No shortage of things to see and do in Montreal
Notre Dame Cathedral should top your list of places to see in Old Montreal with its stunning interior, stained glass windows and marble pillars. Supplied
And my all-time favourite city goes to ...*drum roll* … Montreal.
I understand that is a huge statement, but I have to say that out of every large city I have ever been to (including New York City), Montreal is hands down my favourite. I am not entirely sure whether it’s the incredible architecture, the way of life, the abundance of festivals that seem to fall every weekend, or the outstanding food that makes Montreal incredible, or whether it’s just all of these things rolled up into one adventure. Regardless, Montreal is absolutely worth a visit.
The first time I visited Montreal, I was backpacking alone through Canada and I had planned on staying in Montreal for three days. Each day I woke up with all intention to move along, but Montreal’s personality kept pulling me right back in. I ended up juggling around my very loose itinerary and stayed for two weeks.
Stepping into the inner city of Montreal is like stepping into Europe with a touch or contemporary design. Throughout the city you’ll find typical high-rise buildings pressed against historic structures, providing a very contradictory view, that somehow, works perfectly in unison. The centuries merge together as you step into Old Montreal, one of the most iconic sections of Montreal. On the edge of the St. Lawrence River, this beautifully positioned city is the birthplace of Montreal. The narrow strip that runs adjacent to the river is a thriving, bustling nook that is home to art galleries, restaurants, French patisseries and quaint stores. With the exterior facade showing off its historical European personality with cobbled streets, brightly coloured window shutters and French street signs, the interior boasts a blend of modern industrial design and traditional European design.
Hidden amongst the inner-city chaos, is the diamond of Montreal — Mount Royal Lookout. The lookout itself is situated at the top of the mountain, which overlooks the entire city. The mountain is amongst the 200-hectare park which is home to walking paths, art structures and gardens. Mount Royal is usually where the locals will go to get a breath of fresh air, jog or hike in the summer, and cross-country ski and ice skate in the winter. But the main draw is still the incredibly beautiful view from the lookout.
Amongst the Old Montreal strip, the Notre Dame Cathedral is situated. With original construction completed between 1672 and 1683, the stand-alone church became too small for services. An architect then designed the interior and facade to a new cathedral, and in 1886 the building was open to the public. Visiting the cathedral when in Montreal must be placed at the top of your list. With stained glass windows and marble pillars, the stunning interior of this Cathedral is a work of art.
No matter what time of the year you choose to visit Montreal, you’ll have festivals and community events happening almost every weekend. Named as Canada’s ‘Cultural Juggernaut,’ the city is known for its cultural celebrations. Montreal proudly demonstrates its love for the arts, and is home to over 250 theatre and dance companies. Throughout the year Montreal dedicates the majority of its weekends to showcasing talent from around the world. Theatre, dance, cinema, comedy and gay pride are the main festivals that occur.
Each time I have visited Montreal, I make a point of going back to the Planetarium. Although many may not be interested in something like this, I promise you, you will be impressed. With the entire performance being situated inside an inflatable dome, you’ll lay down on beanbags and stare straight up. Depending on what time of year you’re visiting, the various shows will take you on an adventure through the galaxy and outer space. A complete 3D and interactive performance will have you so engaged, you’ll find it hard to start walking on Earth again.
Like most people, food holds a big chunk of my heart, especially when it comes to choosing a holiday destination. For all you foodies out there, Montreal has everything that will make your soul sing. Duc de Lorraine is an absolute must-visit when travelling to Montreal. Opening their doors in 1952, this
beautifully designed French patisserie screams fresh pastries, traditional breakfasts and silky-smooth coffee. Walking through the doors of Duc de Lorraine will transport you to France. With romantic, soothing French music playing in the background, teamed with brightly coloured artistic pastries and desserts perfectly presented in the foreground, you’ll have a smile stretched across your face even before you indulge.
To finish off a perfect weekend getaway to Montreal, visit the Montreal Botanical Garden. The garden is one of the most well-known in Canada. Its prides itself in extravagant hedge sculptures and blooms in the summer. It is easy to take some snacks inside, so if it’s a beautiful day, this place is a perfect spot for a picnic.
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