Montreal has it all. It's a place for fun and festivals as dozens of summer celebrations highlight everything from all that jazz at the annual International Jazz Festival to tickling your funny bone -- more than a few stars were born at the Just for Laughs annual comedy bash.
It's a place for food -- everything from haute cuisine to poutine, a local concoction that promises your American-made French fries will never be the same. Shopping ranges from chic neighborhood boutiques to fripperies, where bargain hunters search for their next second-hand treasure.
Art, architecture, and rich religious history abound, influenced by immigrants in search of a New France and a new life. Then as now, the result of this compliment of ethnic cultures is a diverse and sophisticated, friendly and tolerant attitude that leaves no one behind.
Mostly, Montreal is about its people. It may be cold outside most of the year, but Montrealers' passion for life will warm anybody's heart.
While the United States/Canadian dollar exchange rate isn't what it used to be, Americans still come out a bit ahead. Overall, for dining, hotels, and getting around, Montreal remains a reasonably priced vacation.
One traveling tip: Brush up on your high school French, as Montreal is the second largest French-speaking city in the world. Many Montrealers, especially those in the travel industry, are fully bilingual so there's hardly a language barrier. But a smile and a salut, bonjour, merci (hello, good day, thank you) on your part go a long, long way.
The best tip of all -- Montreal is a treasure waiting to be discovered and a rejuvenation of the senses and spirit. This city will capture your heart and stay in your soul forever.
The Best of Montreal
Simply put, if you tell a Montrealer that they're acting like a tourist, they'd probably take it as a compliment. A Montrealers' favorite motto could very well be "life is short, summer's shorter." While they cram in as much fun as they can when the weather is fine, Montrealers have also figured out a way to play all year-round.
As cold as it may get, Montrealers will shrug off Old Man Winter and enjoy that season with equal gusto. The best part of all, for visitors and locals alike, is that everyone is more than bienvenue to join in on the fun.
Folks flock to Mont Royal Park, Montreal's namesake, any time of year. In summer, bike or walk to the belvedere summit for great views of downtown. In winter, cross-country ski or ice skate to your heart's content. Nearby, Montreal's rich religious history is no better defined than a visit to the impressive Saint Joseph's Oratory.
Old Montreal and neighboring Old Port offer a timeline of city history that can be discovered at Chateau Ramezay (an 18th-century building) or Pointe-a-Calliere Museum of Archeology and History. Impressive architecture includes stops at City Hall, Bonsecours Market, and Notre Dame Basilica. And the Montreal Science Centre serves up good-old family fun.
Jean Drapeau Park invites you to play the day away. For grown-ups, the Montreal Casino is a best bet, while family fun can be had at La Ronde Amusement Park. And museums buffs can explore history at the Stewart Museum at the Fort, housed in an actual fort, and the science of the Saint Lawrence Seaway at the Biosphere.
In the eastern part of town, the Montreal Botanical Garden ranks as one of the largest in the world. Across the street, visitors can then explore four recreated ecosystems at the Montreal Biodome. Another impressive site is Olympic Stadium, a landmark on the Montreal skyline.
Art, history, and science museums abound in Montreal, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and the McCord Museum of Canadian History. Your biggest dilemma will be which one to visit first.
A stroll through an iconic Montreal neighborhood, like the Plateau, offers a chance to explore the way Montrealers live. A corner bistro or cafe is never far, and you can shop at any number of unique Montreal boutiques.
Chances are, whatever time of year you visit, there's bound to be a festival or special event like the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the Just for Laughs Festival, or formula one racing at the popular Montreal Grand Prix.
Fast Facts & Info
Fast Facts & Info
Geography and landscape: Montreal is an island surrounded by the Saint Lawrence River. The city is about 45 miles north of the United States/New York border.
The main tourist areas of the cit, downtown or centre-ville, the Latin Quarter, Old Montreal, and the Old Port -- reintroduced in summer 2006 as the Quays of Montreal -- and some residential city neighborhoods like the Plateau and the Gay Village, all border each other and are centrally located in the southern heart of the island. These are your best bets for exploring Montreal like a pro.
Other residential city neighborhoods, like Notre-Dame-de-Grace and Westmount (boasting perhaps the most expensive real estate in town) and Little Italy (home to the popular Jean-Talon Market), all enjoy their own unique flavor and are great to explore for longer stays in the city.
Suburban sprawl surrounds the island on its northeastern end, en route to Quebec City, a 2-1/2-hour drive away; the western tip, some 20 minutes from the Ontario border; and northern limits in the direction of the Laurentian Mountains and the Mont Tremblant ski resort town.
General orientation: Almost smack dab in the middle of Montreal is Mont Royal, the mountain for which it was named. While explorer Jacques Cartier was the first European to climb the mountain, lead by the island's Hochelaga inhabitants in 1535, it was Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve, considered the founder of the city, who placed the first cross on the mountain in 1643 (a thank-you gesture to the Virgin Mary for saving the city from flood).
The modern illuminated 100-foot cross was erected in 1924 and updated in 1992. The landmark cross remains a welcoming city beacon that's never far from a Montrealer's eye.
Six blocks away from Mont Royal Park's eastern perimeter is Saint Laurent Boulevard, the official east-west divider of city addresses, as well as the symbolic language divider: Francophone to the east, Anglophone to the west. Montrealers affectionately call their beloved Saint Laurent Boulevard "The Main."
The main east-west thoroughfares in the downtown core include Sherbrooke Street, Saint Catherine Street, Boulevard Rene Levesque; from north to south, Avenue de Lorimier, Papineau Street, Amherst Street, Saint Denis Street, Saint Laurent Boulevard, and Atwater Street. Many streets run one-way.
And good saints alive! It seems every other street in Montreal is named after a saint.
Safety: As far as major North American cities go, Montreal has to be one of the safest. There are very few areas of the city where one would feel uncomfortable walking around at night. As with any large metropolis, however, use your discretion.
While illegal, pockets of prostitution exist, mostly near some of Saint Catherine Street's strip clubs in a very small red-light area that borders downtown and the Latin Quarter, and in the Gay Village on a small portion of Saint Catherine Street and on Ontario Street.
But one thing to point out: If you didn't know it, you'd walk right past it. The main point to make is that these places are very safe during the day and even at night. To avoid them, you'd miss out on some great restaurants and attractions if you didn't visit.
Population: Montreal is the second-largest French-speaking city in the world with 3.7 million inhabitants.
Currency: One dollar in the United States exchanges to about $1.25 in Canadian money. Before traveling to Montreal, you should exchange at least some currency so you can pay for transportation to your hotel without having to stand in line at an airport ATM. You can exchange money at your local American Express, Thomas Cook Office, or at most banks.
Your options are to exchange money or traveler's checks at a bank, get cash from an ATM, or use credit cards. ATMs are the easiest and best way to get cash during your trip, and they can be found outside or inside bank branches near signs like Guichet Atomatique or Services Atomatises.
Traveler's checks aren't as necessary as they used to be because most cities have 24-hour ATMs. If you still want to use traveler's checks, keep a record of the serial numbers in case the checks become lost or stolen.
If you opt for using credit cards, the charge slips will be written in Canadian cash then converted to American money when the credit card company processes your account. Be aware that credit card companies charge a commission of 1 to 2 percent on every foreign purchase. This is a minimal cost considering potential ATM fees and high traveler's check exchange rates.
Many stores in Montreal accept U.S. currency. Most businesses post signs letting customers know, or they'll advertise the percentage exchange rate they offer.
Climate/weather: The old joke says that there are two seasons in Montreal: Winter and next winter. Montreal winters can be brutal, with temperatures that drop into the teens and 20s degrees Fahrenheit (about -10 degrees Celsius) for days on end. The wind chill can make if feel even colder. Incidentally, temperatures are stated in Celsius throughout Canada.
And if you've never seen snow, visit Montreal in January, February, March, and even early April. You'll see lots of it. Snow removal on the city's part is efficient and an art unto itself. If you drive, snow tires during winter come in handy for any unexpected weather. If you do visit Montreal during winter, do what Montrealers do: Take it in stride and go outside.
