Montreal Attractions: A Guide to the Best Things to Do in the City
Montreal is a city that offers something for everyone. Whether you are looking for culture, history, nature, or entertainment, you will find it in this vibrant and diverse metropolis. Montreal is the second-largest city in Canada and the largest in the province of Quebec. It is also one of the oldest cities in North America, founded in 1642 by French settlers. Montreal is known for its rich heritage, bilingualism, multiculturalism, and cosmopolitan flair. It is also a hub of creativity, innovation, and gastronomy.
In this article, we will explore some of the best attractions that Montreal has to offer. We will cover the following topics:
- Old Montreal: The historic heart of the city, where you can admire the architecture, visit the museums, and stroll along the cobblestone streets.
- Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: The largest and most prestigious art museum in Canada, where you can see works by local and international artists, ranging from ancient to contemporary.
- Mount Royal Park: The green oasis in the middle of the city, where you can enjoy the views, hike the trails, and relax in the nature.
- Notre-Dame Basilica: The stunning Gothic Revival church that is a symbol of Montreal’s religious and cultural heritage.
- Olympic Park: The site of the 1976 Summer Olympics, where you can see the iconic stadium, the tower, the botanical garden, and the biodome.
- Montreal Biodome: A unique attraction that recreates four different ecosystems, where you can see animals and plants from the Americas.
- Montreal Botanical Garden: One of the largest and most beautiful botanical gardens in the world, where you can explore the themed gardens, the greenhouses, and the insectarium.
- La Ronde: The largest amusement park in Quebec, where you can have fun on the rides, the shows, and the fireworks.
- Montreal Science Centre: A modern and interactive museum that showcases science and technology, where you can learn, play, and experiment.
- Old Port of Montreal: The waterfront area that offers a variety of activities, such as cruises, zip-lining, ice-skating, and festivals.
- Plateau Mont-Royal: The trendy and artistic neighborhood that is home to many cafes, bars, shops, and murals.
- Jean-Talon Market: The largest and oldest public market in Montreal, where you can buy fresh and local produce, cheese, meat, and more.
- Schwartz’s Deli: The legendary deli that serves the best smoked meat sandwiches in the city, and possibly the world.
- St. Joseph’s Oratory: The largest church in Canada and the highest point in Montreal, where you can admire the architecture, the art, and the views.
- Underground City: The network of tunnels and passages that connects many buildings, malls, metro stations, and attractions in downtown Montreal, where you can shop, eat, and stay warm in winter.
Old Montreal is the historic and charming district of the city, where you can feel the European influence and the colonial past. Old Montreal is located along the St. Lawrence River, and it is one of the oldest urban areas in North America. Here, you can admire the impressive architecture, ranging from the 17th to the 19th century, such as the City Hall, the Bonsecours Market, the Chateau Ramezay, and the Place d’Armes. You can also visit the museums, such as the Pointe-a-Calliere Museum, the Montreal History Centre, and the Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum, where you can learn more about the history and culture of Montreal. Old Montreal is also a great place to stroll along the cobblestone streets, enjoy the cafes and restaurants, and watch the street performers and artists.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is the largest and most prestigious art museum in Canada, and one of the oldest in the continent. The museum has a collection of over 40,000 works, spanning from ancient to contemporary, and covering various disciplines, such as painting, sculpture, photography, design, and film. The museum is divided into five pavilions, each with a different theme and style. Some of the highlights of the museum include the works by Canadian artists, such as Jean-Paul Riopelle, Emily Carr, and Marc-Aurele Fortin, the works by European masters, such as Rembrandt, Monet, and Picasso, and the works by indigenous and world cultures, such as Inuit, African, and Asian. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions, concerts, lectures, and workshops, making it a dynamic and cultural destination.
