Travel attractions in Montreal
Montreal is one of the most diverse cities in North America. It fuses old with new, European culture with American culture, sports with concerts... The official language of Montreal (and all of Quebec in general) is French, but its residents speak fluent English as well. Montreal, which sits on an island, is considered the most romantic city in Canada. It is the biggest city in Quebec (the second largest in all of Canada) and is the second largest French-speaking city in the world. Montreal is also a harbour city and an important financial hub of Canada. Thanks to Expo 67 and the 1976 Olympics which took place in this city, it developed greatly. Its tourist areas were carefully planned, helping create a spacious, modern, pleasant city.
Due to the extremely harsh weather Montreal experiences in winter, a sort of underground city of enormous proportions sprung up. The underground area is made up of interconnected shopping malls and cultural and entertainment centres which also connect to the city’s subway stations. The universities, Olympic Village, office buildings and some of the museums also connect to the underground network, whose total span is a whopping 30 kilometres. Montreal is also a city of festivals – there’s a reason to celebrate nearly every day. The city attracts lovers of jazz, film, dance, theatre, food, and sports, and is also highly suitable for families.
At the official tourism website of Montreal you will find plenty of information about the city, its sites and its events.
Recommended Hotels in Montreal:
Accommodation in Montreal is cheaper than most big cities, such as London, Rome or New York. Here are three recommended hotels:
A small good 4 star hotel at old town. View of Montreal Port and the river. French restaurant at the hotel. Free WiFi.
A historical 4 star hotel at old town in central location. It offers Bar, Art Gallery, Fitness center. Free WiFi.
A 4 star hotel. Restaurant and indoor rooftop pool. Each room has a microwave, refrigerator and coffee maker. A desk and chair are also included. Gym, sauna, hot tub. Free WiFi.
The weather in Montreal is very pleasant in the summer, but freezing in winter. On particularly cold winters the temperature can go as low as -40°C! That’s why I recommend going in the summer months, between May and September (unless you like cold weather and snow).
Shopping and Attractions
The main shopping areas of Montreal as well as the major galleries are located in the downtown area. The downdown area has a Latin quarter, which is full of coffee shops and small, colourful French-style restaurants. I recommend walking along Crescent Street, especially in the afternoon, where there are many coffee shops with balconies overlooking the street. South of downtown is the Old Town, where there are restored buildings from the 17th to the 19th centuries. The Notre Dame Basilica is there, among others. This neo-gothic church church has no relation to the famous one in Paris, but it is beautiful and full of paintings, sculptures, and gorgeous windows. The church hosts an impressive light-and-sound show called “And There Was Light” (Admission for a fee). Not far from there you can visit a lovely little Chinatown, buy Chinese souvenirs and eat good, inexpensive Chinese food.
The nicest area for travelling in Montreal, especially on a sunny day, is Le Vieux Port de Montréal (The Old Port of Montreal) near the old city. This is a charming place with long bike trails along the water (you can rent bicycles, scooters or rollerblades or just walk), the Montreal Science Centre, shops, restaurants, boats, and fun attractions. Attractions include special trampolines, remote-controlled boat sailing, a big maze, and more. From the harbour you can see a beautiful view of the old city and the nearby islands.
One of the coolest attractions for families (though not those with very young children) is the Lachine Rapids Jet Boat Tours. The tours leave from the dock in the harbour near the clock tower. This is a unique experience in which you sail in a jet boat over very stormy waters full of whirlpools. Even though you will be dressed in sweaters and raincoats, you will still get soaked to the bone. The tour is 75 minutes long. The company also offers wild river rafting tours. More information about the Old Port can be found here.
The Olympic Park of Montreal also has a number of great attractions. First off, I recommend going on the diagonal elevator to the top of the tower leaning over the stadium for an impressive view of the entire city. I also suggest going on a guided tour through the Olympic facilities: the pools, the many sports facilities, and the stadium (for an additional cost). Sports lovers may want to watch a baseball game in the stadium – these usually take place in the evening and their prices are quite low.
Ice hockey games take place in a different stadium, a fancy, modern one called Molson Centre. Ice hockey is a favourite Canadian sport and it is a fun experience to watch this much-adored game in Canada.
In a building close to the stadium is the Biodome. It used to be one of the Olympic facilities (bike races took place here) but now it is a unique sort of indoor zoo. There are four different climates in it: Tropical Forest, Laurentian Forest, Saint Lawrence Marine Eco-system, and the North and South Poles. Every climate area has its own unique weather and typical flora and fauna. This way you can walk through a warm, humid forest one minute and enter a freezing polar area in the next. I recommend watching the short film screened there about how the Biodome was built.
Across the road lie the Botanical Gardens of Montreal (Jardin botanique de Montréal). These are large, impressive gardens. A small train connects all the different parts of the park to one another. One of the attractions of the gardens is the Insectarium. Some of the insects displayed there are preserved, but some are quite alive. I also recommend checking out the glasshouses of tropical plans and the Japanese and Chinese gardens.
Montreal is a completely flat city, with the exception of one low-rising mountain called Mount Royal. On top of the mountain is Mount Royal Park, from which you can see a great view of Montreal. For those short on time who would like to see the main attractions of the city in a pleasant and amusing way, I recommend going on an amphi-bus (amphibian bus) tour. These start every hour from the Old Port.
As expected of any big city, Montreal has a big amusement park full of roller coasters and many other rides, from gentle ones to the most thrilling hardcore ones. The park is called La Ronde, and it belongs to the Six Flags “family” of parks which can be found all over the US. The place also hosts different shows, such as jazz shows, magic shows, and children’s shows.
La Biosphere, which is located in the American house of the expo grounds, is a large, hollow metal sphere. It is an environmental museum about water in general and about the Saint Lawrence River in particular. Here you will find multimedia displays and activities meant to educate the public to protect the world’s most important natural treasure, water. Where the French house of the expo grounds used to be now stands the Casino De Montreal, which has eight storeys of gambling tables and slot machines. The building is very impressive, especially at night-time when it is fully lit. Even non-gamblers will enjoy visiting it and admiring its unique architectural structure. Some shows and musicals take place in the casino and you can buy a combination dinner and show ticket.
places for families to visit in central Montreal:
L’Atrium, which holds a big ice skating rink.
Pepsi, where there are movie theatres, bowling,
wall-climbing, bars, restaurants, shows, and more.
Montreal also has several art museums and an impressive planetarium where you can watch films and laser shows on a big dome.
A great pizza chain in the city is Pizzedelic, which has restaurants all over the city. A cheap and tasty Chinese restaurant is Ming Do, found at 1115 Clark St. A cheap Thai restaurant I recommend is Cuisine Bangkok, located at 1616 Ste-Catherine street west. A nice inexpensive French restaurant is Chez Leveque, at 1030 Laurier west.