Summer weather ranges from the ideal sunny, clear, and 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 29 degrees Celsius), to a week or two, maybe three, of hazy, hot, and humid weather every July and August. The average July temperature is 79.3 degrees Fahrenheit (26.3 degrees Celsius).
Driving in Montreal can be a bit challenging, thanks to rush hour, a lot of pedestrians, and summer festivals. Learn about Montreal transportation on the next page.
Getting In, Getting Around Montreal
Your best bet for getting around Montreal is on foot, but there are other options if this isn't the best mode of transport for you. Use this Montreal transporation primer to help you out.
From the Airport
Montreal is serviced by Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport (formerly Dorval Airport). Its airport code is YUL.
Visitors need to pass through Canadian Customs and Immigrations upon their arrival. For information and visitor requirements, visit Canada Border Services Agency at www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca. In addition, allow yourself plenty of time when leaving Montreal via airplane as U.S. Customs and Immigrations are handled upon your departure in Montreal. Visit the Department of Homeland Security for information and links.
Rental car: To be honest, you don't need a car in Montreal. Despite knowing that fact, if you still prefer to rent a car, car rental agency counters are conveniently located inside the airport's parking garage. Those companies include National, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Hertz, Enterprise, Dollar, and Thrifty.
Public transportation: Unfortunately, the Montreal subway system, or Metro, doesn't service Trudeau Airport. A commuter train line (Montreal-Dorion Line) is nearby but not worth the hassle.
Instead, the Montreal-Trudeau L'Aerobus Shuttle Service (514-842-2281) offers inexpensive and reliable transport from the airport to Montreal's Central Bus Station near Berri Street and Boulevard de Maisonneuve in the Latin Quarter. This main shuttle stops at a few hotels along the way, and a secondary shuttle services most of the major downtown hotels.
You can purchase a shuttle ticket in the airport at the counter inside the terminal in the domestic flights area on the ground level or at the booth outside the main entrance. A one-way adult ticket costs $13; a round-trip costs $22.75 (Canadian). You can find the shuttle on the airport's ground level. Shuttles leave every 20 minutes, and travel time is usually 45 minutes, depending on traffic.
Taxi: A taxi ride from the airport is a flat rate of $35 to any point downtown. A number of taxis are lined up on the airport's ground level. Payment must be made in Canadian funds, but some drivers will make exceptions and accept U.S. currency.
Rush hour: Like any other major city, Montreal's rush hour ranks with the best or worst of them. Morning rush hour is 6:30 am to 8:30 am, and afternoon rush hour is 3:30 pm to 6 pm, so avoid driving during those hours if you can. If you're driving, most likely you'll be approaching from the New York border on Montreal's South Shore.
The wait time at the main border crossing at Interstate 87 in New York/Autoroute 15 Nord in Quebec -- either entering Canada or returning to the United States -- can take but a few minutes or up to 40 minutes during the busy summer season, especially on weekends. The easiest access into Montreal from the South Shore is by the Jacques Cartier Bridge, followed by the Champlain Bridge. Autoroute Bonaventure, the second exit just after Champlain Bridge, will take you directly into downtown.
Rules of the road: Montreal means metric. And that means the speed limit on the highway is 100 kilometers per hour (60 mph). Highway signs are mostly bilingual. Just in case, "pont" means bridge and "prochaine sortie" means next exit.
Driving through city traffic is an art because there are a maze of one-way streets and lots of pedestrians with which to contend. In addition, a summer festival means the closing of some of the busiest streets in the city. A couple Montreal rules of the road: A flashing green light signals the driver that it's OK to make a left turn. Right-on-red turns are illegal in the city.
Your biggest driving challenge may be when it comes time to park the car, as most of the parking signs are written in French and stated in military time (for example, 16H means 4 pm). There are daily parking restrictions for street cleaning, rush hour, and residential parking (these sectors are numbered within a red box on most signs). If you can't decipher the sign, just ask a local to help with the translation.
Getting Around Montreal
Public transportation, fares: The Montreal Metro subway system is the best way to get about town quickly. It's easy to navigate because there are only four color-coded lines: green, blue, orange, and yellow. It's also clean, quiet (rubber tires), accessible, reliable, and inexpensive.
The bus system, Societe de Transport de Montreal, is even more extensive and equally recommended. A one-way fare costs $2.50. A strip of six tickets costs $11.50. A one-day tourist card, good for unlimited use, costs $9; a three-day tourist card costs $17. If you're staying longer, purchase a regular weekly pass for $18.50.
One word of note: The Metro does not operate 24 hours a day. It stops running every night for a few hours from about 1 am to 5:30 am.
Taxis, by foot, by bike: Taxis are reasonable for short hauls, and hailing a cab in Montreal is very safe and easy. It costs a minimum of $3.15 for the cab ride and an additional $1.45 per kilometer. There's a wait time charge of 55 cents per minute as well.
The two best ways to travel in Montreal are by foot or by bike. Bring your most comfortable pair of sneakers because walking is the way to get around in this town. Or bring your bike: Montreal boasts hundreds of miles of bike paths throughout the region.
The Maison des Cyclistes (1251 Rachel E, 514-521-8356) rents bikes and sells maps of bike paths in and around the city. There is also bicycle rental in the Old Port (514-847-0666).
With so much to see and do in Montreal, you may want some suggestions. Go to the next page for details on the city's many special events and attractions.
Montreal Special Events & Attractions
Montrealers work hard; they just play harder. Chances are that where there's a tourist, there's a local equally enjoying all the city has to offer. On the agenda: a bike ride through the Old Port, a hike up the mountain, a relaxing stroll through flora at the Montreal Botanical Garden, and a glimpse of fauna at the Montreal Biodome.
And there's always a celebration of sorts going on -- just pick a festival, any festival. Get ready for lots of walking and a guarantee of a good night's sleep.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Montreal
The Montreal Botanical Garden (4101 rue Sherbrooke E) is one of the city's gems and celebrated a milestone 75th anniversary in 2006. The site features some 30 theme gardens, including the First Nations Garden that highlights indigenous Canadian culture and plants; a fun City Garden, offering great gardening ideas for small spaces; and Courtyard of the Senses, a garden geared for those who are visually impaired. This courtyard features an optional blindfolded tour that lets you experience the touch, smell, and sometimes taste of this thoughtfully planned space. It's an eye-opening experience.
The botanical garden also features many year-round special events. In spring the Butterflies Go Free; Fall brings the Magic of Lanterns, which features some 800 colorful silk lanterns displayed in the Chinese Garden -- a truly illuminating experience.
Insectarium de Montreal (4581 Sherbrooke St E) features a collection of more than 350,000 insects in a building designed to resemble a stylized insect. Interactive and participatory exhibits take visitors through aviaries and living displays in six geographically themed areas. Every other year a guest chef cooks up some interesting critter concoctions in a popular event called Insect Tastings. Don't miss it if you're in town.
Make time for the Montreal Science Center (King Edward Pier, 333 de la Commune St W), where you'll find interactive science fun. It's a must for families, but mom and dad will find themselves having an equally good time. There's exhibition space and an interactive theater game featuring the high-flying Canadian Snowbirds, where visitors compete against one another.
Follow the church bells to Notre Dame Basilica (100 Notre-Dame St W). The interior of this Gothic Revival church will simply take your breath away. While the basilica offers a unique way to visit with a multimedia presentation called "And Then There was Light," your own self-guided visit will do. Incidentally, the basilica is where Quebec pop diva Celine Dion was married.
One of the best museums in town is Pointe-a-Calliere Museum of Archaeology and History (350 Place Royal). In the past, the museum's temporary space has hosted everything from Japan treasures to Jules Verne artifacts to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Permanent exhibits include a multimedia presentation called "Montreal, Tales of the City."
Visit the Chateau Ramezay Museum (280 Notre Dame St E). The building dates to 1705 and was home to Claude de Ramezay, a governor of Montreal. Benjamin Franklin is known to have visited the chateau on a diplomatic mission in 1776, during a brief time when Montreal was actually part of the United States during the American Revolution.
The Marguerite-Bourgeoys Museum (400 Saint Paul St E) features a religious heritage collection and theatrical presentations of the life of Marguerite-Bourgeoys, considered Montreal's first teacher.
