Montreal

Canada’s Slice of Europe

Montreal is a cultural and party hotspot often described as Canada’s own little slice of Europe. Unknown to many, this city is actually located on an island, the Island of Montreal, next to the flowing St. Lawrence River. It gets its name from the three-peaked hill that lies at its heart. Home to 19 different boroughs and the second largest number of people in Canada, there are endless sights and events to check out, not to mention an off-the-wall food scene. From the cobblestone, history laden Vieux-Port to the bubbly and colourful Plateau, history-buffs, party animals, foodies, art lovers… anyone will find something to fall in love with here. There is something magical about this place, and an intimacy is created by the artistry and lifestyle of its citizens that will entice you to stay.

Sachez parler un petit peu français as Montreal’s first language is French and, after Paris, is the largest primarily French-speaking city in the world. Don’t worry though, in most areas you won’t have any trouble speaking only English as about 56% of the population speak both. Visit during any of the 4 distinct seasons this part of Canada experiences and you will be certain to find something to do.

World Known Attractions

Olympic Park (Parc Olympique)

Dominated by the Olympic Stadium and Tower, Montréal’s Parc Olympique is a place on the skyline you will be immediately drawn to. Besides the Olympic Stadium (“the Big O”) and tower, built in 1970 as the main venue for the ’76 Summer Olympics, the park also contains the Biodome (the Olympic Velodrome), the Athlete’s Village and the Olympic pool. It is located conveniently next to the Jardin Botanique and Insectarium so you can knock off both places in a single visit. Easily accessible by bus or metro, it is a good idea to consider spending almost an entire day up in this area as there is a lot to do and see!

The Stadium itself has the largest seating capacity in Canada, with room for 56,040 people, and is now used by the Montreal Allouettes for playoff and Grey Cup football games. When the Allouettes aren’t playing, it is a multipurpose facility for special events. Construction of the building was long and grueling and never was finished by the Opening Ceremonies. Instead, it continued on until 1987 where it was deemed complete (1988 if you count being able to retract the roof). If you’re in Montreal for the summer, plan your trip to the Stadium on the first Friday of May, June, July or August so that you can experience one of Canada’s largest food truck festivals located at the Stadium. The experience will involve all of your senses with live music, incredible scents and of course a multitude of flavors, and is a perfect way to cap off an evening of city exploration.

The Montreal Tower is the largest sloping tower in the entire world and is 175m (574ft) high. It was not added to the building’s design until after the Olympics and now both the observatory and funicular ride up provide sweeping views of the entire city. Ascend the 266m of the tower’s spine in the funicular and enjoy panoramic views of the Olympic Village, Biodome, Gardens and Saputo Stadium. Then, lose your breath looking out from the southwest-facing observatory at the top. Inside the tower building there is a loft that overlooks the Olympic pool and a small museum that commemorates the 1976 Games.

Originally, the Biodome was the Olympic velodrome that hosted track cycling and judo events but was converted by 1992 to contain an entirely different scene. Take a stroll through 4 different ecosystems and learn about the South American rainforest, the North American wilderness and the estuary habitat that shows off the Saint Lawrence Marine Ecosystem. You’ll also get to walk through a polar area that is divided into Antarctic and Arctic displays. Especially fun for curious children, the Biodome and associated planetarium are great spots for families.

It can be a little confusing trying to find the different entrances in such a massive park so it’s a good idea to look at a map beforehand! You can also buy tickets for the Tower, Biodome, Planetarium and Botanical Gardens all in one place and there are deals on purchasing more than one area, so know what you want to see to save some cash!

Notre-Dame Basilica (Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal)

Residing in the district of Old Montreal just past Place d’Armes, the Notre-Dame Basilica is a highlight for Montreal visitors. The basilica’s Gothic Revival architecture is hard to miss and is noted worldwide – the colours inside are bright and plentiful and are complimented by hundreds of delicate woodcarvings and religious statues. The stained glass windows, instead of depicting stories from the bible, tell about Montreal’s religious history and light up incredibly on a sunny day. Completed in 1843, it held the title of North America’s largest church for over 50 years and was raised to the title of Basilica by Pope John Paul II on April 21, 1982. It has seen many guests and events including Maurice “Rocket” Richard’s funeral and the wedding of Quebec singer Celine Dion in 1994.

This is a great location to start off your visit of Old Montreal and entrance to the cathedral is only $5. They also have a stunning light show, “And Then There Was Light” that tells the history of this impressive architectural work from Tuesday-Saturday in the evenings. Its beautiful façade and the cobblestone street out front, usually aligned with horse drawn carriages, will definitely take you back in time.

St. Joseph’s Oratory (Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal)

The oratory’s dome, the third largest of its kind in the entire world, is almost always visible from where it sits upon one of the hilltops of Mont Royal. Starting out as a humble chapel built by Brother André in 1900, the basilica was commenced in 1924 and finished 43 years later in 1967. Standing near the giant entrance doors, you will be humbled by the sheer size of the building that looms above you. Inside, the basilica couldn’t be more opposite from the decorative Gothic-style of the Notre-Dame – the dome creates a massive interior and the design feels almost modern in its simplicity. From there either make your way outside to the small chapel/museum of Brother André or downstairs to the museum that depicts the history of the Oratory.

