Montreal City Guide
From its ornate cathedrals to its world-class museums, Montreal is a beautiful mix of heritage sites and contemporary entertainment. This colourful Canadian city, with a French-speaking population, packs everything that makes big cities so fascinating – culture, art, history, modern amenities and more than a hundred annual festivals. Montreal truly has it all. Just come and see for yourself.
Old Montreal – historic sights and museums
With cobbled streets and quaint buildings dating as far back as the 18th century, Old Montreal has a European atmosphere and an abundance of attractions and amenities, such as shopping and dining outlets, museums, galleries and historic sights. Start your day with a stroll down Place Jacques-Cartier. This tree-lined pedestrian avenue leading to a waterfront park is filled with street performers in summer. You can have a full meal at one of the open-air bistros or grab a hot bagel from the cosy bakeries in the area.
Old Montreal has a high concentration of museums and historic houses. You can explore the heritage and history of the city from ancient times to present day at the Château Ramezay Museum, the Centre d'histoire de Montréal and the Pointe-à-Callière museum of history and archaeology. Other popular attractions, among which Cirque du Soleil, the Labyrinth, the Clock Tower, and the Montreal Science Centre, are located in the Old Port.
Montreal also has some of the most stunning temples in the country. The stone Christ Church Cathedral takes you back to the early days of the city while the St. Joseph's Oratory strikes with its size – it is the largest church in Canada. The most splendid architecturally, though, is the Notre-Dame Basilica. Clever lighting effects enhance its ornate Gothic Revival interiors, and during concerts, the cathedral is filled with the melodious sounds of the organ.
To get a real sense of the past, take a stroll around the Golden Square Mile. At the turn of the 20th century, this quarter was inhabited by the wealthiest Canadian families and you can still see some of the stately homes and mansions. Art lovers will feel right at home in the Golden Square Mile as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Musée d'art Contemporain de Montréal) are also located in the area.
Modern attractions & hip neighbourhoods
Beyond its historic quarter, Montreal is a trendy and modern metropolis. If you need proof, look no further than the unique part of Montreal – the Underground City. This maze of passageways and staircases connecting offices, schools and shopping outlets, among others, was constructed to ease traffic and allow people to get around quickly in harsh winters. Today, it is not just a convenient network but also an attraction in its own right.
The funkiest neighbourhood above ground level is the Plateau Mont-Royal. People from all walks of life are drawn to this quarter where period houses painted with street art sit side by side with modern amenities. During the day explore the cafés, boutiques, galleries and theatres, and after dark take your pick from pubs, bars and cocktail lounges.
Another lively area, the Quartier Latin, has been the haunt of students since the local university opened doors in the 18th century. Today both the young and the young at heart fill the streets of the Quartier. Major draws include cosy cafés, bars and clubs as well as the great nightlife. The nearby Gay Village is an LGBTQ-friendly area that hosts the Montreal pride and boasts its own array of bars.
Nature in the big city
One of the most diverse attractions in the city, the Montreal Nature Museum comprises four fantastic venues that allow urbanites and tourists to get an encounter with nature in the city. You can admire the butterflies at the Insectarium, one of the largest insect museums in the world, explore the wonders of the cosmos at the Planetarium, or take a stroll through the Chinese and Japanese parts of the Botanical Garden. For a truly immersive experience, though, visit the Biodome. This former Olympic velodrome is now a biosphere that recreates four major American ecosystems stretching from the tropics to the polar regions.
The Insectarium, the Botanical Garden, the Planetarium and the Biodome are all very amusing but the simplest way to enjoy the outdoors is by heading to Mount Royal Park, which gave the city its name. Hike up to the top of this scenic park for a chance to take a breath of fresh air and admire the stunning views of the city below.