Tourist Guide to Must Visit Places in Montreal
By: Canada eTA
The mix of Montreal's history, landscape, and architectural marvels from the 20th century creates an endless list of sites to see. Montreal is the second-oldest city in Canada.
When you mix the open, welcoming bustle of a North American city with the old-world charm of Europe, you get Montreal. The city's latest ranking as one of the top cities in the world comes as no surprise.
One day of sightseeing will reveal some fantastic things to see, taste, and experience, including night markets in Chinatown, fascinating museums, hidden bars, and speakeasies, as well as fine dining in amazing restaurants and the hottest new ones (plus some stellar cheap eats). Montréal astounds visitors, and natives keep falling in love with the city!
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A Little Background of Montreal
Because of its St. Lawrence River location, Montréal has thrived as a global centre of communications and trade. Although Jacques Cartier arrived here in 1535 and claimed the region for his King, François I of France, Ville Marie de Mont-Réal was established here by Paul de Chomedey in 1642. Today, Montréal, the second-largest French-speaking metropolis in the world, is a remnant of this initial community.
Despite Montreal's vastness, the tourist-attractive areas are in relatively small districts. The Centre-Ville (downtown) neighbourhood is home to many important museums and art galleries, as well as Rue Sherbrooke, arguably the city's most opulent boulevard. Numerous museums and other organisations are situated there, making it the hub of the city. The major avenue for shopping in Montréal is Rue Ste-Cathérine, a busy boulevard dotted with department stores, shops, and eateries. Here is the list of places to visit in Montreal!
The Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal)
The tourist heart of Montréal is Old Montréal. The region has the charming atmosphere of a Parisian quarter and is home to a great concentration of structures from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Today, several of these old structures serve as inns, eateries, galleries, and gift shops. This is the greatest place to stay if you want to use the city as a base for a few days of sightseeing.
You may easily explore the city's numerous historic sites, streets, and landmarks by foot. The Notre-Dame Basilica, strolling down Rue Saint-Paul, exploring Bonsecours Market, and taking in the open-air meeting area of Place Jacques-Cartier are just a few of the numerous things to do in this city.
On the waterfront are the enormous Ferris wheel (La Grand roue de Montréal) and the Tyrolienne MTL zipline for a little urban adventure. Old Montreal comes alive at night with restaurants and terraces dotting the streets. You can eat outside throughout the summer, either on rooftop terraces or down the street.
The Old Port (Vieux-Port)
You'll likely find yourself in the bustling Old Port neighbourhood near the Saint Lawrence River while you explore Old Montreal (Vieux-Port). You can do a lot of fun things here, like ride the enormous Ferris wheel or climb the well-known clock tower, or you may scream your way down a zipline that crosses wide expanses of water from terrifying heights.
The area's ten unique public art installations can be viewed while strolling around; alternatively, you can watch a performance at the IMAX or brush up on your knowledge at the Montreal Science Center. Grab a coffee, sit on one of the sunny terraces, and take it all in if even those options sound tiresome.
Boat trips leave from these docks during the summer. There is even a man-made beach with views of the city or the river at the base of the clocktower if you really want to soak up the sun. Put on your skates and spin about on the sizable ice rink in the winter.
This piece of connecting infrastructure was named after the explorer who claimed Montreal for France when it was built in 1930 to connect the Island of Montreal to the city of Longueuil across the Saint-Lawrence River to the south. Since it was decorated with 365 colourful lights—one for each day of the year that changes to suit the seasons—in celebration of the city's 375th anniversary, this bridge has transformed from a functional structure into an attraction.
This decoration will remain in place until 2027. Although it makes it easy for tourists to go to Parc Jean-Drapeau and the La Ronde amusement park, most people appreciate it when traffic is stopped, and it is only open to pedestrians during the International Fireworks Festival.
Being the green lung close to the city centre, Mont-Royal stands 233 metres above the metropolis. While strolling through this gorgeous park, one can observe memorials to Jacques Cartier and King George VI, spend time by Lac-aux-Castors, and take in the cemetery on the western slope where the city's various ethnic communities have long since interred their dead in harmony.