The basilica is easily accessed by bus and metro and there is also a free shuttle to the Pilgrims’ Pavilion. Visit the museum inside or take a private tour, but definitely make your way up the terraced staircases and deck-style landings, as the sweeping views of the Côte-des-Neiges side of Montreal will dazzle you. While up there, keep an eye out for the giant orange in the city below, it is a famous Montreal landmark and must-visit lunch spot, Orange Julep!

It is important to respect that the front stairs are dedicated to those completing pilgrimages, and you will see them stopping at each step to pray while making their way to the top.

Old Port (Vieux-Port du Montréal)

The Old Port is the perfect place to get your fitness on and you will come across plenty of bikers, joggers and roller-bladers enjoying this 2.5km, waterfront park and walkway. Usage of the area goes back as far as 1611, where it was originally a fur trading post due to its convenient riverside location! Since its 1990s redevelopment, the popular spot sees about 6 million tourists annually and plays host to a multitude of different events including Igloofest and Festival Montréal en Lumière. It even has an urban beach adjacent to the Clock Tower that visitors can enjoy for an admission fee.

If Cirque du Soleil is in town, you will immediately notice their colourful performance tents at the end of Jaques-Cartier Quay. You can rent bicycles and paddleboats from the same area and there are some food trucks set up nearby in case you’re feeling peckish. You’ll have the chance to see plenty of water traffic, including massive cruise ships coming and going to the four Quays dividing up the walkways. Grab a photograph of another notable landmark of Montreal, the white Clock Tower, which is backed by the bridge, the old Molson Brewery and a view of La Ronde on the opposite shore as you walk along the boardwalk. If you find yourself here in the wintertime, strap on a pair of skates and enjoy the outdoor ice-skating rink for a true Canadian winter experience!

Old Montreal (Vieux Montréal)

Old Montreal is where you best feel that infamous “European Vibe” that is attributed to Montreal. It is the oldest area of the city and some spots even date back to “New France” when Montreal was still Ville-Marie. The main square is a flurry of street performers, artists, kiosks with handcrafted jewelry and enticing restaurants. Make sure to take a walk down Rue des Artistes! It is a snug alleyway where artists have lined the passage with their work for you to admire and purchase. Once you emerge on the other side, cut to the left and find yourself in the heart of Rue St. Paul. Here you will get your fill of souvenir shopping, fancy restaurants, incredible bars and patios and an easy going atmosphere that will make you fall in love. A favourite spot is called Tommy Café where a corner-side staircase takes you into a naturally lit café whose loft-style architecture and hanging plants make you feel right at home. Take a few pictures of the incredible buildings including the Notre-Dame and the Bank of Montreal in Place d’Armes, as well as the unique Musée d’Archéologie et d’Histoire Pointe-à-Callière, impossible to miss as you cross the train-track to walk riverside. Ladies, if you’re wearing heels, be sure to take your time, as the cobblestone streets are far from stiletto friendly.

Famous Streets: Rue St. Denis, Rue St. Catherine, and Boul. St. Laurent

St. Denis is a massive Montreal mainline that runs from Notre-Dame-De-Bon-Secours Chapel in Old Montreal to the bank of Rivière des Prairies at North end of the Island. The section that crosses through the Latin Quarter is where you’ll most likely find yourself as you cruise the area, best known for its bars, restaurants, shops and for viewing Montreal’s architectural style. Once you cross Sherbrooke you will be heading into what is known as Le Plateau Mont-Royal. Here you will be able to experience true Montreal lifestyle – one that encourages leisurely afternoons in the sun at a café or at a bar or restaurant over a pint. If you continue east you will stumble upon Parc La Fontaine, a blissful green haven to spend an afternoon or go for a jog.

Montreal is known for its shopping and St. Catherine Street is one of the main places to do it! Running from St. Laurent and heading west, you will find some of downtown’s largest stores. First though, you should spend some time in the pedestrian streets that make up Place Des Arts in the Quartier des Spectacles and enjoy the art installations and fountains that are located there. Then, prepare yourself for some crowds as you enjoy exploring the bustling district that is still riddled with traces of the Montreal vibe. Cathedrals appear between shopping centers and of course, you won’t miss the giant sign that announces the presence of Club Super Sexe – it’s all just part of the Montreal attitude. While wandering west, you will find Crescent Street, a hub of restaurants and bars located in various levels, including basements, of classic Montreal buildings. Try a fully loaded chicken shawarma pita at Boustan’s – the garlicky goodness complements an afternoon of shopping perfectly. Should you head east instead you will find yourself basked in the glow of the thousands of infamous pink balls that magically sway above the Gay Village. Some of Montreal’s best late nightclubs are located here and the atmosphere is fun and welcoming for everyone.

