This is a short and sweet list of the best things to do in Montreal.
Montreal can quite arguably be considered the cultural capital of French Canada, which is reflected in its architectures, Basilicas, and divisions from its French colonial history.
The city is very open and progressive for the art community, which can be seen due to the sheer importance given to art, architecture, and art museums in Montreal. French is the official language in Montreal. It is the second-largest primarily French-speaking city in the developed world, after Paris.
Best Things To Do in Montreal:
Old Montreal is a historic neighborhood in Montreal, founded by French settlers in 1642. It features many New France era architectures and historically significant structures. You will feel like you are in Paris or Marseille when you are in the old neighborhood.
Many buildings here date to the 17th century and 18th century! One of the best things to do in Montreal when you are in this particular part of the city is, take an old fashioned map, get your walking shoes, camera, and water bottle on, and just explore some of these historical architectures.
It includes but is not limited to Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, colonial mansions like Château Ramezay, the former Bank of Montreal Head Office, and also the quays of the old port.
If you love the architecture of ancient Roman Basilicas, gothic and basque churches then you will love visiting the Notre-Dame Basilica. It is the oldest church in the city of Montreal, located in the old Montreal neighborhood, next to the Saint-Sulpice Seminary, the second oldest structure in Montreal.
The Notre-Dame Basilica is the product of brilliant Gothic revival French-style architecture. It features deep blue vaults decorated with golden stars. The sanctuary is decorated in colors of blues, azures, reds, purples, silver & gold. The holy shrine is filled with wooden carvings and religious statues.
The stained glass of the Basilica features the religious history of Montreal. A nominal entry charge is levied to visitors. One of the best things to do in Montreal would be visiting this historical place and taking in the religious energy.
Formerly called Parc des Îles, it is situated on the east of downtown Montreal and comprises two islands Saint Helen’s Island and the artificial island Notre Dame Island. Parc Jean-Drapeau forms a part of the Hochelaga Archipelago, a group of small Montreal Islands.
The Saint Helen’s Island has many attractions for visitors, mainly the Stewart Museum, La Ronde amusement park, the Montreal Biosphere, which a museum dedicated to the environment in Montreal.
The Notre Dame Island is famous for hosting the Canadian Grand Prix Formula One on one of its circuits. It is also popular among the ice skaters in the winter months and gamblers at the casino. Parc Jean-Drapeau is one of the best things to do in Montreal because you can do a variety of activities.
It is a museum of archaeology in old Montreal. The museum has a collection of artifacts and archaeology that summarise how the French and British regimes influenced the culture, history, and legacy of the territory of Montreal.
The museum has received more than 50 national and international awards or museography and archaeology. An underground walk of the museum can explore the city’s history, which preserves the 17th Century stone pavement streets, drainage channels, the archaeology field school at Fort Ville Marie.
Visiting Pointe-à-Callière is one of the best things to do in Montreal because it will broaden your perspective about French Canada and the culture the French brought to the New World. Don’t forget to explore the artistic monuments, sculptures, writings, and architectural remnants.
It is a small volcanic mountain, present to the immediate west of Downtown Montreal. The first European who scaled this mountain was Jacques Cartier in 1535, who claimed Canada for France. He named the mountain “Mont Réal” in honor of his patron, Francis I of France, then King of France. The city of Montreal derives its name from this very mountain.
The fauna is rich in the land of Mont royal, including the animal species of marmot, fox, gray squirrel, and various bird species. Some notable landmarks on the mountain include the Mount Royal cross, which was placed there in 1643, the Mount Royal Park, one of Montreal’s largest greenspace.
In the months of winter, the snow-covered landscape of the mountain is a popular destination for snow tubing, skiing, tobogganing, which implies the application of sleds to slide across the snow. It is one of the best things to do in Montreal.
Jacques Cartier Bridge:
The Jacques Cartier Bridge is a steel truss cantilever bridge crossing the Saint Lawrence River from Montreal Island to the south shore of the city of Longueuil, Quebec. The bridge also crosses the Saint Helen’s Island in the center, where offramps provide access to Parc Jean-Drapeau and La Ronde amusement park.
