Places to Go in Montreal
Our city is densely populated, but is very green in the summer. Montreal has many parks: some are small and some are big.
Mount Royal Park
Mount Royal Park is a huge park in the heart of the city. Thousands of Montrealers visit the park every day, all year round. In the summer, people have picnic, barbecues and go hiking on the many kilometres of trails.
In the fall, people go to see the colourful leaves of the trees. In winter, people ski on the trails or skate on the frozen lake. All year round, they visit the Belvedere – a place to get an amazing view of downtown Montreal.
- Metro Guy-Goncordia, bus 165 to the stairs
- Metro Mont-Royal (orange) bus 97 or 11
Jean Drapeau Park
Jean Drapeau Park is the islands in the Saint Lawrence River between Montreal and the South shore. Saint Helen’s Island has La Ronde amusement park and the Biosphere museum and the Stewart Museum.
It is the site of the Snow Festival in winter and many activities and concerts in summer. Notre-Dame Island has the Montreal Casino and the Gilles Villeneuve racetrack where the F1 race happens.
- Metro Jean Drapeau (yellow)
La Fontaine Park
La Fontaine Park has a beautiful fountain, a nice lake and many statues. In the summer there are free shows at the Théâtre de Verdure, which is an outdoor stadium for shows in the park. There are concerts and special events all year long.
In the winter you can rent ice skates. This is very popular park to the south of the Plateau neighbourhood, between Sherbrooke East and Rachel and between Amherst and Papineau.
- Metro Sherbooke (orange)
Des Rapides Park
Des Rapides Park is a great place to see the Lachine rapids – a huge section of white water in the Saint Lawrence river.
The rapids were so strong that ships from the explorers could not go further up the river. In fact, the rapids are the reason Montreal was built, and why the Lachine Canal was built. There are many birds here – it is a great place to take photos or have a picnic.
- Metro de l’Eglise, bus 58
Image of Mount Royal Park courtesy Montréalais, Wikimedia Commons
Image of Biosphère at Jean Drapeau Park courtesy Cédric Thévenet, Wikimedia Commons
Image of Lafontaine Park courtesy Jeangagnon, Wikimedia Commons
Image of the Lachine Rapids courtesy TCY, Wikimedia Commons
Montreal has many museums, and most of them have special prices for students if you have a student card, and some of them have a day or time every week when they are free. Check them out!
Also, every year in the spring, there is Montreal Museum Day, when almost all the museums in the city are free. There are special free shuttle buses between the museums that day. In the the winter months, most museums are closed on Mondays.
Art Museums and Galleries
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts [Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal] has an excellent collection of old and new, international and Canadian art, and always has special exhibitions. If you are under 30 years old, it is free to visit the museum’s permanent collection. For a special visiting exhibition, the price is also lower for young people (with an ID card). It is closed on Monday. It is open until 9:00 pm on Wednesday.
The museum has three buildings and they are across the street from each other. The original building is on the north side of Sherbrooke Street and it was built in 1912. The new building is on the south side of the street and it was built in 1991. The latest addition is in an old church – it has the museum’s Canadian art collection. To enter the museum and buy tickets, go in the new building.
- 1379-1380 Sherbrooke West, Metro Guy-Concordia Map
Contemporary Art Museum [Musée d’art contemporain] is Montreal’s modern art museum. It has a large collection of modern art by Canadian and international artists. Admission is $10 for students (with an ID card), but it is half-price on Wednesday evenings (6pm to 9pm). Closed Mondays.
- 185 Ste. Catherine West; Metro Place-des-Arts Map
Montreal also has many art galleries, which are really art stores – they are selling art. There are many small galleries all over Old Montreal, and there are more than 30 galleries and studios in the Belgo Building downtown:
- 372 Sainte Catherine West; Metro McGill Map
Science, Technology and Nature Museums
The Redpath Museum is a natural history museum at McGill University. It has a large collection of ancient and modern animals and plants, including dinosaur skeletons. There is a large geology section (rocks, stones, metals, crystals, etc.) It also has real mummies from ancient Egypt. Admission is by donation. It is closed on Saturdays.
- 859 Sherbrooke West (on McGill Campus); Metro McGill Map
The Biosphere is a museum about the environment, especially the environment of the Saint Lawrence River ecosystem. It is on Saint Helen’s Island in Jean-Drapeau Park in the geodesic dome of the old American pavilion of Expo 67. The dome was designed by Buckminster Fuller. It is open every day in summer, but in winter it is open from Thursday to Sunday. It costs $10 for students.
