Once a fortified city, Old Montreal is today a safe and vibrant community of hotels, restaurants, boutiques, rich in 17th & 18th history and charm - truly unique in North America.
Old Montreal can be explored easily in a day, but in order to truly appreciate this neighborhood and visit some of its attractions, you may need more time.
Intriguing and educational highlights include the Point Calliere Museum, which explores the history of Montreal through archaeological studies and artifacts, and Notre Dame Basilica, which was completed in 1829 and has a unique light and sound show that recounts the history of Old Montreal and the church.
Many fine restaurants and exclusive shops line the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal, eat and shop thoughtfully. Don't run into the first restaurant you see, as there are many substandard ones that exploit their location without actually delivering on good food. A little research online will help you find some of the more outstanding gastronomical finds.
Mont Royal Summit
Mont Royal - pronounced mawn-ree-yal in French - and in particular, the Mont Royal Cross acts as a natural landmark and way to orient yourself in Montreal.
Hike, bike, drive or take a bus to the top of Mont Royal and enjoy the great view and park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, famous for his work on Central Park in New York City. Mont Royal Park includes a small, man-made lake, playground, lookouts, and walking paths. Access to the park without a car is free.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts houses an impressive collection of almost 36,000 pieces by Canadian and international artists, representing painting, sculpture, photographs, and decorative art objects from Antiquity to today.
Admission is free to the museum's permanent collection, which includes Canadian and Inuit art, international art, decorative arts and design, world culture sand contemporary art. Paid admission is required for special temporary exhibitions. Visit the museum's website for more info.
The Montreal Biodome is a fascinating museum that recreates the world's four ecosystems: Tropical Rainforest, Laurentian Maple Forest, Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Sub-Polar Regions.
Each ecosystem has its own space in which the climate, vegetation and wildlife are mimicked to give visitors a truly authentic experience.
True to Montreal's varied architectural landscape, the Montreal Casino is a unique, futuristic looking building that is made up partly of two pavilions from the '67 Montreal Expo. Comprised of three buildings and 6 floors, it is the largest casino in Canada and among the 10 biggest in the world.
Adding to the Montreal Casino's originality, it is unconventional as a casino in that it has windows in many places.
The casino is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to patrons 18 years old and over.
The Jean Talon gives a rich authentic market experience and lets you mingle with and buy the same foods as local residents.
In addition to fresh food, the market has interesting shops, including those selling kitchen gadgets, fine olive oils and spices, Quebec goods and more. Whether you want to soak up the atmosphere of a Montreal market, pick up lunch or buy a tasty Montreal souvenir, Jean Talon Market is well worth a visit.
Saint Joseph's Oratory
Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montreal is a popular pilgrimage for Roman Catholics, but also attracts people of any faith for its historical and architectural significance.
The original Saint Joseph's Chapel was founded in the early 1900s by an unassuming diminutive man with a reputation for healing the unhealable and performing other small miracles. Brother André, also known as the "Miracle Man of Montreal" spent his life helping others, spreading the word of God and honoring Saint Joseph, patron saint of Canada.
Though Brother André died in 1937, the building of Saint Joseph's Oratory continued on until its completion in 1967. Today, the Oratory's dome ranks as the third largest of its kind in the world. In addition, its cross represents the highest point in Montreal.
Two hundred and eighty-three steps get you up to the oratory (true pilgrims do the first 99 on their knees); however, the site is accessible for those with reduced mobility.
Visit the Saint Joseph's Oratory website.
La Ronde, Six Flags Amusement Park
Located close to downtown Montreal on Saint Helen's Island (Île Sainte-Hélène, pronounced eel-sant-el-len), La Ronde is a Six Flags-owned amusement park popular for its range of rides for kids through to adult thrill-seekers. Opened during Expo ’67, La Ronde offers more than 40 rides and attractions, including the Goliath, one of North America’s highest and fastest roller coasters, and Le Pays de Ribambelle, a fun family area.
La Ronde has the Flash Pass, which is a virtual ride reservation system that can be purchased at an extra cost. It holds your place in line electronically, so you can spend time elsewhere. When it's almost your turn, your Flash Pass alerts you.
La Ronde holds a popular, international fireworks competition during the summer, Montréal International Fireworks Competition.
Built for Montreal's 1976 Olympics and designed by architect Roger Taillibert, the impressive, grandiose structure drew controversy in public opinion but remains a Montreal landmark to behold. The building itself may not be of too much interest and paying for a tour should only appeal to architectural or Olympic enthusiasts. We had great fun just poking our heads in and watching the high divers practice (for free!).
Plagued by structural and financial problems, the building is greatly under-used but is a popular tourist attraction and does host some sporting and other special events.
The stadium is next to the Montreal Biodome and the Botanical Gardens, which are great family destinations.
10. Underground City
The Underground City is a sheltered complex that covers over 12 km, made up of 33 km of paths, in Montreal's downtown. This subterranean network connects metro stops, major department stores and other Montreal attractions.
In a city with such a rich history and culture, a shopping mall may fall short in some visitors' eyes as a major attraction. Nevertheless, nearly half a million local and international visitors traverse its corridors every day to shop, eat, work visit or just escape the elements.
The largest and best-known section of the city is located in the center of downtown, between Peel and Place-des-Arts metro stations on the Green Line and between Lucien-L'Allier and Place-d'Armes stations on the Orange Line.