Montréal

Montréal or the “Island of Montreal” is a large cosmopolitan city in southwestern Quebec that many find has little in the way of culture but scratch the surface a bit and you will find a multicultural city with unique and interesting neighbourhoods.

Language

Most people and particularly in the tourist and downtown areas speak English though it is always helpful to attempt to speak a bit of French first as it goes a long way.

Getting Around

Many people drive in the city though parking can be difficult (if visiting we found Complexe Desjardins at 150 Saint-Catherine St W, H2X 3Y2 to be very useful - 24 hours parking in the middle of the city at reasonable rates and easy to get to). Traffic can be a nightmare as are the confusing road system so best have a look at your route before heading out even if using a navigation system. Note that due to the severe winters the roads can be in bad shape so drive carefully around the potholes. Also note that turning right on red is not allowed (unlike the rest of the province) while in the city.

Complexe Desjardins

There is a subway system (“Métro de Montréal”) operating four lines but it is limited pretty much to the downtown area only which we did not use. There is also, of course, an extensive bus system throughout the city. See http://www.stm.info/en for public transport information.

Areas of the City

Old Montreal

Montreal City Hall

Old Montreal is worth a a walk around and also offers access to the old port. It features a number of old buildings including the magnificent city hall as well as a number of interesting shops and places to eat.

Place Jacques-Cartier (leading to docks)

Chinatown

Montreal's small Chinatown is located close to the old city and a few blocks from the basilica. As you may expect there are a number of restaurants here featuring Asian food (not just Chinese) as well as supermarkets and a small public square.

Attractions

I have only visited for a few days in April 2019 but the following are a few things I enjoyed when I visited…

Le Stade Olympique (Olympic Stadium)

The Olympic Stadium (see official site at https://parcolympique.qc.ca/en/what-to-do/olympic-stadium/; 4141 Pierre-de Coubertin Ave, H1V 3N7) is an icon of the city with it's dome and arching support tower. Built originally for the Olympics in 1976 there has been talk of redevelopment over the years but it is still used.

Exhibit

You can visit the stadium which offers tours of the stadium but also the “Montréal Tower Observatory” located at the top of the support tower over the stadium which we visited as part of a joint ticket with the Botanical Garden (see below) across the road. The observatory is accessed via a glass-enclosed funicular (train) that takes you up via the top side of the tower. The entrance fee also includes access to a small “Since 1976” exhibition.

Looking Up

The observatory offers great views of the area though downtown Montréal is quite a distance away so can only be just made out. There is a souvenir stand at the top with only basic refreshments (soft drinks) and the windows offer a great view of the stadium below as well as the surrounding area.

Looking Out

View

Montreal Botanical Garden

The Montreal Botanical Garden (see official site at http://m.espacepourlavie.ca/en/botanical-garden; 4101 Sherbrooke St E, H1X 2B2) consists of large outdoor gardens as well as a series of enclosed glasshouses. We visited when the gardens were not yet recovered from the winter so we stuck to the glasshouses which are located to the main entrance on Sherbrooke Street where there is also a large car park.

A path guides you through the greenhouses which feature different themes such as “orchids” or “Garden of Weedlessness (penjings)” (featuring Chinese/Japanese penjing/bonsai).

When we visited in April 2019 the annual Spring Butterflies Go Free exhibition was still open where one of the greenhouses has thousands of butterflies that you can interact with. Note that this is also an extremely popular thing to do so can get extremely crowded.

Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium

The “Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium” (see official site at http://espacepourlavie.ca/en/planetarium; is located adjacent to the Olympic Stadium and features two planetarium theatres (domed screen that you lay back in your reclined seats to watch). Shows run throughout the day in Planetarium tickets can be purchased jointly with the Botanic Gardens and/or Olympic Stadium. Tickets are general admission and provide access to any number of shows that day.

Mount Royal

Mount Royal is a huge park in downtown Montreal that offers miles of walking and hiking trails as well as the “Mount Royal Chalet” at the top commanding amazing views of the city and river (the chalet has a café, toilets, tourist information, and souvenir stand).

In the winter there are cross-country ski trails throughout the park.

It is quite a walk to the top and it is advisable to follow the road or designated paths/steps.

Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal

The Notre-Dame Basilica (see official site at https://www.basiliquenotredame.ca/en; 110 Notre-Dame St W, H2Y 1T2) is one of the busiest tourist attractions of the city and there is often a line to get in. For tourists there is an entrance fee which includes a guided tour.

Dining Out

Here are some reviews of restaurants we visited in Spring 2019 during our visit to the city. We basically stuck to some of the big (tourist) institutions but I am told the harbour areas has some nice places to eat. From what we saw generally downtown has big chains with not a lot of character so it is worth looking around.

Street Art Slideshow

A few pictures showing street art we saw in Montreal…

 

Further Information