Back in January, my boyfriend Brad and I decided to take a spontaneous day trip to Montreal. With feeling like a need for some change to our monotonous weeks between school and work, a drive to Montreal to spend the day was the perfect way to switch things up!
The night before our day trip, we came up with a rough itinerary on what sites we wanted to see. We made sure to have some goals in mind, which included being able to see what we could by foot (we didn’t want to have to drive around Montreal for the entire day) and to save money where we could.
After spending a day there, it’s safe to say our itinerary allowed us to be able to fit in some tourist sites, hidden gems, explore the cobblestone roads of Old Montreal, and find the best woodstove pizza I’ve ever had! If you’d like to know more about how to spend an affordable day in Montreal, keep reading!
Start to the day: Park at Complexe Desjardins
Brad and I had an early start to our day by leaving at 8 am as an attempt to be there between 10-11 depending on traffic (The drive from Ottawa is roughly 2 1/2 hours).
Our first stop was to park at Complexe Desjardins; a mall with an indoor parking garage. We wanted to find a spot we could leave our vehicle for the remainder of the day, and it was an expense we had planned ahead for. It was the perfect spot to park as it was easy to locate, within walking distance of tourist attractions, as well as close by to downtown Montreal!
First Sight: Chinatown
I have to be honest, Chinatown wasn’t directly on our itinerary for the day. When Brad and I drove into Montreal and mistakenly made the wrong turn when trying to find the parking garage, we ended up driving through Chinatown and realized it was on the way to the Notre-Dame Basilica; our first sight we wanted to see!
Leaving the parking garage, Brad and I walked through a street in Chinatown while on our way to the Basilica. It was so interesting to see the Mochi desserts on the window display and the different restaurants. While I would’ve loved to have stopped into a ramen restaurant for lunch, we decided to give that a try on our next trip back! If you have any Ramen restaurants in Montreal you recommend, leave it in the comments!
Place d’Armes & Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal
Our walk from the parking garage to the Basilica was approximately a ten-minute walk, and I basked in all the architecture and beauty of the city around me on the way.
Place d’Armes is directly across from the Basilica, and due to it being winter at the time of our visit it wasn’t as lively as I’d seen in pictures during the warmer months. I was unable to get a clear shot of it due to it being full of tourists, however, the Basilica was in clear view and was well worth the stop! As someone who enjoys the architecture of old cities, I’m so glad we took the time to see it in person.
Le Petit Depanneur Cafe
Just 350 metres from the Basilica, you can find Le Petit Depanneur Cafe!
I found this spot on Instagram, and knew I had to see this picturesque cafe for myself! After Brad and I took our photos of the Basilica, we walked over to the cafe to not only take a look but to warm ourselves up!
It’s advertised as a high-end convenience store, and it certainly lives up to the claims. When we stepped into the warm cafe, we were immediately met with a comfortable atmosphere. It had an antique yet modern feel to the place, with the arrangement of decor ranging from eccentric colours and antique candies to gold accents.
If you like picturesque attractions or even “Instagram-worthy” spots, then this is definitely a spot to check out!
La Grande Roue de Montreal
From Le Petit Dep, Brad and I walked 4 min (650m) deeper into Vieux-Montreal to check out the Ferris Wheel.
I had hoped to be able to go on it, however, it was a whopping $25/person to ride. Instead of spending the 50$ for us both, we figured we’d ride it when we decide to come back in the spring or summer!
It is a giant Ferris-wheel; larger than your average county fairs, so I can only imagine the picturesque views you’d get at the top!
Exploring Vieux-Montreal & Saint-Paul Street West
Once Brad and I saw La Grande Roue de Montreal, we took this time to explore the streets of Vieux-Montreal (Downtown Montreal)!
The cobblestone streets and stone walls make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, or like you’ve taken a plane to Europe. Along these streets are quaint shops, art galleries, and high-end bistro’s that stand out amongst the grey concrete walls. The views were beautiful, and as someone who comes from (and currently resides in) a *very* small town, I felt like I was exploring a whole new world.
We took lots of pictures (sorry, Brad!) and I got to play around with the new DSLR camera I had purchased recently at the time. This part of the itinerary was essentially a free-for-all, and we had all the free time in the world. This was one of my favourite parts of the trip!
As seen above, this is a public square which I could tell would be gorgeous in the summertime.
Where flowers once would be, a Place de Sucre shack took It’s spot to sell Canada’s famous maple taffy on snow. The rest of the square had places for groups to rest and chat, as well as outdoor heaters along the middle of the square giving it a cozy and social atmosphere.
End of the day: Supper at Pizza II Focolaio
To finish off the day on a high note, Brad and I decided on eating some wood stove pizza at the restaurant Pizza II Focolaio.
I can honestly say, it’s the best pizza I’ve ever had. Everything from the crust, the sauce, and the huge selection of pizza toppings makes this place a winner in my books. It has over 3.9k reviewers on Google Review rating this restaurant a 4.6 (out of 5). Honestly, it’s a straight-up 5 star for me.
Alongside my meal I got a hot chocolate which was seriously divine. As a self-proclaimed hot chocolate connoisseur, It was a great cup of hot chocolate (take my word for it).
All in all, our spontaneous road trip to Montreal for the day was well worth it. In the end, the only thing we had to pay for was our parking and supper making it a super affordable trip. It was a day of exploring, taking pictures, and being in each other’s company in a city close to home.
If you have any recommendations on places we should visit next, or even if there are spots we missed in Montreal let us know! We’d love to be back to visit, and to explore even more of what this city has to offer.