Make sure to stop by the Olympic Stadium (4141 Pierre de Courbertin Ave), the former home to the Montreal Expos and the main venue for the 1976 Olympics. It ranks as the tallest inclined tower in the world and looks as if it has just landed there from outer space.
Chateau Dufrense (2929 Jeanne-d'Arc Ave) features treasures of a 1920s bourgeois residence once shared by two brothers. The building has ornate ceiling frescos and was designed by Guido Nincheri, an immigrant artist who designed and decorated a number of Montreal churches.
Mont Royal Park (Cote des Neiges and Remembrance rds) is the city's namesake. Architect Frederick Law Olmstead, also known for designing Boston Common and New York's Central Park, designed Mont Royal Park. It's a green space where Montrealers come to play, relax, and simply get away from it all.
In summer, get there by biking or hiking -- the main paths are very well marked. In winter, the mountain offers fun in the form of snowtubing, sledding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. The ice-skating rink and pavilion were restored in 2005.
Venture to the Montreal Planetarium (1000 Saint Jacques St) for a look at the heavens above -- Montreal-style. Celebrating a milestone 40th anniversary in 2006, the planetarium offers many locally produced multimedia presentations and attracts a rather nice local crowd of stargazing enthusiasts.
Parc Safari (850 Highway 202) features 750 animals, rides, shows, a children's theater and play area, a swimming beach, and a drive-through wild animal reserve.
With more than 30 cultural institutions in Montreal, you won't be at a loss to find arts and culture. See the next section for information on some of the best museums and such.
Montreal Arts & Culture
Museums abound in Montreal. You'll find more than 30 cultural institutions that highlight everything from art to architecture, fossils to film history. To top it all off, the last Sunday in May is Montreal Museums Day, where all of these fine institutions open their doors for free, complete with free bus transportation. The vibrant Montreal theatre scene offers original options in both English and French.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Montreal
In the heart of downtown, Place des Arts (175 rue Saint Catherine St W) is a five-theatre complex with plans for a sixth that will be a new home for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. The complex is also home to the innovative Les Grands Ballets Canadiens dance company, the Montreal Opera, and the Broadway musical touring company. Other entertainment hosted here includes chamber music, recitals, folk singers, variety shows, musicals, and classical and modern dance.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1379-80 Sherbrooke St W) is Canada's oldest art museum (founded in 1860) and has a wide variety of displays ranging from Egyptian statues to 20th-century abstracts. It's wonderfully inspiring collections include decorative, Canadian, and European arts as well as ancient artifacts and Mediterranean antiquities.
There's always a unique temporary exhibition, too, which in the past has paid tribute to artists from Magritte to Matisse; Keith Haring to Alfred Hitchcock. A visit to the permanent collection is free.
Musee d'Art Contemporian de Montreal (185 Saint Catherine St W) is the only museum in Canada devoted exclusively to modern art. Sixty percent of the permanent collection of 6,000 works is composed of Quebec artists. You'll also find international painters like Jean Dubuffet and Jean Arp and photographers like Ansel Adams. No single style prevails, so expect to see a wide range of works, including video displays and Abstract Expressionism.
Specialized museums in the Latin Quarter neighborhood include Cinematheque Quebecoise (335 de Maisonneuve St E), a wonderful archive of the world of television and films with unique exhibits that explore everything from foreign movie posters to vintage television sets. Best of all -- it's free.
Just across the street, Centre de Design of the University of Quebec at Montreal (1440 Sanguinet St) has a free small gallery space that's often full of design surprises. It's open when school is in session.
The Just for Laughs Museum (2111 Saint Laurent Blvd), another Latin Quarter staple, offers the International Comedy Hall of Fame and Immortals of Comedy, hundreds of film clips from your favorite comedians.
A few museums, while a bit off-the-beaten path, are still worth the trip. Twenty minutes south of Montreal you'll find Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum (110 Saint Pierre St in Saint Constant on Montreal's South Shore), home to some 150 Canadian locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars, and streetcars. The museum is adoringly and painstakingly preserved and cared for by the 900-member Canadian Railroad Historical Association, a passionate and sincere bunch who find the beauty in both the machinery and the heritage, and aren't afraid to share the sentiment. They can rattle off train make and model numbers like they know their grandkids' birthdays.
The collection includes a completely restored Sydney & Louisburg car from the Maritimes, once used by wireless inventor Guglielmo Marconi; a Fairbanks-Morse Trainmaster powered by submarine engines left over from World War II; and a traveling school car complete with classroom, desks, and living quarters for the teacher. The museum's new pavilion opened in 2004.
Archeo-Quebec is a unique concept that invites avid and amateur archeologists alike to get down and dirty by celebrating Quebec Archeology Month every August. Some 100 workshops and activities let you observe actual archeological digs and speak with archeologists in the field at 50 museums and sites throughout all corners of Quebec, many in the Montreal region.
The various landmarks in Montreal include many beautiful religious buildings. Learn about Montreal's landmarks and architecture on the next page.
Montreal Architecture & Landmarks
Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mont Royal, Olympic Stadium, and the cross atop Mont Royal Park are all visual cues that you've arrived in Montreal. Remnants from Expo 67, most notably the American Pavilion, now the Montreal Biosphere, and the French Pavilion, now home to the Montreal Casino, offer additional indications of Montreal's unique skyline.
Some of the landmarks take on a life of their own like the spiritual sense one gets when visiting Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mont Royal or the many churches found in every neighborhood in Montreal. Old Montreal's distinctive buildings feature windows that let in as much as they could during the days before electricity. And sometimes landmarks teem with life, like a visit to any number of Montreal's distinctive neighborhoods.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Montreal
Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Montreal
The magnificent Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mont Royal (3800 Chemin Queen Mary Rd) is an impressive structure founded just more than one century ago and still attracts pilgrims from all over the world. The basilica dome reaches almost 300 feet into the sky. Don't miss lighting a candle in the votive chapel where the walls are adorned with crutches and canes, a testament to Brother Andre's healing powers. You can actually feel the temperature rise as you walk into this sacred space.
Maison Saint-Gabriel (2146 Dublin Place, in the Pointe Saint Charles neighborhood of Montreal) is a magnificent 300-year-old house that's one of the finest examples of traditional Quebec architecture. Converted into a museum in 1966, it showcases different aspects of rural life in the 17th century and the extraordinary adventure of the King's Wards, young orphan girls who looked toward a new life in New France. The house features period furnishings and tools and items of French-Canadian heritage like woodcuts from ancient churches and chapels.
The Canadian Center for Architecture (1920 Baile St) is a popular Canadian original that's all about art in architecture. Don't expect a traditional art exhibit experience. But if you've a passion for a building plan or find the beauty in a blueprint, this is your place. The site often features fun weekend family workshops and thematic movie screenings. Phyllis Lambert founded the CCA in 1979 and her work as an architect includes the Seagram Building in New York, the Toronto Dominion Centre, and the Mobil Three-Star Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. Admission to the center is free on Thursday evenings.
Chateau Ramezay (280 Notre Dame St E) was constructed in the 18th century and once housed the governors of Montreal, the West Indies Company of France, and the Governors-General of British North America. It opened as a museum in 1895 and today is the oldest private museum in Quebec. The building has collections of furniture, paintings, costumes, porcelain, and art objects from the 17th to 19th centuries.
Notre-Dame Basilica (110 rue Notre-Dame W) is Neo-Gothic in design with dramatic architecture. The ceiling is a deep purple with golden stars and has hundreds of wooden carvings. The stained-glass windows depict scenes of the religious history of Montreal and not biblical scenes like other churches. Its bell weighs 24,780 pounds and is located in the Perseverance Tower, and there's a 10-bell chime in the Temperance Tower.
Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral (1065 Cathedral St) is the third largest church in Quebec, even though it's a 1/3 replica of St. Peter's in Rome. The church's front is topped with statues of patron saints of the 13 parishes of Montreal.
Place d'Armes (Saint Sulpice and rue Saint Jacques) is the center of Old Montreal and a square of great historical importance for the city. The founders of Ville-Marie encountered the Iroquois here in 1644 and rebuffed them. In the square's center is a statue of de Maisonneuve, the first governor of Montreal, and at one end is the Saint Sulpice Cemetery with an old wooden clock, the oldest building in Montreal.