- Metro Jean-Drapeau, look for the dome (about a 2 minute walk) Map
The Montreal Science Centre [Centre des Sciences du Montréal] is a museum of science and technology with a permanent exhibition called Technocity and an IMAX and IMAX 3D theatre. It is in the Old Port. The IMAX shows movies about nature or science. It costs $15.00. There are special exhibitions, too. It is open every day.
- King Edward Pier in the Old Port, bottom of Saint-Laurent Boulevard. 10 minute walk from Metro Place d’Armes Map
The Ecomuseum is an 11-hectare wildlife education park. It if full of animals and plants native to this part of Canada – the Saint Lawrence River valley. The Ecomuseum is in Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue on the West Island. You need a car or bus to go. It is open every day from 9:00 to 5:00. Admission is $12.75.
- 21125 chemin Sainte-Marie, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Highway 40, Exit 41.
At the Canadian Centre for Architecture, you can see exhibitions on architecture and buildings of the past, present and future. It is in a very interesting building not far from Concordia University between St. Marc Street and Fort Street, René-Lévesque Boulevard and Baile Street. Across street, there is an interesting sculpture park. Admission is free for students. It is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
- 1920 Baile Street; Metro Guy-Concordia Map
Exporail is the Canadian railway museum with a large collection of train engines and cars covering the many years of Canadian railway history. If you like trains, you will love this museum. It costs $18 for adults. Open daily in the summer months, but only on weekends during the winter.
- 110 Saint Pierre Street, Saint Constant (about 25 minutes by car from downtown Montreal) Map
Because the city is over 370 years old, Montreal has many historical places and museums. Here are some of them:
The McCord Museum of Canadian History tells the story of Montreal and Canada. They have a large collection of objects and photos. It is near our building at McGill University. Admission is $9 for students (with an ID card). Free on Wednesday evenings. Closed on Monday (except in the summer).
- 690 Sherbrooke Ouest near Metro McGill
The Pointe-à-Callière Archaeology Museum is an unusual museum where you can learn about the history of Montreal by going underground! It is built on the very place Montreal was founded in 1642, a place where there were many other buildings over the years. The museum shows the different levels of Montreal’s history.
Walking through the underground displays takes you to the gift shop, which is in the old Customs House on the other side of the street. This museum has an interesting multimedia show about the history of Montreal and many archaeological artifacts. You can also go to up to the tower on the roof for a fantastic view of the Old Port and Old Montreal. There are also other visiting exhibitions of archaeology from around the world. It is closed on Mondays (except in the summer). Admission is $13 for students.
350 Place Royale, at the corner of de la Commune in Old Montreal; Metro Place d’Armes or Metro Square-Victoria Map
The Château Ramezay is a small museum in Old Montreal across the street from Montreal City Hall, near Place Jacques-Cartier. It is just a few minutes walk up the hill from Metro Champ-de-Mars. It has a nice collection to show the history of New France and Montreal. It is $8 for students. It is closed on Monday except in the summer.
280 Notre-Dame Est; Metro Champ-de-Mars Map
The Stewart Museum is an interesting history museum in an old fort on Saint Helen’s Island. It covers four hundred years of history in Canada. In the summer, there are actors there who wear old uniforms and costumes to show how life was in the old days. The soldiers march and shoot old guns. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays in winter. It costs $8 for students.
- Metro Jean-Drapeau (yellow), then follow signs (about a 10 minute walk) Map
The Montreal History Centre [Centre d’histoire de Montréal] is a very interesting museum that tells the story of our city since it was founded in 1642. The museum is in a beautiful old building that was an old fire station in Place d’Youville in the Old Port and Old Montreal. It is located just a few metres from where the first buildings were in Montreal over 370 years ago. It is open every day except Monday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. It costs $4.00 for students.
- 355 Place d’Youville; Metro Square-Victoria or Metro Place d’Armes Map
The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre is a special museum to remember and educate everyone about the Holocaust. The Holocaust is the name of what the Nazis in Germany did to Jewish people between 1933 and 1945. During this time, millions of Jews were killed, and after World War 2, many survivors of these terrible events left Europe and came to Montreal. In fact, Montreal has the third largest population of Holocaust survivors in the world. The museum has hundred of photos and thousands of artifacts from one of the saddest episodes in the history of the 20th century.
It is open Sunday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Wednesday 10:00 am – 9:00 pm, Friday 10:00 am – 3:00 pm. Closed on Saturdays and Jewish and statutory holidays. Admission is $5.00 for students.
- Cummings Square (5151 Côte Ste-Catherine Road); Metro Côte Ste-Catherine, Bus 129 Map
Maison Saint-Gabriel is a house built in 1668, and it is an interesting museum about life in Montreal in the 17th century. It is like visiting New France in the early days of the city. It has furniture, dishes, household items, documents, tools and clothes. The house is in a beautiful small park/farm. In the summer, there are people in costumes working there, so it looks like it is 300 years ago. Closed on Monday. Admission is $5 for students.
