About Montreal

WHAT TO SEE & DO IN MONTRÉAL

Montreal is one of Canada's most exciting cities, but it's also an incredibly historic place. When French explorer Jacques Cartier visited what is now known as Montreal in 1535, he found a thriving community of St. Lawrence Iroquois, whom are now believed to have inhabited the area for at least 3,000 years.

Flash forward to today, and there are centuries of history weaving their way through each and every neighborhood, and a plethora of museums, tours, and architecture that all speak to that. But Montreal hums a modern tune as well, with music and nightlife, and world-class design and technology community, and some of the best food in the world. 

*Sourced from Condé Nast Traveler

MONT ROYAL

Mount Royal Park, Montreal's unofficial playground north of downtown, was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (of Central Park fame) and inaugurated in 1876. The park sprawls more than 692 acres and is a favorite destination of Montrealers, who make use of the park year-round, from jogging and enjoying family picnics in summertime, to skiing and tobogganing in winter. Attractions include the Mount Royal Cross (first erected in 1643), Mount Royal Chalet, Beaver Lake, and Sir George Etienne Cartier Monument.

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LA GRANDE ROUE DE MONTRÉAL

Situated on the banks of the St. Lawrence River just steps from Old Montreal, the largest observation wheel in Canada, brings guests nearly 200 feet into the sky, offering panoramic views over the city, tee river, and Mount Royal. It’s touristy, but it’s worth it for those of us who love seeing cities from above. Bringing you high above Old Montréal, each ride is long enough for you to appreciate the sights and start to understand the city’s topography, but not so long that you’re wishing it would be over. For added thrills, upgrade to the “VIP Package” aboard gondola number 42: It’s the only one on the wheel that has a glass floor and Italian leather seats.

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MONTREAL MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS

The MMFA was founded in 1860 and has since grown into one of the most visited museums in North America; visitors flock from all corners of the globe to view the outstanding permanent collection: some 43,000 works from antiquity to today, much of it on display throughout five pavilions. The enormous institution also hosts seasonal blockbuster exhibitions. Be sure to visit the breathtaking Napoleon collection.

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MARCHÉ JEAN-TALON

In the heart of Little Italy, Jean Talon Market, one of the largest open-air markets in North America, is an unmissable Montreal experience for food lovers. The space, which is full of small shopkeepers, bustles with activity year-round; you'll find local fruit and vegetable growers, butchers, bakers, fishmongers, grocers, and restaurateurs. It's hugely popular with locals and tourists, and if you're looking for old-world charm, there's nothing better.

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OASIS IMMERSION

There's a deep history of and passion for design and technology in Montreal, and this immersive exhibit held at the Palais des Congres is the largest of its kind in Canada. The show itself is a stunning display of natural landscapes, videos of artists performing and creating, poetry that floats across the screen, and psychedelic designs that transport the audience; the substance of the show itself appeals to adults and children alike. Because you need to book tickets in advance the exhibit never gets too crowded, so you'll be able to keep your distance from others and experience the magic without feeling cramped.

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SPACE FOR LIFE

The Montréal Space for Life, home to the Biodôme, Insectarium, Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, and Botanical Garden, is the largest natural sciences museum complex in Canada. This is a great place to explore and embrace the natural world; don't miss the “Gardens of Light” lantern festival and the dazzling “Butterflies Go Free” event, both held annually at the Botanical Garden.

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POINTE À CALLIÈRE: MUSEUM OF ARCHAEOLOGY & HISTORY

Pointe-à-Callière, the largest archaeology museum in Canada, is built atop the historic Old Montreal sites where the city was founded in 1642. There is lots of drama here, from the excavated remains of the original settlement to interactive video installations. Pointe-à-Callière also presents three to four temporary exhibitions every year.

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SAINT JOSEPH'S ORATORY

The majestic Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal, one of the world’s great Catholic basilicas, was founded by Saint Brother André, who is credited with thousands of miraculous healings. More than 2 million people visit the pilgrimage site each year (both religious and non-religious), and its dome is the third-largest of its kind in the world after the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro in Côte d'Ivoire and Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. It's without question one of Montreal's most impressive architectural jewels.

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BEYOND THE BAGEL TOUR: MUSEUM OF JEWISH MONTREAL

Jewish food historian Kat Romanow knows her bagels, bialys, and rugelachs. Her Beyond the Bagel walking food tour, offered through the Museum of Jewish Montreal, is a highly informative, well-organized romp. The Plateau and Mile End might be known today for their posh hipsters and nightlife hotspots, but this tour pulls back the curtain on the layers of history found in this part of the city. It's a much more fulfilling dive into Montreal cuisine than just grabbing a bagel or smoked meat sandwich on your own. As much of the excursion is outdoors, just note that this one is not generally offered between November and March.

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LACHINE CANAL

The Lachine Canal flows from the historic buildings of Old Montreal, past the gentrified glass condo buildings of Griffintown, and through the hipster neighborhood of St. Henri before flowing into the industrial areas of Angrignon and Lasalle. Because it cuts through so many residential neighborhoods, you'll get a real glimpse of how Montrealers spend their downtime. On warm summer days, there isn't a better place to go for a jog or walk in the city.

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GUIDATOUR'S OLD MONTRÉAL WALKING TOUR

Guidatour's professional guides have earned their excellent reputations, and the company's Old Montréal East and Old Montréal West itineraries both stop off at the must-see Notre-Dame Basilica, including an interior visit at no additional charge. Both tours last 90 minutes, and they're best for those looking for a crash course in the history of Montreal. You'll be amazed at how many hidden treasures you stumble upon in such a short time span. As much of Guidatour’s offerings are held outdoors, scheduled tours are generally on hold for the colder months. If you can brave the cold, however, feel free to reach out directly through their website to inquire about setting up a private tour.

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CABARET MADO

Like much of Montreal's Gay Village, Cabaret Mado, a cabaret drag bar, is a little gritty, a little sparkly, and utterly fabulous. Mado, an icon in Quebec's vibrant gay scene who has performed for more than 30 years, often oversees the nightly festivities herself by hosting live drag shows most nights of the week. It's a pretty intimate space, so there isn't a bad seat in the house. Just be warned: Those seated in the front row are most vulnerable to be corralled into the show (willingly or unwillingly).

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