A superb view of the entire 51-kilometre length of the Île de Montréal and St. Lawrence may be seen from the peak, or more precisely from a platform below the cross. The Adirondack Mountains in the United States of America can be seen on clear days.
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Jardin Botanique (Botanical Garden)
Montreal's brilliantly inventive floral garden is located high above the city in Parc Maisonneuve (Pie IX Metro), which was the venue of the 1976 Summer Olympic Games. A broad variety of climates are represented by the various plants, which are grown in 30 themed gardens and 10 show greenhouses. Aside from the stunning Japanese and Chinese gardens, there are also outdoor spaces dedicated to alpine, aquatic, medicinal, utilitarian, and even deadly plants.
The rose displays are breathtaking, and a garden featuring flora that First Nations peoples grow or utilise is very fascinating. A tropical rain forest, ferns, orchids, bonsai, bromeliads, and penjings can all be found in towering greenhouses (miniature Chinese trees). On the grounds, there is a sizable arboretum, an intriguing insectarium, and ponds with a wide range of bird species.
The 1656-founded Notre Dame Basilica in Montréal is the city's oldest church and is now much larger than it was. The neo-Gothic façade's twin towers face Place d'Armes. Victor Bourgeau created a complex and opulent interior.
The 7,000-pipe organ built by the Casavant Frères company, the magnificently carved pulpit by artist Louis-Philippe Hébert (1850–1917), and the stained-glass windows depicting events from Montreal's inception are highlights. A 20-minute tour is included in the basilica admission fee, but you may also take a one-hour tour for more historical context and access to the second balcony and the crypt.
The 1967 International and Universal Exposition, or Expo 67 in local parlance, was held in Montreal, which was known as the city's "last good year" (though we've always liked the city, flaws and all).
After that World's Fair was held in this park, which stretches the two islands of Île Sainte-Hélène and Île Notre-Dame (the latter constructed from the excavation of the city's metro system), it left behind a number of artefacts that are still standing today: cottages from various countries (the French and Québec pavilions form the Montreal Casino), the geodesic dome of the Montreal Biosphere (earlier the United States pavilion), the La Ronde amusement. Without at least one trip to this park to explore a completely undiscovered area, no Montreal summer is complete.
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Oratoire Saint-Joseph (St. Joseph's Oratory)
The patron saint of Canada is honoured in the Oratoire Saint-Joseph, which is close to Mount Royal Park's western entrance. With its massive 1924 Renaissance-style domed basilica, it is a holy site for pilgrims.
In 1904, Brother André of the Congrégation de Sainte-Croix had already constructed a modest chapel nearby, where he carried out healing miracles that led to his canonization in 1982. In the original chapel, his tomb is in one of the sanctuary areas. In a separate chapel, votive offerings are on display. Behind the chapel, a cloister provides access to Mont-Royal. The observatory offers a nice northwest view of Montréal and Lac Saint-Louis.
Quartier Des Spectacles
Downtown Montreal's arts and entertainment area is called the Quartier des Spectacles. It is the centre of Montreal's art culture, including everything from sculpture galleries to film conservatories.
The Place des Arts, a performing arts complex that is home to an orchestra, an opera theatre, and a renowned ballet company, serves as the city's focal point. The Grande Bibliotheque, the busiest library in Canada, and Salles du Gesu, the city's oldest theatre, are also located there.
Quartier des Spectacles is the site of hundreds of festivals. The Montreal Circus Festival and the Nuits d'Afrique Festival might surprise you, even though you've probably heard of the Montreal International Jazz Festival. There are countless tiny, independent festivals held all over, and these are just the headliners.
Any time is an excellent time to visit Quartier des Spectacles, but at night it is especially spectacular. Every building will have colourful lights that will lure you, and lit fountains with water jets and laser displays will enchant you. You can see into every one of the restaurants, theatres, museums, and businesses that line the streets thanks to their clear windows.