- 2146 place Dublin in the Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood; Metro Charlevoix , Bus 57 East or Metro Square Victoria station, Bus 61 Map
The Château Dufresne is a museum in the east part of the city. It was the mansion of the rich Dufresne family and it was built in 1915. It is a wonderful example of the the “Beaux-Arts” style of building of that period. Its beautifully decorated rooms are full of beautiful furniture and art from the early 20th century. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday. Admission is $13 for students.
- 2929 Jeanne d’Arc Avenue; Metro Pie-IX, Map near the Olympic Stadium and Botanical Garden
The Ecomusée du fier monde is a small museum in an old 1920s public bathhouse that shows the history of industrial development and working class life in Montreal. It has mainly historical photos and some artifacts. Open Wednesday to Sunday. Admission for students is $6.
- 2050 Amherst Street, corner of Ontario Stree; Metro Berri-UQAM Map
The Sir George-Étienne-Cartier National Historic Site of Canada is a building in Old Montreal that was the family home of Sir George-Étienne Cartier (1814-1873) who was a lawyer and politician, and is one of the “Fathers of Confederation”, the leaders who made Canada a country in 1867.
The house is full of beautiful furniture from the 19th century Victorian period, and it is a good place to learn about the life of the upper class at that time, and about the life of a Montrealer who was very important in Canadian history.
The museum is open from April to December, Wednesday to Sunday, and every day in the summer months. The National Historic Site is closed January to March. Admission is $4.00 for adults.
- 458 Notre-Dame East, corner of Berri in Old Montreal; Metro Champ-de-Mars Map
McGill University has 13 libraries, but the main one is on the corner of Sherbrooke and McTavish. Montreal has other public libraries you can use, too, to borrow books or DVDs, use the internet, read newspapers and magazines from around the world, or just to study or read quietly.
National Library and Archives of Québec [BanQ]
The National Library and Archives of Quebec is a large modern library is at Berri-UQAM station and you can enter the library from the station. If you want to get a library card for the National Library, you have to become a “subscriber”. Then you can borrow materials from the library to take home, and you can also use the library’s film-viewing stations, and access the online archives to research on the internet.
To become a subscriber, go to the subscription desk on the main floor of the library building. It is free, but bring ID cards and proof that you are living in Quebec. There is also a small museum space in the basement. It is closed on Mondays, but it is open till 10:00 pm on weeknights.
- 475 De Maisonneuve Est, Metro Berri-UQAM Map
Montreal City Libraries
The city of Montreal has 43 public libraries in different boroughs (neighbourhoods) on the island. You can become a member by going to your local library. You need to show ID and proof that you live in the city (a lease from your apartment or a phone bill will do). To find a library near where you live, check the website.
Montreal has dozens of churches, old and new, but there are some very famous ones you should visit. When you go into any church, please remember that some people may be praying in the church, so please be quiet and respect their religion.
Notre Dame Basilica
Notre Dame is probably the most beautiful church in Montreal. Thousands of tourists go inside to see the wonderful decoration and wood carving. It is a masterpiece of neo-Gothic architecture. It is at Place d’Armes in Old Montreal. It was finished in 1843, and it is used for weddings and funerals of important or famous people. For example, Celine Dion was married in this church in 1994. It is also used for classical music and organ concerts.
To enter the church, you have to pay $5 for admission. The church uses the money to help pay to keep the church beautiful.
- 116 Notre Dame West; Metro Place d’Armes (orange) Map
Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral
Mary Queen of the World Cathedral is the cathedral of Montreal, which means it is the most important Catholic church in the city. It was finished in 1894, and it is a 1/3-size copy of Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, which is the church where the Pope works. The statues on the front are statues of saints representing the 13 parishes of Montreal. The inside is very beautiful, and it is a very close copy of the original church in Italy. Admission is free. The church is downtown, near the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, the Sun Life Building, and Dorchester Square park.
- 1085 Cathedral Street (corner of René-Lévesque West); Metro Peel Map
Saint Joseph’s Oratory
St. Joseph’s Oratory is a very large church built on the north side of Mount Royal. It is the largest church in Canada and one of the largest in North America. It was started in 1904 by Brother André, and was finally finished in 1967. It was built as an oratory, which means a church for singing, so it is often used for choral concerts. The sound inside is incredible.
