Tips for exploring Quebec's metropolis at your own pace
Nestled in the heart of the St. Lawrence River, Montreal offers a mixture of old-world charm and modern cosmopolitan living where the ornate Notre-Dame Basilica and cobblestone streets meet a world-renowned Museum of Fine Arts and the bustling alleyways of Chinatown. Travel across this diverse landscape aboard a hop-on hop-off tour bus, which lets you disembark and re-board at various locations throughout Quebec’s largest city. Learn how to properly prepare for this customized adventure by discovering tips on everything from purchasing tickets, battling crowds and dealing with the weather.
Getting started: where to buy tickets
Many Montreal-based hotels sell tickets for hop-on hop-off tours, so talk to your concierge or front desk staff about deals and availability. You can also purchase tickets for a variety of tours at the Montreal Tourist Information Centre in Dorchester Square, and most companies sell tickets on their website. If you book online, however, you may be asked to confirm your reservation as the tour approaches, so keep an eye out for any such emails. Tour prices typically don’t include admission fees to attractions located along the route, such as museums or churches. Tips for drivers and/or tour guides aren’t usually included either, so keep some cash on hand.
Getting around: boarding and riding the bus
Make sure you pick up or print a map of the tour route, as most hop-on hop-off tours will let you board the bus for the first time at any of their pre-determined stops. Keep in mind, Dorchester Square is a particularly busy stop since it’s the starting point for so many tours. Familiarize yourself with Montreal’s layout by riding through the entire route without exiting, an excursion which usually lasts about 90 minutes. Some companies stipulate that your tickets are good for two days when used on consecutive dates, and others will give you the option of adding a boat ride on the St. Lawrence River. While on the bus, follow along with a map so you know exactly when your stop is coming up. Most tours occur in both English and French, so stay alert.
Gearing up for crowds and seasonal weather
Hop-on hop-off tours in Montreal usually run between May and October, with peak tourist season occurring from mid-June through mid-September. Make sure you buy your tickets early during high season, as tours may sell out. Although Montreal summers are usually pretty mild, highs can climb into the low 80s; such days require a hat and plenty of sunscreen, particularly if you’re riding atop a roofless double-decker tour bus. In the early spring and late fall, temps may dip into the low 40s and high 30s, so bring a heavy jacket, knit hat, scarf and gloves while riding in an open-air bus. Comfy shoes are a must year-round as you’ll do a lot of walking when you exit the bus to explore the city.
Planning ahead: making the most of your experience
While the enclosed lower deck on a bus provides protection from the elements, the open top deck offers sweeping, unobstructed views of Montreal. You’ll have to line up early at the first stop of the tour, however, if you want a seat on the popular and often crowded upper level. Keep an eye out for low-hanging tree branches which may occasionally clip passengers riding on the top deck.
Most buses do not permit food or drinks onboard, so make sure you grab something while you’re out walking around the city. Try to also work in a bathroom stop as tour buses usually don’t include onboard facilities.