You won't want to miss Quartier des Spectacles if you enjoy the arts. Although it lacks formal boundaries, this is part of what makes it so appealing: it is a place where various types of self-expression are welcome to coexist and unite people.
One of the premier LGBTQ+ capitals in the world is Montreal. Since 1869, when it all began with a modest cake shop, LGBT businesses have been in The Village. Now, it is home to a variety of establishments that are especially LGBTQ+-friendly, including pubs, clubs, restaurants, and dog groomers.
Great nightlife and laid-back attitudes are present all year long in addition to the yearly Pride Festival, where cultural leaders congregate to celebrate and protest their identities. The best time to go is during the summer, when its main street, Sainte-Catherine, is transformed into a pedestrian mall decorated with a rainbow of strung balls, and the park Place Émilie-Gamelin is transformed into Les Jardins Gamelin, an outdoor beer garden and performance space.
This city is home to several architectural marvels in part because to Expo 67. One of them is the 354 connected concrete cubes that make up Habitat 67, which can be seen from the walkways around Old Port. Today, some of the wealthiest residents of the city live in its more than 100 apartments, making even locals forget that guided tours of the building's main layout and the penthouse, designed by Moshe Safdie, are accessible in both English and French.
It generated a lot of buzz when it was created and constructed to serve as dignitary housing during the 1967 World's Fair, and it continues to generate buzz now. Before checking out the neighbouring standing wave where surfers and playboaters train during the summer months, you may alternatively play it safe and observe it from the outside.
Place Ville Marie
When it comes to self-orientation during the day, Mont Royal is used. At night, Place Ville Marie and its rotating beacon are used. With four office buildings and the busiest underground shopping mall in the entire globe, it was built in 1962 as the third tallest skyscraper in the world outside of America.
Though you can appreciate it from all sides while relaxing on its terrazzo floor below, the real reward is the outlook it provides: The observation deck penthouse, located on the 46th level, offers a nearly 360-degree view of the city and is best enjoyed while sipping wine from the on-site restaurant Les Enfants Terribles.
There is no doubting the tremendous architectural statement that this skyscraper in Parc Jean-Drapeau makes. The building's main structure was created by architect Jean Faugeron as the French Pavilion for Expo 67, as a tribute to the St. Lawrence River's maritime history (the building's rounded vertical beams resemble a partially constructed ship's bow).
Loto-Québec later bought the structure and opened the Montreal Casino in 1993. It remains a fun destination for kitsch and slot machine fans today and a worthwhile pit stops on a trip to this enormous green island park. Be aware that there is a free shuttle service that runs every day from downtown Dorchester Square to the Casino.
The abundance of excellent fruit in Quebec is regularly celebrated in Montreal's dining scene, and the top chefs come to farmer's markets like this one to choose what's in season. It was established in Little Italy in 1933 and is open every day of the week, all year long. The greatest time to attend is in the summer when food is sold directly from the ground or a branch by vendors who travel outside the central chalet.
Fishmongers, butchers, cheese vendors, spice vendors, fruit vendors, vegetable vendors, and several fantastic eateries are among the market's main retailers. Our top recommendation is to stop in for a snack that you can take to the park with some wine or beer.
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Even though the 1976 Summer Olympics were over in a flash, they did left their mark on this judo and velodrome complex, which was later transformed into an indoor nature display in 1992. Today, it is home to a zoo where visitors can stroll through four distinct ecosystems: the tropical forest, the Laurentian Forest, the saint-Lawrence marine ecology, and the subpolar region. With over 4,000 animals to see, a trip here can easily turn into a full day of activities, but you shouldn't skip the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, which is right next door.
There can be no city without one: Chinatown in Montreal, which was founded in 1902, is a popular destination for both locals and visitors who want to eat food fit for buffets and buy goods. What began as a collection of laundromats in 1877 is now a popular destination for city exploring. Walk through any of its paifang gates located at each compass point while ducking into any store or eatery that catches your attention. Here you'll find some of the city's greatest Chinese restaurants, which are especially entertaining during Chinese New Year festivities.