Boulevard St. Laurent, aka. The Main was nicknamed as such for a good reason. It is one of the busiest streets in Montreal and is both a commercial district and cultural heritage site. Dividing the city by east and west, as well as historically by language, ethnicity and class, the street stretches for a length of about 12km. Back in the day, the Plateau was the area for the working class, Mile End for the Jewish and below Sherbrooke you will still find China Town. The main section of St. Laurent is home to “Little Portugal,” so if you’re into piri-piri and rotisserie chicken, you’ll definitely find a new favourite lunch spot – try Romados! For an amazing treat on a hot day, head to La Diperie just off of St. Laurent on Roy because their topping dipped soft serve is to die for. Take a picture posing with your cone in front of their notorious blue wall to complete the experience! St. Laurent is home to many famous spots and restaurants, and every side street has something worthwhile to check out. Many of the building walls are adorned with incredible street art and murals as well, so have that camera ready! Duluth especially is a fantastic street with Café Santropol (think STACKED sandwiches on homemade bread) on the St. Urbain side, and a line of discoveries to be made all the way up to St. Denis. This hub is definitely a street you will find yourself on over and over again and it never disappoints. Be aware in the summer that it is often packed and even closed down into a pedestrian street if there is an ongoing festival!

Schwartz’s Deli

When you think of Montreal, it isn’t unusual to immediately follow that thought with one of either smoked meat sandwiches or poutine. If you usually think about the former then you’ve no doubt heard of Schwartz’s Deli, located on St. Laurent. Schwartz’s is hands down the most famous Hebrew Deli in all of Canada. They’ve been using the same smoked meat recipe for over 80 years and once you sit down in their family-style seated restaurant and tuck into your simple but massive sandwich, you’ll quickly realize why. There is no sandwich more satisfying than those you will find here, grease dripping down your chin as your teeth sink into the fresh rye bread, hot sliced meat, sauerkraut and mustard – dill pickle on the side. Open extra late on Friday and Saturday for those post-bar cravings, you’ll be able to say you experienced a true classic of Montreal! Just be aware that you may have to wait in line during peak lunchtime, as both locals and tourists alike bump elbows over lunch. If you’re looking for a broader menu or have arrived at the peak of lunch and are too hungry to wait, their competitor, The Main, is just across the street and also makes a mean smoked meat sandwich amongst other things.

St. Viateur vs. Fairmount Bagels

Always food oriented, another thing that Montreal is famous for is their bagels. Now, don’t jump the gun here and start imagining NYC-style big, fluffy bagels with all the fixings, the bagels from Montreal are done Jewish-style: hand-rolled, boiled in honey water and then finished up in a wood-fired oven that produces scrumptiously chewy, slightly sweet and perfectly cooked bagels. Whether they’ll admit there is a debate or not, you can bet that every Montrealer has an opinion on which bagel is better, St. Viateur or Fairmount.

St. Viateur boasts being the oldest running bagel shop in Montreal and you can find their products in pretty much any brunch spot and café in the city. Founder Myer Lewkowicz, arrived in Montreal from Poland as a concentration camp survivor and, after learning the trade, opened up the famous shop in 1957. Ever since, the scent of these incredible bagels has filled the Plateau; you simply have to follow your nose to join the others in line outside the tiny shop.

No good business goes uncontested and so there is St. Viateur’s lead competitor to consider, Fairmount Bagel. This shop, although originating on St. Laurent as the Montreal Bagel Bakery in 1919, opened up on Rue Fairmount in the bottom of a small cottage. The family lived upstairs and the downstairs quickly had a back wall removed and bagel oven constructed. Talk about dedication! They too, hand-roll, honey-water boil and oven bake their bagels to perfection, right in the very same plateau neighbourhood!

You’re encouraged to buy a tub of plain cream cheese and lox (thin, Jewish-style smoked salmon) and try a bagel, with fixings or by itself, from each shop as the ultimate taste test. Although each shop has a number of flavours, the classic is always the sesame, plain and simple. Take a dozen fresh from the oven to go, but good luck making sure they make it to your destination!

McGill University

McGill University has consistently been ranked one of the top universities in Canada and has an incredible legacy of research and alumni. King George IV originally founded McGill in 1821. However, it bears the name of James McGill, who gave the land in his will and whose body remains buried on campus to this day. Entering through the famous Roddick Gates on Sherbrook Street at the head of McGill College Avenue, the University sits pleasantly at the base of Mont Royal. The most famous of its buildings is the Arts Building, which has been featured in plenty of films and is the oldest on campus having been completed in 1843. All year round, campus is bustling with students, of which there are nearly 40,000 undergrads alone, all boasting some of the highest average entering grades in Canada. Join them in lower field with a picnic, or in Gertz, the campus pub on McTavish Street, for a pint. If you’re visiting in the fall, apple picking on McGill’s Macdonald Campus orchards makes for a fantastic afternoon.
While on campus, take a picture up the main walkway with the flower-planter crest and Arts building looming in the background, or with the famous statue of James McGill holding his cap in the wind. Then make sure to check out the Redpath Museum!

The Plateau

Have you ever wondered where the cute, colourful arched homes with spiraling front staircases are that you see in images of Montreal? Well then, welcome to the Plateau, the city’s location for all things hip and trendy! What used to be a working-class section of the city, the vibrant Plateau is now one of the most popular spots to live in due to its artistic vibes and unique community. It encompasses a number of neighbourhoods including the McGill Ghetto (where the students are hard at work), Mile End and the Plateau proper, and plays host to a mostly younger crowd. Many of the best brunch spots, cafes, vintage shops and boutiques are found tucked into little side streets and in behind big, bright windows. Feel at home as you make your way through the streets and be sure to capture a few photos of the unique staircases, usually adorned with plants. Complete with a laissez-faire attitude, you are highly encouraged to take your time and thoroughly soak in the sights, sounds and flavours of this multicultural district.

