Montreal is the most “European” North American city and a favorite destination within a driving distance for those of us in New England who crave the “old town” on a long weekend.
There is of course more to Montreal than the “old town”. We have recently paid yet another visit to the city to attend Gymnastics Worlds Championships and came up with this list of OUR TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN MONTREAL.
1. Visiting Olympic Complex. I love the Olympics and visiting historic 1976 Olympics complex in Montreal was a must for me. It is here at the Montreal Arena during 1976 Olympics that Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci posted a first perfect “10” in a major gymnastics competition! While we were in town for the Worlds Gymnastics Championships 2017, the area between the Olympic Tower and the Biodome was renamed to Nadia Comaneci Plaza (yes, Nadia was there and we got to take a picture with her).
There is lots to do in the Olympic Complex, starting with the Guided Tour of the stadium which is included with the Since 1976 Exhibit admission. Olympic velodrome has been converted to the indoor nature Museum Biodome and is a great way to spend a couple of hours with kids of different ages. We had so much fun riding to the top of the Montreal Tower, that we are including it as a separate item on this list.
2. Riding to the Top of Montreal Tower.
The world’s tallest reclined structure at 165 meters, Montreal Tower was originally designed to hold the cables for the retractable roof of the Olympic Stadium. The multi-story observatory was added later and it is now a great place to look over the city amidst the photos of the Olympics’s most memorable moments.
3. Visiting a Museum. Montreal has a number of interesting museums housed in diverse areas throughout the city, including Fine Arts Museum, Insectarium, Science Museum and Montreal’s Archeology and History Complex Pointe-à-Callière, which we have visited on this most recent trip.
Pointe-à-Callière – is a unique place that is intricately connected to its site in the old Port area – the very site where Montreal was founded. It is an interactive showcase of Montreal’s history which my husband declared A MUST for both kids and adults visiting the city.
4. Taking a Walking Tour of the Old Town.
Guided walking tours is my favorite way to experience a city. Montreal’s Old Town is compact enough for a 90-minute tour times two: Guidatour offers Old Montreal East and Old Montreal West 90-minutes walking tours. I took the East side tour which starts at the other Montreal’s MUST – 1829 Gothic Revival Notre-Dame Basilica. After touring inside the Basilica, we went on a pleasant stroll along the cobblestone streets and through the major sites of the Old Town while our guide Rene highlighted the city’s French and British origins for us.
5. Taking a Cruise on St. Lawrence River
We love to capture the city from the river, if there is one, of course! Saint Lawrence River begins at the outflow of Lake Ontario, flows through Montreal among several other Canadian cities before draining into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the largest estuary in the world.
We chose a 1.5 hour guided Montreal sightseeing cruise by AML cruises which starts at Alexander Pier in the Old Port (the company also offers a variety of food/gourmet cruises.) The Montreal Port, we are told by our guide, used to be one of the world’s greatest. It still allows passage of the big ships from Boston and even the other side of the Atlantic.
The weather in early October afternoon was lovely and we chose to enjoy our snack and drink on the outside deck.
6. Walking the Old Port Boulevard
Getting to the Alexander Pier to catch our cruise and walking the Old Port Boulevard along St. Lawrence river was half the fun! After your cruise, be sure to walk all the way to Clock Tower and the nearby urban beach on the other side of the Old Port.
7. Looking onto the city from Mount Royal
The visit to Montreal is not complete without getting to one of the observation points in Park Mount Royal (Mont Royal in French). The largest green space in the city, Park Mount Royal is a delight to explore if you have time. The best view onto the city is from the semicircular plaza next to Kondiaronk Belvedere.
8. Attending a Festival
Montreal is known for its many festivals throughout the year, the most famous probably being summer Jazz and fall Flm festivals. 2017 is the city’s 375th celebration which includes many festivities throughout the year. You can still catch some here.
While I was targeting the entire family up until now, the following two of our Montreal top favorites are designated for adult only getaway to the city:
9. Enjoying French Food/BYOW style
Montreal has a multi-cultural variety of eating out options for all tastes (including the youngsters), but when we are in the city on a couple’s only getaway, we are on a mission to experience a multi-course gourmet dinner in one of the cozy “bring your own wine” establishments. They are often hidden in residential areas away from the tourist attractions, but they are so worth a little effort to find them. Some of our favorites are Le Quartier General on rue Gilford, Les Heritiers in Mont Royal East, and Les Infidele on Rue Rachel.
10. Relaxing in a Nordic Spa
We had our young daughter with us during the most recent visit, so we skipped the spa visit, but during our prior couple’s only escapes to the city we have enjoyed rejuvenating Nordic spa cycles of hot-cold-relax-repeat in the Scandinavian Spa in the Old Port and Strom Spa on Isle des Soeurs. Next time we go on a date in this city, we will include a visit to Bota Bota spa that is housed on the old boat near Alexandra Pier in the Old Port.
WHERE WE STAYED.
We stayed in Hotel Bonaventure (formerly Hilton) in downtown and liked it so much that we decided not to stay anywhere else in Montreal! The rooms are well-sized and tastefully decorated, but the main reasons we fell in love with this hotel are their four-season pool (with an inside and outside access) and beautiful hidden water gardens- in the middle of downtown!
Our daughter started each day in the city in the hotel’s four-season pool.
Do note somewhat peculiar configuration of the floors with no elevator access to rooms on the upper floor. Be sure to mention when booking if you have a mobility issue and have them transport your bags via service elevator. They would be happy to help!
We thank Montreal Tourism for helping to arrange several activities on our trip. We received complimentary media passes to some of the attractions – for accurate pricing and hours please check the websites provided.
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