Montreal is lauded as capital of culture, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s one of the province of Quebec’s major cities and is renowned for its arts scene, with architecture to rival Paris. In this melting pot of influences, European charm abounds. The result is a vibrant city filled with museums, galleries and some of the most attractive buildings anywhere in Canada.
If you’re planning a holiday in Montreal, make sure you visit these beautiful attractions:
1. Montreal Biosphere
Don’t confuse the Biosphere with the Biodome, which is next on our list! In the heart of the lush Parc Jean-Drapeau sits the Biosphere. American architect Buckminster Fuller designed this icon of the city for the Expo 67 World’s Fair. Today it houses the Environment Museum and is packed full of interactive displays.
‘This is not an umbrella’ is an exhibit on the science behind weather and also the art inspired by it. ‘Eyes on the Arctic’ looks at the challenges of living somewhere where there is no sunlight for 6 months of the year and the temperature can drop as low as -50°C.
2. Montreal Biodome
The Biodome is a striking facility which dominates Montreal’s Olympic Park. Called the ‘Space for Life’ it contains 4500 animals from 220 different species. The unbelievable space recreates five major ecosystems of the Americas: tropical rainforest, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Labrador Coast, the Laurentian maple forest and the sub-Antarctic Islands.
The Biodome is geared up for independent exploration, with informative panels guiding you through the different ecosystems. Come face-to-face with some spectacular animals, from penguins to lynx!
3. Notre-Dame Basilica
A church has stood at this historic site in Old Montreal since 1682. The current Notre-Dame Basilica was finally completed in 1880 and was the first neo-Gothic church in Canada. While its exterior dominates the Place d’Armes square, it is the inside of this church which turns heads every time.
Almost one million visitors photograph the church’s elaborate interior every year. Simply put, it’s a work of art. From the elaborately carved and painted altarpiece to the vibrant stained-glass windows, it’s a sight you won’t forget in a hurry. Even the ceiling is spectacular, and it’s well worth trying to catch an organ recital on the 7,000 pipes of the Great Casavant Organ.
4. St Joseph’s Oratory
Climb Montreal’s namesake hill, Mount Royal, to visit this stunning basilica. It’s a national shrine and claims to have one of the largest domes in the world. Take a tour of the famous crypt and the tranquil gardens for a lovely day spent in warm sunshine and cool cloisters.
The bell tower contains a total of 10,900kg of bells! The largest is a mighty 1500kg, while the smallest is a mere 5kg. The views from the top of the hill over the city skyline are another highlight of making the pilgrimage to St Joseph’s Oratory.
5. Bonsecours Market
This historic market is acknowledged as one of Canada’s ten finest heritage buildings. No trip to Old Montreal would be complete without a visit to Bonsecours’ hallowed halls! It has a rich history that ranges from the premier agricultural marketplace for a century to a vibrant concert hall to a bustling government building.
Today, the space is filled with myriad shops, boutiques, restaurants, events and exhibits. The markets are a great place to shop for souvenirs among the Quebecois, Canadian and Aboriginal crafts and artwork. End a few hours of shopping with some delicious, locally-made food and a Montreal craft beer.
See it for yourself
Tempted to explore Montreal for yourself? We don’t blame you. There are a number of ways to get to know this fabulous East Canada city:
Montreal Short Break – Spend a glorious week in the beautiful city
Montreal and Quebec City Short Break – Team Montreal with glamorous Quebec City for a true taste of French-Canadian heritage
Eastern Rail Experience – Pair Montreal with Toronto and travel the spell-binding route between the two on VIA Rail’s ‘Corridor’ service before riding the ‘Ocean’ route to Halifax.
Eastern Spirit Holiday – See all of Eastern Canada’s favourite cities on one epic road trip, taking in Toronto, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and more.