Montreal is the cultural capital of Canada’s Quebec Province. It is the country’s second largest country, which is actually situated on an island, surrounded by Saint Lawrence and Ottawa rivers. A city rich in culture and history, Montreal is also known for its fashionably-dressed people and being one of the liveliest cities in North America.
The city is also home to the third-largest French-speaking population in the world, behind Paris and Kinshasa.
Here are what you should do when traveling to Montreal.
Visit the old city and the old port
Old Montreal’s cobblestoned streets are lined with buildings dating from the 17th through 19th centuries, making it a scenic and popular tourist attraction. The area offers several architectural sights, street artists and musicians, fine restaurants, and private art galleries.
It is easier to explore the old city on foot. Meanwhile, Old Port is a large waterfront green space with attractions that houses Cirque du Soleil, the Montreal Science Center, the Labyrinth, Clock Tower, and a large outdoor audio-visual stage where the Canada Day fireworks take place.
Shop and dine in Chinatown
Montreal’s Chinatown is one of the largest Asian communities in Canada. It is accessible at the Place-D’Armes metro station.
Horse to Water
The Plateau Mont-Royal district, popular for its postal district "H2W", is famous for its artistic residents. You can get lost through its tree-line streets with distinctive outside staircases, "secret" inner streets, and other tranquil and relaxing spaces.
Visit the churches
The city has several churches that are worth the visit, including St. Joseph’s Oratory (the largest in Canada), Basilique Notre-Dame (perhaps the most stunning in the city), and Mary Queen of the World Cathedral (a ¼ scale copy of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome). Take note that some churches may have entrance fees.
Visit the museums
Montreal has several interesting museums ranging from arts and sciences. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has free permanent exhibitions, while you can also find art galleries in different districts.
Visit the "green museums"
In addition to arts museums, Montreal also has large establishments containing different natural environments such as the Biodôme, a former Olympic Velodrome that houses different ecosystems; and the Montreal Biosphere, a geodesic dome that houses an Environment Canada museum dedicated to water and the environment. Don’t miss the city’s botanical garden and insectarium in Sherbrooke Est.
Take a bird’s eye view of the city
The best view from the top of Montreal is at the top of the Olympic Tower. Built for the 1976 Summer Olympics, this controversial tower is the world’s tallest leaning structure.
Several locations in Montreal have visually striking architecture, such as beehive-looking Habitat 67 apartment complex along Avenue Pierre-Dupuy, the McGill University Campus with its 19th-Century neoclassical buildings, and the Grande Bibliothèque du Québec that houses over 4 million written and published works.
Get into the winter wonderland
There are several activities you can do in the city during winter, such as cross-country skiing and ice skating in its many parks.
A relatively-new sport is gaining popularity in Montreal: river surfing, which is surfing along the Saint Lawrence river. Nearby surf shops offer lessons for those who are curious to learn.