Montreal is one of the biggest and most popular cities in Canada. Top attractions include Mount Royal, the Notre-Dame Basilica, Museum of Fine Arts and more.
Montreal Tourist Attractions
Montreal is home to so many places to see. The city is a popular spot to visit amongst both Canadians and those from further afield. Whether you’re a local resident, a domestic traveler or a foreign tourist, here is a collection of some of the best places worth visiting.
Below are some of the top places to check out in and around the city.
Mount Royal is fairly small for a mountain (under 250 metres in elevation), but it rises well above the rest of the city which is mostly flat. During the summer the area is quite popular for hiking as well as relaxing in the grassy areas or by the artificial Beaver Lake. In the winter there is plenty of fun to be had with tobogganing, skiing and more. Mount Royal is also home to other attractions like Saint-Joseph’s Oratory and the Mount Royal Cross.
For more information check out our Mount Royal article.
The Notre-Dame Basilica is one of the top tourist attractions in the entire country. Nearly 200 years old, the building is stunning architecturally with two large bell towers on the outside and plenty of decor on the inside. There are a series of stained glass windows that depict Montreal’s religious history, along with statues and other paintings and carvings to see. During most of the year, you can also witness the AURA light show that turns the basilica into a theatre.
To learn more see our Notre-Dame Basilica article.
While controversial when it was built due to its extravagant cost, Olympic Stadium is certainly a sight. It’s the biggest stadium in the country by seating capacity and the former home of the Montreal Expos and Alouettes. Next to the stadium is the Montreal Tower which is the tallest inclined structure in the world. The Tower is usually open to the public and provides great views of the surrounding area.
For more information click Montreal Olympic Stadium.
The biggest church building in the country, Saint-Joseph’s Oratory can fit up to 10,000 people inside its main shrine. Its location on Mount Royal means that the top of its dome (the largest of its kind in Canada) is the highest point of elevation of any building in Montreal. There are multiple chambers within the oratory worth exploring and the building has a small museum as well.
To learn more check out our Saint Joseph’s Oratory article.
Montreal Museums and Institutions
Montreal has a number of great museums and other institutions worth visiting. Here are a few of them:
Over three hundred years old, the Château Ramezay is a National Historic Site of Canada. The building has been a number of things since it was originally built as a private residence. Today, it serves as a museum that provides a glimpse of what New France was like. Along with the main building there is also the Governor’s Garden which is free to visit and is stylized in the manner of most upper-class 18th century gardens.
For more information click Château Ramezay Museum.
One of the top rated universities in Canada, McGill’s main campus is within walking distance of downtown and right next to Mount Royal Park. Among other things, the campus is home to two quality museums. The first is McCord Museum which has a massive collection of photographs as well as many displays of objects from Canadian and American indigenous cultures. The second is Redpath Museum which is a natural history museum with millions of artifacts from around the world.
To learn more about the campus itself, see our McGill University article.
Museum of Fine Arts
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is both the oldest and largest art gallery in the country. There are five separate pavilions that display a massive range of pieces, plus a sculpture garden. The exhibitions on hand cover all sorts of mediums from painting to film, fashion, music, graphic design and more. The museum is also free for all those ages 20 and under. This makes it a great place for students and families to visit.
For more details click Musee des Beaux Arts Montreal.
Notable Districts and Streets
Montreal is a very historic city. Below are some of its most notable areas.
Montreal’s Chinatown has plenty of nightlife as its official tourist area designation means that businesses can stay open later. During the summer a long stretch of Rue de la Gauchetière turns into a pedestrian-only street. This makes the area a popular spot for various events. Sun Yat-Sen Park is the plaza at the centre of the neighbourhood that has a small public stage.
The Gay Village
Montreal’s Gay Village is the largest such neighbourhood on the continent and has been a vibrant part of the city’s LGBTQ+ community since the 1980s. Similar to Chinatown, during the summer 12 blocks of Saint-Catherine Street are closed off to all vehicles and the area turns into a public plaza. The Village is a great place to see public art during this time with the Mtl en Arts expo among other events, and is also the hub of Montreal Pride celebrations each August.
