Montreal is pretty much the epitome of French Canada. It is after all the largest city in French-speaking Quebec province in Canada (2nd largest in all of Canada) and as such, covers the breadth and depth of all things French and Canadian!
It’s also a pretty fun city to visit and the food here is spectacular! Suffice it to say, we very heartily recommend a visit to Montreal! When you’re there, here are 10 sight you have to check out in the city.
1.) Travel back in time to Old Montreal
Located along the St. Lawrence River near downtown, Old Montreal is a collection of the oldest and prettiest buildings in the city. The quaint old streets and buildings are reminiscent of Paris, with plenty of little shops and restaurants just waiting to be explored. Be sure to stop by Notre-Dame Basilica, the 1656 religious jewel of the city, as well as the Old Port and Place Jacques-Cartier.
2.) Go for a jaunt along Rue Sherbrooke
A trip down Sherbrooke Street, known as Rue Sherbrooke in Montreal, is one of the best ways to get acquainted with all of the best museums in the city. The oldest museum in Canada, the Musée des Beaux Arts, is located along this street, housing a major collection of paintings, sculptures, and newer media arts.
For a more general history of Canada, especially the nation’s First People, head to the McCord Museum of Canadian History. As the main street in the city of Montreal, there are a plethora of other fantastic sights worth checking out as you make your way along it.
3.) Visit the beautiful Notre-Dame Basilica
What first began as a small chapel in the old village of Ville-Marie in the 1640s has now become the magnificent Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. Over the years, many changes have occurred within the church and in its architecture.
By 1843, the famous twin towers were completed, with the western tower, La Persévérance, housing the 11 ton “Jean-Baptiste” bell. Tours are available for visitors to step inside and take a look at the stunning interior decor of the church, and occasionally, choirs put on performances within the church’s magnificent walls.
4.) Marvel at St. Joseph’s Oratory
Another grand religious site in Montreal, St. Joseph’s Oratory is a Roman Catholic basilica and national shrine, as well as Canada’s largest church. The construction of a smaller church began in 1904, but the final product we have today was not completed until 1967.
Visitors will find the Oratory Museum on site, showcasing treasured religious art of the church and Quebec. Tours are also available, as well as gardens that lead to Mont Royal.
5.) Check out the view on Mount Royal
Rising 765 feet (233 m) above the city is Mont Royal, a beautiful hill-park that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Visitors strolling up and around the hill can view the many monuments located in the park, as well as see Lac-aux-Castors. Look for the cemeteries on the western slope of the hill as well, and for the best view, head to the summit. The views are so fantastic from the summit that, on clear days, you can actually see the Adirondack Mountains over in the U.S.!
6.) Pop into Parc Jean-Drapeau
A place perfect for the whole family, Parc Jean-Drapeau is a massive park and activity center comprised of two islands: Île Sainte-Hélène, and the artificial Notre-Dame island. In 1967, the world fair was held here, leaving behind the impressive Biosphere, a large ‘bubble’ clearly visible on the island.
The Biosphere is now a museum for ecological issues, and is the largest structure of its kind in the world. Visitors can also enjoy La Ronde Amusement Park, the race course Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the Bassin Olympique, and the Stewart Museum.
7.) Explore the Old Port of Montreal
Located long the St. Lawrence River, just to the east of Old Montreal, is Old Port. Visitors can find plenty of things to see and do, both indoors and outdoors, at Old Port.
It’s the perfect place for a lazy jaunt along the river on the pathways of the Port area. Or you could just spend some time fishing here. There are also shops, an IMAX theatre, Science Center, and cruises are all available at the scenic Old Port. Long story short – there’s a lot to do here so make sure you pop in and check out what’s on offer.
8.) Tunnel through the Underground City
Known as La Ville Souterraine, as well as RESO, Montreal’s Underground City is the largest of its kind in the world. (This “largest of its kind” thing is starting to become quite a theme with Montreal isn’t it? 😉 )
It began as a simple underground shopping center in 1962, beneath Montreal’s first skyscraper. Eventually, the city grew, connecting shops, restaurants, train stations, hotels, and subways all together. The City provides a warm place for visitors and residents to shop and meet during the cold winter months.
Over 20 miles (32 km) of tunnels link all of these places together so try not to get lost when you visit (to be fair, it’s pretty well sign posted so you’d have to try really hard to get lost here 😀 ).
9.) Wake up and smell the roses in the Botanical Garden
It would seem that all great cities of the world have a botanical garden, and Montreal is no exception. Now while the idea of spending an afternoon in a garden might not be everyone’s cup of tea, if it is your cup of tea, then you’re in for quite the treat here!
To be honest, even if you’re not into botanical gardens, a visit to this botanical garden (located on Rue Sherbrooke) is the perfect excuse for a brief and fun escape from the busy city. The garden is filled with thematic greenhouses and exhibitions, as well as an Insectarium for visitors to learn all about insects! The Olympic Stadium is also in the area, as well as the city’s Biodome.
10.) Eat all the poutine!
A well-known dish from Quebec, poutine is essentially French Fries with cheese curds, topped with a light brown gravy and any (indeed, every) trip to Montreal simply must include poutine! To add a little something to you itinerary, I recommend setting yourself (and your fellow travellers) a challenge to find the best poutine in the city.
To give you a head-start on finding the best, head over to Frite Alors: with multiple locations in the city, it is easy to find, and has several variations of poutine to choose from. La Banquise also seems to be the agreed-upon destination for poutine, with over 30 varieties to choose from. Just try not to make yourself sick from eating too much of the cheesy goodness while you’re out and about… though if you do, it could be argued that you just ain’t doing it right! 😉