“Bonjour hi,” the ubiquitous greeting servers and shopkeepers use to figure out whether you prefer French or English, encapsulates so much about Montreal, which like its province, Quebec, retains a strong French Canadian identity. In this 381-year-old city of 1.78 million, which Mark Twain once described as a place “where you couldn’t throw a brick without breaking a church window,” one of Canada’s most vibrant L.G.B.T.Q. scenes thrives, and communities formed by Jewish, African, Asian, Italian, Portuguese and Haitian immigrants all offer something special to see (and taste). The city is on an upswing: Modern apartment buildings, cafes and bike paths are popping up in formerly industrial Griffintown, while the Plateau and Mile End areas offer art and music worthy of the place that nurtured Arcade Fire and Leonard Cohen. There is too much for just 36 hours, but if you bring some good walking shoes, you’ll find terrific meals, stunning views atop Mont-Royal and a creative spirit that comes across in any language.
- Candide is a restaurant focused on Quebecois ingredients and built in the rectory of a former church in the Petite-Bourgogne neighborhood.
- Kondiaronk Belvedere, a mountaintop lookout at Parc du Mont-Royal, offers panoramic views of Montreal and the St. Lawrence River.
- Bota Bota is a spa near the Old Port that features saunas, hot tubs, cold plunges and relaxation areas aboard a now-docked former ferry and in an adjacent garden.
- McCord Stewart Museum, near McGill University, focuses on Montreal’s history, with a special emphasis on its Indigenous heritage.
- Biosphère, a museum devoted to the environment and climate change, is set in a giant Buckminister Fuller-designed dome that was part of the United States pavilion for the 1967 World’s Fair.
- Aigle Noir is an inclusive and friendly L.G.B.T.Q. bar in the Gay Village neighborhood.
- Complexe Sky, one of Canada’s largest L.G.B.T.Q. nightclubs, has dancing, drinks and a rooftop with views of the Gay Village.
- SoLIT Café, a small orange-tree-themed cafe with a garden tucked between two buildings downtown, offers delicious breakfasts and lunches.
- Snowdon Deli is a local favorite for smoked meat, one of Montreal’s most prized delicacies.
- Dispatch Coffee serves delicious brews in a spare concrete space with big windows overlooking Boulevard St.-Laurent.
- Le Butterblume is a cozy Mile End restaurant that focuses on fresh produce and creative approaches.
- HELM is a microbrewery that pours a variety of excellent beers in a welcoming, slate-and-wood space in Mile End.
- Ping Pong Club is a comfortable Mile End bar that offers food, music, cocktails and, yes, table tennis.
- Le Trou is a small cafe in Griffintown that serves Montreal-style bagels fresh out of the oven.
- Eva B. is a vintage store in a rambling old row house packed full of mannequins, furniture, clothing, books and more.
- Ô Miroir is a home goods store on Boulevard St.-Laurent that sells mirrors of all shapes and sizes.
- Style Labo Antiquités is a Mile End antique store full of attractive midcentury furniture, lamps, shelves and a few old globes.
- La Pompadour is a furniture shop, also along the Mile End strip, that focuses on the offbeat and hard to find.
- Fairmont the Queen Elizabeth is a 950-room downtown stalwart with rooms furnished in a mod-flavored style, including a very pink Barbie Dream Suite (with a disco ball). Visitors taking the restarted Amtrak Adirondack service from New York City may appreciate the hotel’s location next to the train station. Rooms from 420 Canadian dollars, or about $305.
- Hôtel Le Germain, in a refurbished 1960s office tower, emphasizes that era’s design in large, quiet rooms with bentwood tables, exposed concrete, peekaboo showers and clear acrylic bubble chairs hanging from the ceiling. Rooms from 385 dollars.
- Le Cartier Bed and Breakfast is a tiny gem with homey rooms and a gorgeous back garden on a quiet side street in the Gay Village. In the shoulder season, rooms from 120 dollars.
- Short-term rental options are abundant, particularly in the Mile End neighborhood, where hotel options are limited.
- Montreal has an extensive Metro system for a city of its size, and it is quiet, clean and safe. Single rides are 3.75 dollars. (Save money by buying two trips for 7 dollars.) The Bixi bike share system covers much of the central city and beyond, and there are protected bike lanes, often two-way, on many major streets (fees start at 1.75 dollars plus 15 cents per minute). Ride hailing options like Uber (but not Lyft) are also available.