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Wondering if Montreal, Quebec in Canada is the right city for a sophisticated solo trip? As an experienced solo traveler, I just spent an incredible three days traveling alone in Montreal. Below, I am sharing everything to know and expect before your own solo Montreal getaway.
Founded in 1642, Montreal is one of the oldest modern cities in North America and has French as its official language. Attempting French during your stay is certainly appreciated, but rest assured that English speakers will have virtually no trouble getting by. That said, Montreal is a great city for Francophiles, who will appreciate seeing historic French architecture and devouring croissants and other delicious pastries at local cafes.
Are you ready to tackle the city of Montreal on your own? Without further ado, let’s dive into everything you should know and expect as a solo female traveler visiting Montreal for the first time.
Solo Travel in Montreal: What You Need to Know
Why Travel to Montreal?
Of all the possible destinations, why did I choose Montreal? And why did I travel solo?
- I wanted to practice my French
- I had leftover flight and hotel credit from a cancelled trip a few years back
- Montreal’s fairly short distance from Cleveland makes a short trip quite feasible
- Montreal is particularly charming to visit during Christmas time
- Poutine, one of the city’s signature dishes, happens to be one of my favorite foods
Wandering a city alone is actually something that I enjoy once in a while. It’s an empowering practice that re-teaches me to be independent and rely on myself. I’d already traveled solo to Charleston, South Carolina and the Netherlands earlier in the year and was ready to tackle a new city.
Top Attractions in Montreal
Montreal is a modern city full of culture and history. Here are the top five must-do attractions during any visit:
1. Wander Old Montreal
Stroll the charming cobblestone streets of the oldest part of Montreal.
2. See the Grandeur of Notre Dame Basilica
Admire the intricate carvings and staining glass of this Gothic Revival cathedral inspired by Notre-Dame in Paris.
3. Tour the Pointe-a-Calliere Museum
This archeological museum takes you underground to settlements that existed in Montreal’s early days and even pre-dating the city’s founding.
4. Climb to the Mount Royal Chalet
Where you can see some of the best views over Montreal and the St. Lawrence River.
5. Dive into the Foodie Scene
Try the city’s iconic dishes, including smoked meat sandwiches as Schwartz’s, a Montreal-style bagel at Fairmount, and poutine at La Banquise.
Montreal First Impressions
I arrived at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport around 5pm and it was dark. The next morning, it was still dark when I woke up around 7am. While by no means the darkest city in the world during December, just know that winter in Montreal means less daylight.
My first day exploring Montreal had called for snow, but unfortunately brought cold rain and slush instead. However, the city remained cheery with Christmas lights and decorations lining every street and adorning historic squares like Place d’Armes. Christmas markets had already been popping up around Montreal, but seemed to mostly open up on weekends.
I was staying in Old Montreal at the Auberge du Vieux-Port, but it didn’t take me long to realize most of the must-visit foodie spots are in other neighborhoods. Therefore, I bought a 3-day metro pass at the nearest station to easily get around during my stay.
I encountered a lot of construction while exploring Montreal, at times causing entire sidewalks to be closed. Sometimes the bike path would be open instead, while other times I had to cross the street or walk carefully along the side of the road.
One more quick realization I had: having arrived on a Sunday night, I found that most of Montreal’s top museums and some popular restaurants are closed on Mondays. Check ahead of time to avoid a wasted journey and to ensure you don’t miss out!
Meeting Other Travelers
My favorite way to meet like-minded people when traveling solo is by booking tours. Unsurprisingly, the most social of these tend to revolve around eating and drinking.
I booked an Old Montreal walking tour for my first day. Although we mostly listened to our guide while strolling the quaint streets, it was nice to be around some other people for a while.
My favorite experience was taking a food tour of Montreal’s Mile End neighborhood. This vibrant area features lots of street art and some of the city’s best and most unique eateries.
There were only five people in our group, not including our guide. Therefore, we were always able to eat at the same table and everyone interacted and chatted with one another. While I don’t always have quite this positive of an experience on food tours, it’s always amazing when it happens!
Montreal Likes & Dislikes
What I Liked About Montreal
- Availability of amazing poutine right at my fingertips and extensive cafe culture. Montreal is the perfect city to explore with a food tour!
- Staying at a cozy hotel in Old Montreal and learning all about the surrounding historic streets during this dedicated walking tour.
- Rampant Christmas decorations and festivities all over the city
- Ease of using the city’s metro system
- Favorable exchange rate between the Canadian dollar and US dollar
What I Disliked About Montreal
- Most top restaurants required a car or metro ride from Old Montreal
- Almost slipping on various sidewalks and when climbing Mount Royal because I was wearing worn out sneakers (good boots are a must in winter!)
- Eating the city’s culinary specialties at less than optimal freshness. Don’t order poutine on DoorDash and always ask for the freshest bagel at Fairmount or St-Viateur.
- Walking the entirety of St. Laurent Boulevard from Old Montreal to visit Schwartz’s Deli. There was a lot of trash, empty store fronts, and a seedy atmosphere at times. However, conditions improved as I got closer to Schwartz’s.
- Smoked meat sandwiches. I’m sorry to all the smoked meat lovers out there, but I found these to be really overrated. As a disclaimer, I’m not a big sandwich lover and wouldn’t rush to try pastrami in New York either.
Safety in Montreal
Montreal is generally a safe place for solo travel, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay alert and aware of your surroundings. Below are my observations on safety that I personally dealt with while in Montreal. You can read more about safety in Montreal here.
- Slippery Conditions: During winter, Montreal does a great job managing snow and ice. That said, it’s still possible to encounter slippery patches on the sidewalk, as I had to catch my balance my than once. I recommend wearing sturdy winter boots and avoiding icy sections of walkways.
- Walking in Montreal after dark: Montreal has plenty of vibrance after sundown, with an array of bars, clubs, and restaurants to check out. In fact, some eateries even stay open for 24 hours! While I generally make it a practice not to be out wandering after dark when traveling alone, that can be hard to avoid during short winter daylight hours. You shouldn’t fear being out in the early evening hours, but always stay vigilant and let someone at home know where you are if possible.
- Petty Crime: Although Montreal is among the safest cities in Canada, it’s always good to take normal precautions with your belongings. I never keep all my cash and cards on me, and I generally wear my small purse in front of my body.
Should Solo Female Travelers Visit Montreal?
I loved Montreal for solo female travel and felt very comfortable wandering along the old port, visiting museums, and exploring trendy neighborhoods near Mount Royal. A travel companion is definitely not a requirement for soaking in this city’s romantic cobblestone paths and mountaintop views.
In fact, I saw plenty of other solo females out shopping, riding the metro, and grabbing a table for one at local restaurants. I overall felt safe navigating Montreal on foot and while using public transportation. If Montreal is calling your name, don’t hesitate to book this as a solo adventure!
Montreal makes an excellent destination for a solo trip, whether this is your first or tenth time traveling alone. This francophone city is atmospheric during any time of the year, and its safe reputation allows you to feel comfortable while exploring the top sights. The question is whether you prefer summer patios or holiday sparkle?