Brother André is an important religious person in Quebec. He died in 1937, and many people pray to him to ask him to help them get better from their illnesses. He became a saint in 2010. Many people believe Brother André cured their problem. At the church, there are many crutches and canes of people who say Brother André helped them to get better. In front of the church, there is a long wooden stairway. It is not for walking on. It is for people who want to climb to the church on their knees.
- 3800 Queen Mary Road; Metro Côte-des-Neiges (blue) or take bus 166 from Metro Guy-Concordia Map
Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel is a small church near Bonsecours Market in Old Montreal. It is sometimes called the Sailor’s Church because the back end of it looks like a sailing ship from the 18th century, and inside, the decoration includes smalls ships hanging from the ceiling. It has beautiful paintings on the walls inside. The church was built in 1771 after the original church burned, and it has a museum about Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, a religious woman who worked hard to help the poor and sick in the early days of Montreal.
- 400 Saint Paul Street East; Metro Champs-de-Mars Map
Image of Notre-Dame Basilica courtesy Diliff, Wikimedia Commons
Image of Mary Queen of the World courtesy Jeangagnon, Wikimedia Commons
Image of Saint Joseph’s Oratory courtesy Paolo Costa Baldi, Wikimedia Commons
Image of Notre-Dame de Bonsecours courtesy Jeangagnon, Wikimedia Commons
Montreal has many interesting places to see, in every season. Here are some:
The Biodome is a special place to visit. It is like an indoor zoo. It is divided into four parts. Each part is an ecosystem from a different part of the world. The first part is a Brazilian rainforest. When you enter, it is hot and humid, and you are in the jungle. There are big trees, plants, birds, monkeys, and other animals from the jungle. They are free to move around inside, and there are no cages.
The next section is cooler, it is the Laurentian Forest, which is the original forest ecosystem from around Montreal. You can see Canadian animals like beavers or a lynx there, and Canadian trees and plants. Next is the Saint Lawrence River Marine ecosystem, where the river meets the ocean. It is full of fish from the ocean in Eastern Canada, and sea birds. Finally, there is an Antarctica section, where you can see lots of very cute penguins!
In the 1976 Olympic Games, the Biodome building was the Velodrome, which is the building for bicycle racing. It is next to the Olympic Stadium. In 1992, the city changed it into the Biodome.
The Biodome is very popular. The price for international students is $14.50. It is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm every day but it is closed on Monday in the winter. In the summer, it is open 9:00 to 6:00 and open on Mondays.
- 4777 avenue Pierre-De Coubertin, metro Viau or Pie IX Map
Botanical Garden and Insectarium
The Montreal Botanical Garden [Jardin botanique] is famous for its beautiful flowers and gardens, and for the Insectarium, an insect museum at the garden. If you love flowers and plants, it is a great place. It is near the Olympic Stadium and Biodome.
The Botanical Garden started in 1931, and it has grown into a huge park full of wonderful plants from all over the world. Some of the favourite gardens are the Chinese Garden, the Japanese Garden and the Rose Garden. It would take hours or even days to see all the gardens, especially in spring and summer. There are also large greenhouses that hold many tropical flowers and plants.
Every season, there are special events at the Botanical Garden. In the fall, there is always a magical, beautiful display of Chinese silk lanterns in the Chinese garden. It is best to see at night. In October, there is a display of interesting decorated pumpkins. In the spring, 10,000 butterflies are set free in the greenhouses, and you can see beautiful butterflies from all over the world.
The Insectarium is an insect museum inside the garden. It has a big collection of interesting and strange insects from all over the world. There is a lot to see and learn. Sometimes, they have a special event where you can try to eat cooked insects! Some people say they are delicious!
The Botanical Garden and the Insectarium are open 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, from November to March, but they are open till 9:00 in the summer and until Halloween. They are closed on Mondays from the fall to the spring. It costs $14.50 for international students.
- 4101 Sherbrooke East, Metro Pie-IX Map
The Planetarium is a like space museum where you can see shows and films that explain the stars and planets. It is next to the Biodome – in fact, the buildings are connected by an underground tunnel. You can buy a combination ticket and visit both places on the same day.
- 4801 Sherbrooke East, Metro Pie-IX Map
The Summer Olympic Games were in Montreal in 1976. The Olympic Stadium [Stade Olympique] was designed by French architect Roger Taillibert. It has the tallest inclined (on an angle) tower in the world (175 metres). There is a special elevator on the back of the tower. You can ride to the top of the tower and get a great view of Montreal. The Olympic swimming pool is under the tower. The stadium has seats for 65,000 people.
After the Olympics, the stadium was used for football and baseball. The Montreal Alouettes Canadian football team played there, but they moved to Molson Stadium at McGill University. The Montreal Expos baseball team played at Olympic Stadium too, but the the team moved to Washington D.C. in 2005. Now, no professional teams use the stadium, except for special, big games, like the Grey Cup. It was used for the FIFA U-20 soccer tournament in 2007.