For Art and History Lovers

Montreal’s Fine Arts Museum (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal)

The MMFA is among one of the most prominent museums in Canada and its soon-to-be 5 pavilion structure will make it North America’s 18th largest and Montreal’s largest museum. Currently hosted in 4 pavilions on the Golden Square Mile of Sherbrooke St., the 45,067m2 worth of buildings are impossible to miss, as each is as unique as the exhibitions and artwork they contain! Between modern atriums and converted churches, the 41,000 permanent works and series of temporary exhibits have plenty of incredible space to call home. Take your time absorbing one of the visiting exhibits where tickets for entrance to just those are available, or purchase a general exhibitions ticket and lose yourself for a few hours in their standard collections. There’s even a brilliant sculpture garden where you can bask in the sun and enjoy some outdoor art! If you’re into fine art then the Musee des Beaux-Arts is the place for you to enjoy a perfect day in Montreal.

Museum of Contemporary Art (Musée d’Art Contemporain)

MAC, as the museum is commonly known, lies at the center of what is also a massive art installation, Place des Arts. Since 1964, they have been making sure that contemporary art has been an important part of Montreal life and hosts the work of both local and international artists together. Always changing to give fresh perspectives on a variety of issues and lives, the 7,600-piece permanent collection is never displayed all at once and is often joined by pieces from visiting exhibits. Over 1500 artists are included and help illustrate the history and way contemporary art has changed and progressed over time. MAC is the perfect place to experience the heart of Place des Arts and should be enjoyed during your exploration of the Quartier des Spectacles. The building is an intriguing find and the plazas and surrounding area are a perfect spot to sit out and people watch while enjoying the day!

The Belgo Building

If you want the largest concentration of contemporary art galleries in Canada in one go, then definitely hunt down the Belgo Building on St. Catherine Street. In what was originally a department store known as Scroggie’s, the Belgo Building is now a place you would never imagine contains 27 different art galleries, as well as a number of art and dance studios. As you walk through the green-granite entrance to the yellow-brick building, you will find that each gallery and studio is housed in its own separate room, kind of like renting out an apartment. Some of the best galleries in the city call this building home, and it is definitely an untapped haven of art. Due to its location sandwiched between souvenir shops and fast-food restaurants, this unassuming building is hidden in plain sight and is a gem for any contemporary art lover to stumble upon.

Parisian Laundry

Since opening in 2007, Parisian Laundry quickly became a leading private contemporary art gallery in Canada. Dedicated to solo exhibitions of invited artists and deeply engaged in an international art community through satellite projects in cities like Berlin, Toronto and New York, they are sharing the love of contemporary art. The atypical gallery location adds to the atmosphere – it occupies two stories of a restored industrial building. Focusing on painting, sculpture and site-specific installation, Parisian Laundry allows for a more intimate, curated experience of the artists being hosted in the 15,000sqft gallery. The big open spaces allow you to focus on the aim of the art and helps the gallery stay true to their slogan, “keep it art.”

Redpath Museum (Musée Redpath)

Located in the heart of downtown Montreal, right in the middle of the McGill campus, you really have no excuse for not paying this packed museum a visit. Unlike the art and theatre side of Montreal, Redpath is dedicated to Natural History and the collection includes items relating to ethnology, biology, paleontology and mineralogy/geology. As you enter through the double doors at the top of the staircase, you are greeted by a casting of a Gorgosaurus and have a number of different rooms in which you can explore. The building itself is a treasure as its 1882 completion makes it the oldest building specifically built to be a museum in all of Canada. Classes and lectures are hosted within the building as well, and there are always a handful of knowledgeable professors and staff on hand to help you delve even further into their collection. The collections, by the way, were started by some of the same people who founded the Smithsonian and Royal Ontario Museum collections. Join the students on the sunny staircase before or after your visit then take some time to explore yet another unique feature of one of Canada’s most famous universities.

Pointe-à-Callière Museum of Archeology and History (Musée d’Archéologie et d’Histoire Pointe-à-Callière)

Acting as a safeguard to some of the most important history of the city of Montreal, Pointe-à-Callière sits boldly as one of the most architecturally intriguing buildings in Old Port. Founded to help Montreal celebrate its 350th birthday in 1992, the museum resides on top of architectural remains that were discovered on the site in the 1980’s. Hosting the history of over 1000 years of human activity in the area, this museum is the place to go to discover everything about how Montreal became the city it is today. Be sure to kick off your visit by watching Yours Truly, Montreal – an immersive film that takes you back in time for 18 minutes. It lets you experience the greatest moments of Montreal and recreates its history from birth to present time. With over fifty national and international awards and about 350,000 visitors a year, there is a reason why you need to visit this incredible place. It is impossible to miss as you cross the street from Old Montreal to the Port and should definitely be explored.