A historic district containing many attractions, parts of Old Montreal date all the way back to the 17th century. There are a high concentration of historic sites in this neighbourhood, including the Notre-Dame Basilica, Saint-Sulpice Seminary, Bonsecours Market, Champ de Mars and Château Ramezay, among others. There’s also newer attractions such as the Pointe-à-Callière and Centre d’Histoire de Montreal museums. If you only have a limited time to explore Montreal, this is as good a place as any to spend it.
Old Port of Montreal
Within Old Montreal is the Old Port, which has transitioned from commercial use to a designated attraction. The port contains the biggest Ferris wheel in Canada and other amusement rides that are open to those of all ages. As well, visitors can take to the St. Lawrence River either as part of a tour cruise or by renting their own paddleboards, kayaks or jet-skis. The port also hosts events throughout the year including the Grand Poutinefest and massive fireworks displays on Canada Day.
The main street in the downtown area, Saint-Catherine Street is a hub for both shopping and entertainment. There are around 1,200 stores along the roughly 11 km that the road covers, giving plenty of options to explore. The street is the main thoroughfare for both the Village and the Quartier des Spectacles. This means that there is plenty to see on this road, especially in the summer.
Sherbrooke Street is one of the longest streets in the city so it crosses through plenty of different districts. The eastern half of the road is mostly residential although there are some nice spots to visit including the Biodome, Olympic Park and La Fontaine Park. The western half has plenty of attractions, including McGill University, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Ritz-Carlton Montreal and other places downtown and in the Golden Square Mile.
Arts and Entertainment
Montreal has plenty of culture to enjoy. Here are places you can find some entertainment:
Just for Laughs Festival
One of the biggest comedy festivals in the world, Just For Laughs was originally only a French-language event but has since expanded to include English and now brings in a wide variety of performers. During the festival there are shows put on at venues throughout the city, so there are multiple opportunities to see both well-known and up and coming comedians.
Place des Arts
Part of the Quartier des Spectacles, the Place des Arts is Canada’s largest performing arts complex. There are six performance halls within the Place des Arts which put on shows of all kinds including theatre, film, opera, ballet and orchestra performances. Popular events like the Just for Laughs Festival, Les Francos de Montreal and the Montreal International Jazz Festival put on shows in the Place des Arts or the surrounding Quartier.
Other Places of Interest
Below are other attractions and events that are worth visiting.
- Biodome – this museum has four different living ecosystems within the building that you can explore. There’s not many places that have penguins and jungle tropics mere metres apart.
- Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth – a historic hotel that has both luxurious accommodations and a convenient location next to Montreal Central Station.
- Fête des Neiges de Montreal – a very popular winter festival with live music accompanying activities like tubing, ice sculpting and more.
- Iles-de-Boucherville National Park – a beautiful provincial park made up of five islands on the St. Lawrence River. There’s not many better places for water activities.
- Montreal Insectarium – the biggest insect museum in North America, with a massive collection of all kind of critters both living and dead.
- Jean-Drapeau Park – the former site of Expo 67, and home to attractions like the Montreal Biosphere and the La Ronde amusement park.
- Lachine Canal – a nearly 15 km long canal and National Historic Site that’s a great place to paddle or to enjoy the surrounding scenery.
- Les Francos de Montreal – the world’s biggest French-language only music festival and a Montreal staple. This is a great way to ring in the beginning of the fall.
- Montreal Botanical Garden – one of the most comprehensive botanical gardens in the world, there are tens of thousands of species of flora on display.
- Osheaga Music and Arts Festival – a very popular festival that dominates the downtown area for a few days each summer.
- Saint-Paul Street – the oldest street in the city and home to a number of attractions including the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel and the Bonsecours Market.
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