Olympic Stadium (4141 Pierre de Coubertin Ave) was the site of the 1976 Summer Olympic Games. It has an inclined tower that's 626 feet leaning at a 45-degree angle that was once used to open and close the retractable roof. Due to problems with the roof, it was replaced in 1988 with one that doesn't open, and the tower now has an observation deck.
Architect and urban planner Moshe Safdie is known for Habitat 67 (2600 Pierre Dupuy Ave), a housing complex he built in 1967 as part of his Master's thesis at McGill University. The complex combines private homes with modern apartment buildings to create interlocking modules with gardens. The complex became private condos in the 1980s, but you can still drive by and admire the exterior beauty of the design.
The Montreal Casino (1 Ave du Caino) is a unique building consisting of three -- the French Pavilion, the Quebec Pavilion, and an annex. The main building has five floors with low ceilings and no windows in many areas.
The World Trade Centre Montreal (380 Saint Antoine St W) is a 10-story complex that includes a 600-footlong glassed-in atrium, a fragment of the Berlin Wall, and a fountain by French architect and sculptor Diedonne-Barthelemy Guibal. The promenade follows the original lines of the city's 18th-century walls.
Redpath Museum (859 Sherbrooke St W) is a good example of neoclassical design. Its interior and exterior have been used as a set for movies and commercials, including the 1986 Barnum film starring Burt Lancaster and the 1999 Eye of the Beholder with Ashley Judd.
If you'd rather shop than look at buildings, Montreal is perfect for that, too. As you'll see on the next page, Montreal offers everything from major retail shops to unique specialty boutiques.
Montreal runs the gamut in terms of shopping, from overpriced souvenirs geared toward tourists to second-hand stores for bargains aplenty. There are great specialty shops to be found in every neighborhood, and sometimes the shops can be found underground.
Many major retail and specialty shops can be found on Saint Catherine St W and Notre Dame W. And keep in mind that many downtown stores close around 5 pm or 6 pm on weekends. Why? It's the weekend and it's time to play!
Insider's Guide: The Best of Shopping in Montreal
Quebec's Economuseums are a unique business concept that showcases traditional trades and their production techniques. Think of them as atelier, boutique, museum, and trade school all in one. While the products differ at each economuseum, the common denominator is the passionate artisans who have devoted their lives to their craft.
There are some four dozen economuseums in a growing network that spans Quebec and the Maritimes; Montreal boasts five economuseums. Les Brodeuses (5364 Saint Laurent Blvd, 514-276-4181) specializes in embroidery, and just across the street is Hectarus, which features vitrified glassware (5329 Saint Laurent Blvd, 514-495-2629).
Eaton Centre (705 Saint Catherine W, 514-288-3708) is a shopping mall that has 150 diverse shops, including The Gap, Benetton, Bleu Marine, and G, as well as 30 fast-food restaurants. A six-screen cinema is located on the mall's sixth floor.
Place Alexis Nichon (1500 Atwater St) is a 400,000-square-foot shopping center that's part of a 2.4-million-square-foot office/residential/commercial complex. The shopping center has large retail outlets, like Zellers and Canadian Tire, and small specialty boutiques such as Le Enfants Ole Ole.
Complex Desjardins (150 Saint Catherine W) features 36 fashion shops and 110 boutiques. Some of their stores include Souris Mini for kids clothing, Bizou for jewelry, and Boutique Claudia, Marie Claire, and Lingerie Briere for women's clothing.
Le Faubourg (1616 Saint Catherine St W) is a shopping mall that has 60 specialty shops anchoring a mixed-use complex on the west side of town. Its stores include Vegas Mode for women's clothing and Benix for accessories.
In Old Montreal Galerie Parchemine (40 Saint Paul St W, 514-845-3368) offers frames and framing technique workshops. And violin-making takes front and center stage at Jules Saint-Michel, Luthier (57 Ontario St W, 514-288-4343). At La Maison de Calico (324 Lakeshore Rd, 514-695-0728) in the western suburb of Point Claire, quilting is the specialty.
If you have wedding plans or a formal event in the near future, a visit to Plaza St. Hubert (6841 Saint-Hubert St, between Jean Talon, Bellechase, De Chateaubriand, and Saint Andre) near Little Italy is a must. You'll find four long city blocks of shopping underneath a canopy-covered sidewalk. The area boasts hundreds of stores, most geared toward clothing, formalwear, and jewelry, and is easily accessible by cab or Metro stations Beaubien or Jean-Talon.
Antiquites Milord (1870 Notre Dame W, 514-933-2433) specializes in 18th- and 19th-century European furniture and artwork. The Antiquities VR Magasin (1748 Notre Dame W, 514-933-7333) sells mid-range antiques, silverware, candlesticks, table lamps, dining room sets, and more.
So, what is there to do when the sun has set and your shopping excursions have ended? The next page has several suggestions on Montreal's nightlife and entertainment scene.
Montreal Nightlife & Entertainment
Nightlife in Montreal is the same as many other cities. You can have your pick of bars, lounges, pubs, after-hour nightclubs, and cabarets, depending on how late you want to stay out.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Montreal
Au Diable Vert (4557 Saint Denis St, 514-849-5888) is a bar that's well liked with the locals in the heart of the busy Plateau neighborhood. Bacci (4205 Saint Denis St, 514-844-3929) is a classy pool hall with a distinctive and elegant decor for a bar. You can shoot pool, sit back and have a beer, or dance to electronic, urban, or Top 40 music.
Bleu est Noir (812 Rachel E, 514-524-4809) is a good place to go to dance or listen to rock and alternative music.
Crescent Street downtown is popular with the English-speaking locals and tourists and for everyone come Grand Prix time in June. Thursday's (1449 Crescent St) is a good bet for a drink or Sunday brunch. Also downtown, Sharx (1606 Saint Catherine St W, 514- 934-3105) features big-screen televisions, dozens of pool tables, and a retro 1950s-style 10-lane bowling alley.
737 Altitude (1 Place Ville Marie) is located on top of the Place Ville Marie Tower. This nightclub offers a gorgeous view, 737 feet high up, of Montreal. You can dance on any of the two floors inside and order at any of the many bars.
Cathedral (3781 Saint Laurent, 514-842-4721) is another nightclub that's trendy but has good music if you can stand a gothic decor. The best nights to visit are Thursdays through Saturdays. Club Atlantis (1106 de Maisonneuve W, 514-288-8829) is a nightclub featuring urban, hip-hop, and Top 40 music on a great sound system that pumps out onto large dance floors. Smoke machines and the deep-sea decor help create a unique atmosphere.
For late-late-late night fun, try the Aria Nightclub (1280 Saint Denis, 514-987-6712), which is open past 3 am. The building has three floors, each offering different music, and a huge sound system that will make you dance instead of just standing around talking or sitting on the couch.
Ye Olde Orchard Pub (5563 Monkland St, 514-484-1569) is a neighborhood Irish pub in the Notre-Dame-de-Grace part of town. It features Irish fare and live Celtic music, too.
The Bily Kun (1627 Mont Royal E, 514-845-5392) is a moodily lit lounge with a rocking DJ booth and occasional live jazz performances.
The Old Port of Montreal (De la Commune St, between the Saint Lawrence River and Old Montreal) offers free tango lessons and salsa under the stars every summer. Also visit Tango Libre (2485 Mont Royal Ave), a club where locals come to dance year-round.
The Hour and Montreal Mirror are two local alternative weekly newspapers chock full of weekly concert listings. They're published every Wednesday and are available free throughout the city. The Montreal Gazette, the city's daily newspaper, is another great reference of things to do.
Montreal is synonymous with the circus, and hometown favorite Cirque du Soleil immediately comes to mind. Cirque du Soleil debuts a new show under the blue-and-yellow big top in the Old Port of Montreal (De la Commune St, between the Saint Lawrence River and Old Montreal) every other spring.
In keeping with the tradition, TOHU, Montreal's Circus Arts Complex (2345 Jarry E), was specifically built with circus performance in mind. The site features a small museum devoted to the history of the circus, exhibition space, family activities, as well as unique circus acts from around the world. It's a bit out of the way, so a cab ride is suggested, but well worth it.
