Having spent over 5 years living in Vancouver it’s pretty hard to find somewhere that lives up to my expectations for access to the outdoors these days. Montreal isn’t exactly a city that’s top of mind but when it comes to outdoor activities in Montreal, there’s a surprising number of them!
I’ve spent around a month exploring Montreal over the course of various trips and in different seasons too (though summer is definitely my favourite!). I’m pleased to say that with each trip, I’ve discovered more outdoor activities in Montreal. I mean, who knew you could go surfing in Montreal?
If you’re someone who also loves outdoor activities, or someone visiting Montreal on a budget and looking for things to do in Montreal, check out this list of Montreal’s best outdoor activities!
Best Outdoors Activities in Montreal
Surfing in Montreal
While wandering around Montreal on our most recent trip, we walked past several people in wetsuits carrying a surfboard.
Curious, we decided to trace their route and came out to a point along the St Lawrence River where the currents are strong enough to create a wave you can surf on.
The spot was near Dieppe Park, behind Habitat 67 though there are several other surfing locations in Montreal. There are even Montreal surfing lessons available.
Cycling along the Lachine Canal
On my last two trips to Montreal, I hired a Bixi bike and explored the city on two wheels. If the weather is nice, cycling is far more enjoyable than catching the metro and way less expensive than a taxi (plus no traffic!).
Hiring a Bixi is easy, you just need your card or the app (I’d recommend getting the app since not all Bixi stations allow you to pay by card). Then, it’s just $1 per use and $0.15 per minute (or $0.30 for an e-bike Bixi).
Montreal has some great cycling lanes and one of the best is the cycling route along the Lachine Canal. This route is away from roads and keeps you in view of the canal all the way to Parc René Lévesque where you can look out onto the St Lawrence River.
You can pick up a Bixi bike from all over the city, but starting from Old Montreal is nice as you leave the city and pass breweries and Atwater Market along the route.
Montreal has plenty of craft breweries across the city. The ones we visited were in the Southwest area of the city.
We visited a couple during our afternoon spent cycling the Lachine Canal and then another on the way back to the Airbnb after watching the F1 Grand Prix.
They all had great outside areas, and offered some food and an interesting array of beers. There was truly something for everyone from IPAs to sours, wheat beers and even slushies!
Personally, I think Terrasse St-Ambroise had the best views and nicest outdoor space and it was nice that the entrance was right off the canal bike path!
The Montreal breweries we visited were:
- Terrasse St-Ambroise
- 4 Origines
Take a walk!
Montreal is a pretty city and just going for a walk to soak up the sights and sounds is one of the best Montreal outdoor activities!
If you prefer to have more of an aim to your walking, you can book one of these Montreal walking tours:
Climb the stairs to Mount Royal
Whether you’re looking for things to do in Montreal in winter or Summer activities in Montreal, climbing the stairs up to the peak of Montreal, Mount Royal, is a must-do activity in the city.
This 200-hectare large park sits in the middle of the city and you can discover 360-degree views. The main view looks onto downtown Montreal and the St Lawrence River.
There are a series of cycling, hiking and running trails to take you from the city to the top of Mount Royal as well as some steps to climb too. In the winter you’ll likely see people snowshoeing or x-country skiing throughout the park, or perhaps outdoor skating in Montreal on the lake.
Though nothing like the Grouse Grind that those visiting Vancouver can tackle, the views are still impressive.
Picnic with produce from the market
There are two well-known and large markets in Montreal. There’s Marche Jean-Talon to the north and Marche Atwater in the south-west.
Having visited both, my favourite is Marche Atwater due to it’s proximity to the canal making it great for a picnic and also La fromagerie Atwater where you can pick up 3 types of cheeses/meats/pates for a cheap price and enjoy along the banks of the canal.
Atwater market also has several food trucks stationed there serving a variety of cuisines.
Though much of the markets are under-cover, both have a large area which is not covered meaning market shopping still counts as an outdoor activity in Montreal in my view!
One of the best Montreal winter activities is x-country skiing! Many of the trails inside Montreal’s parks turn into snowy routes that are perfect for exploring on skis!
Parc Maisonneuve features a peaceful cross-country ski trail that’s just right for those who want to perfect their technique. Parc La Fontaine offers two trails with a total length of 3.9 km, running through the western portion of the park
Another of the awesome winter activities in Montreal is ice-skating!