The biggest church in Canada has one of the biggest domes in the entire globe. It is difficult to overlook this landmark on the slope of the city's central mountain, whether you are approaching Montreal from the ground or the air. This church was built in 1967 after construction began in 1904 with a modest chapel. Brother André Bessette is credited with performing miracles and is reported to have been able to heal the ills of pilgrims who ascended its 283 steps. In the church's museum are hundreds of broken canes and Brother André's heart. Aside from its size, this oratory has excellent views from its highest steps.
The second-largest amusement park in Canada is currently housed in what was once an entertainment complex for Expo 67. It features roller coasters, thrill rides, family-friendly attractions, and a variety of shows, some of which have been running since the park first opened.
While the city's L'International des Feux Loto-Québec, an international fireworks competition where 'pyromusical' acts are presented to vie for bronze, silver, and gold medals, is held in the park, there are lots of other ways to get your kicks here. Our favourite time of year to visit is around Halloween when the park opens four haunted homes and entertainers roam the grounds dressed in spooky garb.
Quartier des Spectacles / Place des Festivals
This Montreal downtown region is a significant cultural core of the city year-round and is less of a single landmark than it is a group of them. The biggest festivals—Just for Laughs, the International Jazz Festival, Les Francofolies—get most of the attention, although there are also theatres, the Montreal Symphony House, the national library, numerous museums, and other attractions nearby. You come here to witness the biggest talents from the city performing at the pinnacle of their craft.
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Where Should I Stay in Montreal?
Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal) is the ideal area to stay in Montreal because of the attractions as well as the atmosphere created by the historic buildings and cobblestone streets. Any hotel in this part of the city is in a good position because it is compact enough to be explored on foot. Some of the best hotels in or around this part of Montreal are listed below:
- The Hotel Nelligan is a chic boutique hotel that blends seamlessly into Old Montreal thanks to its first-rate service, warm aesthetic, and exposed centuries-old brick and stone walls.
- The 45-room Auberge du Vieux-Port, located along the St. Lawrence River's waterfront, is of comparable quality and has a comparable historic vibe.
- The Embassy Suites by Hilton, which has a modern vibe and a range of rooms and suites, is located on the border of Old Montreal and the financial sector, close to the well-known Notre Dame Basilica, and at the intersection of two major thoroughfares.
- The well-known Le Petit Hotel is in the centre of Old Montreal on what was formerly the city's first public square and offers a blend of traditional elegance and contemporary conveniences.
- The Travelodge by Wyndham Montreal Centre is in Chinatown yet is easily accessible from both Old Montreal and the downtown area on foot.
- The Hotel l'Abri du Voyageur is located north of Chinatown and in a convenient location near some of the major attractions. This hotel offers a range of low-cost accommodations at different pricing points.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Visit to Montreal: Advice and Tips
Sightseeing: Montreal's historic Old Montreal is the city's busiest tourist destination. If you've never been to the city before, a guided walking tour of Old Montreal is a great opportunity to discover the historic cobblestone streets and little alleys.
The Montreal City Guided Sightseeing Tour with Live Commentary offers a three-hour motor coach tour that covers the main attractions in and around Old Montreal in addition to other well-known locations like Saint Joseph's Oratory, Mount Royal, and the Olympic Stadium for a quick overview of a larger area of the city. Try the Montreal City Hop-on Hop-off Tour if you have time to tour the city and want a more in-depth experience. With this choice, you can disembark at any of the 10 stations over the course of two days and explore the area at your own speed.
Day Trips: The Quebec City and Montmorency Falls Day Trip is one of the most well-liked day trips from Montreal. This all-day guided tour allows you to explore Quebec City's historic neighbourhoods and landmarks as well as parts of the surrounding countryside, including the breathtaking Montmorency Falls. You can also include a St. Lawrence River cruise or just take a stroll through Old Quebec from May to October.
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