Are you looking for a vacation spot that’s packed with stunning architecture, rich history, delicious food, and European style? Montreal is the perfect place to explore. This historical and beautiful city is a must-see if you love history, the French language, or unique destinations.
While Montreal is all about history, this metropolis has also evolved with nature in mind. There are plenty of parks throughout the Island of Montreal and in the city itself. So whether you love learning on vacation, relaxing the entire time, or both, Montreal has you covered.
The city of Montreal was established in 1642, and Vieux-Montreal, or Old Montreal, is the center of it. This is where you’ll have the closest experience to what it feels like to be in Europe without actually crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
In Old Montreal you’ll find cobblestone streets, narrow alleys, and sidewalk cafes similar to what you’d see in Paris. Many of the city’s major sites, such as the Old Port and the Bonsecours Market, are located in Old Montreal. Whether you have two days or two weeks in the city, make sure you don’t miss Old Montreal.
Parc du Mont-Royal
The Parc du Mont-Royal, or Mount Royal Park, is the area after which the entire city is named. Soak up the beauty of the large park and take advantage of its amenities while you’re there, such as barbecue grills, playgrounds, free wi-fi, a snack bar, and bathrooms. However, be prepared to pay for parking.
Before you leave the park, make your way up to the summit of Mount Royal. At the top you’ll find the Chalet du Mont Royal, a large building built in 1931 that’s intended for social gatherings. There’s a gift shop and a food counter where you can stop for a snack. As you stop and catch your breath, take your time looking at the Chalet’s beautiful large-scale paintings that depict scenes from Montreal’s history.
Museum of Archaeology and History
Pointe-a-Calliere is a designated Canadian national archaeological and historical site. While Montreal may have been settled by the French, the area was originally inhabited by the First Nations peoples. The site where Pointe-a-Calliere is located has been inhabited for over 1,000 years, and it pays tribute to those peoples.
What’s so unique about this particular museum is that it actually houses architectural ruins of a structure that were built on the site over three centuries ago. Pointe-a-Calliere has several permanent exhibitions and three or four temporary exhibitions each year.
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Montreal Biodome and Botanical Garden
No trip to Montreal would be complete without a visit to the Biodome. Featuring five different ecosystems, this large structure is located near the heart of the city. You can explore the ecosystem of the Labrador Coast and the Sub-Antarctic Islands, the Laurentian Maple Forest to get your fill of Canada’s famous tree, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and even a Tropical Rainforest.
Located just minutes away from the Biodome, the Jardin Botanique de Montreal, or the Botanical Garden of Montreal, has even more to teach you. There are actually 15 thematic gardens here, as well as the Frederic Back Tree Pavilion and cultural gardens. This beautiful site is a must-see!
If you love farmer’s markets, set aside time to explore the Jean-Talon Marche, located in the heart of Montreal’s Little Italy. Be prepared to pay for parking, but it’s worth it! You’ll find 12 distinct areas at Jean-Talon, which is packed with a large variety of offerings.
Taste the produce grown by local fruit and vegetable farmers. Enjoy the products of small shopkeepers and restaurateurs. According to the Montreal Public Markets website, “Jean Talon market is open year-round and its enthusiastic and experienced producers and merchants offer fresh and locally grown or processed foods, and discoveries from other places.”
While it may seem like a strange idea to explore a college campus on vacation, once you see the grounds of McGill University, you’ll understand why it made this list. Named after the university’s Scottish founder, James McGill, this university officially opened in 1829 and has been making its mark on Montreal’s history ever since.
The university now has three campuses, two of which are home to the school’s academic buildings. The last is a nature reserve. Wander around McGilll’s downtown campus, which is located between downtown Montreal and Mount Royal Park. The downtown campus is home to a collection of heritage buildings that architecture buffs will appreciate.
While you’re spending time in this French-speaking city, take a tour of the Notre-Dame Basilica, which is very similar to the cathedral located in the most famous French-speaking city in the world.
Indeed, Montreal’s Notre Dame Basilica was inspired by two different churches in Paris: the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Church of Saint-Sulpice. If you’re a fan of choral music or light shows, the Notre Dame Basilica offers them both – just make sure that you look up the schedule before you plan your trip.