After our 6-hour-short stop in Amsterdam, we finally arrived in Canada on Sunday evening. For us, this was a completely new country, even though we had heard many great things about it in the past. Not to mention all the dramatic ice hockey games between especially Sweden and Canada in the last two decades. We did, however, not go to Toronto or Vancouver. Instead, we had opted for the French-speaking city of Montréal. All I knew about the city was that it was located at the St Lawrence River and that the city is home to the NHL team the Montreal Canadiens.
The city – the largest one in Québec and the second city of Canada – was historically the commercial heart of the country. Even though Toronto has outgrown it, it is still an important hub in various fields and it offers plenty of cultural events.
Landing at Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport
We landed in the afternoon and entering Canada turned out to be really straightforward. Once immigration and customs were cleared it was time for our next question: how to get to our accommodation in Saint-Henri? Our Airbnb host Olivier had already sent us information about which bus to take to where. The 24-hour ticket for buses and metro in Montréal cost 10 CAD and let us take the bus from the airport to the stop at Lionel-Groulx. This stop was located right next to the metro and just a short walk from the apartment where we would be staying.
Day 1 in Montréal – Ice Hockey, Downtown and the Old Neighborhoods
Our first day in Montréal began with us visiting the Bell Center. This is where the Montreal Canadiens plays their NHL games. If you’re not familiar with the team, it’s one of the original six teams in the NHL. Our visit ended with us having tickets for the pre-season game against another traditional team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the same night.
We have written more about the Bell Center and the game in a previous post, read it here >>
The day was not only about ice hockey. We had most of the day to explore Downtown Montréal which was just a short walk from Bell Center. The first impression was that there was a lot of traffic lights and cars, but not so many people around. The high-rise buildings towered around us as we walked along the wide avenues. Even though the Olympic Stadium is a bit further away and something we sadly did not have time to see, there is still a memorial site of the game in Downtown at the museum for the games of 1976.
Our walk through Downtown eventually took us to China Town for some lunch. We would probably not recommend the bufé we had to others, but it was interesting to see the area. And the food had filled its purposes and we were ready to continue our exploration of Montréal. It was the Old Town and Old Harbor that were on our agenda before heading back to Saint-Henri to prepare for the evening’s game. The Old Town really felt European somehow. The buildings were lower and quite decorative. There was a walking street without any cars. It really surprised us that it had been so easy to walk from the Bell Center, through Downtown and back through the Old Town. The high buildings give the impression of a really big city, but these areas were conveniently close to each other.
After a look towards the Old Harbor, we decided to visit the area another day. Instead, we headed back to get ready for the game between Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. The game ended 0-3 to Toronto with teams missing most of their star players. Anyway, it was nice to attend a hockey game in Canada.
Day 2 in Montréal
Hiking to the Top of Mount Royal
Our second day in Montréal was mostly spent hiking to the top of Mount Royal. This is a mountain or hill right next to Downtown. You can read more about Mount Royal and our hike in a previous post, read it here >>
Mount Royal really offers a great view over Downtown and we were more than satisfied with the activity for the day when we headed back down the hill. We exited the park directly at the main campus of McGill University. Established in 1821 the university has an impressive list of alumni including several Nobel laureates.
Instead of staying Downtown, we decided to take the metro to the stop Berri-UQÀM. This is where the bus station is and we wanted to check out what it looked like. As our plan was to catch the bus to Boston, we wanted to ensure that getting there would be easy. This is something we would usually recommend others to do when traveling, as it makes it so much easier to plan your days.
Afternoon in Montréal – Photography Exhibition and the Old Port
The walk back took us once more through the Old Town and it was here that Susann now noticed something of interest. The World Press Photo had an exhibition in Montréal which Susann wanted to see. So while she looked at photos I continued along the Old Port. As it turned out, there was very little to see in the area. Most of the Old Port seemed to consist of parking lots. Our evening was spent relaxing on the balcony of the Airbnb apartment.
Day 3 in Montréal – Adventure in Boucherville and a Walk to Varennes
The goal for our third day in Montréal was to get out of the city. It had a lot to offer, but we felt that we wanted to see something else as well.
Canada actually has wine production and some of it happens right outside of Montréal. At first, we looked at different wine tasting tours before eventually deciding against this option as they were quite expensive. On another note, we are also not very keen on attending organized group events. Instead, we opted for a bus ride to Boucherville and a walk there. Our walk eventually took us towards Varennes and by luck, we passed a vineyard where we could stop for a short wine tasting.
Our third day in Montréal turned out to be quite exhausting as we noticed how difficult it can be to travel by public transport. In the city, it works just fine. However, in the suburbs the buses were really infrequent, they stopped running early, and apparently you buy the tickets in a pharmacy. In our opinion, that’s not the most obvious place to purchase bus tickets. At least we made it back to Montréal!
We have written more about our hike from Boucherville to Varennes in a previous post, read it here >>
Our Last Day in Montréal
Little Italy & The Lachine Canal
Everything comes to an end and after a few days in Montréal, our feet were longing for some rest. Our plan was to leave Montréal and Canada in the evening with the bus to Boston. The fact that the trip was in the evening left most of the day for us to enjoy the city. We started with trying to find the underground city of Montréal but did eventually not understand what we were actually looking for. The underground city consists of underground tunnels connecting some stations and buildings in the city. There are some shops and eateries. In the end, we didn’t find it special. Instead, we took the metro to Little Italy to enjoy some pasta for lunch.
Situated in Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie, bustling Little Italy is full of restaurants and cafés. It is also home to the Jean-Talon Market. We paid a quick stop at this market before finding some pasta for lunch.
The main attraction after lunch did eventually instead start in the Old Town. We had given up attempts to buy postcards. It is apparently hard to pay for low-cost products with the credit card. Our last coins had been spent the day before. So instead we started to walk towards the canal that our host mentioned during our first evening in the city. The Lachine Canal is an important part of the city’s industrial past and it took us from the Old Port all the way back to Saint-Henri. Yes, it continues further, but we decided to just walk back to the apartment.
We have written more about the Lachine Canal in a previous post, read it here >>
Catching the Bus to Boston
Our host was really kind and we could stay in the apartment until the evening. So after relaxing for a while there, it was time to get going to the bus station. We were going to take a Greyhound bus to Boston, with the journey taking about eight hours. The system was quite easy to understand. Before entering they checked so that we all had our passports and then we left for the United States.
The border crossing was probably the most interesting part. Arriving a bit after midnight, it was a quiet sleepy place. The border agents asked each traveler about their purpose to enter the country, and I guess that it was us non-US-citizens that then had to go to the next check with the same questions and the stamping of the passport. Overall it was an easy procedure and we were soon back on the bus. The bus, however, had to wait quite a long time for a few people that took longer to process. I guess that we left quite late and the delay followed us all the way to Boston, where we arrived about an hour late. But more about that in a later post. For now, goodbye Montréal!
All in all, I’d say that we were really happy with our short stay in Canada. It definitely left us thinking about another future trip to the area. There seems to be a lot to discover in Quebec and in the rest of the county.
We will continue our trip, read more about our adventure in North America here >>