The stadium is an interesting building, but it had many problems in construction. It wasn’t finished in time for the Olympics, in fact, the tower wasn’t finished until 1987. It was supposed to have a retractable roof, which means the roof can be opened and closed. Unfortunately the roof didn’t work well, and it ripped in the wind. The roof now is permanent, it can’t be opened. Once, in 1999, part of the roof broke because there was too much snow on it.
The stadium was also very expensive. It was supposed to cost $134 million dollars, but when it was finally paid for in 2006, it cost over $1 billion! To take the funicular elevator up the tower, it costs $18.50 for students. You can also take a tour of the stadium, or even swim in the Olympic Pool for $7.50 with your student OPUS card.
- 4545 Pierre-De Coubertin Avenue, metro Pie-IX or Viau Map
La Ronde Amusement Park
La Ronde is an amusement park. It is on Saint Helen’s Island in Jean Drapeau Park and it is open in the summer. It has more than 40 rides, including roller coasters. It’s a fun place to spend a summer day.
The best place to see the fireworks and hear the music during the International Fireworks Festival is at La Ronde, but you have to buy a ticket. A ticket for the day costs about $70, but you can also buy a season pass. There is no student discount.
- Saint Helen’s Island [Île Sainte-Hélène], metro Jean-Drapeau. Take the bus that says “La Ronde” from the metro. Map
Zoo in Granby
There is a zoo in the Montreal area, but it is in the small town of Granby, about a one-hour drive southeast from Montreal by car. Most people call it the Granby Zoo. It is big zoo with more than 1000 animals, including tigers, lions and elephants. There is also a waterslide park at the Granby Zoo. It is open every day in the summer, but in the fall, winter and spring, it is sometimes only open on weekends.
To go, take the Champlain Bridge, then take Highway 10 and take exit 68 and follow the signs for the Granby Zoo.
- 525 St-Hubert St., Granby, QC Map
Image of Biodome courtesy Ilikepie2221, Wikimedia Commons
Image of Botanical Garden courtesy Thomas1313, Wikimedia Commons
Image of Planetarium courtesy Mtlfiredude, Wikimedia Commons
Image of Olympic Stadium courtesy Tolivero, Wikimedia Commons
Image of La Ronde courtesy Pragash Thandayutham, Wikimedia Commons
Image of Tiger at Granby Zoo courtesy Sonia Piché, Wikimedia Commons
Almost everyone’s favourite neighbourhood in Montreal is Old Montreal [Vieux-Montréal]. This is the oldest part of the city, with buildings dating back to the beginning of Montreal in 1642. It is nice to spend a day (or a few days) walking around the little streets paved with stones, looking at the beautiful old buildings.
People live and work in Old Montreal, so it doesn’t feel like just a tourist area. There are many apartments and condominiums, and many companies have offices in the neighbourhood. But tourists and Montrealers love to go to Old Montreal because there are so many things to see and do. Map
Place d’Armes is a famous square in Old Montreal. It is very popular with tourists because of the beautiful old buildings around it. It is a few minutes walk up the hill from metro Place d’Armes and Chinatown. To the north of Place d’Armes, there is the Bank of Montreal building, which was built in 1845. It is very beautiful inside, and it has a bank museum.
To the south, there is Notre-Dame Basilica, one of the most beautiful churches in the world. Next to Notre-Dame, there is the Old Seminary, which is one of the oldest buildings in Montreal, built in 1683. It has an old clock that was built in 1701.
To the east, there is the red-brown New York Life building, which was built in 1888. The New York Life building was the first building in Montreal to have an elevator. The Aldred Building, which was built in 1929, is in the Art Deco style.
In the square, there is a statue of de Maisonneuve, the man who founded Montreal in 1642. Around the square, you can see horse-drawn buggies called calèches that you can take a ride in for about $60 an hour. Near Place d’Armes, there is the Montreal Courthouse [Palais de justice], and the Centaur Theatre.
Place Royale is a small square in the western part of Old Montreal, near the Old Port and the entrance to the Lachine Canal. You can visit the very interesting Pointe-à-Callière Archaeology Museum here. The gift shop for the museum is in the old Customs House.
Place Jacques Cartier
Place Jacques-Cartier is another famous square in Old Montreal. It is a few minutes walk up the hill from metro Champ-de-Mars. It used to be an open public market in the 19th century. The square is like a wide street going down from Notre-Dame street to De la Commune street at the bottom. At the top of the Square, there is Montreal City Hall, which is the main government building for the City of Montreal. The mayor’s office is there, and it is where the city council meets. The building has a green roof, and it was finished in 1878.