Major League baseball's Montreal Expos may now be a memory, but sports fans still have some options like a night of hockey with the Habs, the Montreal Canadiens, at the Bell Centre (1216 de La Gauchetiere SW).
If you're tired following a night out on the town, you'll find plenty of opportunities to relax and unwind in Montreal. See the next section for suggestions.
Relaxing & Unwinding in Montreal
Montreal boasts beautiful surroundings of lakes, gardens, and parks so you can while away the hours year-round. Some like to break a sweat with hiking, biking, or rafting through the various areas, while others enjoy sitting back with a picnic lunch and just taking in the view.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Montreal
Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Montreal
Angrignon Park (7503 boul de la Verendrye, 514-872-3816) is a 262-acre park that's a great place to relax with more than 21,600 trees, lagoons, rivers, and paths for bicycling.
Outdoor enthusiasts who want to get away from the hustle and bustle find a few hours of solace at La Fontaine Park (Sherbrooke and Ave du Parc Lafontaine, 514-872-2644). Along with paddle-boating on two manmade lakes, you can walk along footpaths or bring your bicycle to explore trails. During winter, you can try cross-country skiing, ice-skating, and snowshoeing.
The Montreal Botanical Garden (4101 rue Sherbrooke E) is a beautifully well-manicured place featuring 180 acres of 26,000 species and varieties of plants. You can stroll through 30 specialized sections of roses, perennial plants, flowery brooks, bonsai, or the largest collection of orchids in the city. In fact, the bonsai and penjing collections are two of the most diverse in North America.
Explore in a safe and controlled environment with a visit to the Montreal Biodome (4777 Pierre-De Coubertin Ave). The former Olympic Veldrome has been transformed into an environmental museum that combines the elements of a botanical garden, aquarium, zoo, and nature center. The four ecosystems maintain thousands of plants and small animals. It also features a 1,640-foot nature path with text panels and maps for a leisurely and educational stroll.
Remain in the car for a close look at animals in their site exhibit at the Park Safari (850 Hwy 202, Hemmingford, 33 miles south on Hwy 15 to Exit 6). The park holds 750 animals, rides, and shows. If you want more low-key fun, you can head to the park's swimming beach or go on a picnic.
Kick back with a book -- four floors worth to be exact -- at Montreal's main library and newest landmark, Grande Bibliothaque du Quebec in the Latin Quarter (475 de Maisonneuve Blvd E).
If you're looking for some green links to relax, you won't have to look far. The Montreal area offers 12 quality golf courses, depending on your level of skill and how much you're willing to spend.
Some good options are Club de Golf de I'tlede Montreal (3700 rue Damien Gauthier), an 18-hole course with its own set of challenging holes. Golf Dorval (2000 Reverchon Ave, 20 minutes from Montreal) has two challenging 18-hole courses, a lighted driving range, and two putting greens. If you're traveling with children, you can try the course's training program for kids.
The Metropolitan Anjou Golf (9555 Golf Blvd) offers 2 courses -- the Championship and Executive Par-3 -- designed with help from golf architect Graham Cooke. You'll encounter huge lakes, ponds, and white bunker sands on the course, so be prepared for some tougher than usual strategies. The driving range also has 52 spaces, so you don't have to worry about waiting your turn.
Need a bit more direction? See the next section for information on some of Montreal's best organized tours.
Montreal Organized Tours Overview
Montreal has a number of unique ways to explore the city. Specialized Tours include a walk in the woods, New France style. The Stewart Museum at the Old Fort (20 Chemin Tour L'Ile, Saint Helen Island) offers Trails by Night, a nighttime snowshoe trek lead by costumed animators who bring the 1730s to life. Come prepared for this outdoor wintertime walk in the woods with a double pair of socks, long Johns, and even ski pants. Tours are held in English for larger groups.
Old Montreal Ghost Walks (514-868-0303) offer guided tours of the area with fun and frightening twists. It features a Traditional Ghost Walk, a Montreal Historical Crime Scene, and a New France Ghost Hunt in which teams are supplied with lanterns and maps to search for clues that lead to a few ghosts along the way. The ghosts and ghost hunters are bilingual.
Amarrages sans frontiers (514-272-7049) offers neighborhood walking and ethnic food tours. Heritage Montreal (514- 286-2662) offers Architectours, walking tours that highlight the architecture and diversity of Montreal's neighborhoods. Caleche Tours (514-489-3823) has horse-drawn carriage rides departing from Place d'Armes, Mont Royal Park, and Old Port of Montreal.
Gray Line bus tours (1140 Wellington St, 514-934-1222) offer various sightseeing and package tours of Montreal, which stops at the Biodome, Notre-Dame Basilica, and Chinatown.
Before you pack your bags, check out the suggestions on the next page for where to stay in Montreal.
Montreal Hotels Guide
Need a place to stay while visiting Montreal? The city, of course, has numerous hotels from which to choose. There are many options for upscale accommodations, including Mobil Three-Star Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth (900 Rene Levesque Blvd), which is known for its contemporary sophistication.
The Mobil Three-Star Ritz-Carlton Montreal (1228 Sherbrooke) is a classic hotel known to be a leisure traveler's dream, while the Mobil Four-Star Hotel Le St. James (355 Saint Jacques St) is a posh hotel known for its antiques, arts, and focus on catering to traveler's pets.
Old Port elegance includes Mobil Three-Star Le Place d'Armes (701 Cote de la Place d'Armes) and Mobil Three-Star Loews Hotel Vogue (1425 rue de la Montagne)
Just as there are numerous luxury hotels to choose from in Montreal, you'll find plenty of food to satisfy your palate. Montreal has both guilty culinary pleasures and gourmet fare. For a more complete look at your dining options while visiting Montreal, see our restaurants guide on the next page.
Montreal Restaurants Guide
Smoked meat sandwiches, bagels, and poutine define indigenous Montreal culinary fare. Tangy smoked meat is served up thick on thin rye bread at Mobil One-Star Ben's Delicatessen (990 de Maisonneuve Blvd, 514-844-1001).
It may not be haute cuisine, but poutine is a guilty pleasure of French fries, grain or farmer's cheese, and a tangy brown barbeque sauce. La Banquise (994 Rachel E, 514-525-2415) in the Plateau neighborhood makes more than a dozen varieties.
Old Montreal means upscale fare. Mobil Four-Star Toque! (900 Place Jean-Paul Riopelle, 514-499-0292) means French cuisine at its finest. You should try the daily fresh cheeses on walnut bread, salmon and Arctic char, or Jerusalem artichoke soup with pomegranites.
In the Plateau there are some two down reasonably priced restaurants for every taste along pedestrian-only Prince Arthur Street. One popular spot is Mazurka (64 Prince Arthur St E, 514-844-3539) for Polish food, especially their pierogies, meat and cheese blintzes, or potato pancakes.
Amonzona (5525 Cote-Saint-Luce, 514-484-2612) is a family-style Greek restaurant with the best tzatziki around. Basha (930 Saint Catherine W, 514-86-4272) is a good place to try shawarma, falafel, and shish taouk.
Cafe Electra Cozy (24 des Pins E, 5141-288-0853) is known for its Italian panini sandwiches made with fresh ingredients and great care.
Milos (5357 Parc Ave, 514-272-3522) is a Greek restaurant with nets and floats hanging from the ceiling. You should try the snapper, fried eggplant, or fried zucchini.
Gibby's (298 Place d'Youville, 514-282-1837) is a cozy traditional restaurant that serves good filet of scampi crusted with spices, a tidbit of sorbet between courses to cleanse the pallet, then delicious desserts like homemade cheesecake.
Bonaparte (447 rue Saint-Francois-Xavier, 514-844-4368) is known for its French cuisine, and you should try the duck confit, filet mignon, or venison dishes. The chocolate mousse is to die for! Don't worry about eating too much and ending up with your hand over your stomach like Bonaparte himself!
As you can see, you won't be at a loss for things to do in Montreal. The trouble may be how to fit it all in. Get some help by checking out our suggested itineraries on the next page.
Suggested Itineraries for Visiting Montreal
From incredibly varied festivals to some of the world's best art museums, there are enough things to do in Montreal to please even the most finicky travelers. To find out how to take advantage of everything that Montreal has to offer, see the following suggested itineraries, which are divided by areas of interest.
