Bucket List: 15 Best Places to Visit in Montreal, Canada
One of the oldest cities in North America and one of the largest French-speaking cities in the world, Montréal is seen as Canada’s “European” City. The fascinating city is home to significant museums, historical attractions, and architectural landmarks, all of which can be traveled on foot or through the 32-kilometer network of metro stations. The architecture is top tier, the markets are as old as the city, the parks are energetic, and the city is queer-friendly. To make the most of your visit to Montréal, we’ve listed some of the best places to visit and the best things to do in Montreal.
Just a short walk from downtown Montréal, Parc Jean-Drapeau, one of the largest parks in Montreal, is a popular and beloved park by tourists and locals. Most of the city’s exhibitions and events are held within the 662 acres of land, along with an amusement park, museums, gardens, and aquatic complexes. Other things to do in the park include hiking, biking, picnicking, swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, and boating. Aside from these exciting activities, visitors can quietly savor Parc Jean-Drapeau’s serene atmosphere and revel in the skyline views of downtown Montréal.
McCord Stewart Museum
The McCord Stewart Museum is the result of the integration between Stewart Museum and McCord Museum, a social history museum that celebrates the rich life in the past and present in Montréal. The museum has several cultural programs and photography and outdoor exhibitions, highlighting and acknowledging the land of Indigenous peoples it occupies. This acknowledgment is the museum’s way of recognizing its duty to raise awareness of Indigenous cultures that colonialism has devastated.
Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal
With visitors from its historic region and worldwide, the Notre Dame Basilica of Montréal was designed by James O’Donnell in 1824 and constructed in a Gothic Revival style, accommodating over 3,200 church-goers. Aside from frequent worshippers, visitors also come to admire the church’s stained glass windows, intricate statues, majestic interior, and massive organ that leave them stunned with its beauty. There are self-guided tours and sightseeing hours that lets visitors walk around the place of worship to learn more about its architectural elements and historical significance to Montréal.
Cabaret Mado is a colorful and fabulous bar in Montréal with gender-bending performances from local and visiting queens, like drag shows. In an intimate setting, guests can expect a festivity hosted every night by the bar’s owner, Mado, a significant figure in the LGBT scene in Montréal. The iconic bar is great for those exploring Montréal’s vivid gay atmosphere.
One of the oldest public markets in Montréal, inaugurated in 1933, Jean-Talon Market was named after the first intendant of New France. This family-friendly market has several diverse sellers, from butchers, fishmongers, farmers, and restaurateurs, that cater to customers looking for local specialties and the next gastronomic treasure.
Montréal Holocaust Memorial Centre and Museum
A community-run museum, the Montréal Holocaust Memorial Centre and Museum tells the story of the lives of the Jewish people before, during, and after the Holocaust. Founded in the 1970s, the museum is run by Holocaust survivors, as Montréal became one of the world’s largest communities of Holocaust survivors. Each section of the museum displays video and photographic archives, testimonies, and objects of interest in which the Holocaust took place. Some of its permanent exhibitions include Life Before the War, Life During the Nazi Era and the Holocaust, and Rebuilding Life After the Holocaust.
Mont-Royal was established in 1876 and has become the city’s symbol of its history and heritage. Mont-Royal, or “the mountain” to locals, is an urban park with diverse flora and fauna and resident wildlife settlers, also called Montréalers. From the hill’s summit, visitors can get a magnificent view of the city. All year, Mont Royal is filled with active recreational activities, such as picnicking, cycling, jogging, skating, skiing, and bird watching.
Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mont Royal
One of Montréal’s iconic landmarks, the Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mont Royal, is one of the world’s most visited pilgrimage sites and the largest church dedicated to Saint Joseph. Brother André of the Congrégation de Sainte-Croix started with a small chapel in 1904. Thirty years after his death, the small chapel became an impressive basilica, and in 2010, Brother André was canonized 2010 as Saint André of Montréal by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome. One of the church’s best-kept secrets, the Garden of the Way of the Cross, is an outdoor garden with statues and sculptures that serve as a place of meditation with nature.
Lachine Canal National Historic Site
The Lachine Canal National Historic Site is a 14.5-kilometer route between the Old Port of Montréal and Lake Saint-Louis. The symbolic attraction was once the entry point linked to the Atlantic Ocean, and the restored red-brick factories around the canal network is a reflection of its rich industrial history. Every year, the canal receives millions of visitors looking to enjoy various scheduled activities, like kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and camping.
Space for Life
Space for Life is Canada’s largest natural sciences museum complex, comprising the Botanical Garden, Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, Biodôme, Biosphère, and Insectarium. The complex brings these museums together to bring awareness of the importance of biodiversity conservation and ecological transition by creating an educational space for the public to engage, connect and reflect. The Space for Life also positions itself as an education and awareness institution in the city, reminding the city dwellers not to forget the natural world.
A landmark of Montréal, the Biosphère was established in 1995 and joined the Montréal Space for Life complex in 2021. The Biosphère is an environmental museum committed to connecting society and the environment, raising public awareness of environmental issues, and bringing people closer to nature through programs and exhibitions.
The Biodôme, meaning “house of life,” has thousands of plants and animals from hundreds of different species. Biodôme’s priorities has been animal welfare and the relationship between animals, plants, and their habitat. Through immersive and multisensory exhibitions, Biodôme raises public awareness of environmental issues and allows visitors to walk through replicas of the five ecosystems in the Americas. These ecosystems are the Tropical Rainforest, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Laurentian Maple Forest, Labrador Coast, and Sub-Antarctic Islands.
Montréal Botanical Garden
Home to dozens of thematic gardens and greenhouses founded in 1931, the Montréal Botanical Garden is one of the world’s greatest botanical gardens. It serves as a peaceful escape from the city. Some of its notable themed gardens are the First Nations Garden which highlights the wisdom, traditions, and culture of North America’s first inhabitants; the Chinese Garden, which uses age-old principles of the Chinese art of landscape design; the Food Garden, filled with edible plants and the Arboretum with thousands of different species of trees and shrubs from around the world.
Old Port of Montréal
The historic port of Montréal, the Old Port of Montréal, is a romantic waterfront attraction with spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River. Although the area is not as popular with tourists, the Old Port is filled with activities to enjoy with families and friends, like going on boat tours and guided cruises, riding an urban zipline, and treasure hunting in a 2-kilometer labyrinth.
No trip to Montréal, Québec is complete without taking a walk around the neighborhood of Old Montréal. Its historic and cobbled streets are one of the oldest in North America, with a history dating back to the 1640s when French settlers began to build a Catholic community. Some of the popular places to drop by are the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal, Château Ramezay Museum, which tells the history of Quebec and Montréalthrough paintings, and the oldest public market in Montréal, Bonsecours Market.
How to get there
Montréal can be accessed via land, with its network of routes that lead to neighboring cities and air, with Montréal–Trudeau International Airport as its largest airport. There is no single good or bad time to visit Montréal. The legendary city has warm summer temperatures with lively summer festivals and wondrous winter celebrations alongside its frigid climate.
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