picnickers, but Mont Royal Park is an excellent place to find things to do in the winter in Montreal too. Cross-country skiing is a popular option, but you can also just stroll around and admire how mother nature transforms the leafless forest into a snow-capped winter fairy-tale.

Low angle photo of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, Canada

Planning a day trip from Montreal to Ottawa? If so, click here to read my self-guided Ottawa walking tour!

2. Saint-Laurent Boulevard

  • Opening Hours: None (outdoors)
  • Cost: Any food you buy on the way
  • Time Estimate: 30-60 minutes

Back down at the monument, you’re just a few blocks away from the Boulevard Saint-Laurent. Take your time to walk down this street nicknamed “The Main” as you head towards the river. 

Boulevard Saint-Laurent is teeming with boutiques, shops, cafés, clubs, bars, and restaurants, and the famous Schwartz’s smoked meat deli if you get the munchies. 

The red street signs at a intersection at the Boulevard Saint-Laurent, a stop on our self-guided Montreal walking tour, including the "Rue Notre-Dame" and "Boulevard Saint-Laurent"

And make sure to keep your eyes wide open for the beautiful murals that decorate this street. But don’t dawdle too long; there are lots more sights to see on your Montreal walking tour, and you surely don’t want to miss them! 

3. (Optional) Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal 

  • Opening Hours: To be determined once reopened
  • Cost: Previously $10 
  • Time Estimate: 1-1.5 hours
  • Website: https://macm.org/en/

The Museum of Contemporary Art of Montreal was founded in 1964 with just a couple hundred works of art, and has since grown into a collection of over 8,000 art pieces by artists from Quebec and around the world. The art shows remarkable diversity, embracing historically significant events, current societal issues, and emerging practices.

This stop on your Montreal walking tour is optional, and in fact, until December 2021, it’s out of the tour entirely, as the museum building closed for reconstruction in June of 2021.

3 people sitting on a wooden bench at a contemporary art museum, with the walls painted bright yellow, mustard yellow, and navy blue

The renovations will take four years to complete, doubling the building’s size and turning the museum into a representation of the very thing it houses — contemporary art. 

In the meantime, a temporary museum space will open in the nearby Place Ville-Marie, and will include exhibitions and creative workshops. 

This temporary relocation will open in late 2021, so if art is what you crave, wait to take your Montreal walking tour until after the holiday season!

4. Chinatown

  • Opening Hours: None (outdoors)
  • Cost: Any food or souvenirs you buy
  • Time Estimate: 1.5-2 hours
The food offered in open containers at a small shop in Chinatown, the perfect stop on your Montreal weekend getaway

It you’re a budget traveler looking for free things to do in Montreal, then Chinatown is a definite must! Just stroll around the block-sized neighborhood and let your eyes feast on the colorful streets soaked in history. 

Montreal’s Chinatown is one of the oldest Asian communities on the North American continent, emerging in the 1890s as Chinese immigrants moved from west to east on the newly built Canadian Pacific Railway. Most of them settled in Montreal, creating a residential neighborhood which has since become largely commercial.

This area is basically one large block, bordering rue Saint-Dominique, Boulevard René-Lévesque Ouest, avenue Viger Ouest, and rue Jeanne-Mance. It’s sliced in the middle by rue de la Gauchetière Ouest and Boulevard Saint-Laurent, where most of the businesses are concentrated. 

The slightly empty streets of Montreal Chinatown on a sunny day, with some cars passing by, a few people walking ahead, and some construction equipment

If you walk along the borders of Chinatown, you’ll find the four ornate gateways, or “paifang”, marking the entrances to the area. I highly recommend checking them out, as no other Chinatown in Canada has this many pairings! 

Of course, there are many other things worth seeing in Montreal’s Chinatown, including:

  • The “May an Old Song Open a New World” mural: Prepare a good pose before you come here, as this is one of the most Instagrammable spots in Montreal!
  • The Wing Building, built by the same architect as the Notre-Dame Basilica.
  • Place Sun Yet Sen: a public square with a traditional Chinese decorative structure that doubles as a souvenir shop.
  • The Lee Family Association and Wong Won Su Association, where newly arrived Chinese immigrants received support and counseling. Today, a display of photos and artifacts offers you a peek into the immigrant’s journey.
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Interested in my other Canadian walking tours? If so, click here to read my self-guided walking tour of Vancouver, BC!

5. (Optional) Montreal Underground City

  • Opening Hours: Varies by business, but usually 10 am-9 pm Monday to Friday, 10 am-6 pm Saturday, and 11 am-5 pm Sunday
  • Cost: Any souvenirs, items, or food you buy
  • Time Estimate: 1-2 hours
  • Website: https://montrealundergroundcity.com/

If you need a change of scenery, why not dive down into Montreal’s Underground City? 

Water spurting out of a small fountain in the Montreal Underground City, lit purple and reaching towards the ceiling

This optional stop will take you into a subterranean labyrinth right under the heart of the city. Stretching over 33 kilometers, the Underground City connects metro stations to shopping plazas, with every possible form of activity along the way.

If you’re lost, just follow the RÉSO network signs that tell you where things are located, from artisanal souvenir shops and stylish boutiques to endless food and entertainment options. Colorful fountains and extensive playgrounds also offer plenty of things to do with kids in Montreal!

Works left by the Art Souterrain Festival make sure art-lovers get their fill, while free Wi-Fi and the Espace Services charging station keep even the biggest social media addicts content. Basically, there is something here for every traveler. 