Special Events & Attractions in Montreal
Special Events & Attractions in Montreal
With so many must-see attractions in Montreal, you may have trouble figuring out where to start. These itineraries should help.
1 day: If you only have one day to sample Montreal, head toward Old Montreal (bounded by McGill, Berri, Notre-Dame sts, and the Saint Lawrence River) and neighboring Old Port (De la Commune St between the Saint Lawrence River and Old Montreal).
The area is considered the birthplace of the city and is steeped rich in Canadian history. There's a lot of ground to cover, but it can be visited in a day. The area is easily accessible by three Metro stations: Champ-de-Mars, Place d'Armes, and Square Victoria. But be warned: The area does cater to tourists, so expect to shell out some cash. It's still worth the visit, however.
In the eastern section of Old Montreal, history buffs can discover the life and work of Sir George-Etienne Cartier, a Montreal politician statesman and one of the 36 Fathers of Confederation, at the Sir George-Etienne Cartier National Historic Site (458 Notre-Dame St E). Here you'll find a glimpse of 19th-century Montreal bourgeoisie life told through live costumed characters.
Head south on Bonsecours Street and make your way to the Marguerite-Bourgeoys Museum (400 Saint Paul St E). This church/museum features a religious heritage collection and theatrical presentations of the life of Marguerite-Bourgeoys, considered Montreal's first teacher.
Bonsecours Market (350 Saint Paul St E) is an impressive Old Montreal architectural building. But don't be fooled by the "market" in its present-day name. It's no longer a food market but a place for an original (and sometimes pricey) Canadian or Quebec souvenir at the dozen-plus fine artisan and craft boutiques.
Head to Mobil's Three-Star Cube Restaurant (355 McGill St) for delicious regional lunch cuisine like a layered cube of goat cheese, spinach, tomato, and yellow sweet peppers. Follow it with a filet of Chilean sea bass framed with shrimp and clams on lemon pasta.
The Canadian (and American) history lesson continues at Chateau Ramezay Museum (280 Notre Dame St E), which was once home to Claude de Ramezay, a governor of Montreal.
Across the street is the architecturally impressive Montreal City Hall building (275 Notre Dame St E), which was built in the 1870s. While it's a stunning photo on the outside, don't forget to visit the equally ornate lobby. Just across the street is Place Jacques-Cartier, one of the city's most famous public squares. It's a busy space of street performers, artists selling their wares and (again, sometimes pricey) sidewalk cafes. Before heading down toward the Old Port, visit the nearby Old Montreal tourist information office (174 Notre Dame St E) for brochures, maps and guided tour information.
From Place Jacques-Cartier, walk toward the water, better known as Montreal's Old Port and recently reintroduced as the Quays of the Old Port. To the east is the landmark Clock Tower. During the peak-season summer months, you can climb all 192 steps to the top for some great views of the area -- all for the cost of a donation.
Visit the authentic Public Market, circa 1705, in late August and listen to Port Symphonies, a musical of ship horns, train whistles, and church bells on weekends in late winter and early spring. More city history can be discovered at Centre d'histoire de Montreal (335 Place d'Youville), which is housed in a former fire station that dates to 1903.
2 days: It's time to head east to the Hochelaga/Maisonneuve District, a residential working-class neighborhood home to four Montreal institutions: Olympic Stadium, the Montreal Biodome, the Montreal Botanical Garden, and Chateau Dufresne. A car or Metro stations Pie-IX (pronounced "pee-nuff") or Viau are the best ways to access the area.
The first stop is the Montreal Botanical Garden (4101 rue Sherbrooke E), where you can stroll through 180 acres of plants and trees on well-manicured grounds. One of the best theme gardens to visit is the First Nations Garden, highlighting indigenous Canadian culture and plants. The admission price includes access to the on-site Montreal Insectarium (4101 Sherbrooke St E), where you can learn about thousands of insects and butterflies in a safe environment.
Across the street is Olympic Stadium (4141 Pierre de Courbertin Ave), the former home to the Montreal Expos and the main venue for the 1976 Olympics. The funicular ride up to the top offers great views of the area (but the free view from Mont Royal Park is equally impressive).
A lunchtime Montrealais burger with Portobello mushrooms and Vidalia onions and a side of fries at Moe's Deli and Bar, a local theme restaurant (3950 Sherbrooke St) should hold you over until dinner.
Nearby is the Montreal Biodome (4777 Pierre-De Coubertin Ave), a place for birds, bats, flora, and fauna. The site includes four recreated ecosystems: a Laurentian Forest, the Saint Lawrence Seaway, a tropical forest, and a polar world.
And while it's usually overlooked by the area's top three draws mentioned above, Chateau Dufrense (2929 Jeanne-d'Arc Ave) across the street is worth a visit for its ornate ceiling frescos designed by Guido Nincheri, an immigrant artist who designed and decorated a number of Montreal churches.
3 days: Start your day at Beauty's (93 Mount Royal Ave W) for basic bacon and eggs served all day long. Then make your way to the nearby mountain -- Mont Royal Park (Cote des Neiges and Remembrance rds), the city's namesake. This is a great place for biking or hiking in the summer and snowtubing, sledding, and cross-country skiing in winter. Make your way to the belvedere at the top of the mountain for incredible views of downtown, and don't forget the camera. The Smith House Interpretive Center offers a small exhibit on the mountain's history and guided maps. Car access is at Camillien Houde Drive at Park and Mont Royal avenues on the east and Remembrance Road at Chemin Cote des Neiges on the west.
Make your way back down the mountain into downtown for lunch. Try Mangia (1101 de Maisonneuve Blvd W, corner of Peel St) for a make-your-own salad of oriental vegetables, pasta, assorted beans, artichokes -- you name it -- to stay or to go.
In the afternoon, check out the nearby McGill University campus for a visit to the Redpath Museum (859 Sherbrooke St W). The small specialized museum devoted to natural history features a fine collection of minerals and gems.
Another nearby museum option is Musee des Hospitalieres de l'Hotel-Dieu de Montreal (201 Pine Ave W), which commemorates the medical staff of the Hotel-Dieu, Montreal's first hospital.
Arts & Culture in Montreal
Arts & Culture in Montreal
Learn about Canadian history, contemporary art, vintage films, and so much more at the various arts and culture venues in Montreal. Here are three days worth of suggestions:
1 day: Spend few hours admiring the decorative, Canadian, and European works, as well as ancient artifacts and Mediterranean antiques, on display at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1379-1380 Sherbrooke St W), which ranks with the best of them -- if not in size, in spirit. An underground exhibition tunnel runs right under Sherbrooke Street and connects two architecturally impressive buildings. It's half-price adult admission on Wednesday evenings.
Stop for lunch at Mobil Two-Star Il Cortile (1442 Sherbrooke W). This is considered a hidden gem of an Italian restaurant in a busy neighborhood. Try the mushroom risotto or spaghetti alio olio, and if it's spring or summer, ask for a table in the courtyard patio.
Down the block, visit the McCord Museum of Canadian History (690 Sherbrooke St W), an impressive archive for all things Canadian. The museum collection numbers 1.3 million artifacts and 1 million photographs, almost half taken by acclaimed local photographer William Notman and his studio, which captured almost eight decades of photos from the 1840s to the 1930s.
At night take in an English-language play at the Centaur Theatre (453 Saint Franois-Xavier St) in Old Montreal. This innovative regional Canadian theater features six English-language productions annually, with many original premieres of talented local playwrights and special performances and events, including the over-the-top Wildside Festival every winter.
2 days: Spend several hours at the Musee d'art Contemporain de Montreal (185 Saint Catherine St W), which offers eclectic, original, and imaginative contemporary art at its best, often highlighting the works of Canadian artists. Place a la Magie, the Forties, Fifties and Sixties in Quebec highlights works from the permanent collection with an emphasis on the automatist art movement of Quebec. You'll find free admission on Wednesday evenings, and the guided tours are great.
If you're in the mood to buy, travel a bit west to the nearby Belgo Building (372 Saint Catherine St W), home to dozens of art galleries featuring the wares of Quebec artists. Then head to Cinematheque Quebecoise (335 de Maisonneuve St E), a wonderful archive of the world of television and films with unique exhibits that explore everything from foreign movie posters to vintage television sets. Admission is free.