Pointe a Calliere

Old Ulcinj is a neighbourhood in Ulcinj located on the peninsula next to the Adriatic sea.
Even though this part of the town is ancient and historical, and has been damaged over the course of numerous wars, people still live there. The settlement is about 25 centuries old, and was rebuilt several times. Most locals there are Albanians.
Over time and through its numerous reconstructions, the old city developed traits of Baroque and Renaissance architectural styles.
The centerpiece of Old Ulcinj is the Ulcinj Castle, which is also known as the Venice Palace due it its history as the residence of Venetian Administration.
The other landmark in Old Ulcinj is an intriguing building that is both a church and a mosque at the same time. It is located at Slave Square, which is aptly named, as it used to be the place for people to buy slaves.
The highest point of Old Ulcinj is the Tower of Balsic. This building is a popular venue for cultural events in Ulcinj.

Museum of Jewish Montreal

Relatively new to the city being founded in 2010, the Museum of Jewish Montreal (MJM) has become an incredibly interactive museum dedicated to educating its visitors. Ensuring the history of the Montreal Jewish community is shared and experienced by its guests, they invite you to explore their stories from past to present in a number of ways. Through online exhibits, walking tours of the city’s historic Jewish neighbourhoods, lectures and workshops, online exhibits and pop-up exhibitions, you will leave feeling more a part of the Montreal community than ever before. The oral histories give you an intimate window into the life and stories of individual members of this unique society and their website’s map will lead you to explore more of the streets of Montreal than ever before. You can tag along on any number of different walking tours, including a “Beyond the Bagel” food tour and have them show you some of the most important places in Montreal Jewish history. The Museum of Jewish Montreal is a fun way to get a new outlook on another cultural side of the city and is a great way to learn about how this community adds to the Montreal vibe. Take a look online at the tours so you can buy tickets in advance and plan your day accordingly.

The Guild (La Guilde)

Close to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is a gallery and museum that contains its own unique brand of high quality contemporary art. The Guild not only hosts Canadian art, but also specializes in Inuit and First Nations art with tons of opportunities for education on the topic and a broad outreach program. For over 100 years, since the Canadian Handicrafts Guild founding in 1906, the Guild has been promoting and preserving fine crafts and Canadian art. Only two rooms, you will be pleasantly surprised by the extent of the treasures that you will find there. Seeing as it is a gallery, you may even pick something up to take with you as a memory! The museum provides a niche outlook on an intriguing aspect of Canadian art and culture and is well worth the visit. Stop by after you check out the MMFA; it’s only a five-minute walk away!

The Montreal Science Centre

When wandering down along Old Port, you will undoubtedly spot the Montreal Science Centre by either its massive building, or the intriguing art installations that rest on its stairs. After spending some time amongst the history and the cobblestones, it’s time to jump into a world based on science and technology! Focusing on innovation and local talent, the Science Centre provides a hands-on educational experience that is tons of fun for both children and adults. With over 700,000 visitors annually, the complex is the second largest in Canada, possesses recognized educational programs and has received plenty of awards since opening in 2000. Once you’ve spent enough time exploring the permanent and temporary exhibitions, take in a film at the IMAX theatre also located in the building. You can buy tickets online or onsite in a variety of bundles including just movies, just exhibits or combination of the various offers. Perfect on a rainy day or for an interactive rest from historical sights, the Montreal Science Centre is unique, exciting and a perfect site to explore in Montreal.

Outdoor Attractions

Mont Royal

If you find yourself walking uphill, then you’re probably headed in the right direction to reach Mont Royal. This is the crown jewel of the city’s parks and occupies 200-hectares of Montreal’s namesake hill. Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the same man who landscaped New York City’s Central Park, Mont Royal makes you forget you’re in the heart of a major city. In 1938, Lac au Castor (Beaver Lake) was commissioned in order to create work for those left jobless in the Depression – now, fit with a pavilion and café, the Lake is the perfect summer picnic spot and sees a steady flow of skaters who enjoy the frozen waters in the winter. A permanently protected site as of February 2003, Mont Royal is the destination for Montrealers to cross-country ski, toboggan, skate, jog, bike, enjoy a stunning city view or walk off brunch. Go to the Chalet du Mont-Royal at any time of the day but especially at sunrise or evening to be blown away by the sweeping view of Montreal’s skyline and the river. You can then do the loop that takes you by the infamous, giant cross and gives you a backside view of the mountain towards St. Joseph’s Oratory. The park a magical place and the horizon should definitely be gazed upon from up there at least once during your stay.

La Ronde

If visiting Île Saint-Hélène by itself doesn’t sound all that appealing, knowing that La Ronde, a Six Flags owned and operated amusement park, is located here may encourage a visit. Covering 146 acres of the Northern tip of Saint Helen’s Island, the $45 entrance fee is well worth it for any amusement park lover. Built for Expo 67, La Ronde now holds 10 rollercoasters, 8 thrill rides and a number of family and children’s rides, so everyone is guaranteed to have a great time. Le Monstre is one of their oldest coasters, made entirely of wood in 1985 and is a heart-racing main feature, if only due to the rickety sensation of racing along a wooden structure. As of 2006, they also opened up Goliath, which reaches speeds of 110km/hr and heights of 53m (174ft), making it the third tallest and fastest coaster in Canada. Goliath now has a virtual reality option for riders to have an entirely new rollercoaster experience! Scream your way down from some of the most panoramic views of Montreal as you strap in to an amazing adventure at La Ronde – on the nicest summer days get there for its opening hour to try to avoid the lines as best as possible.

