Montreal Travel Guide


The Underground City
Many people come to Montreal to shop in its wide range of international boutiques, and Canada's low dollar makes it especially attractive for Americans to shop here. The most famous aspect of shopping in Montreal is the Underground City. Constantly growing, the "city" - which links many major buildings and multi-level shopping malls in the area - is a shopper's paradise in any season. One major section is reached via Peel and McGill metro stations on the green line, and another via Bonaventure station on the orange line. East of McGill station is a growing axis from Place-des-Arts metro down through Complexe Desjardins and beyond. Safe and sheltered from the elements, the Underground City offers a huge range of goods and services as well as a handy way to get from place to place without weather or traffic problems

Plateau Mont Royal
The lookout on top of Mount Royal is an excellent goal for an urban walk. It's in Mount Royal Park, laid out long ago by Frederick Law Olmsted, best known for landscaping New York's Central Park. From the beautifully appointed lookout terrace, downtown Montreal is at your feet, with a view to the river and beyond to the Monteregian Hills. Sight lines to landmarks are marked. The chalet by the lookout is open in the daytime with bathrooms and snack machines. There's no restaurant or café in the park but, in season, you can picnic - and don't forget you're never more than a few minutes from downtown Montreal and its many restaurants. The top of Mount Royal is divided between the park and two large cemeteries, the Catholic Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery and the nondenominational Mount Royal cemetery. Both can be interesting walks for those of gothic tastes and together they form a necropolis among the largest in the world.

Quartier Latin
The Quartier Latin is the Paris-style student district along lower Rue St Denis, with the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) at its heart. Here you'll find row upon row of trendy bars, open-air cafés, bistros and clubs - and more of Montréal's beautiful people than you could poke a mirror at. Just to the east of the Latin Quarter is the hub of the gay community, The Village, which centres around Rue Ste Catherine Est. Among the bars, clubs and cafés is a slightly rougher edge and 'anything goes' attitude, especially during the Gay Pride Festival in early August when things get decidedly outrageous.

Stroll east of downtown and you'll enter the thriving community of Chinatown. Throughout the year the neighbourhood celebrates traditional festivals and holidays, but even on a regular workday you'll find all kinds of wonders in Chinatown. The best way to visit is on foot, so you can stop by all of the interesting shops selling medicinal herbs, exotic foods and porcelain. Wander the pedestrian-only rue La Gauchetière, and be sure to stop by the Chinese markets along rue St-Laurent for unique gifts and fun souvenirs.

The Village
In this city founded on cultural diversity, it's little wonder that Montréal is home to one of the largest and most extroverted gay communities in the world. Although the village caters to gay and lesbian patrons, you'll find folks from all walks of life frequenting the many bars, bistros and shops of this dynamic neighbourhood.

The Montreal Casino
The Casino de Montréal is a 24/7 extravaganza of gambling, food and drink. Built inside the pavilions of France and Quebec from Expo '67, it's a multi-level experience of roaring, tinkling fun. Bring money.

Vieux-Montréal - Old Montréal
Montréal was founded in 1642 and its rich history can be traced by a visit to the oldest part of town. Situated on the St. Lawrence River, this area is focused around the Old Port (Vieux Port) where Montréal was originally established. At one time a wall surrounded this area of Montréal, days when explorers and fur traders came and went and the social and political future of Canada was yet to be decided. Today, museums, interesting buildings, shops, and cafés line the streets making it a must-see on a trip to Montréal.

Notre-Dame Basilica
Montreal's Notre-Dame Basilica has nothing in common with Paris's except the name. It's a neogothic building dating from 1829, constructed on the site of a much older and smaller church which had been outgrown by its parishioners. Notre Dame is noted for its lavish and beautiful interior - stained glass windows, paintings, statues, gold-tipped polychrome carvings, rich altarpiece. It also has a notable Casavant organ and its largest bell, le Gros Bourdon, is the biggest on the continent.

Notre-Dame shares Place d'Armes with the Vieux Séminaire, dating from 1683, the elegant deco Aldred Building (1931), the red sandstone New York Life building (1888) - Montreal's first skyscraper - the Bank of Montreal building, and the central monument to de Maisonneuve, founder of the original settlement of Ville-Marie.

The Vieux-Port and Parc des Îles
The Vieux-Port (Old Port) stretches for 2.5km (1.5mi) along the river and consists of four quays: the Vieux-Port Promenade and Esplanade, a favourite strolling spot for Montréal's inhabitants; the Quai de l'Horloge, with its eponymous tower dedicated to sailors; and the Quai Jacques-Cartier. From the latter, a ferry runs to the Parc des Îles, the park created on the two islands that were the site of the 1967 World's Fair. Île Sainte-Hélène now boasts Québec's largest amusement park, and Île Notre-Dame is an artificial island created for the fair in the middle of the river. The Biosphere on Île Saint-Hélène offers a fantastic journey through the Saint Lawrence ecosystem.

La Biosphere
This giant geodesic dome was designed by architect Buckminster Fuller and was the American Pavilion for Montréal's world exposition in 1967. Today it exists as an environmental education facility and its otherworldly structure remains an important feature of the Montréal cityscape.

The Olympic Stadium
The Olympic Stadium was built for Montreal's 1976 Olympics and is still currently used by baseball's National League's Expos and for all kinds of other shows throughout the year. An elevator ascends the world's tallest inclined tower to a lookout on top; tickets are for sale at the base. The stadium is one of Montreal's most curious pieces of architecture and is accompanied by the Biodome (a building originally used for cycle racing during the Games). Across Sherbrooke Street is the Botanical Garden (best in summertime, but with large greenhouses worth a visit any time of year) and the Insectarium. Across Pie-IX is Château Dufresne, a grand mansion sometimes used for art exhibits.

Little Italy
Step into a trattoria along lively Dante Street and you're suddenly transported to the Old Country. Montréal's bustling Little Italy is lined with exceptional restaurants, cafes and shops along Blvd. St. Laurent. The Jean Talon Market is a must see, with shelves full of remarkable Québec cheeses, vegetable and fruit stands, and specialty shops offering local wines, ciders, and pâtés. But Little Italy is very much a neighbourhood. Apartments sit above the street level shops, the manicured Parc Martel is full of locals on Saturdays, and well-dressed parishioners attend the revered Madonna della Defesa church on Sundays.

Parc Lafontaine
Montréal's oldest park is also it's most European. The park reflects the city's combination of both French and English cultures. Half the park is landscaped in the manicured French-style and the other half is landscapes is in the more informal tamed wilderness of the English-style.

Parc Jean-Drapeau
Named in 2000 in honour of the long running mayor of Montréal who oversaw the formation of this world-renowned park, it attracts millions of visitors each year. Encompassing Ile-Notre-Dame and Ile-Sainte-Helene, it offers a wide variety of activities and events. Previous visitors know it as the Parc des Îles, and some of the islands' land is actually landfill from the soil excavated when building the Montreal Métro system from 1963-67. Now it's one of Montréal's most entertaining parks. Attractions: La Ronde, Fort Ile-Sainte-Helene, the Floralies Gardens, the Biosphere, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the Montreal Casino, the Olympic Basin and the famous Helene de Champlain Restaurant.

Parc Angrignon
With 107 hectares (65,000 sq metres), Parc Angrignon is one of the largest Montréal parks. Wander through its stunning landscape that was refurbished in 2000 to enhance the park's natural characteristics including the 1.1 km lake with a centre island that's a favourite for summing ducks. Designed in the style of grand English parks, you can take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city making it a favourite among Montréalers and visitors alike.

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