Mount Royal Park
Mount Royal Park is the green oasis in the middle of the city, and one of the most popular attractions in Montreal. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same architect who designed Central Park in New York. The park covers an area of 200 hectares, and it is located on the hill that gives the city its name. The park offers a variety of activities and attractions, such as hiking, biking, skiing, skating, sledding, and birdwatching. The park also has several landmarks, such as the Mount Royal Chalet, the Mount Royal Cross, the Beaver Lake, and the Kondiaronk Belvedere. From the park, you can enjoy the panoramic views of the city skyline, the river, and the surrounding mountains.
Notre-Dame Basilica is the stunning Gothic Revival church that is a symbol of Montreal’s religious and cultural heritage. The basilica was built between 1824 and 1829, and it is one of the largest and most ornate churches in North America. The basilica has a striking exterior, with its two towers, its blue roof, and its intricate details. The interior is even more impressive, with its rich colors, its stained glass windows, its sculptures, its paintings, and its organ. The basilica is also famous for its light and sound show, called Aura, which showcases the beauty and the history of the church. The basilica is also the resting place of some notable figures, such as the founder of Montreal, Paul de Chomedey, and the former Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
Olympic Park is the site of the 1976 Summer Olympics, and one of the most iconic landmarks in Montreal. The park is located in the east end of the city, and it consists of several attractions and facilities, such as the Olympic Stadium, the Olympic Tower, the Montreal Botanical Garden, and the Montreal Biodome. The Olympic Stadium is the largest stadium in Canada, and it has a distinctive design, with its elliptical shape and its retractable roof. The stadium hosts various events, such as sports, concerts, and exhibitions. The Olympic Tower is the tallest inclined tower in the world, and it has an observation deck at the top, where you can see the city from a different angle. The Montreal Botanical Garden and the Montreal Biodome are two of the most popular attractions in the park, and they are described in more detail below.
The Montreal Biodome is a unique attraction that recreates four different ecosystems, where you can see animals and plants from the Americas. The biodome was originally built as a velodrome for the 1976 Olympics, but it was converted into a natural museum in 1992. The biodome has four zones, each representing a different habitat and climate. The zones are:
- The Tropical Forest: A warm and humid environment, where you can see monkeys, sloths, toucans, piranhas, and more.
- The Laurentian Forest: A temperate and seasonal environment, where you can see lynx, beavers, otters, porcupines, and more.
- The Saint Lawrence Marine Ecosystem: A cold and salty environment, where you can see penguins, puffins, seals, fish, and more.
- The Polar World: A frigid and snowy environment, where you can see polar bears, arctic foxes, walruses, and more.
The biodome is a great place to learn about the diversity and the fragility of life on Earth, and to appreciate the beauty and the wonder of nature.
Montreal Botanical Garden
The Montreal Botanical Garden is one of the largest and most beautiful botanical gardens in the world, and it is a must-see for anyone who loves plants and flowers. The garden covers an area of 75 hectares, and it has over 20,000 plant species, 10 greenhouses, and 30 themed gardens. Some of the highlights of the garden include the Chinese Garden, the Japanese Garden, the First Nations Garden, the Alpine Garden, and the Rose Garden. The garden also has an insectarium, where you can see over 250,000 specimens of insects, spiders, and other arthropods. The garden is a place of beauty, tranquility, and education, where you can enjoy the colors, the scents, and the shapes of the plant world.
La Ronde is the largest amusement park in Quebec, and it is a fun and exciting destination for people of all ages. The park was opened in 1967 as part of the Expo 67, and it is now owned by Six Flags. The park has over 40 rides, including roller coasters, thrill rides, family rides, and water rides. Some of the most popular rides include the Goliath, the Vampire, the Monster, and the Boomerang. The park also has shows, games, restaurants, and shops, making it a complete entertainment package. The park is also famous for its annual fireworks competition, called L’International des Feux Loto-Québec, which attracts millions of spectators every summer.
Montreal Science Centre
The Montreal Science Centre is a modern and interactive museum that showcases science and technology, where you can learn, play, and experiment. The museum is located in the Old Port of Montreal, and it has four exhibition halls, an IMAX theatre, and a creative laboratory. The museum has permanent and temporary exhibitions, covering topics such as human biology, renewable energy, space exploration, and artificial intelligence. The museum also has hands-on activities, such as building robots, designing bridges, and solving puzzles. The museum is a great place to spark your curiosity and discover the wonders of science and innovation.
