Looking to spend a winter weekend in Montréal, Canada?
Here's how we made the most out of a few cold days in February of 2020, just weeks before lockdowns began around the globe.
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Visiting a destination in the winter may be cold, but it can also be a lot cheaper. It's one of the travel hacks Dylan and I have employed in the past at saving money when we travel.
But in February of 2020, we had no idea it would be our last international trip for quite some time.
We had booked our hostel (a private room) a few weeks prior. When whispers of the coronavirus started circulating online, we both hesitated about the trip. But since at the time, we didn't know too much about the virus nor how dangerously fast it was spreading, we decided to make the trip.
Karma was not on our side. And it looks like it wanted to teach us a lesson for not staying home.
Just 30 minutes south of Burlington, Vermont, and about an hour from the Canadian border, my car broke down. And when I say it broke down, I mean it was done.
The timing belt went.
We had to call a tow truck, find an Airbnb for the night in Burlington, then rent a car to continue our trip. Probably was a sign, haha!
So despite a rough start to the weekend, we did manage to make it to Montréal and have some (chilly!) winter fun before we were all stuck at home for the foreseeable future.
Here's how to spend a winter weekend in Montréal, Canada!
A Winter Weekend in Montréal, Quebec, Canada
- A Winter Weekend in Montréal, Quebec, Canada
- Getting To Montréal
- Where To Stay in Montréal
- Things to Do in Montréal, Canada
- Gluten-Free Food in Montréal, Canada
- Final Thoughts On Montréal, Canada
Getting To Montréal
From the Boston area, Canada is roughly a 5 hour drive, and it will be a little further to Montréal. You'll need to present your passport at the border, and you'll want to bring a vaccine card as well. As of August 2021, fully vaccinated US citizens are permitted to enter Canada. According to the US Department of State Website:
"All travelers must use the ArriveCAN system to enter their traveler information, including proof of vaccination, before arriving in Canada."
Please make sure to read up on the current requirements, testing, and other details before you visit so you are prepared and can stay safe.
Where To Stay in Montréal
There are many hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs in Montréal. We wanted to choose something centrally located so we went with M Montreal Hostel. Nomadic Matt mentions it in this article below.
If you're interested in having a place to stay to yourself, opt for an Airbnb or apartment rental. And if you'd rather get a nice hotel, see if there's a chain you can travel hack for points.
Not sure about travel hacking or what it is? Read more about it here and how I save hundreds on travel expenses every year.
Things to Do in Montréal, Canada
You can find lots of information about things to do in Montréal on the tourism website, TripAdvisor, and other places. Here you'll find some of the things we did and would recommend to other travelers visiting during the winter.
Old Montréal & Old Port
You'll feel like you're strolling through Europe in the Old Port & Old Montréal area. Cobblestone streets, antique lampposts, and quaint storefronts will have you forgetting you're actually in North America. It's a great neighborhood to stroll around, check out the shops, and see the river nearby.
Mount Royal Park
Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (who also designed Central Park in New York City), Mount Royal Park has sweeping views of Montreal along with tons of trails, gardens, and spots to enjoy nature. While of course we were enjoying it covered in snow, it was still packed with people! Plus there were many locals cross-country skiing too.
Underground City of Montréal
This network of walkways underneath the streets of Montreal is full of shopping, dining, and an escape from the bitter cold outside. It also links up with the Metro stations as well. It was a really neat feature and a great place to walk without freezing our butts off!
Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal
A stunning basilica and well-worth a visit inside. Celine Dion got married here, and the church is breathtaking. Self-guided tours are $14/person or you can attend mass here. Be mindful capacity is limited due to COVID, and you should reserve your tickets/times beforehand. For more information, visit the basilica's website here.
Mile End Neighborhood
A trendy neighborhood with tons of restaurants, art galleries, coffee shops, and street art. It stretches for quite a distance, too. We enjoyed looking at the different street art, stopping to warm up with a cup of coffee/tea, and exploring the shops in this funky neighborhood.
Montréal En Lumiere
This winter festival - translated to mean "Montréal in Lights" is one of the biggest winter festivals around the world. And it was packed with activities, food trucks, outdoor firepits, live music, and even a luge ride! We spent an entire evening here and though my toes were numb by the end of it, it was super fun. It's also FREE! Here are the details on the festival for 2022. It's held in February every year.
Another church worth visiting is Mary Queen of the World Cathedral. This massive cathedral reminded me of the churches of Italy with its size and architecture. And it makes sense, as this church is actually a scale replica of St. Peter's Basilica (The Vatican) in Rome. Admission is FREE but be mindful of when mass is taking place.
Museum of Fine Arts of Montréal
While we didn't actually have time to visit, the museum was recommended to us. Museums are a great (and warm!) indoor activity for a winter weekend. Admission prices vary based on your age, which can be found here. It is closed on Mondays.
Gluten-Free Food in Montréal, Canada
Bring a Gluten-Free Restaurant Card in French
Even though I speak Spanish & taught it for almost ten years, French is a language that challenges me. And to make sure my needs were communicated accurately when dining out, I opted to bring a French gluten-free dining card from my friend Jodi at Legal Nomads.
Jodi's cards are translated by native speakers and make special mention of not only what foods you can eat, but about food preparation and cross-contact too. I recommend them to all gluten-free travelers and especially in my gluten-free travel course!
Stay Somewhere With A Kitchen
Our hostel had a huge kitchen space where we could prepare our own meals. This is one of my top tips for gluten-free travel because it gives you control over your meals as much as possible! Dylan and I went to a small market nearby for vegetables, chicken breast, and rice and made an easy dinner our first night there. We also were able to get some snacks for breakfast the next few days and keep things cold in the community fridge.
100% Gluten-Free: Boulangerie Le Marquis
I haven't found a better pastry to this day than the croissants and pain au chocolat I tried here. They were ABSOLUTELY INSANE! The texture, the flakiness, the taste - everything was beyond my wildest dreams. 1000% recommend stopping at Le Marquis for a fabulous gluten-free bakery experience that will knock your socks off. Seriously!
100% Gluten-Free: Arepera
Another great gluten-free facility in Montréal for delicious Venezuelan cuisine. They had fantastic arepas! It's also really nice to be able to find a dedicated gluten-free restaurant, not just a bakery when you are traveling. I feel like bakeries are very popular, but restaurants are less common. We had lunch here and it felt like a special treat!
Final Thoughts On Montréal, Canada
Even though the car broke down on our way there, we had to change our plans a bit, and it was SO cold, we still had a great time. It was nice to getaway somewhere one last time before the world shut down. To be honest, I love summer and spring months, so I would love to come back and visit Montreal in the warmer months to see what other fun things we could do here!
Have you ever spent a winter weekend in Montreal, Canada?
Do you have any plans to visit sometime soon?
Let me know in the comments below!