Fountain Park (Parc La Fontaine)

Parc La Fontaine is another green hotspot for Montrealers to spend sunny afternoons in. Fit with a massive central fountain, two linked ponds and the calming sound of a cascading waterfall, you will find locals lying out, playing games, getting some exercise or on occasion tanning Euro-style in the 84 acres of lush green grass. Surprisingly enough, the park doesn’t get its name from the aforementioned fountain, but honours Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine – the first Canadian Prime Minister of the “United Province of Canada” in the 1840’s. The fountain itself wasn’t added until 1929 and was proposed by Léon Trépanier, also responsible for the massive illuminated cross on Mont Royal. What started out as a farm, Parc La Fontaine has seen many different phases over the years. At one point it was known as “Le Jardin des merveilles,” the “Garden of Wonders,” and had its own zoo. Parc La Fontaine is a great spot to visit after spending some time on St. Laurent. If you wander up Duluth or Rachel past all the curious bars, cafes and boutiques, you will eventually come across it. When walking through the park, keep an eye out for the giant slingshot, a 2014 addition to the park created in order to revitalize a dead tree.

Jean Drapeau Park (Parc Jean Drapeau)

Notre-Damn and Saint Helen’s Island together make up what is now Jean Drapeau Park. During Expo 67, Montreal’s mayor at the time, Jean Drapeau, expanded St. Helen’s Island and created Notre Dame Island out of the fill excavated during the Montreal Metro’s construction, earning him the namesake of the park. Now, the park has an incredible number of attractions to go see and hosts a number of events – summer is definitely the peak time to explore though, and most activities are targeted around this season. Depending on what you’re into, check out La Ronde, try your luck at the Montreal Casino, visit the Biosphere, the Formula-1 Race Track or go for a hike on one of the trails around the islands. The Park also acts as Montreal’s largest outdoor concert venue and plays host to the Vans Warped Tour, Osheaga Music Festival and Île Sonique. If visiting during the summer you can buy a Sunday ticket to Piknic Électronique as well, where EDM lovers spend sunny afternoons in the park listening to live DJ’s and sipping mixed drinks out of buckets.
Taking the metro in the direction of Longueuil and hopping off at the Jean-Drapeau station is by far the most convenient method to get there, but there are a multitude of other options that are more scenic. Ride a bike on the bike path across the Jacques-Cartier Bridge to look out on the Old Port riverbank or along the Lachine Canal Bike Path and pass by iconic Habitat 67 along the way. You can also take a river cruise across in the summer for some water perspectives of the bridge and shores.

Botanical Garden (Jardin Botanique)

What began in the 20’s as a collaboration between Henry Teuscher and Brother Marie-Victorin, the Jardin Botanique is now recognized as one of world’s greatest botanical gardens. The Gardens contain over 22,000 plant species, 10 exhibition greenhouses and 20+ thematic gardens over 75 hectares of land. Be sure to check out the garden’s website as it has an interactive calendar that will help you determine which gardens will be the most brilliant for your visit. They also play host to a number of different festivals in certain gardens that you’ll want to be aware of! One Montreal favourite is the fall “Gardens of Light festival” that takes place in the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, where incredibly crafted lanterns cast shifting shadows amongst the plants. The Insectarium is also located inside the gardens and is a fun, interactive exhibit for kids and adults alike – do not visit if you have arachnophobia though, as live specimens are the main feature. The most breathtaking aspect of le Jardin Botanique, however, is the living sculptures, where you see the gardens truly embracing their role as “espace pour la vie,” a space for life. The Montreal Botanical Garden is an absolutely magical place and you can easily lose yourself for hours amongst the plants, so plan your day to allow for enough time to thoroughly enjoy it – when you buy a ticket they usually suggest around 3 hours.

The Jean-Talon Market (Marché Jean-Talon)

Whether you’re coming to Montreal in the summer or winter, you will have access to one of the largest public markets in North America, located on the North corner of Montreal’s Little Italy. This bustling farmers market originally opened in 1933 and has expanded into, and remained, a hotspot for locals ever since. It contains over 300 vendors whose mix of cultures add to the overall atmosphere of the market and are a hallmark of its character. Aside from the multitude of fresh produce that the Jean-Talon Market is known for, you will also manage to find spices, flowers, cheese, fresh baked goods, seafood, homemade pasta and a range of other artisanal and regional products from Quebec! Surrounding the open-air arcade, “the Chalet,” you will also find a number of cafes, restaurants and specialty shops where you can be guaranteed to find a tasty snack. For anything Quebec, be sure to visit Marché des Saveurs du Quebec, as they are one of few large stores in Montreal purely devoted to the region’s specialties including meats, cheeses and wines. On another note, if you’re constantly in search of great Mexican food, then try out El Rey Del Taco – this place serves up authentic Mexican street food that is created within their small tortilla factory and Mexican grocer. After visiting the Market, make your way back into downtown via the rest of Little Italy – you’ll know when you’re at the heart of it, as there is always an abundance of flags and symbols to announce its presence.

