If you’re looking for a break from the daily grind of doc review and mark-ups, a vacation to Montreal might be just what you need.
Located right across the Canadian border, Montreal is a mainly French-speaking city, so you’ll feel like you took a trip to France without having to go so far—a bonus if you’re a cash-strapped first-year who can’t yet afford a Europe trip. But don’t worry: There’s also a large percentage of people who speak English, so navigating this big city will be easier than you think, and you can do it at a price that works for you. Whether you’re fine with spending a lot of money or just a little, here are some options for your Montreal trip.
Law Student Budget
Travel: Finding the cheapest time to visit Montreal can be difficult because you have to balance the festival season and hockey season while also keeping the weather in mind. That means the best time to visit is from March to May. It’s after the hockey season and just before the festival season, so it’s just starting to warm up. You can enjoy the streets of Montreal with fewer tourists and for lower rates.
Accommodations: There are many affordable places to stay in Montreal. Especially if you’re visiting during the off season, many hotels will have reasonable price ranges. The Hotel Le Cantlie Suites has great prices at its central location. Hotels are not the only option—don’t forget about Airbnb. If you plan on staying for longer than a weekend, this is often the cheaper option and may allow you to feel more like a local during your stay.
Transportation: Getting around Montreal is fairly simple using public transportation. There are four train lines that will get you to all the main spots in the city. But keep in mind that trains stop running at 1 a.m. There are also bus routes that may be able to drop you closer to the spots you’re visiting. If you’re going someplace further out of the city, of course Uber is always an option.
Things to do: Being on a budget in a new city can sometimes make it harder to find things to do. Luckily, Montreal includes plenty of outdoor activities, sites, and museums that are either free admission or have a suggested donation.
- There are plenty of churches across Montreal but the Basilique de Notre Dame may be the nicest of them all. This church has a history and beauty you won’t want to miss. If you visit during Sunday mass, you’ll be able to hear the organ played as the choir sings along.
- Even though Montreal is a city, it also has many natural attributes right nearby, and nature is free! At the top of Mont Royal is a beautiful, free view of the entire city of Montreal. You can get a little exercise in by biking, running, or walking up the mountain. There are also plenty of parks in and around Montreal that are great to explore. Many have fun activities you can participate in like free dance classes.
- If you want to see the city up close, there are plenty of free, downloadable, self-guided walking tours. There are tours that focus on religious buildings, museums, Montreal history, and even one related to the Titanic. There are tons of interesting sites to see and taking a few of these walking tours is a great way to soak it all in.
- Museums also abound in Montreal. Some have days that have free entry or simply ask for donations. A great museum to visit is the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts where entry is free to see their entire collection. Or stop by the Cinematheque Quebecoise, which showcases an extensive film collection and is free entry for all exhibits.
- If you can’t get tickets to a sporting event, grab a pint at Fabuleux Chez Serge. This sports bar will allow you to watch any live game without the price of a ticket but with the energized environment.
- If you’re looking for laughs, there are plenty of comedy clubs in Montreal for you. Stop by Mclean’s Pub for a pint and a show. To tell jokes and to hear them is free.
- If you’re in Montreal during the warmer months, then outdoor drinks at Le Sainte Elisabeth are a must. On their ivy-covered terrace you will be able to sip a $5 pint while enjoying the evening air.
What to eat
- If you’re in Canada, you need poutine. It’s a gravy and cheese curd-covered pile of French fries. This description doesn’t do it justice, but trust us: You must try this famous Canadian delicacy. For a reasonably priced poutine, the best place to go is Dirty Dogs, where the classic poutine is only about $6.
- Looking for a spot to grab a Montreal hot dog? Then the Montreal Pool Room is just the greasy spoon you need. The hot dog will be piled high with mustard, chopped onion, and fresh coleslaw, giving it extra flavor and a slight crunch.
- Grab a banh mi sandwich at Hoang Oanh. Located in Montreal’s Chinatown, this is a great place to have this delicious Vietnamese baguette sandwich.
Travel: If money is not a worry, feel free to visit Montreal anytime. But to see Montreal at its peak weather-wise, June to August is the time to visit. It’s warm and sunny and there are plenty of summer festivals to attend. But if you’re a big winter sports fan, especially hockey, then December is the time to travel. All the winter sports you can think of are available, and the skating rinks are everywhere.
Accommodations: Like most big cities, Montreal has a range of fancier accommodation options. There are two main areas to check out: The Golden Mile, where the upper class of Montreal lived in the early 1900’s; and Old Montreal, with its 17th-century cobblestone streets. The Golden Mile area provides more shopping options and a more modern feel. Here you can enjoy the Sofitel Hotel’s neat, clean lines in the city center.
Transportation: When money is not a factor, transportation around Montreal is even easier. You can take taxis or Uber anywhere. If you really feel like splurging and think you might be driving around a lot, then renting your own car might be something to consider. There are many rental car options available at the airport.
Things to do: If you want to treat yourself to some fun activities, there are a few stops you simply must make.
- If you’re a foodie, a visit to the Marche Jean Talon (Jean Talon Market) is a necessity. It’s the largest open-air market in North America. You can eat all the cheese, meats, and sandwiches your heart desires. The Crêperie du Marche is also a must-try for their array of warm crepes.
- If you visit during hockey season, head over to the Montreal Canadian’s hockey stadium. Canadians are very dedicated to their teams and take their hockey seriously. Going to a game will make you feel like a true Montrealer, especially if you crack open a locally brewed St-Ambroise beer.
- For a different view of the city, take a sightseeing tour by water. The Le Bateau Mouch cruise takes you along the St. Lawrence River and has covered seats, so you can go throughout the year.
- During the summer, people flock to Montreal to attend all kinds of festivals hosted in and around the city. A big draw is the Montreal International Jazz Festival that usually takes place at the end of June. There are typically 20 stages and around 650 different concerts, and some performances are free.
- Head to the Casino de Montreal for a big night out. Step into this shining, golden building for all your food, drink, and gambling needs. The casino also includes plenty of live performances, so if you are not a gambler you’ll still be able to enjoy yourself.
- For those that prefer a club instead of a casino, try Unity Club. With its three floors, VIP area, and rooftop terrace, this club has everything you need. Different styles of music play each night so there is sure to be something you’ll enjoy.
- For a less boozy option, check out the Nuit Blanche a Montréal, also known as the Montreal All-Nighter. This takes place during the festival of lights and showcases live exhibitions, music, and art that is scattered across the city.
What to eat
- For an upscale restaurant experience, Elena is the place. This Italian restaurant has a sleek, spacious feel that you can enjoy as you bite down on some fresh margarita pizzas and all kinds of pastas.
- For true Montreal cuisine, La Banquise is perfect—they have 30 different styles of poutine! It’s open 24/7 so you can stop by any time you want, even multiple times a day.
- If you want to feel even more like you’re in France, then a bite at L’Express can help. This French bistro not only has the French food but also the French ambiance to transport you. Their menu includes baguettes, cornichons, and even house-made sausage.