Montreal is a great city with a great vibe. It is an eclectic mix of all things English and French, with attractions to satisfy even the pickiest traveler.
I recently took a weekend trip to Montreal, and discovered the beauty it had to offer. Here are my recommendations for must-sees:
For Scenery: Mont Royal
There aren’t too many cities that can boast about having a giant mountain in the middle of downtown. But Mont Royal is precisely that: a beautiful mountainous nature preserve that gives you the perfect view of Montreal’s skyline.
From the summit near the Chalet de Mont Royal, foliage perfectly frames downtown Montreal and gives you a great view of the Parc Olympique in the distance. Dozens of trails snake up, down, and around the mountain, giving you as much time and adventure as you can handle. You can head straight up to the Chalet viewpoint, or meander around and enjoy an afternoon retreat.
The mountain is especially beautiful in autumn when the leaves turn bright red, yellow, and orange. It’s a stunning walk.
For Art: Musée des Beaux Arts
Montreal’s Musée des Beaux Arts is a multi-building complex filled with classic and modern art. It’s a perfect one-stop place to get a taste of Montreal’s art scene, while also viewing one of Canada’s most prominent museums. The collections are pretty eclectic and range across all mediums, eras, and movements. The museum also tends to have a great selection of special exhibits, displaying some of the world’s most precious pieces of art (their past exhibit, which just ended, featured the world’s best collection of Faberge eggs outside St. Petersburg).
Need another incentive to check this place out? Admission to the permanent collections is free for anyone under 30. If only MOMA would adopt that policy…
For History: Pointe a Calliere
Pointe a Calliere is a museum devoted to the history and archeology of Montreal, from its foundations by local Inuit tribes, to its settlement by French and British explorers, to the present day. The museum boasts one of the largest archeology collections in Canada, and comprises numerous sites from the city’s foundations.
The museum’s collections stretch across six buildings or sites: the modern Eperon building, the archeology crypt, Montreal’s first custom house (Ancienne-Douane), Youville Pumping Station (Montreal’s first electrically-powered wastewater pumping station), the archeology field school, and the mariner’s house. Some of these sites have documented human activity stretching over 1,000 years.
In addition to its permanent collections, the museum also hosts special exhibits studying culture and history worldwide.
For Shopping: Mile End
Mile End is fast becoming Montreal’s hippest neighborhood. With a growing collection of art galleries, cafes, brunch spots and shopping venues, this area should be high on your exploration list.
Montreal is also famous for its fashion scene, particularly vintage fashion. St. Laurent Boulevard, the heartbeat of Mile End, is littered with great vintage and recycled-goods stores. It’s hard to stay on a schedule or a budget once you start browsing, and the list of things you didn’t know you needed can grow quite high.
For the price, quality, and quantity however, there is nothing that compares. So take a little shopping spree and get yourself some fashionable souvenirs.
For Tradition: Old Montreal
Old Montreal is the quintessential tourist experience. It is the slice of land where Montreal was first founded by French explorers in 1642. Today the area is mostly populated by cobblestone streets and little storefronts selling locally made items and souvenirs. There are also numerous restaurants and pastry shops.
The center of Old Montreal is Place Jacques-Cartier, which houses the city’s oldest public monument, Nelson’s Column. In the warmer months the square is covered with a bounty of blooming plants, and in the winter it is covered in rows of lighted Christmas trees. Slating downward from City Hall, the square leads straight to Montreal’s Old Port, another great scene to discover in the warmer months.
For Fun: Graffiti Hunting
One more thing Montreal is known for: Graffiti. The city is like an urban canvas or a graffiti scavenger hunt. Talented and colorful murals adorn every other building, keeping the city young and lively and beautiful.
There’s a perfect app to help you discover graffiti around the city too. It’s called GraffMap, and it can pinpoint your location to tell you where the best graffiti is near you. Similar to Instagram, you can browse through photos and click on your favorites to see where to find them. If you want to see some great art, but don’t have the time to wander, this is a great tool to make your graffiti-hunting easy.