Ice Skating on the lakes in Montreal is reserved for the coldest temperatures in mid-winter when the ice has grown thick enough to support skaters.
If you want to try skating on a lake, rather than a manmade rink, try skating at Beaver Lake in Mount Royal or head to Parc La Fontaine. Both parks has rental stands and places to get your own skates sharpened.
The Port in Old Montreal offers an outdoor rink and is arguably one of the city’s most picturesque places to skate.
Attending one of the numerous outdoor festivals
One of the things that made me fall in love with Montreal when I spent three weeks there one summer after my first year of university was that the city always has a festival going on.
In the summer the city really comes alive with music festivals throughout the city, Just for Laughs Comedy Festival and other street parties pretty much every weekend.
This website is a great resource for finding out more information about the upcoming festivals in Montreal.
Come winter, pretty much all of Montreal’s parks become perfect for snowshoeing, including the Lachine Canal!
Snowshowing is one of the best outdoor activities in Montreal in winter and the effort needed to trudge through the snow will keep you warm even though it’s likely freeeeezing outside!
Food crawl in Mile End
When it comes travelling, one of my favourite things to do is explore the cuisine and this is without a doubt one of the best activities to do in Montreal.
Rain or shine, snow or sun, doing a food crawl in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood is always a good idea.
Not only are two of Montreals’ famous bagel shops in Mile End (St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel – I’ll let you choose which is best), but there’s $5 gnocchi and sauce from La Drogeria Fine, huge chicken sandwiches (Serrano Bar-B-Q) and cheap falafel pitas (Falafel Yoni).
Walk a little further north to Bernie Beignet for some delicious donuts to finish off a tasty food crawl!
Montreal’s best food tours:
Exploring Parc Jean-Drapeau
We visited Parc Jean-Drapeau in the middle of winter and now in the middle of summer. Though summer is an easier time to get around, there’s something special about the silence the snow brings to the park too.
Parc Jean-Drapeau is also where you’ll head to if you’re watching the F1 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (or just walking/running/biking around it).
Besides walking trails, there’s an outdoor pool, the biosphere and a theme park to explore. This is one of the nicest-looking outdoor pools in Montreal and a pretty cool place to swim!
You’d be forgiven for not realizing there’s a beach in Montreal since it sits along the river, not the ocean. However, Verdun (one of my favourite areas of the city) has its own sandy beach which you can relax on in the summer.
Verdun beach is free and offers swimming, and picnicking and has changing facilities with showers. It’s a great way to spend a lazy Sunday and cool off during the height of a Montreal summer.
Take a scooter tour
Give your feet a break and enjoy an outdoor activity in Montreal on two wheels instead. This Montreal scooter tour is fun, includes a guide and takes you to the city’s top sights!
You’ll roll through four vibrant districts of Montreal, including the Jean-Talon market, art galleries, kitsch-loving boutiques, bohemian-style jazz bars and flower-filled parks. Go to the Old Port and out to Saint Helen’s Island, passing by the iconic Farine Five Roses and impressive Habitat 67 complex. You’ll then travel toward the south-west, along the Lachine canal, stopping to have a little bite at the Atwater Market.
Want to add some adrenaline to your list of things to do in Montreal? Check out this Montreal outdoor activity in the Old Port, Montreal.
You can zipline across part of the Old Port as you experience Canada’s first-ever urban zipline. It’s open until 8 pm so you can even enjoy the sunset while you zipline!
Stroll through Old Montreal
Old Montreal is one of the prettiest parts of the city with cobbled streets, old buildings and pretty terraces where you can sip a coffee or a glass of wine.
Wandering the streets while popping in and out of boutiques, or picking up a croissant to enjoy is a great outdoor activity in Montreal!
Day trip to Mont Tremblant
If you have a day to spare, planning a trip out to Mount Tremblant will open up the outdoor activities available to you.
In the winter, Mt Tremblant offers skiing and in the summer it’s a great place for hiking, biking or hitting the lakes and paddling!
You can get to Mt Tremblant from Montreal in 1.5 hours by car, or take a bus for about 2.5 hours. You can also book a private tour with transport and a guide.