Quartier des Spectacles

The Quartier des Spectacles is so much more than just a square kilometer of the city; it is the beating cultural heart of Montreal. Whether you find yourself there in the dead of winter or sweating in the heat and humidity of summer, it will be full of Montrealers soaking up the culture, art and excitement of the area. Run through the fountains at Place des Arts, become a kid again on a set of musical light up swings, or take in a show at any of the performance halls in the area – there are over 40 different halls and bar venues and over 40 more exhibition halls waiting to be discovered. The Quartier des Spectacles is a vibrant place where you will never be bored and never fully know what to expect. In a calendar year it holds 40 festivals spread throughout 8 different public spaces. Already a lively place, the architectural and artistic lighting projects in the area manage to bring even the facades of the buildings to life, especially after dusk. Hopping along the rows of red circular lights in the area, you should be playfully reminded of both red carpet events and Saint Catherine Street’s electric history as the Red Light district. Besides the historical connotations, the lights also identify the different cultural venues in the area, of which there are over 30. If you’re there anytime between May-October, snag a beer under the light-up net at the Jardins Gamelin outdoor beer-garden and listen to a live performance! Otherwise, visit the Quartier des Spectacles website to see what’s going on during your visit. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find yourself zip-lining across the city at 2am in the midst of an all-night winter festival – it’s been known to happen from time to time.

Interesting Things/Places

Brunch

If there is one thing that Montrealers do extremely well, it’s brunch, the most important meal of the day. Whether you’re looking for a casual greasy-spoon diner or a high-class affair, you’re guaranteed to find what you’re looking for. It can be extremely overwhelming to try to pick a place, but will be well worth the belly-bursting sensation of a morning well brunched. The hotspots are usually located in the Plateau meaning you’ll have a pleasant stroll through the area to work it off. Notorious for their incredible selection of Eggs Benedict, any professional of the meal will be heading to L’Avenue and early if they don’t want to wait in the ever-present line out front. If you want to try some killer fried chicken waffles or breakfast burritos then give Fabergé a whirl. Bagels Etc. incorporates a little bit of Montreal into every plate using St. Viateur bagels and Place Milton is a favourite spot for the students living in the McGill Ghetto to kick a hangover. True to their relaxed reputation and European attitude, many places can and will provide you with the best boozy-brunch experience possible, so don’t be afraid to order a mimosa or two with your plate. Rosewood in Old Port is a loft-style restaurant that does bottomless mimosa brunches for $20 with purchase of a meal, so grab some friends and make it a Sunday brunch worth remembering!

Poutine

Had enough food talk? Didn’t think so, and no page dedicated to Montreal would be complete without mentioning Poutine, a Quebecois specialty.
Perhaps one of the hardest meals to explain, the history of the dish also remains a bit of a mystery. One thing is certain though; it was founded in rural Quebec around 1950 and is a Canadian go-to for crushing hangovers or as a late-night snack. There are only 3 key elements to the dish and yet each is very particular. First, there are French fries. A number of places make Poutine with things other than fries such as Le Gros-Luxe’s tatertot Poutine, but the classic must incorporate fries. Then there is the gravy, which is smothered all over the fries. It must be of light brown colour and not too thin, but not too thick either. Finally, and this is the most important part, the cheese that is melted into the whole thing has to be fresh cheese curds, fondly known as squeaky-squeak cheese. If it isn’t squeaky-squeak, it isn’t Poutine. You can pick up a plate of the heart-stopping goodness nearly anywhere in Montreal, including a few restaurants that offer upscale versions of this classic dish (i.e. L’Academie’s Fois Gras Poutine). But, if you want some of the best, head over to La Banquise at literally any hour of the day – it’s a 24hr restaurant that has over 28 types of Poutine. Ensure you arrive absolutely famished if you’re going to attempt going bigger than the regular size, which is a feat on its own. Montrealers love Poutine and they even have an entire week dedicated to the dish where restaurants all over the city release a limited edition Poutine recipe! You can’t visit Montreal without giving it a go, so do yourself a favor and dig in.

Bota Bota

Float away your day at Bota Bota spa-sur-l’eau – a unique ferry-gone-spa anchored in Old Port on the St. Lawrence River. If you need some pampering, want a perfect girls’ night or are looking at spending some extra time with a loved one then this incredible destination is the place for you. They offer 40 different types of services including massages, manicures, pedicures, yoga and Pilates, a water circuit and a restaurant headed by a Michelin-starred chef! Visit in the evening and gaze out at Old Montreal reflecting magically in the river, or soak up some sunshine on the decks, terraces and gardens. Don’t be intimidated by the ritzy reputation that most spas carry – Bota Bota has deals Monday to Thursday for mornings before 11 and evenings after 6 where you can enjoy the water circuit for only $45 (less if you’re a big group!). An affordable slice of heaven is floating just a step away from the Montreal core, so treat yourself; you’re on vacation after all.

