We were in Montreal for the week. Sent by my employer to work in the evenings, with the potential to sightsee and enjoy the city by day.
This post is a compilation of all the points I found of interest, and the attractions we took in. Where, I could not help but compare Montreal to my home in Vancouver.
Montreal is so large, there are so many different districts and areas. Each with a distinct feel and its own look, thanks to the rich history of this 380-year-old city. There are so many historic buildings that have kept their exterior and have seen interior renovations, transforming them from affluent housing of the past; to the hotels, theatres, and restaurants of the present.
We were lucky to stay in Old Montreal, within walking distance to the port. Given the proximity and ease of travel by foot we would spend the most of our time walking these streets.
We noted several monuments and squares. Sadly, we would not get a chance to explore more of their significance, but these statutes were great stopping points of interest at the heart of the city. Plots of green with benches for sitting.
There are plenty of churches and cathedrals with pointed tops. The most notable is the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel. Built in 1771 it is one of the oldest churches in Montreal. The line to enter was a little too much to wait, and it was plenty stunning from the outside.
At the Old Port by the St. Lawrence water’s edge is an amusement park. The fairgrounds were closed for the winter season and our visit corresponded with a cold and rainy day with low visibility.
Nonetheless, we were able to see some magnificent sights like the Montreal Clock Tower.
Despite the rain and the darkness of the day, we still took a ride on Montreal’s iconic Ferris wheel. La Grande Roue de Montréal is recorded as the largest observation wheel in Canada, offering riders a panoramic view at 60 metres high.
It is available for tourists all throughout the year, thanks to the comfort of a climate-controlled gondola which is air-conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter.
Sadly for us, the cold rain on our jackets and the warmth from the heater caused our gondola to fog up, deterring even more of our foggy night view. But for the experience alone, we found it worth our time and money.
We also visited Montreal Olympic Park and took in the iconic stadium built in 1976 for the summer Olympics. Its irregular shape and structure reminded me of an alien air craft.
And since we were in the area, and it was raining, we decided to visit Montreal’s indoor Biodome. Here, you can take a leisurely walk through 5 different ecosystems of the Americas, all under one roof.
The Tropical Rainforest bio has lush overgrown greenery. They were the ideal hiding spot for orange caiman monkeys, sloths, and capybara.
There were also showcases of colourful birds and exotic reptiles like talking parrots, crocodiles, poison frogs and giant snakes.
The Laurentian maple forest is most similar to our Canadian boreal forests with beavers, racoons, and bobcats. You can also get an underwater look at the marine life and waterfowl that call this habitat home.
The Labrador Coast was a show stopping view of the world of birds from all angles. Visitors were able to take in their nests with eggs from atop of cliffs, watch them spend their leisure time rest on top of seaside rocks, and observe the feeding frenzy when caretakers walked in with trays of fish.
The Gulf of St. Lawrence was an underwater spectacle with giant sturgeon, jellyfish and manta rays.
Plus, pools of stationary sea plants and colourful sea anemones that you can almost reach out and touch.
And in the Sub-Arctic Islands area it was frosty with faux ice bergs and plenty frigid cold waters for the variety of penguins to swim through.
I wish we had more time because within the same vicinity of the Olympic Park you can also explore their garden with odd plants, learn more about space through their observatory, and get an up close and personal look at insects from the Science centre.
The Plateau Mont Royal area reminded me of a more modern take with a Brooklyn/San Francisco with spiralling stairs that lead to roof top terraces and some amazing artwork lining alley ways.
I am a fan of street art, so definitely took the time to take much of this in.
When in Mont Royal, many visit popular Montreal smoked meat shop Swartz’s. We certainly did. Full recap of our meal therein, in a separate post.
In Little Portugal majority of the housing was in the form of duplexes and large multi persons living quarters. These buildings were given some visual interest by way of colour striping and flourishes on the rooftops.
And surprisingly Little Italy didn’t feel all that Italian. Vancouver’s Commercial Drive had more pride in green, white, and red.
Here, tourists come to explore Jean Talon Market. It is like an indoor farmer’s market. A more spacious and scaled down assembly from that of Vancouver’s Granville Island.
Here visitors can shop from and explore many local fruit and vegetable growers, a diversity of small shopkeepers such as butchers, bakers, fishmongers, and grocers. Plus, a collection of smaller restaurateurs.
Chinatown was a fraction in size to that of Vancouver’s. A couple of blocks marked with lovely Chinese-style arches, they certainly set the district apart, even in the dark.
One of the most interesting aspects of Montreal is that in order to combat the cold of winter, there are a series of underground pathways, alongside transit. They are designed to allow commuters to travel across the core of downtown in the safety and warmth of indoors. Shopping and eating as normal, unaffected by extreme weather.
With several entry points via subway lines and mall entrances we went hunting for the Montreal’s underground city. However, after several circles and many more dead ends, closed for repairs, and under construction notices we gave up; settling for a few smaller indoors malls instead.
Each had their walls mimicking high rise facades with terraces and balconies. The effect of having the outdoors inside made it feel like you were in a courtyard, and was a great way to beat the winter blues.
Montreal’s Shaughnessy, is not unlike Vancouver’s. This is a modern area with plenty of mall shopping and familiar international store like Aritzia, H&M, and Holt Renfrew. Plus restaurants like Liuyishou hot pots, Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ, Tsujiri Montreal green tea and matcha specialists, and Hooters.
Here, I would take in the Barbie Expo. A free exhibit documenting the Barbie legacy through time and space. One of the largest collections that included designer brand collaborations the likes of Ferrari, Toki Doki, and MAC cosmetics.
There was a fantasy line with Barbie and her friends as fairies, angels, and mythical guardians.
Barbie and Co also appeared as seasons, constellations, and the embodiment of flowers.
There was Barbie for every country and every ethnicity represented, pictured in traditional make up and dress.
The Barbie couture collection was the most eye catching in lavish gowns that you can imagine on yourself.
And speaking of gowns, the wedding collection was out of a fairy tale with a big name like Vera Wang contributing a piece or two.
TV and movie character Barbies included X-File’s Scully and Moulder, Morticia and Gomez of The Adam’s Family, and Wilma and Betty from the Flintstones.
They even did realistic celebrities as Barbies as was the case of Prince William and Kate Middleton on their wedding day. Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Elvis, and Audrey Hepburn were in attendance.
I can go on and on, as I spent over 2 hours taking photos, pressing my face against the glass, admiring the Barbie dioramas, and playing Barbie myself by stepping into a human sized box for a photo op.
In short there was so much to see and do in Montreal and the week gave me plenty of time to take in most of it. I definitely flew back home feeling accomplished and like I had maximized this trip.