Why Women Should Travel to Montreal, Quebec (From a Local)

by | Jun 2, 2024

Old Montreal with snow and Bonsecours Market - Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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Featured image: A snowy Bonsecours Market in Montreal, Quebec| Photo by diegograndi on Envato

Bagels, Bixies and Barbies

by Sandra Phillips

When women visit Montreal, Québec, most fall in love with it. It’s in North America, but very much effuses the joie de vivre of France and Europe — and you don’t even have to cross an ocean.

Montreal is a walkable city with a clean, fast Metro system, and the city is quite safe. (A 3-day pass is $21.25 or $30 for the whole week). Women will find their travel budget stretches really far with the weak Canadian dollar. Montreal is a bargain — and who can resist that?

What makes Montreal unique?

Every city has at least one street that seems to have a life of its own. In Montreal, it’s St. Lawrence Boulevard – affectionately called “The Main”, and politically named Boulevard St-Laurent. The Main has ridden life’s wheel of fortune, from the prosperity of the Gay ’90s, when a trolley ride to here was a popular Sunday outing, to the depths of the Depression, when it, unfortunately, acquired the moniker of “Skid Row”. Merchants have discovered that it is a street that has the ability to continually redefine itself.

The street rode the crest of different immigration waves, and each has left its mark to create a wonderful kaleidoscope of the patterns of Montreal life. It was at one time a Jewish neighbourhood and also Chinese (still), and has since felt the impact of the Greek, Portuguese, Mid-Eastern, Haitian, Vietnamese and South American inhabitants. It remains a polycultural mosaic, where the ethnic identities co-exist, but never blend. Some food shops boggle the eye and the nose with the exotic necessities for all the different cultures which have passed through their portals.

Things to Know About Montreal

  • Montreal is in Quebec, which is by law, a French-speaking province (Canada is a bi-lingual country, though!). The city, stores, restaurants and attractions will all have someone who will speak in English to you – or other languages!
  • French is spoken by over 71% of the population, while 20.4 percent have English as their first language. Nearly 850,000 Montrealers know at least three languages and more than 40 percent of the city’s new arrivals are trilingual.
  • Montreal uses Canadian currency, which can be obtained at any ATM. 
  • Use a credit card or a Wise card to avoid credit card currency exchange fees.
  • If you are travelling out of the country or province, you will need  travel insurance to visit Quebec. Check insurance rates here.
  • You need a valid passport to visit Montreal, but usually not a visa. Learn more here.
  • There are no travel advisories for Canada. However, if you’re coming from the US, make sure you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts and make it easier to locate you should an emergency occur.

How to Get to Montreal

If you arrive by Via Rail train, you end up at Central Station in the heart of downtown which is conveniently connected to the Metro. Another Via Rail station, Dorval, is right next door to the Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport (YUL). Check for flights here!

To or from the airport, though, hop on the 24-hour 747 bus (clever number!). The $11 fee also allows you to use the Metro for 24 hours. There are 11 stops and you can connect to the Metro stops at the Lionel-Groulx (west of downtown) or Berri-UQAM Métro station .

When you ride the Metro, pay attention to your ears and nose. As the doors open or close, you will hear the famous three-note chime which has become synonymous with the Montreal Metro. At the same time, you might notice the distinct aroma of wood, and that would be the yellow birch brake shoes against the rubber tires – nice and quiet.

Rentable Bixi bikes can also transport you around town; you can pedal yourself or rent a power-assisted model . Take a walk (or ride your Bixi bike) up Blvd. St-Laurent going north from rue Sherbrooke to Ave. Mont-Royal. You can start your foodie treasure hunt here to find Montreal’s defining noshes: smoked meat, Portuguese chicken, poutine, French pastries and bagels.

Clock Tower and Jacques Cartier Bridge at Old Port - Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Clock Tower and Jacques Cartier Bridge at Old Port, Montreal / Photo by diegograndi on Envato

Safety for women in Montreal

Montreal is such a safe city that snatching an unguarded bag is the most common crime. Wear a cross-body purse, don’t hang it over the back of your chair in a restaurant food court and just be aware of your surroundings.