For dinner, head to Mobil Three-Star Queue De Cheval (1221 Boulevard Rene Levesque) for a classic steakhouse menu with prime beef dry-aged five weeks and spiced with bold, robust flavors. It also has a raw bar, salads, vegetarian appetizers, and fresh fish.
3 days: Start your day heading to the Canadian Center for Architecture (1920 Baile St), which can show you all about the art in architecture. The site often features fun weekend family workshops and thematic movie screenings. Admission is free on Thursday evenings.
At night, one of the best-kept English theatre secrets in town is the Leanor and Alvin Segal Theatre of Saidye Bronfman Center for the Arts (5170 Ch De La Cote Saint Catherine). It's an intimate theatre space with only about 400 seats, but the plays and performances consistently wow Montreal audiences.
Before or after the performance or even during intermission, visit the adjoining Liane and Danny Taran Gallery (5170 Chemin de la Cote Saint Catherine) for a small but unique contemporary art experience.
For dinner, visit the Outremont neighborhood for two great choices. Le Petit Italien (1265 Bernard St W, near the Outremont Theatre) offers wonderful pasta originals like fettuccine with veal. Very smart half portions, too. And Chez Leveque (1030 Laurier St W) is a French bistro with nice decor and reasonable table dishes. Try the bavette and fries and the oysters when in season.
Architecture & Landmarks in Montreal
Architecture & Landmarks in Montreal
From beautiful churches and homes to unique sculptures and buildings, Montreal's architecture and landmarks are sights to behold. These itineraries will enable you to hit all the highlights.
1 day: Religious heritage is best defined by a trip to the magnificent Saint Joseph's Oratory (3800 Chemin Queen Mary Rd). The basilica dome reaches almost 300 feet into the sky. Take a stroll in the serene outdoor Gardens of the Way of the Cross. A popular collection of Nativity scenes is displayed every December to February. These items are made from just about every material imagined including glass, straw, wood, mother of pearl, paint, bronze, aluminum, sea shells, even food.
Juxtapose the old with the new. Downtown, the very colorful glass facade on the western side of Palais des Congres, Montreal's convention center, is a popular photo op. It also provides a colorful backdrop for the home of Quebec artist Jean-Paul Riopelle's "La Joute," a monumental fountain sculpture showcased in a circular pool.
Stop by the World Trade Centre Montreal (380 Saint Antoine St W) to view fragments of the Berlin Wall and admire the black granite fountain that is a work of art unto itself.
End the afternoon with a tour of Notre-Dame Basilica (110 rue Notre-Dame W), which is Neo-Gothic in design with dramatic architecture. It's known for its beautiful altar, interior design, and bells that ring in the towers.
2 days: Visit a living landmark -- Montreal's Plateau neighborhood. The area is decidedly friendly and French, a great way to experience how Montrealers truly live. The houses of the Plateau possess distinct architectural features like winding staircases, stained-glass windows, and ornate entranceways. Don't be afraid to explore the neighborhood on your own.
One of the trendiest, friendliest streets in town is Mont Royal Avenue, a bustling east-west artery that runs right through the heart of the Plateau. The Plateau's slice of Mont Royal Avenue is bordered by Iberville Avenue in the east, with Olympic Stadium towering high in the distance, to Park Avenue in the west, complete with spectacular views of Mont Royal Park.
As your two-mile tour of Mont Royal Avenue unfolds, you'll discover a street full of specialty gourmet shops, great dining for any time of day, and some really unique boutiques. You can always hop on the 97 Bus if your feet tire out before your tour ends.
Need a mini tour? Pick up some food staples and have a picnic. First some cheese, please. La Fromagerie Hamel (2117 Mont Royal Ave E) offers 250 varieties of cheeses from around the world, as well as cold cuts. Oka cheese is a local specialty. Next, Boulangerie Les Co'pains d'abord (1965 Mont Royal Ave E) is a busy, cozy cafe/pastry shop. On the shopping list: fresh baked baguette and mouth-watering chocolate almond croissant. Step three: a good read. Le Colisee du Livre Bookstore (1809 Mont Royal Ave E) is nothing fancy to look at, but the used English book bin in the basement boasts hardcover titles for as little as $1! And in that short walk there are no less than four fruit and vegetable stores -- take your pick.
One last stop before the picnic lunch is Saum-Mom (1318 Mont Royal Ave E), for smoked salmon dip in a variety of flavors. Make your way to nearby La Fontaine Park (Sherbrooke and Ave du Parc Lafontaine), which is Montreal's third largest park and quite popular with the locals. At night, La Fontaine Park's Theatre de Verdure offers free summer theatre, dance, and music under the stars.
If dinner is in your plans, Lezvos (1227A Mont Royal E) is a small, cozy, friendly neighborhood restaurant that specializes in Mediterranean cuisine. Fried calamari, lamb chops, seafood -- and reservations -- are all musts.
3 days: Atwater Market (138 Atwater Ave) is a bustling food market and known landmark full of good taste located just southwest of downtown in the St. Henri neighborhood. It's a short walk from Atwater Metro station. The building has a decidedly Art Deco look. Here you can stroll along the vendors who sell everything from fruit and flowers, cheese to chocolate. The best pizza in town, by the slice or the pie, belongs to Pizz'ancora on the market's ground floor.
Neighboring the market is another Montreal landmark: the Lachine Canal. The canal reopened to recreational boat craft a few years back. You can even work off lunch with a little exercise provided by H2O Adventures. Here you can rent paddleboats, kayaks, or eco-friendly electric boats for an authentic boat ride along the canal from May to September.
From Atwater Market, travel east along Notre Dame Street, home to Montreal's Antique Alley, where you'll find dozens of antiques shops as far as the eye can see. Stores of note include Retro-Ville (2652 Notre Dame St W) offering a nostalgic trip back through time full of toys, tins, and advertising collectibles. And Deuxiemement (1880 Notre Dame St W) is a curiosity shop that's packed to the rafters. You can't buy there but can rent or browse.
At night, catch a movie at nearby AMC Forum 22 (2313 Saint Catherine St W). The building is the former Montreal Forum, where the Montreal Canadians won most of their 24 Stanley Cups. Today the site offers 22 movie screens offering new releases as well as repertory films.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries
for Shopping in Montreal
From home decor items to board games and antiques, you'll find dozens of stores to suit you in Montreal, regardless of what's on your shopping list. Use these itineraries to plan your shopping excursions.
1 day: Go downtown and go underground. Downtown shopping along Saint Catherine Street is an all-day affair. And while highly touted as a destination of sorts, don't go out of your way looking for Montreal's Underground City for shopping. Why? You're probably already there when shopping at any number of city malls or stores and you just don't realize it. Be sure to visit Les Cours Mont-Royal, Eaton Centre, Complex Les Ailes, and Place Ville Marie. Also along the way, Ogilvy's offers upscale, while the trendy Simons is the place for city chic.
Venture a bit north to Sherbrooke Street for the likes of the very fashionable Holt Renfrew. There are tons of places for a lunchtime break. Enjoy a hearty Bento Box of salad, miso soup, sushi, grilled beef, and tempura at Zen Ya (486 Saint Catherine W), tucked away on the second floor.
Another best kept downtown lunch secret is Newtown's (1476 Crescent St). Here you'll find good bread, soup or salad, and shrimp pasta with vegetables that's generous with the shrimp.
2 days: Go local. Shop like a real Montrealer along any number of neighborhood thoroughfares. In the Plateau, shopping and strolling along Saint Denis Street and Saint Laurent Boulevard will lead you to tons of options and a real Montreal feel. Arthur Quentin (3960 St Denis St) has everything for the gourmet chef. Depart en Mer (4306 St Denis St) boasts nautical flair. And Le Valet d'Coeur (4408 St Denis St) literally translates to the jack of hearts and is the place for fun in the form of puzzles and games.
In addition, Saint Laurent Boulevard has become a center of shopping for home furnishings in Montreal. Take a furniture tour of a dozen stores centered near Saint Laurent Boulevard and Mont Royal Avenue. And while you're in the neighborhood, enjoy the place for a smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz's (3895 St Laurent Blvd), a Montreal institution.
