City Guide: Montreal
Montreal is the biggest city in Quebec and the second French speaking city in the world after Paris. In this City Guide, I’ll explain what I’ve done and seen while visiting Montreal. There are many good reasons for you to pay the city a visit, too. There are some similiarities and some differences to other cities in North America, but see yourself!
I’m not the biggest fan of North American cities when it comes to sightseeing. This is true for New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and many more. I also haven’t enjoyed my trip to Toronto all that much. Montreal was quite a nice change in this regard as the city has quite some historic charm. It’s still not a destination I’d totally recommend for a city trip, but with the beautiful nature around, visiting Montreal can be totally worth it. In this City Guide I’ll help you get an idea of Montreal.
The Golden Mile & McGill University
As I’ve stayed at the Sofitel Montreal for my first night in the city, I decided to start exploring Montreal at the Golden Mile. This stretch of the city once made up for most of all money gained in Canada. Nowadys, it’s the business center of Montreal and also home to the Boulevard de la Paix, where several artworks are presented and randomly placed.
However, there are some interesting sights here, too. Those include the famous Museé des Beaux-Arts and some historic buildings around.
You can also find several luxury hotels here. Personally, I’d especially recommend walking around the grounds of the McGill University for a while.
The prestigeous university has quite some history and consists of several very nice buildings as well as broad promenades with views of the Mont Royal.
Here, you can also find two more museums, including the McCord Museum.
Downtown Montreal & the Cathedrale Marie-Reine du Monde
If you are exploring the Golden Mile, I’d recommend heading South in the direction of the city center afterwards. Here, you’ll find one especially nice area: The Place de Canada.
From there, you can have a very nice view of the famous Cathedrale Marie-Reine du Monde as well as the interesting looking Edifice SunLife (SunLife Building).
Other remarkable spots in this area include the Square Dorchester and the Elgise Anglicane Saint-Georges. You may also have a look at the historic Gare Windsor.
Sadly, the latter was getting renovated when I visited Montreal.
Old Montreal and the Hotel de Ville
What sets Montreal apart from other cities in North America is its historic city center, called Old Montreal or Vieux Montreal in French.
Oddly, there are several modern buildings in-between the historic ones, which takes away some of the charm. Nevertheless, walking around in this area is quite nice.
The highlights of the Old Town include the Basilique Notre-Dame, which is located at the Place d’Amres, where you can spot a couple more interesting buildings.
Furthermore, the three Palais de Justices are nice historic (two) and modernist (one) buildings.
Right next to the Palais de Justice, you can find the Hôtel de Ville, the Town Hall of Montreal.
Behind the Town Hall, you can enjoy walking around the Champ de Mars (Paris is calling). Yet, you’ll immediately see that you are in Montreal as there are several skyscrapers right behind it. What an odd scenery.
Opposite of the Town Hall, you can find the Chateau Ramezay, another historic building, which nowadys is a museum.
You may also enjoy walking around the Place Jacques Quartier, which connects the Town Hall with the Old Port Area. Here, you’ll spot a couple of more nice historic buildings.
Marche Bonescours & the Old Port of Montreal
Montreal has a very interestingly changing scenery. Just a few steps away from the historic city center, you’ll find yourself at the Marché Bonsecours, which is the main market hall in the city.
The building is a very interesting combination of modern and historic architecture and looks a little missplaced in the city of Montreal. After visiting the market hall, I’d recommend strolling along the waterfront for a while.
The Old Port Area of Montreal is getting rejuvenated with several new attractions getting built. There’s an IMAX Cinema, a large ferries wheel and much more. It’s also interesting to see the old docks.
After strolling along the water for a while, you may visit a few more sights of Montreal, including the Place Royale, the Pointe-a-Callière and the Centre d’histoire de Montreal.
All are located relatively close to each other and mark the end of the Old Town area.
Mont Royal & Quartier des Spectacles
I’ve already covered must known touristic attractions in Montreal in this city guide. However, there are three more spots I’d like to briefly mention. First, there’s the Quartier Latin with the USQM University (on the second floor of the main building, you can find some popular graffiti) and the very modern Grande Bibliothèque.
Second, the Quarter des Spectacles with lots of theatres, modern buildings and the famous Place des Arts, which is a very nice spot to hang out for a drink or two. Third, the Mont Royal, which is a very nice area to go for a walk at.
I’d also recommend to walk to the top (which takes around 30 minutes) to enjoy a magnificent view of the city.
There’s also a little museum of sorts (called Chalet), which showcases the history of Montreal.
They could have put a little more effort into this, but the Mont Royal is still a very nice area.
Overall impressions of Montreal
Visiting Montreal was an enjoyable experience. I really liked the Old Town Area as well as the more modern Quartier des Spectacles. The Mont Royal is an amazing spot as well, especially if you like nature and enjoy a good view. Besides that, Montreal still feels a lot like many cities in North America. This is not necesarilly a bad thing, but the city isn’t as great for tourists as some places in Europe, at least if you are into traditional sightseeing. Nevertheless, I’d highly recommend visiting Montreal if you are in Canada. Additionally, the areas around Montreal are supposed to be totally beautiful, so be sure to also enjoy the nature around the city!