Where to stay in Montreal

The Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Hotel is where John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their bed-in for peace from May 26 to June 2, 1969, in suite 1742. The historical event has reached its 55th anniversary this year, and the room still remains famous as the epicentre of a peace movement. You can stay in a regular room at the hotel or even in the legendary one (for only $1,969 CA per night).

For some fun, you can head for the Barbie Dream Suite which is as pink as you would think and includes two bedrooms with bathrooms and a kitchenette. Bring the gang. You can order a pyjama soirée (Barbie bathrobes and slippers), Barbie dream afternoon tea with rosé champagne, of course, or a full-on Barbie-themed birthday party with Barbie cake and ice cream (betcha it’s pink).

And if you want to experience an exhaustive collection of Barbie dolls, there is a free exhibition of a thousand of them in a nearby downtown mall. Look for celebrity Barbies, artist-inspired ones, dolls dressed in outfits from around the world, ones inspired by fashion designers and lots of wedding-dressed Barbies.

If you only want to get a taste of this elegant grand hotel named for a Queen, you can book a table for the posh high tea, and you too can get served like a queen.

Look for more places to stay here.

Find a woman-friendly trip to Canada on the Women's Travel Directory

Where to eat in Montreal

For food in the heart of downtown, you can explore three international food courts, all found on Rue Ste-Catherine, which will give you a taste of Montreal without emptying your bank account. The poshest of them is Timeout Market Montreal at 705 rue Ste-Catherine Ouest, inside the Eaton Center.  The concept was created in 2014 in Portugal by Time Out magazine journalists (and run by them); they selected the best fancy chefs in Lisbon to highlight a few special dishes for the eating public. Montreal was one of the first cities to host the brand. It’s moody, dark, elegantly appointed and offers high-end selections without high-end prices.

Montreal’s closest homegrown version is Le Centrale, at 30 Rue Ste-Catherine Ouest, which spreads up, down and sideways on the corner of Boul. St-Laurent. The twenty or so restaurants are perfectly situated near Montreal’s Place des Festivales. This huge area offers up mostly free outdoor entertainment from Spring to Fall, right in the heart of downtown.

The last foodie court is found at Place Ville Marie. It’s smaller, and more restaurants are open at lunchtime than in the evening. This is where, from the upper plaza, you’ll get your Instagram snap of Montreal’s newest icon, “The Ring”. It’s a gi-normous hanging ring strung from high on the buildings, and the center of it forces you to focus on the cross on top of Mont-Royal, the mountain which gives the city its name. 

For the second year running, Montreal has the number one rated restaurant on the top 100 list in Canada, Mon Lapin.  Montreal also has the most mentions, with 26 restaurants, since it has always been a delicious restaurant city, very international in flavour.

Notice the “Je me souviens” on the license plates, which translates to “I remember”. You too will always remember your visit to memorable Montreal.

Devour Food Tours Find a food tour now!

More to Discover From Canada

New York City born, but proud Montrealer, Sandra Phillips’ stitched her name into Canada’s fabric by unexpectedly writing best-selling books. The first, Smart Shopping Montreal, set the stage for her to become one of Canada’s smartest shoppers (said Chatelaine), leading her to radio shows, a Montreal Gazette newspaper column and to the TV news (CTV, CBC, Global). She then went on to conquer the US with 4 national book awards for a travel guide: Drive I-95: Exit by Exit Info, Maps, History and Trivia. Sandra has appeared in 100’s of U.S. and Canadian media outlets. As a JourneyWoman, she has traveled to 65 countries, every US state, and all Canadian provinces.


We always strive to use real photos from our own adventures, provided by the guest writer or from our personal travels. However, in some cases, due to photo quality, we must use stock photography. If you have any questions about the photography please let us know.

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