Old Port of Montreal
The Old Port of Montreal is the waterfront area that offers a variety of activities, such as cruises, zip-lining, ice-skating, and festivals. The Old Port is located along the St. Lawrence River, and it is adjacent to the Old Montreal district. The Old Port has a history of over 400 years, and it was once a major trading hub and a naval base. Today, the Old Port is a recreational and cultural destination, where you can enjoy the views, the attractions, and the events. Some of the highlights of the Old Port include the Clock Tower, the Montreal Ferris Wheel, the SOS Labyrinthe, and the Science Centre. The Old Port also hosts many seasonal and special events, such as the Winter Village, the Cirque du Soleil, and the Igloofest.
The Plateau Mont-Royal is the trendy and artistic neighborhood that is home to many cafes, bars, shops, and murals. The Plateau is located north of downtown Montreal, and it is bordered by Mount Royal Park, the Mile End, and the Latin Quarter. The Plateau is known for its colorful and eclectic architecture, its vibrant and diverse culture, and its creative and bohemian vibe. The Plateau is a great place to explore the local and alternative scene, where you can find vintage and indie stores, ethnic and vegetarian restaurants, live music and comedy venues, and street art and graffiti. The Plateau is also a popular residential area, where you can see the famous Montreal-style staircases, balconies, and rooftops.
The Jean-Talon Market is the largest and oldest public market in Montreal, where you can buy fresh and local produce, cheese, meat, and more. The market was established in 1933, and it is located in the Little Italy district. The market has over 300 vendors, selling fruits, vegetables, flowers, herbs, spices, baked goods, dairy products, meats, seafood, and prepared foods. The market also has specialty shops, such as chocolate, coffee, wine, and olive oil. The market is a place of abundance, diversity, and quality, where you can taste the flavors and the cultures of Montreal.
Schwartz’s Deli is the legendary deli that serves the best smoked meat sandwiches in the city, and possibly the world. The deli was founded in 1928 by a Jewish immigrant from Romania, and it is located on Saint-Laurent Boulevard. The deli is famous for its smoked meat, which is made from beef brisket that is cured, smoked, and steamed for hours, and then sliced and piled high on rye bread with mustard. The deli also serves other dishes, such as fries, pickles, coleslaw, and cherry soda. The deli is a Montreal institution, and it attracts locals and tourists alike, who are willing to wait in line for a bite of the iconic sandwich.
St. Joseph’s Oratory
St. Joseph’s Oratory is the largest church in Canada and the highest point in Montreal, where you can admire the architecture, the art, and the views. The oratory was built between 1904 and 1967, and it is dedicated to Saint Joseph, the patron saint of Canada. The oratory has a majestic dome, which is the third-largest in the world, and a monumental staircase, which has 283 steps. The oratory also has a basilica, a crypt, a chapel, a museum, and a garden. The oratory is a place of pilgrimage, prayer, and healing, where you can see the votive chapel, which contains thousands of crutches and canes left by the faithful who claim to have been cured by Saint Joseph.
The Underground City is the network of tunnels and passages that connects many buildings, malls, metro stations, and attractions in downtown Montreal, where you can shop, eat, and stay warm in winter. The Underground City is also known as RESO, which stands for réseau souterrain, or underground network. The Underground City covers an area of 33 kilometers, and it has over 2000 shops, 200 restaurants, 40 cinemas, 10 museums, and 7 metro lines. The Underground City is a convenient and comfortable way to explore the city, especially during the cold and snowy months, when you can avoid the harsh weather and enjoy the indoor activities.
Montreal is a city that has something for everyone, whether you are looking for culture, history, nature, or entertainment. Montreal is a city that combines the old and the new, the local and the global, and the art and the science. Montreal is a city that will surprise you, delight you, and inspire you. Montreal is a city that you will fall in love with.
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