Jackets and button-down shirts hung up on racks in a men's clothing store in the Underground City in Montreal

Diving into this underground pedestrian network is also a great way to escape the sweltering heat or face-numbing cold that frequently invades the city streets, all without holing yourself up at home. If you’re looking for things to do in winter in Montreal, look no further than the Underground City!

You could easily spend the entire day in the Underground City, but don’t lose track of time, because your Montreal walking tour isn’t quite over yet!

6. Old Montreal

  • Opening Hours: None (outdoors)
  • Cost: Varies, depending on the souvenirs or food you purchase
  • Time Estimate: 1-2 hours

Now, it’s time for our Old Montreal self guided walking tour!

The charming pedestrian streets and buildings' exterior of Old Montreal in the summer, perfect for Montreal solo travel, with some travelers walking on the cobble-stoned streets

This stop is practically made for Montreal walking tours, as it’s Montreal’s historic center.

The word “historic” might feel somewhat exaggerated when it’s applied to buildings built predominantly in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially when you compare it to Europe where you can casually stroll past buildings that date back to hundreds of years BCE. But for a country that only recently celebrated its 150th birthday, 300 years is practically ancient. 

Needless to say, Old Montreal will give you a taste of Canadian history, with its colonial and European past etched into every cobble-stoned street. Some streets have even kept their original names! This area is also purely pedestrian, creating the perfect atmosphere for walking tours in Montreal. 

The grey, stone exterior of a restaurant in Old Montreal, near an "Arret" sign and a man by the black door - a sight to see on our Montreal walking tour

The buildings vary in architectural style and have been mostly preserved. Today, they serve as shops, boutique hotels, galleries, cafés, bars, and atmospheric restaurants. With so many beautiful spots scattered around, it’s one of the best Montreal solo travel destinations!

If you’d like to visit everything there is to see in Old Montreal, plan to spend up to 2 hours here. However, if you’d just like to see a few highlights, here are some landmarks worth noting:

  • Edifice Aldred: A building with a strong resemblance to New York’s Empire State Building, and also built in the same year (1931)!
  • Vieux Séminaire de St-Sulpice: The city’s oldest building (1657), and still surrounded by its original stone walls.
  • Hôtel the Ville: The city hall which was nearly destroyed by a fire in 1922.
  • Château Ramezay: Initially home to French governors, then taken over by British governors, then invaded and held by American rebels, and also a temporary home to Benjamin Franklin — if walls could talk, this building would put Gossip Girl to shame!
  • Notre-Dame Basilica: An intricately decorated basilica and where Québec-born singer Céline Dion got married in 1994 — just step inside and you’ll see why!
The colorful and grande interior of the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal, with wooden seats and blue, golden, green, and red interior walls

Some destinations in our old Montreal walking tour, such as the Notre Dame Basilica, cost money to visit. But no need to worry – there are also many free things to do in Old Montreal!

If you’re staying late in the city, come back to see this part of town in a different light. And I mean literally — over a dozen buildings are illuminated at night, creating a wonderfully romantic atmosphere. It’s one of the best things to do at night in Montreal!

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7. Old Port of Montreal

  • Opening Hours: None (outdoors)
  • Cost: Free (outdoors)
  • Time Estimate: 30-60 minutes

As we near the end of our walking tour in Montreal, we come to the Old Port of Montreal. Once the commercial hub of the city, this area has since been transformed into a waterfront park. 

A red and black ship with the name "Daniel McAllister" stationed at the old port of Montreal in the winter, surrounded by snow and ice, perfect for a Montreal free walking tour!

In the summer, there are an abundance of Old Port Montreal activities; it’s a prime spot for walking, jogging, cycling, and in-line skating. But if you’ve had enough physical movement for the day, I recommend sitting in the park and doing some people-watching!

You’ll also have a great view of Habitat 67, a distinctive 158-unit housing project built for the 1967 World’s Fair. The architect’s original vision for the building was to show what affordable community housing could look like — but ironically enough, it’s become a private high-end apartment complex. 

The funky cubic architecture of Habitat 67 on a sunny day, visible from the Old Port of Montreal

8. La Grande Roue de Montréal

The last stop on our Montreal walking tour is La Grande Roue de Montréal. You may be relieved to hear that this stop involves more sitting than walking — it is, in fact, a panoramic Ferris wheel.

The price may be a little steep, but this isn’t just any old Ferris wheel. Bringing you to a height of 60 meters, La Grande Roue is the biggest observation wheel in the country. 

The large and majestic Grande Roue de Montreal on a cold day, with blue skies and wispy clouds visible in the back

Keeping in mind that Canada is prone to experiencing extreme weather conditions virtually any day of the year (Canada, eh?), La Grande Roue offers its guests the rare comfort of air conditioning or heating, making it one of the best things to do in Montreal in winter and summer!

This is the perfect ambiance for admiring a 360-degree view of the city. The ride lasts for 20 minutes, giving you ample time to soak up the twinkling lights of Montreal.

What better way is there to end your Montreal walking tour?

Wrapping Up Your Montreal Walking Tour

That was quite a day, wasn’t it? But if you’re wondering what to do in Montreal this weekend, this walking tour is the perfect way to spend it. And while this tour only scratches the surface of everything there is to see and do in Montreal, I’m confident it’s the perfect way to spend your Montreal weekend getaway!

Thanks for reading the article! If you have any questions, feel free to comment down below, and if you want to see more travel and hike-related content, make sure to check out my other articles.



Photos by Mia and Pixabay.

The Perfect Self-Guided Montreal Walking Tour

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