If you’re looking for things to do in Montreal, you’re in for a treat. Montreal offers so much throughout the year, with something to suit every taste and budget. Montreal is known as the cultural and entertainment capital of Canada, and with good reason. It is a seasonal city, with festivals and attractions that fit within a certain place in the calendar.
With that in mind, here is our list of the top things to do in Montreal.
Take a stroll through Mont Royal Park
There are very few large cities in the world that offer the type of tranquility and beauty so close to the downtown core that you can get in Montreal. Unless there is a blizzard, taking a walk through Mont Royal Park should be one of the first things you should consider doing upon arrival in Montreal.
Montreal is named for this “mountain” (more like a hill) that sits just north of downtown, and entry to the park is simple from downtown or any of the surrounding Montreal neighbourhoods such as the Plateau, Outremont, Côte-des-Neiges, NDG or Westmount. The southern side of the park contains a series of winding paths, perfect for walking, running, biking and, in season, cross-country skiing, as well as dense forestry and rougher trails. A south-facing belvedere, or lookout point, offers vistas of downtown and the St. Lawrence River, and on a fine day you can see far beyond the city towards the US border. This is the perfect place to get a sense of the geography of Montreal. You can then head over to Beaver Lake on the western side, where in winter you can rent cross-country skis and head out on the mountain. Over on the eastern side towards Parc Avenue is the statue of Sir George Etienne-Cartier, one of the fathers of Canadian confederation. Every Sunday from spring until fall, Sir George watches over a group of bongo and tabla drummers who gather to entertain the masses, an activity known locally as tam-tams.
Mont Royal Park is bisected by a winding road, and on the northern side lies an extensive cemetery, which is particularly beautiful in the fall/autumn season.
One of Montreal’s most conspicuous and unique attractions is the Montreal Olympic Stadium, the centrepiece of Olympic Park. Originally built to house the 1976 Olympic summer games, the stadium is rarely used today, hosting just a handful of sports and musical events each year. It does, however, have the world’s largest inclined tower sticking out over it.
It’s not so much the stadium that makes Olympic Park so special, but rather the family-friendly activities surrounding it. If you’re looking for things to do in Montreal with a family, a trip east out of downtown to Olympic Park is a good call. The Montreal Biodome is a facility that allows visitors to walk through four ecosystems found in the Americas, with plants and animals typical of those ecosystems. The Montreal Biodome is like an indoor zoo. Then there is the Montreal Planetarium, where you can learn all about space through an exhibit on the universe and multimedia astronomy film presentations projected on its two dome theatres. There is also the Montreal Insectarium, a sort of bug museum, and the Montreal Botanical Garden, open year-round. If after all of that you want to be around people rather than bugs or animals, keep an eye on the schedule for the Montreal Impact soccer team, who play in Major League Soccer (MLS). Their home, Saputo Stadium, is in the vicinity.
The Lachine Canal
The Lachine Canal was originally built in the early 1800’s to help traders bypass the treacherous Lachine Rapids in the St. Lawrence River. Though the full economic value of the canal was curtailed after closing to shipping in 1970, it remains a focal point of social activity along the banks of its 14.5 kilometre course, which runs from Old Montreal to Lake Saint-Louis at the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers.
If you’re looking for things to do in Montreal on two wheels, you can hop on a bike and cruise along the dedicated bike paths that run parallel to the canal. In 2009, the Lachine Canal bike path placed third on Time Magazine’s list of the top 10 urban bike paths in the world. You will likely see groups of rowers and people on pedalos along the way, as well as families out for picnics. The busiest point of the canal banks is around the Atwater Market, where you can stop and enjoy lunch, coffee or ice cream.
Parc Jean-Drapeau is a place with amenities and entertainment for the whole family, spread across two islands located between Montreal Island and the south shore. Visitors to Parc Jean-Drapeau can enjoy the following:
- La Ronde, an amusement park operated by Six Flags.
- Montreal Casino. Feeling lucky? Why not head over to the casino? Soon you’ll feel like you’re in Las Vegas.
- Montreal Biosphere. Originally the home of the United States pavilion in the 1967 World Expo, the Montreal Biosphere remains an iconic part of the Montreal skyline. Today, the spherical building houses a museum dedicated to the environment.
- Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. For many years now, Montreal welcomes the razzmatazz of the Formula 1 circuit, hosting the Canadian Grand Prix here each June.
- A beach. You might be far from the ocean in Montreal, but you’re never far from a beach thanks to this artificial addition to Parc Jean-Drapeau.
- A rowing basin. This professional rowing and canoeing facility is where training and competition takes place.
- Concerts. The Osheaga and Heavy MTL festivals are fixtures in the Montreal summer calendar, and this is where the masses head to enjoy shows by some of the world’s biggest artists. If you’re looking for things to do in Montreal during summer, why not grab some tickets to a show or festival here?