Also at the top of the square is Nelson’s Column, a famous statue built in 1808 to remember Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died fighting Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Across the street from City Hall, there is the Château Ramezay Museum, which is a small museum of the history of Montreal.
The sides of Place Jacques-Cartier have many restaurants with “terraces” which are patios where you can eat outside. In the summer, there are many street performers – jugglers, magicians, and acrobats who do little shows, trying to get people to give a few dollars. They are very interesting and funny. If you like the show, give them something! Also in the square, there are artists who are selling their pictures. It is an interesting place to be.
Near Place Jacques-Cartier, there is the Notre Dame de Bonsecours Church, which is also called the Sailor’s Church, and Bonsecours Market, which was built in 1847. Bonsecours Market is a big, long building on Saint Paul Street that has a silver dome on it. It used to be an indoor public market, and it was Montreal City Hall from 1852 to 1878.
Today, it is like a small shopping centre full of special shops that have art and clothes from Quebec. It is very interesting. In the basement, on the De la Commune street side, there is glass-making shop. You can watch people making beautiful glass objects.
The Old Port
The Old Port [Vieux-Port] is between Old Montreal and the river. Montrealers and tourists love the Old Port. It is a great place to spend an afternoon. All year round, people like to walk along the river at the Old Port, but in summer, there are thousands of people enjoying the walk.
From east to west, let’s take a tour of the Old Port. Map of the Old Port.
First, there is the Clock Tower. It was built between 1919 and 1932 as a memorial for sailors who died in World War 1. During the summer months, you can go inside and climb the stairs to the top for a great view. There is also historical information about the tower and the Old Port inside. The Clock Tower is a great place to see the Fireworks Festival during the summer.
Near the Clock Tower, there is Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours church, which is also called the Sailors’ Church, and Bonsecours Market, which is today a shopping centre full of shops that sell products from Quebec. In the basement, on the river side, there is a glass-blowing workshop where you can watch artisans making beautiful glass objects.
In the Old Port, there are quays, which are docks that stick out into the river. They were built for ships to dock next to. They were covered with buildings (sheds) to keep goods going onto and coming off of ships. Today, the Old Port is a tourist area, so there aren’t many big ships. The first quay, near the clock tower, has commercial services in Shed 16, like rentals for bikes, inline skates, and Segways.
The next quay is Jacques Cartier Quay, names after the famous French explorer. In the building, there are fast-food restaurants in the summer. On the quay behind the building, there is an open area where there are temporary activities. For example, the Cirque du Soleil sets up its big blue and yellow tent here for its new shows. At other times, there are art shows or other exhibitions in tents on the quay in summer.
Between Shed 16 and Jacques Cartier Quay there is an area of water. In summer people rent pedal boats in the water. In winter, this is a skating area. You can rent skates in the building in the in the middle. The skating rink is open every day in winter, from morning till night. It costs $6.75 for admission plus skate rental of $9 (if you don’t have your own skates).
During the summer, on the west side of Jacques Cartier Quay, you will find many harbour tour boats. This is also the place where you can get take a ferry boat to go to Saint Helen’s Island or Longueuil on the south shore.
As you walk along the Old Port, there is a park area between the quays and de la Commune street in Old Montreal. This park has nice trees, benches and tables where you can have a picnic. There are also nice fountains and pools of water, and many sculptures and public art displays.
The next quay is King Edward Quay, and it is home to a science museum called the Montreal Science Centre. It has many interesting science exhibits and an IMAX theatre.
There is a small, old quay next, where there are sometimes there are ships. The next big quay is Alexandra Quay, and it is the terminal for cruise ships that visit Montreal. Sometimes there are very large cruise ships in port. When you are there you can see a famous building across the river. It is called Habitat ’67. It is an interesting apartment complex that was built for the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal.
Near the cruise ship terminal, you can see the Pointe-à-Callière Archaeology Museum across de la Commune street, by Place Royale. This is a very interesting museum that shows the history of Montreal through archaeology. In the museum, you go down through layers of Montreal history, seeing the various buildings that were on the exact spot the museum is on now.
At the west end of the Old Port, there is the beginning of the historic Lachine Canal. The waterway was very important in the industrial development of Montreal in the 1800s. At the beginning of the canal, there is a the first set of locks. In the summer, you can see the locks in operation, with boats entering and rising a few metres to continue. A bike path runs all along the 13 kilometres of the canal. Just up from the first set of locks you can see an old tugboat called the Daniel McAllister. It was built in 1905, and it worked in the port of Montreal, pushing big ships into their docks.
