The second largest French-speaking city in the world, Montreal is famed as a cosmopolitan hub of culture and international trade, with a rich colonial history. Montreal’s best attractions provide ample opportunities for exploration and entertainment. Here’s our list of the best things to do in Montreal that you won’t want to miss.
Best Things To Do In Montreal
Mont-Royal rises 233 meters above the city and is the green lung near the city center. A stroll through this lovely park enables the visitor to see monuments to Jacques Cartier and King George VI, to spend some time by Lac-aux-Castors, and to have a look at the cemeteries on the western slope where the city’s different ethnic groups have rested in peace together for centuries. From the summit, or rather from a platform below the cross, there unfolds a magnificent panorama of the whole of the 51-kilometer length of the Île de Montréal and the St. Lawrence.
2 Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal)
Old Montréal is a remarkable concentration of buildings dating from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The district has the delightful feel of a Parisian-style quarter, situated as it is between the waterfront and the business hub. Its many historic sites, streets, and landmarks are best explored on foot. Of the many things to do here, the highlights are visiting the Pointe-à-Callière museum of archaeology and history, the twin-towered Notre-Dame Basilica, the quays of the revitalized Old Port, and the open-air gathering space of Place Jacques-Cartier.
3. Notre-Dame Basilica
Located in Old Montreal, the Notre-Dame Basilica is a historic site that can’t be missed. With its Gothic Revival architectural style, this cathedral is an ornate and impressive example of religious art and craftsmanship. The current basilica was inaugurated in 1829 and sits near the site of the original parish church, which was built between 1672 and 1683.
4. Château Ramezay
Quebec’s oldest private history museum is Old Montreal’s Château Ramezay, which is set in the 1705 residence of a former governor of New France. The exhibits housed in the grand old mansion allow visitors to explore five centuries of history, centring on Montreal and the surrounding region. There’s also a beautiful French colonial style garden to stroll around.
5. Jardin Botanique
High above the city in the grounds that hosted the 1976 Summer Olympic Games, Parc Maisonneuve (Pie IX Metro) is the site of Montreal’s wonderfully imaginative botanical garden. The diverse plants are grown in 30 themed gardens and 10 exhibition greenhouses, so a wide range of climates are represented. Outdoor gardens include the beautiful Japanese and Chinese gardens, as well as those devoted to alpine, aquatic, medicinal, shade, useful, and even toxic plants. The rose displays are stunning, and especially interesting is a garden devoted to those plants grown or used by First Nations peoples. Soaring greenhouses contain a tropical rain forest, ferns, orchids, bonsai, bromeliads, and penjings (miniature Chinese trees).
6. Notre-Dame Basilica
Founded in 1656, Montréal’s oldest church, Notre-Dame Basilica, stands in a far grander incarnation than the original. The twin towers of the neo-Gothic façade face Place d’Armes. The intricate and resplendent interior was designed by Victor Bourgeau. Highlights are the magnificent carved pulpit by sculptor Louis-Philippe Hébert (1850-1917), the 7,000-pipe organ by the Casavant Frères firm, and the stained-glass windows portraying scenes from the founding of Montreal. The admission charge to the basilica includes a 20-minute tour, or you can take a one-hour tour that gives more historical information and access to private areas, including the second balcony and crypt.
7. Mile End
Mile End is a small neighbourhood that it filled with trendy boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops and cafés. It is also an artist enclave, with galleries, studios, and workshops.
Walk around the neighbourhood and shop, eat and sip on coffee. Be sure to stop in at St-Viateur Bagel or Fairmount Bagel; two of Montreal’s most famous bagel shops.
Shop for used books, thrift clothing or local designer duds along Bernard Street and St-Viateur Street. Finish the day off at the Dieu du Ciel brewery or one of the great restaurants in the area.
8. Place Jacques-Cartier
Place Jacques-Cartier is a lively public square in Old Montreal, which is surrounded by historic architecture, gardens and restaurants. In the summer, the square is a car-free zone and it offers an impressive view of Montreal’s City Hall and Nelson’s Column, which is the city’s oldest public monument.