Tam-Tams

Enter a fantasy world where knights run by with plastic swords, men in suits roll up their sleeves and crack open a bottle of wine next to long-haired hippies and barefoot balancers walk along ropes strung between trees. All of this is surrounding the main event, a massive drum circle featuring hundreds of drummers, whether they know how to play or not, beating on any kind of drum you can imagine. No one knows when Tam-Tams started, or how, but it is a summer Sunday feature that lasts from about 10:30am all the way until the sun sets behind the mountain. Truly embracing the spontaneous nature of Montreal, visit the George-Etienne Cartier Monument in Mount Royal Park to see all walks of life collide in one fantastic place. The magic seems to influence even the Police, as marijuana and alcohol use is generally disregarded as long as consumption is done within moderation and not in the view of children. You definitely don’t want to miss out on the atmosphere that makes up Tam-Tams! Grab a Frisbee, a few friends and a picnic fit with wine or beer and lose yourself in the rhythm. Sunday is the day of rest, so enjoy it while it lasts and spend at least a few solid hours – the people watching is endless and you might even find yourself in amongst the larpers or sitting on top of a Cajun drum adding to the beat!

Microbreweries

There is another world that Montreal is well versed in, and that is the world of beer! Although there are a number of well-known breweries that come out of Quebec, Montreal has plenty of places to sip something of a finer craft. Benelux has incredible European-style sausages to snack on that go perfectly with any number of their taps of homebrew. Located on Crescent Street is another favourite, Brutopia, which boasts 3 stories, each of which have their own patio (one that stays open all year round). Then there is Reservoir, whose modest sign sticks out into Duluth above the brick alcove that marks its entrance. Their cream ale sips perfectly alongside their unique eats and their rooftop-style patio is a perfect spot to spend an afternoon. Finally, the king of microbreweries in Montreal is located on Laurier in the Plateau and goes by the name of Dieu du Ciel! (God of the sky). You will be absolutely blown away by the chalkboard of selection and deciding is always a tough call – especially if they have a fresh cracked cask to add to the list! A notorious brew from them is a hefty cocoa vanilla stout known as Aphrodisiaque. Even with a patio once the weather turns warm, this bar is usually packed so be sure to go early, have some of their fantastic food and try more than a couple pints of their incredible beers. If you can’t choose between which breweries you’d like to visit, hop on a brew tour or food tour to ensure you get the best in the city!

The Montréal Grand-Prix

Suit up for this event that doesn’t just take over Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Parc Jean-Drapeau for a weekend in June, but the entire downtown of Montreal! Since 1978, the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix has come to Montreal. Starting in early June you will begin to notice checkered flags appear in storefronts and balconies as the city prepares for the fun! Cheer on the drivers for their 305km, 70-lap race from the grandstands and listen to the thunder of their cars. If the actual race isn’t your thing, then just enjoy the atmosphere and events that spill out onto the streets of Montreal. Keep an eye out for the famous names that visit Montreal for the event and enjoy seeing the gorgeous cars that begin to appear in the city, often parked along the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal. Certain areas of the city are shut down for events and some of the best clubs and restaurants play host to the upscale crowd. Grab a weekend pass for the grandstands for about $220 or even just general admin for $100 and join in on the fun! If you’re planning on going clubbing, you should be dressed to the nines, as their standards skyrocket for this weekend of car-filled fun.

MURAL Fest

As if Montreal weren’t busy enough in June due to the Grand-Prix alone, MURAL fest is an incredible 11-day festival that shuts down St.Laurent Boulevard into a massive Pedestrian Street. Although the music from the number of free, outdoor concerts at the festival ends at 11pm, the street remains alive proving to the world that the Main truly never sleeps. Take advantage of the temporary terraces that spill out onto the pavement in front of St. Laurent’s bars. They are often packed until 3am and are dismantled at the end of the festival. Since 2013 the creators of MURAL have been accomplishing their goal to “democratize urban art” and founded a fantastic way to share even more of this unique culture. Walk freely down the boulevard or follow a mural-map to check out some of the best-known street artists from all over the world – around any given corner an artist will be up in scaffolding creating an incredible addition to a St. Laurent building façade. Spend one of the days, or all of them, trying out different food vendors whose booths sit on the pavement in front of their shops. Definitely take some time to peruse the sales and finery of the boutiques in the area, or join in on a number of crazy activities in the streets! Become educated about the art scene by visiting any number of the seminars or outdoor exhibitions and enjoy the pop-up installations that are woven through the streets – some of them are even just painted directly onto the sidewalks! Welcome to another patch that makes up the soul of Montreal and delve into the perfect summer atmosphere of MURAL fest.

Igloo Fest

Considering that Montreal has some of the coldest and longest winters around, you can bet its citizens have come up with some ways to make the best of it. Igloo Fest, from the same creators of Picnik Electronik, does more than just make winter tolerable; it makes it down right enjoyable! Bundle up in your warmest and craziest one-piece retro ski gear or animal onesie (there’s a contest every year) and join the crowds heading to Jacques-Cartier Quay for this outdoor winter EDM festival. For the last 10 years, crazy Canadians have been flocking to Old Port to shake off the chill with some of the best local and international DJs for 12 days of January and February. For a mere $15, you can head out with them, dancing the night away and enjoying the ice slides and igloos. Be sure to take a few shots of Jager at any of the ice-bars to heat up the night. Buy an Igloofest toque as a memoir for the night you tested out a Canadian winter survival tactic and discover how the Montreal spirit and attitude keeps the cold grasp of winter away. Tickets can be purchased online or onsite the day of, but be aware that on nights where bigger DJs are playing, they can sell out!

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