Across the canal, you can see a huge building. This is Silo #5. It was a grain storage building for exporting Canadian wheat from the prairie provinces. It was built and expanded between 1903 and 1958. When it was working, it could hold enough wheat to make 230 million loaves of bread! It was closed in 1994, and there is a lot of discussion about what to do with the building. Some people think it is ugly, but other people say it is an important part of the history of the port. Some musicians use the empty building for concerts because the sound inside is very interesting. You can “play” the Silophone on the internet, playing a sound inside and listening to the echo.
In the summer every year, between Silo #5 and the canal, there are usually flower or garden shows. You can see interesting displays of plants, trees and flowers. Every year is a different show.
There are many activities in every season in the Old Port. Check the Old Port Website to find out what is happening.
Image of Old Port courtesy Gjm130, Wikimedia Commons
Image of Clock Tower courtesy MattiPaavola, Wikimedia Commons
Image of skating courtesy Jeangagnon, Wikimedia Commons
Image of Habitat ’67 courtesy Vassgergely, Wikimedia Commons
Image of Pointe a Calliere courtesy Jeangagnon, Wikimedia Commons
Image of Silo #5 courtesy chantelois2k13, silo05.wordpress.com
The Lachine Canal
The Lachine Canal was built in 1825. It was built so ships could go from the Old Port to above Lachine on the river. It is a distance of 13.5 kilometres. The river is 14.3 metres higher at the eastern end of the canal than at the Old Port. Ships go up and down the 14.3 metre difference by using “locks” which are water gates that close and fill with or empty water to change the level. There are five sets of locks on the Lachine Canal. Map
Why did they build the Lachine Canal? Because of the Lachine Rapids. The Lachine Rapids are a very dangerous and fast section of the Saint Lawrence River, just east of Montreal. In 1535, the explorer Jacques Cartier from France sailed his ships all the way up the river from the Atlantic Ocean to Montreal. He had to stop here because his ships couldn’t go through the rapids. You can see the Lachine Rapids at Des Rapides Park.
The Lachine Rapids were a big problem for transportation on the river. The French colonial government planned and started to build a canal in 1689, but it was too difficult to dig with their technology. Finally, a group of businessman finished it in 1825.
The new canal changed Montreal and Canada forever. Now, ships could continue up the river past Montreal. Soon after its construction, hundreds of factories were built next to the canal for two reasons. First, there was easy transportation for the factories. Second, the water running down the canal could be used for water power (hydraulic power) and for electricity. It didn’t take long for the most important industrial area in Canada to develop. There were factories making paint, rope, sugar, guns, chemicals, steel, sewing machines, bicycles, bathtubs: just about anything. This was the heart of Canada’s industrial revolution. Near the factories, thousands of workers, many of them immigrants, lived in the row houses that are typical Montreal housing. The population of the city grew quickly.
The Lachine Canal area remained a very important industrial area until well into the 20th century, but things changed. Technologies changed, and old factories had to change or die. Trains and trucks became more important for transportation. Many old factories closed and moved to somewhere else. In 1954, the Saint Lawrence Seaway opened. This was a very important project between Canada and the U.S. They built many new locks so big ocean-going ships could pass from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the five huge Great Lakes in the middle of the continent. The new locks meant that the smaller Lachine Canal was not needed any longer. In 1970, it closed to ships.
However, in the 1990s, people became interested in the old factory buildings, with their red brick and large windows. Some people bought the old buildings and repaired them to make new buildings for businesses and many new apartments called condominiums. The apartments are very popular and expensive. People like to live in old factories.
The canal became a National Historic Site, so the government of Canada made it into a park. On both sides of the canal, there are bike paths. And in 2002, the locks were rebuilt so that boats can pass through the canal again. In the summer, hundreds of private boats take the trip down or up the canal, going through the locks. It takes about four hours, since each lock takes a long time to fill or empty. You can take a boat tour of the canal from the Old Port.
Today, Montrealers love to spend time walking, cycling, rollerblading, boating, canoeing or kayaking in the Lachine Canal. And thousands of people live along it in converted factories. It is again a very important part of life in Montreal.
If you want to go to the Lachine Canal, you can see the beginning at the eastern end of the Old Port. The Atwater Market (Metro Lionel-Groulx or Charlevoix) is next to the canal, and there is a foot bridge there where you can cross it. But is is best to explore the canal with a bike or rollerblades, if you can.
The Plateau neighbourhood [Plâteau Mont-Royal] is a special and very interesting neighbourhood in Montreal. It is the area east of Park Avenue, between Sherbrooke Street in the south, and Mont-Royal Avenue in the north. The eastern limit of the Plateau is Papineau Street.
