In a city as captivating as Montreal, it can be challenging to prioritise its attractions. Historic cathedrals and museums beckon along cobblestone paths, while the cosmopolitan vibe of downtown beguiles the senses with every step. Here are ten significant experiences that should take precedence for every visitor to Montreal.
1. Notre-Dame Basilica
The Notre-Dame Basilica is top of the ‘must see’ list in Montreal, regardless of your religious orientation. The striking gothic façade with its 24-carat gold stars set high in the iridescent blue ceiling, and the mesmerising, hidden Chapelle du Sacre-Coeur, are guaranteed to take your breath away.
2. Under the Big Top
Circus lies at the very heart of Montreal’s culture and there’s nothing quite like seeing a show in the very location where Cirque du Soleil began. TOHU presents ambitious, family-friendly circus shows and exhibitions all year round, culminating with the Montreal Complement Cirque Festival in July.
3. Eat like a local
Get to know Montreal through your taste buds with a food tour of the city’s most culinary neighbourhoods. Sample quintessential treats like warm bagels, rich chocolates, smoked meats, and of course, the best poutine in Canada. Try Montreal Food Tours for guided neighbourhood tours in all seasons.
4. A view from the top
Walk, ride or drive to the top of Mount Royal for a bird’s eye perspective from the Belvédère Kondiaronk observatory, 234 metres above Montreal. Visit the Beaver Lake Pavilion during winter for cross-country skiing and ice-skating. In summer, choose a trail and wander through the wooded 200-hectare park.
5. Shop Rue Saint-Paul
Soak up the European ambience of Saint-Paul Street, the oldest street in Montreal, paved with cobblestones and framed by old-world buildings. It’s a mesmerising dance of old and new, with some of Montreal’s best galleries and museums nestled between cosmopolitan boutiques, funky bars, and cafes.
6. Jean-Talon Markets
Walk among the colourful stalls of the Jean-Talon Market and immerse all five senses in the real Montreal way of life. Practise your French with the friendly providores and sample locally produced wares, including ice wines, bagels, ice cream, teas, smoked meats, and endless maple creations.
7. Celebrate winter in Montreal
Montréal En Lumière, one of the largest and longest winter festivals in the world, attracts around 1.3 visitors from across the globe to its ‘snow storm’ of winter events in the Quartier des Spectacles, including light shows, gastronomy, outdoor parties, and cultural displays.
8. Gastronomy in the Eastern Townships
Drive the picturesque countryside of Quebec’s Eastern Townships and stay in one of many enchanting B&Bs in the charming villages. Discover Quebec’s key wine routes, Route des vins de Brome-Missisquoi and the Route des vins de l’Estrie, and feast on mouth-watering farm-to-table cuisine.
9. Underground City
Live it up underground during winter in Montreal. The elaborate network of tunnels, spanning 32 kilometres, links major shopping malls, Metro stations, museums, hotels and performance centres, without ever requiring that you brave the weather. Plumb the depths of Montreal’s vibrant heart – the largest underground complex in the world.
10. Biodôme and Insectarium
Kids love the diverse mix of more than 160,000 living and naturalised insect specimens at the Montreal Insectarium, including bee hives and ant farms. Montreal Biodôme houses four ecosystems, 230 species of animals and 750 plant types. Explore tropical rainforests, maple forests and underwater fauna, all in an afternoon.