Montréal in 3 days - what to do in Autumn

6:00 AM

Since the beginning of the year, I wanted to take my vacations in Autumn. As my favorite season, I needed a getaway from the eternal, unbearable summer of the Caribbean. While going back to Europe was my first idea, I decided against it later because of time restraints. Still, I wanted to feel that European vibe. Canada was always on my bucket list, mainly because of the breathtaking nature it has and its “everyone is nice in Canada” reputation.

Montreal seemed to be the perfect destination: maple trees, French heritage, and mild weather. And I was right. The beauty of Montreal in Autumn has little competition. My one-week trip would be divided into Montreal and New York, another city that is most likely on everyone’s travel bucket list.

I arrived in Montreal on a Sunday afternoon and would leave on a Thursday morning. Technically, that would be 3 days and an afternoon. If -like me- you are making a short visit to this Quebec gem, this is what you can do if you only have 3 days in Montreal.

Arrival Day - Getting to your hotel and visiting La Grande Roue

The things you can do on this day will depend on at what time you land. I landed at around 4 PM and between picking up my luggage and going through customs, I took the express bus to the city at around 5:30 PM. The bus is very convenient, and I arrived at around 6 PM to my hostel, Hi Montreal. That left me with just enough time to grab dinner and do one thing. I decided that I’d go to La Grande Roue de Montréal, a colorful ferris wheel from which you get nice city views. It is located at the Old Port and the metro takes you there easily.

The entrance fee is not expensive compared to other ferris wheels such as the London Eye. After my ride was done, I walked around for a bit, and took photos of the old clock tower and the colored lights of the bridge.

Day 1 – Downtown and Old Montreal, Churches and the Botanical Garden

I had to slightly adjust my previous itinerary as I discovered that this Monday was Thanksgiving Day, a major holiday and most places were closed. I decided to visit the places that were open and get lost around the old town, just walking around and taking photos. The good news was that the streets were almost empty, allowing me to walk around freely, stop to take photos, and just sitting down to enjoy the view without annoying anyone who could be in a hurry.

My day began with a visit to the cathedral Mary Queen of the World, which has a beautiful square by its side that provided me with the first Autumn colors 🍁🍂 that I was so excited about. The cathedral itself is impressive, with green and pink/peach tones decorating the ceiling.

Walking down René Lévesque Boulevard in search of my next destination – Saint Patrick’s Basilica – I found a very modern monument built to honor the Canadian athletes that have been in to the Olympics. The “flames” light up constantly and around the reflective material you can read the engraved names of all the athletes. Montreal hosted the Summer Olympics back in 1976.

St. Patrick’s Basilica is a Gothic-style cathedral that was inaugurated in 1847. The Gothic style is most evident in the ceiling, that compared to the renaissance-style Mary Queen of the World, is less colorful. Nonetheless, St Patrick’s is bigger and I liked the green tones of the dome.

I passed by the Museum of Modern Art and Chinatown, and as I arrived to Old Montreal, I would find my next stop: The Notre Dame Basilica of Montréal. I visited Paris’ Notre Dame and while that one is indeed more impressive on the outside, Montreal’s cathedral is simply breathtaking on the inside. You have to pay a low fee of 8 CAD to get in, but I truly advice that you do so. 

After the visit, I had just enough time to visit one or two more places, and then go to the Botanical Gardens, a bit far from downtown and very close to the Olympic Stadium built for the Montreal 1976 Olympics. 

I had tickets for the Gardens of Lights exhibition at 6 PM. I would wander around for a bit until dawn, to be able to appreciate the Chinese and Japanese gardens in all their magic.

Day 2 - St Joseph’s Oratory in Mont Royal, Old Montreal, Old Port and dinner at Chinatown

I began with visiting the farthest point and then would slowly come back until arriving to Old Montreal, where I wanted to have more time to explore. 

St. Joseph’s Oratory is an enormous basilica built at the top of Mont Royal. It was a very cold day -a feeling of 7°C/44°F- and the wind up there was strong. I took some photos of the great view and then moved inside to both enjoy the place and take a break from the wind. 

The main floor has the basilica and from there you can move up or down to visit other areas such as a museum and chapels. The original chapel is outside, to the right of the actual basilica. Likewise, there are gardens but they were closed as of October 14, reopening during the Spring.

Taking the bus and then the metro back to Old Montreal, I was naturally hungry and searching for a place to eat, I found a Polish restaurant called Stash Café where I enjoyed some delicious pierogi that I’ve been craving since 2017 when I first ate them in Poland.

This day was all about taking as much photos as I could, something that I love when traveling. I also took more breaks than the day before, and just sat down at random benches or stairs and just look at the people walking. The relaxing vibe that Montreal offers is something that I truly appreciated, specially in those moments where my mind was so exhausted because of work. Despite the cold, it was a sunny day so it was the perfect excuse to go back to the Old Port and enjoy the area during daylight.

After a long day, I headed to Chinatown and had dinner at one of the many restaurants with great prices that are located there. 

Day 3 - Museum, Mount Royal and foodie moments

On my last day in Montreal, I wanted to slow down a bit. I had planned for a museum visit and to go to Mont Royal. I didn’t want to overplan for this day, as I was leaving the next day to New York city.
I woke up a bit later than usual and after breakfast, I walked uphill to visit the Fine Arts Museum. I didn’t know this museum was so huge! It has multiple buildings and floors, including an underground passage through which you cross the street to the other building. 

Tip 💡: Schedule no less than 3 hours if you want to visit all the areas. The admission fee for young adults is 16 CAD and I felt so blessed that I was under 30 years old (grandma who?). Anyone under 20 enters for free. You can check your coat and bag for free, taking only your camera and phone with you.

After my visit, it was time for lunch. This was the perfect excuse to visit a place I spotted on my research before arriving: C’Chocolat. It’s a trendy restaurant specialized in chocolate and I’ve heard their milkshakes and coffee are to die for. I preferred to get a meal, so I ended up ordering the Fruit Explosion, a waffle covered in different types of fruit including berries, apple and banana. They top it with a chocolate of your choice and my basic self went with the classic Nutella.

With a happy belly, I decided to finally go to the top of Mount Royal, where there is a lookout point that I believe every person should visit. I took the bus that brings you right up and instantly knew it was worth it.

On my way down, I stopped at the beginning of the park, to wander around for a bit, enjoy nature and see the monument to Sir George-Étienne Cartier.

Realizing I was only a short bus ride to St. Viateur Bagel & Café, I decided to pay it a visit. If you look for places to eat in Montreal, St. Vitaeur is a staple and people claim it has the best bagels you’ll ever eat. I bought a plain bagel and eat it on my way back. I guess my expectations were too high, so while it was a good bagel, I am not sure if it is the absolute best. I would have rather eat it warm, so maybe that’s why. 

My days in Montreal where almost over, so I took a quick last walk around old town and then went back to my hostel. I had a quick salad, packed up my things and went to sleep.

My next destination would be: New York City! 🗽

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