The Plateau is special because it is home to many artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers. It is the “cool” neighbourhood in Montreal. There are many restaurants and bars, art galleries, theatres and the most interesting shops in the city. There are many beautiful old houses with typical Montreal architecture. Most people in the Plateau speak French, but many speak English, too. Lafontaine Park is a beautiful big park in the Plateau.
There are some special and famous streets in the Plateau:
- Saint Laurent Boulevard is also called “The Main”
- Prince Arthur Street is a pedestrian street (walking only) with many restaurants
- Duluth Street is a small street with interesting shops and restaurants
- Saint Denis Street is a famous shopping street
- Mont-Royal Avenue is a street with everything
Metro Sherbrooke and Mont-Royal (orange) Map
Other Neighbourhoods Next to the Plateau
Just north of the Plateau neighbourhood is the Mile End neighbourhood, which is similar to the Plateau. This is one of the most multi-cultural areas of the city. Many immigrants came to this area in the 20th century. Park Avenue is the main shopping street. Mile End is known for its two famous bagel bakeries: Fairmount Bagel (74 Fairmount West, near the corner of Saint Urbain) and St. Viateur Bagel (263 St. Viateur West, near the corner of Jeanne-Mance). These two bakeries are very old, and many Montrealers have a favourite bagel: either Fairmount or St. Viateur. Try both, and choose your favourite!
- Metro Laurier and Rosemont; Bus 80 and 55.
To the west of the Plateau, just east of McGill University, there is a small neighbourhood called the McGill Ghetto. It is between Pine Avenue in the north, Sherbrooke Street in the south, Park Avenue in the east, and University in the west. Many students live in this area.
Image courtesy AlexCaban, Wikimedia Commons
Montreal’s Chinatown [Quartier Chinois] is a small neighborhood between Jeanne-Mance street to the west, de Bullion street to the east, Viger street to the south, and René-Lévesque boulevard to the north.
It may be smaller than the Chinatown districts in cities such as New York, San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver, but its history is just as long.
The first Chinese business opened in the neighborhood in 1877, but Chinese families have been living there since the 1860s. As the Chinese community in Montreal grew, so did Chinatown. Many businesses opened, but also community centres, clubs, churches, and hospitals. Over the years, many families left Chinatown to live and work in other parts of the city, but the neighborhood remained the cultural and commercial centre of the Chinese community.
In Chinatown, there is a small park that was built in 1977 and named after Dr. Sun Yat-Sen (孫中山), the first president of China. and several traditional Chinese gates, like big one over Saint-Laurent street near René-Lévesque. This gate was given to the city of Montreal by the city of Shanghai. De la Gauchetière street was closed to cars and changed into pedestrian mall in the 1980s. In the 1990s, a new Chinese hospital was built, and so were several residences for senior citizens.
Not many people live in Chinatown nowadays, but it is still the best place in the city to buy many Asian groceries, and it is still where you will find some of the best restaurants in Montreal.
- Metro Saint Laurent (green)
- Metro Place d’Armes (orange)
Montreal is a free, open city. People from every country and religion are welcome here. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people are an important part of Montreal, too.
There is a neighbourhood where many bars, discos, restaurants, and other business operate for LGBT people. This neighbourhood is called “the Village” [le Village Gai]. It is centered along Ste. Catherine Street east, between St.Hubert and Papineau Streets, between metro Berri-UQAM and metro Papineau. Metro Beaudry is really in the heart of the Village, and the metro station building is decorated with the colourful rainbow flag representing the LGBTQ community.
Montreal is famous as a friendly city for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer tourists. Many LGBTQ people come from other countries to visit Montreal, where they feel free to enjoy themselves. On long weekends, there are big dance events at the Olympic Stadium that are sponsored by a non-profit organziation called BBCM. They raise money for LGBTQ charities, and tens of thousands of visitors come to Montreal (mostly from the U.S.) to attend these events.
Many LGBT people live and work in this neighbourhood, but many other live all over the city. Everyone is welcome in the Village, and it is a neighbourhood like any other. In the Village, there is a memorial park to remember people who died of AIDS. In the summer, there is the the famous LGBT Pride parade, where gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people show they are proud and celebrate their freedom in Montreal.
Groups for LGBTQ people
If you have questions about LGBT issues, or you have questions about your sexuality, you can call the Gai-Écoute, between 8:00 am and midnight every day. Volunteers answer the phones. All calls are confidential (secret). Call 514-866-0103
The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) has a club for LGBTQ people at the university:
SSMU building, room 432, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In Montreal, there are some LGBT groups for people from different countries: