Montreal, the vibrant and culturally rich city in the province of Quebec, Canada, is a destination that offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and modernity. With its European charm and North American flair, Montreal is a city that has something to offer every traveler. Whether you're a foodie, an art enthusiast, or an outdoor adventurer, there are plenty of exciting things to do during your visit.
The Ultimate Montreal Itinerary
I visited Montreal at the end of May, right at beginning of summer. I'd been to the city once before back in 2018, but that was more of a quick day trip and didn't quite make the cut in my travel memoirs. 5 years later, I returned as a tourist.
The following are the top 7 activities that I did and recommend you consider adding to your itinerary.
1. Old Montreal
If you want to get a taste of Europe, Old Montreal is the place to be to get this feeling. This place oozes history with its cobblestone streets and incredibly well-preserved architecture. Wander down Rue Saint-Paul, a street that's been around since forever, and be awed by the centuries-old buildings. The Basilica Notre-Dame - a Gothic revival masterpiece is also a must visit especially if you're into architecture and (religious) history. The interior is like stepping into a different world, with its intricate details and those breathtaking stained glass windows.
In addition, Old Montreal is a treasure trove of art galleries, cute cafes, and charming boutiques. The vibe is artsy and cultural, and Place Jacques-Cartier is where the action happens – street performers keep you entertained as you soak in the atmosphere.
And the cherry on top? Seasonal festivals. Depending on when you visit, Old Montreal might just be hosting some pretty epic festivals. Think the Montreal World Film Festival or festive holiday markets. Check out the events calendar in advance if this is your vibe.
The Biodome was an absolute highlight of my trip and it brought out the kid in me! you should have seen the excitement on my face at first sight.
The Biodome lets you embark on a wild adventure through various ecosystems straight out of the Americas. It consists of lush rainforests, polar landscapes - all in one space. The magic here is in the immersion factor – you get up close and personal with different animals and plant species, making you feel like you're right there in their natural habitats. From playful penguins to vibrant tropical birds, it's like a wildlife documentary come to life. The Biodome places a strong emphasis on conservation and environmental awareness. It's a great place to learn about the importance of preserving our planet's ecosystems.
As a solo traveler, I noticed that it was also family and kid friendly with engaging and educational experiences that's enjoyable for visitors of all ages.
3. Basilica of Notre-Dame
The Basilica Notre-Dame is nothing short of an architectural marvel. This place is a testament to the incredible craftsmanship and meticulous attention to detail that went into its creation. Step inside, and you'll find an interior that's equally as intricate and breathtaking, not to mention those iconic stained glass windows. The Basilica Notre-Dame, a masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture, is not merely a religious site but a symbol of Montreal's rich history and cultural heritage The Basilica dates back to the 19th century and has played a significant role in the city's history. It's a place where you can immerse yourself in the past while admiring its grandeur.
This church isn't just a beauty to behold; it's woven into the very fabric of Montreal's cultural heritage. You've got the chance to dig deep into its past, learn about its role in shaping the city's history, and gain a profound understanding of its significance. If you're eager to dive even further into the Basilica's story, there are guided tours available. In addition, it's also a place of spiritual serenity. You don't have to be religious to appreciate the peaceful atmosphere and ethereal music that fill the air inside. It's like a quiet escape from the bustling city right outside its doors.
4. Montreal Botanical Garden
The Montreal Botanical Garden has an array of thematic gardens – from the serene Japanese Garden to the enchanting Chinese Garden and the high-altitude beauty of the alpine garden. Each of these gardens has its own unique charm, as well as a Butterfly House and Insectarium - both of which I didn't get a chance to see due to the sheer size of the garden (75 hectares or 190 acres) of thematic gardens and greenhouses. As a result, I'd recommend wearing comfortable shoes and bringing a bottle of water for the day, since you'd need to walk a lot.
The Biosphere, located on Parc Jean-Drapeau, is a striking geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller. This unique museum focuses on environmental issues and sustainability. The Biosphere's design is a marvel in itself. The geodesic dome is an architectural wonder that's both visually captivating and environmentally conscious. One thing to note however, is that unlike the Biodome, the Biosphere is more family focused - so expect to see a lot of kids running around as well as engaging experiences dedicated to them.
6. Jean-Talon Market
If you're looking for a place to mingle with locals and get a sense of Montreal's culinary culture and daily life, Jean-Talon market is the place to be. Here you can discover the vibrant world of local and international cuisine, sample fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, maple products, and more.
You can enjoy a diverse range of culinary experiences, from farm-to-table restaurants to street food stalls and interact with locals, vendors, and fellow tourists as you explore the market's bustling atmosphere.
7. Montreal's Culinary Scene
Montreal is known for its diverse culinary scene and a foodie's dream. Savor traditional French cuisine, iconic bagels, poutine, and an array of international flavors. Depending on the time of year, indulge in food festivals like the Montreal International Jazz Festival's "FoodFest," where you can enjoy exceptional street food. Don't forget to try poutine, a Quebecois specialty consisting of fries, cheese curds, and gravy.
In conclusion, Montreal's attractions offer a variety of experiences for tourists. Whether you're exploring the historic charm of Old Montreal, immersing yourself in the natural wonders of the Biodome and Botanical Garden, or indulging in the city's culinary delights, there's something for everyone to enjoy in this vibrant Canadian city.