An introductory guided tour is often the best—or, at least, most efficient—way to begin exploring a new city. It can certainly give you a good lay of the land and overview of Montréal’s history.
Most land tours leave from the Square Dorchester, right at the tourist office. Most boat tours depart from Vieux-Port (Old Port), the waterfront bordering Vieux-Montréal. There’s parking at the dock, or take the Métro to the Champ-de-Mars or Square Victoria Station and then walk toward the river.
Among numerous opportunities for experiencing Montréal and environs by water, here are a few of the most popular:
Croisières AML Cruises (www.croisieresaml.com; tel 866/856-6668): One of the more popular cruise operators includes a weekend brunch cruise (C$53 for adults and 17 and older, C$31 children 6 to 16). There are also guided history trips throughout the day, as well as a fireworks cruise and gourmet dinner cruises. Tours are offered year round. Boats depart from the King Edward Pier, in Vieux-Port.
Le Bateau-Mouche (www.bateau-mouche.com; tel 800/361-9952 or 514/849-9952): An air-conditioned, glass-enclosed vessel reminiscent of those on the Seine in Paris, Le Bateau-Mouche plies the St. Lawrence River from mid-May to mid-October. The shallow-draft boat takes passengers on a route inaccessible by traditional vessels, passing under several bridges and providing sweeping views of the city, Mont-Royal, and the St. Lawrence and its islands. Cruises run for 60 minutes and 90 minutes, and there’s both a breakfast and an evening dinner cruise. The 60-minute tours cost C$24 for adults, with each adult ticket including two children’s tickets. The tours depart from the Jacques-Cartier Pier, opposite Place Jacques-Cartier.
Les Sautes-Moutons (also known as Lachine Rapids Tours; www.jetboatingmontreal.com; tel 514/284-9607): These tours provide an exciting—and wet—experience. Operating from May through October, wave-jumper powerboats take on the St. Lawrence River’s roiling Lachine Rapids. The streamlined jet boat makes the trip in about an hour. It takes a half-hour to get to and from the rapids, which leaves 30 minutes for storming along the 2.4m to 3.7m (8–12-ft.) waves. Reservations are required. Plan to arrive 45 minutes early to obtain and don rain gear and a life jacket. Bring a towel and change of clothes, as you almost certainly will get splashed or even soaked. Fares are C$67 adults, with discounts for children. Inquire about children 5 and under. The jet boats depart from the Clock Tower Pier (quai de l’Horloge) in Vieux-Port.
Navettes Fluviales Maritime Shuttles (www.navettesmaritimes.com; tel 514/281-8000): From Jacques-Cartier Pier in Vieux-Montréal to either Ile Ste-Hélène or Longueuil, these are much milder water voyages, but still offer great views. It’s one way to begin or end a picnic outing or extend a bike ride beyond Old Montréal. Both ferries operate from mid-May to mid-October, with daily departures every hour in the high season, and cost C$7.50 per person (free for children 5 and under).
Gray Line (www.grayline.com/things-to-do/canada/montreal; tel 800/472-9546) offers commercial guided tours in air-conditioned motorcoach buses daily year-round. The basic city tour takes 3 1/2 hours and costs C$47 for adults and children 12 and over, C$31 for children 5-11. Tours depart from 1001 Dorchester Square in downtown. The motorcoach tours offer an option to pick you up at selected hotels. There’s also a shorter 2-hour “Hop-on-Hop-Off” tour on a London-style double-decker bus.
Amphi-Bus (www.montreal-amphibus-tour.com; tel 514/849-5181) is something a little different: It tours Vieux-Montréal much like any other bus—until it waddles into the waters of the harbor for a dramatic finish. Departures are hourly late June through August with four departures daily from May to June and September to October. Check website for schedules. Fares are C$35 adults, with discounts for children and seniors. Reservations are required. The bus departs from the intersection of rue de la Commune and boul. St-Laurent.
Montréal’s calèches are horse-drawn open carriages whose drivers serve as guides. They operate year-round, and in winter, the horse puffs steam clouds in the cold air as the passengers bundle up in lap rugs. Visitors can find the carriages waiting at Place Jacques-Cartier and rue de la Commune, and at Place d’Armes opposite Basilique Notre-Dame. A 30-minute ride costs C$48 and an hour costs C$80. All of the guides speak French and English.
Walking & Cycling Tours
Guidatour (www.guidatour.qc.ca; tel 800/363-4021 or 514/844-4021) offers three tours that are about 90-minutes each: downtown, Vieux-Montréal east (including Notre-Dame Basilica), and Vieux-Montréal west (also including Notre-Dame). The downtown tour costs C$14 for adults, with discounts for children and seniors; the Vieux-Montréal tours cost C$23 for adults, with discounts for children and seniors. Guidatour also offers bicycle tours in conjunction with Ça Roule Montréal that go through different parts of the city. Rides last 3-6 hours, so although they’re described as “easy” tours, be sure you’re willing and able. The classic tour is C$65, which includes rental of a bike, helmet, and lock for the day. Tours start at the bike shop at 27 rue de la Commune est in Vieux-Port. Reservations are required and there’s a 5-person minimum.
Fitz & Follwell Co. (www.fitzandfollwell.co; tel 514/840-0739) also offers walking tours and bike tours, and throws in snowshoeing tours as well. The company's “Hoods & Hidden Gems” bike tour zips around Plateau Mont Royal, Mile End, and Little Italy, and includes stops for espresso and bagels. That 4-hour tour costs C$89 and includes a picnic lunch.
Food & Wine Tours
VDM Global (www.montrealfoodtours.com; tel 514/933-6674)offers three food-centered walking tours: “Flavours and Aromas of Old Montréal,” which focuses on the city’s French heritage (C$55); “A Foodie’s Tour of Little Italy,” which includes several restaurants as well as the Jean Talon market for the same price; and “Bar Hopping in Old Montréal,” which covers three locations on Friday evenings mid-May to mid-October (C$65). All tours are bilingual and the fees include food tastings.
If you have a car, the Route des Vins (Wine Route) is a pleasant driving tour of the vineyards of Québec. It’s in the Cantons-de-l'Est region, a pretty, rural region 103km (64 miles) southeast of Montréal.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.