3 days: Amherst Street offers more than one dozen antique shops, many with a nostalgic retro feel. All stores are fun to check out, whether you intend to buy or browse. You can look through antiques at Antiquits A-Z (1840 Amherst St), Retro Stop (1851 Amherst St), Jack's (1860 and 1892 Amherst St), and Le 1863 (1863 Amherst St).
Along the way, visit Ecomusee du fier monde, a museum that celebrates the working class, housed in a former public bathhouse (2050 Amherst St). Across the street, enjoy a snack of fresh fruit, cheese, and a baguette at the Saint Jacques outdoor/indoor food and flower market.
For a sit-down meal, just down the block is Bistro Le Porto (1365 Ontario St E, 514-527-7067) for plentiful Portuguese fare. The grilled calamari has a smoky bite and the house soup with hearty churicho sausage offers a surprisingly light flavor. The grilled sardines are a house specialty, too. They are very tasty but are served bone-in, so they require a bit of work.
Nightlife & Entertainment in Montreal
Nightlife & Entertainment in Montreal
Strap on your dancing shoes and get ready for a bustling night scene in Montreal. Here are some of the hottest spots:
1 day: Start off with French cuisine at Mobil Three-Star Le Lutetia (1430 rue de la Montagne), which is located inside the popular Hotel de la Montagne. After dinner, you can venture into the building's piano bar and discotheque for some drinks and music to help you set the pace for the evening.
Make sure you keep your dancing shoes on, since you're going to show your moves in several places. Go to the Cathedral (3781 Saint Laurent, 514-842-4721), a trendy nightclub that plays popular music and is at its best from Thursdays through Saturdays. Then you can head to Club Atlantis (1106 de Maisonneuve W, 514-288-8829) for some of the best urban, hip-hop, and Top 40 music. Don't get lost on the dance floor if the smoke machine is working at full speed.
For late-late-late night fun, try the Aria Nightclub (1280 Saint Denis, 514-987-6712) for dancing on three floors, each offering different kinds of music depending on the DJ.
2 days: Start the day at La Ronde (22 Chemin Macdonald), a 135-acre amusement park with rides, entertainment acts on a floating stage, water skiing, and restaurants. You can easily spend several hours here. Its newest thrill ride is Goliath, a rollercoaster of biblical proportions. The three-minute coaster ride boasts an initial drop of over 171 feet, covers a course three-quarters of a mile long, and reaches speeds of 68 mph.
The Montreal Casino (1 Ave du Caino) promises excitement any time of the day since it's open 24 hours. The casino features all the gambling staples: slots, gaming tables, keno, and blackjack. When you get hungry, head to Mobil Three-Star Nuances, a stylish modern bistro located within the casino building. The upscale menu features exquisitely updated French cuisine assembled from nature's best seasonal products. You can try the popular salmon fume with potato galette and herbed cream or baked lion of lamb.
Then head to Ye Olde Orchard Pub (5563 Monkland St, 514-484-1569) in Notre-Dame-de-Grace for Irish fare and live Celtic music. After a few hours, try some live jazz or DJ hits at the Bily Kun Lounge (1627 Mont Royal E, 514-845-5392).
3 days: Live music lives in Montreal. While the Bell Centre (1216 de La Gauchetiere SW) attracts big-name arena concerts, the smaller venues delightfully surprise in both star power and intimate cabaret settings. You can broaden your horizons by visiting the Cabaret Music Hall at Just for Laughs Museum (2111 Saint Laurent Blvd, 514-845-2014); Cafe Campus (57 Prince Arthur St, 514-844-1010); Club Soda (1225 Saint Laurent Blvd, 514- 286-1010); or Spectrum (318 Saint Catherine St W, 514-861-5851).
End your evening having a casual drink as you look out over the best view of the city from the terrace of 737 Altitude (1 Place Ville Marie).
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Montreal
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Montreal
From glass-bottomed boat tours to miles of hiking/biking paths, there are dozens of ways to relax in this great city. See the suggested itineraries below to help narrow it down.
1 day: Montreal is a very bike-friendly city, so bring or rent a bicycle. There are hundreds of well-paved bike paths in and around town. Suggested itineraries include trips to the Old Port of Montreal (De la Commune St between the Saint Lawrence River and Old Montreal), along popular and pretty Lachine Canal, or a jaunt to Jean Drapeau Park (1 Circuit Gilles-Villenueve).
Pick up a map at the best biking resource in town, La Maison des Cyclists (1251 Rachel St E). It's a Plateau cafe and bike boutique where many cyclists come to meet. Every late spring, the Montreal Bike Fest gets things rolling with a week of two-wheeled fun, culminating with Tour de l'Ile, a 25-mile bike ride around Montreal.
One quaint and picturesque place for lunch is Mobil Three-Star Chez Le Mere Michel (1209 Guy St, 514-934-0473). You'll feel like you've stepped into a painting, from the quaint flower-lined walkway to the small, slightly cluttered rooms filled with eclectic collectibles. Don't worry if you're wearing your biking outfit because casual attire is allowed. The menu is classic and well-prepared French cuisine, anything you pick will be good, but the do-not-miss dessert is the strawberry Napoleon.
2 days: A number of sea cruises let you enjoy the uniqueness of the Saint Lawrence River with departures from the Old Port of Montreal (De la Commune St between the Saint Lawrence River and Old Montreal).
First up is Saute Moutons (514-284-9607), the Saint Lawrence River's wet and wild jet boat ride. Saute Moutons is a flat-bottomed boat that travels through the shallow Lachine Rapids, 15 minutes from downtown. The result when passing through these rapids is a tidal wave that cascades over the entire boat. It's a full-bodied baptism accompanied by shrieks of laughter and giddy screams. Saute Moutons operates May to mid-October, and reservations are a must. Bring sunscreen and a change of clothes.
If you don't feel the need for that much Saint Lawrence excitement, AML Cruises offers the Discoverers Cruise (514-842-3871) aboard the Cavalier Maxim from Montreal to the islands of Boucherville, 20 miles north of Montreal. Optional dinner cruises are available.
Le Bateau Mouche (514-849-9952) offers Saint Lawrence River sightseeing in a glass-enclosed boat with day cruises and romantic evening dinner cruises. Le Petit Navire (514-602-1000) offers 45-minute cruises of the Old Port waterways every summer.
3 days: In the middle of the Saint Lawrence River is Jean Drapeau Park (1 Circuit Gilles-Villenueve), a big-city respite for locals and tourists alike. The park is named after Jean Drapeau, a Montreal mayor instrumental in bringing the Metro subway system, Expo 67, and the 1976 Olympics to the city.
Jean Drapeau Park is a great place to get moving. You can explore the park by bike, in-line skate, or just take a hike. Water sports fun includes kayaking, sailboating, canoeing, windsurfing, and paddleboat rentals. You can also swim in the recently renovated public pool or the beach that filters water from the Saint Lawrence River.
Eleven sculptures adorn both islands of the park -- Ile Notre Dame and Ile Saint Helene -- and make for a great outdoor art treasure hunt. Perhaps the most famous is Alexander Calder's "Man." The on-site info kiosk located near the Metro offers free maps that mark the location of each sculpture.
There are also two museums within the confines of the park. The Stewart Museum houses such artifacts as maps, firearms, and navigational equipment that trace Canadian history from the 16th to 19th centuries. The Old Fort is an actual 18th-century fort along the Saint Lawrence River. It houses the impressive collection of historical artifacts, archival documents, maps, navigational instruments and antique arms that once belonged to David Macdonald Stewart, heir to the fortune built by Canadian tobacco industry magnate Sir William Macdonald. Military drills are held daily.
The French/English 1-2 punch alone makes Montreal an interesting city. Throw in amazing museums, beautiful architecture, great shopping, and fine cuisine, and you've got a destination that shouldn't be missed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Steve Howell is a freelance writer who has covered Montreal for the past decade. He shares his time between Montreal and Plattsburgh, New York. Steve is an admitted museum junkie, which comes in handy when covering Montreal exhibitions, events, and festivals as a weekly contributing writer to The Montreal Gazette and The Plattsburgh Press-Republican.