When I suggested taking a vacation in Montréal, my friends weren’t exactly excited or interested. In fact, I originally planned it as a solo trip because no one wanted to come. Understandably, Montréal isn’t exactly a desired destination for most people, but contrary to popular belief, there’s tons to do and see. Here’s some places I’m glad I checked out in the “Most original city in North America” and a place I wouldn’t visit again:
- Olympic Stadium: I’m a little bit of a sports history geek so seeing the Olympic Stadium and taking the tour was great. Montréal hosted the summer Olympics in 1976. Instead of letting the stadium and Olympic Village go to waste, both areas are still thriving today. The stadium tour will take you about 45 minutes, assuming it’s bilingual. However, it’s best to do this only if you like history. Because the stadium now hosts concerts and other events, it looks nothing like it did in 1976. The field is gone and the arena has a full roof so without the interest in history, you may get bored.
- Olympic Tower: The tower, which didn’t exist in 1976, is part of the stadium because it holds up the roof, but it also serves as an amazing observatory. You can get a pretty nice view of the city and it’s also a cool spot to grab a few souvenirs.
- Notre-Dame Basilica: This is one church you won’t forget. The architecture and lighting inside of Montréal’s first church is breathtaking. You can get an extended tour inside the church and sit at the grand piano, but you’ll want to reserve your spot weeks in advance for that. If you’re into history, like me, the general tour will run you through the basics and it’s included in the general admission ($6 CAD). As my guide said, to understand the foundation of Montréal and its French influences, it’s important to understand the role religion played into it.
- The Old Port (Le Vieux Port): It’s easy to spend an entire day at the Old Port. It’s full of activities for the entire family. My friend and I went ziplining, hopped in a paddle boat, took two cruises and walked into Old Montréal (across the street) for some French food. In Old Montréal, there are tons of restaurants and shops. In fact, another place to get good souvenirs is Souvenir Du Quebec, a small shop that’s walking distance from the Old Port. During the cruises, you can see the Biosphere and the former Olympic Village from a distance.
- The Biosphere: You can see the top of this environmental museum from several places throughout the city. It’s even more beautiful once you cross the bridge and see it up close. However, keep in mind that it’s an environmental museum. Unless you’re into science, bacteria, renewable energy or learning about clean water sources, you won’t really enjoy the inside of the museum.
- The Planetarium: I’ve never really been interested in the solar system, but the planetarium was one of my favorite places. You lay back, relax and watch stars and planets fly over you while a calm, soothing voice teaches you about the solar system and the Northern Lights. I’m not going to lie. It may or may not make you a little sleepy, but it’s still cool. Outside the theater area, you can see and read about meteorites that have fallen in different parts of the world. The planetarium is near the Olympic Stadium so you should do these on the same day.
- The Botanical Gardens: If I had to skip a destination in Montréal, it would be the Botanical Gardens. My friend and I visited in mid-June. It was very plain and one of the main attractions, The Chinese Garden, was closed for renovations. Don’t let the Internet fool you like it fooled me. When you Google Montréal’s Botanical Garden, you see huge colorful sculptures, which were part of the “Living Sculptures” exhibit. I couldn’t wait to see them, but it turns out, that exhibit was in 2013. If you’re curious about the Botanical Garden, it’s best to call ahead and see what’s open.