The bridge construction was finished in the year 1930, and it was renamed as “Jacques Cartier Bridge” as an honor on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Canada by the French explorer.
Visiting this location will be one of the best things to do in Montreal because it will give an excellent view of the illumination of the bridge, which lights up in different colors every day, and also serves as the best place to view the fireworks festival in Montreal.
Au Sommet Place Ville Marie:
This is the second tallest skyscraper in the city of Montreal. Visiting this observatory will be one of the best things to do in Montreal because it offers a complete 360-degree view of Montreal. You can see the views of the city from 185 meters, from the 46th floor!
Also on the 45th floor of the building contains a museum that features many videos and images, which give a detailed background about the culture and history of Montreal and its famous citizens. The terrace on the 44th floor opens up when the fireworks festival in Montreal is held, providing the most magnificent of views.
Some other notable landmarks that can be explored from the observatory are the Mont-Royal Park, the illuminated huge Ferris wheel, the quay, the St Lawrence River, and the Olympic Stadium. An underground shopping plaza is also present in the building.
A farmer’s market in the little Italy district of Montreal, the market covers the area of two city streets. It is the largest market in Montreal and the largest open-air market in North America!
The market was opened to the public in 1933 and since then has seen a massive footfall of enthusiastic public. One of the best things to do in Montreal, it is open year-round, even during the severe winter months.
The open-air arcades are occupied by more than 300 vendors, who are mostly farmers from the countryside around Montreal. A variety of flowers, meat, fruits, vegetables, spices, and French Canadian Cheese is sold here.
Musée des Beaux-Arts:
An art museum in Montreal, it is the oldest museum in Canada as well as the largest art museum in Canada, occupying a total floor area of 53,095 square meters (571,510 sq ft), 13,000 (140,000 sq ft) of which are exhibition space!
The architecture of the various buildings of the museum features modernist and classical elements, contrasting from each other. It houses a collection of more than 10000 objects of World culture. The collection of more than 1500 artworks of paintings, drawing, sculptures, models is featured in the museum, credited to geniuses like Monet, Kandinsky, Picasso, El Greco, Poussin, Rembrandt, Veronese.
Even if you are not much into fine art or looking at cultural artifacts, visiting this art museum is one of the best things to do in Montreal because it will instantly appeal to your soul and give you a sense of calmness and reverence.
Botanical Garden Montreal:
Also called in French as the Jardin Botanique de Montréal, it is a huge Botanical garden than spans 190 acres of land of thematic gardens and greenhouses and lots of green spaces. The garden is located in the borough of Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie, facing Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.
Founded in 1931, the garden contains a greenhouse complex that is filled with a plethora of different species of plants from around the world and outdoor gardens, with their own themes. The grounds are also home to the natural history museum dedicated to different species of insects called the Montreal Insectarium. Visiting the Botanical garden is one of the best things to do in Montreal!
The various types of gardens housed in the complex are the Chinese garden, the Japanese garden, the First Nations garden (indigenous species to Canada), and the Alpine garden.
The Butterflies Go Free is an annual exhibit from February to April that is hosted at the Botanical Garden Montreal. It features the release of thousands of live butterflies and moths in the Grand Serre of the greenhouses.
Some Honorable Mentions:
- Plateau-Mont-Royal: Have the Montreal classic Bagels, Poutine, and Smoked Meat.
- Street Market: Shop your hearts out at the street markets in Chinatown, Little Italy, and the very best, Old Montreal.
- Bell Centre: If you have never been to an Ice Hockey Stadium, now is your time! Feel the chills at the Bell Centre and watch a game if you have to carry your thickest, warmest sweater/jacket!
- Cirque du Soleil: The largest Circus in the world originated from Montreal! Grab a beer as you watch the incredible tricks that follow in the circus.
Indeed, Montreal is the cultural capital of French Canada! Which was one of the best things to do in Montreal that you loved? Comment! If you have never been to Montreal, maybe it is time.