By: Katy DeHaven
Continuing our Canada & New England cruise port-of-call series we are going to head west of Quebec City and check out Montreal. Montreal most often appears on cruise itineraries as an embarkation and/or debarkation port, which is nice because you can tack on a few days before or after your cruise vacation to explore the city.
Montreal is the second largest city in Canada and the largest in the province of Quebec. The city is considered the number one host city in North America for International events. The city is home to the famous Cirque de Soleil, hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics and also hosted Expo 67, the most successful world’s fair in the 20th century. French is the official language here, but pretty much everyone is bilingual in English and French.
The centerpiece of the city is the summit and surroundings of Mount Royal. At 692 acres this expansive city park offers sightseeing in every direction, forested pathways, picnicking in the summer, and skating, skiing or sliding in the winter. Enjoy this virtual fall hike through the park.
Just a few blocks from the park is the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts) which was founded in 1860. It is the largest art museum in Canada by gallery space, and the permanent collection includes over 44,000 works. The museum also offers exhibitions on tour, and special programming for children. To check out some of the works of art within the museum click here.
Check out Montreal’s Underground City, most of the downtown area is interconnected by underground paths so you don’t have to go out on a rainy day or during the cold in the winter. The tunnels form a whole new city with shopping malls, parking lots, restaurants and even fountains. Check out this map of the area.
Considered to be one of the most important botanical gardens in the world due to its extensive collections and facilities, the Montreal Botanical Gardens is comprised of 75 hectares of thematic gardens and greenhouses. In addition the Botanical Gardens offer fun and unique programming year round for children and families. For a wonderful tour of the gardens, please click here.
Guided tours are available of Parc Olympique the multi-purpose stadium where the 1976 Olympic Games was held. In addition to hosting tours, the site is still used today for sporting and other events. The Montreal Tower is also part of the complex, at 165 meters it is the tallest inclined tower in the world. It has an 45-degree awe-inspiring angle, which is particularly amazing when you consider the Leaning Tower of Pisa’s tilt is only 5 degrees.
Take a street art tour of Saint-Laurent and its accompanying alleyways. View graffiti art from artists both recognized and raw. The area is also known for it food, expanded bar terraces and street fairs. Click here to explore Mural Fest 2020.
Wander the cobblestoned streets of Old Montreal. The area was established in the 17th century by the first settlers of New France. Today you will find some of the cities best restaurants, shopping, historic structures and many attractions. Here you will also find Montreal’s oldest Catholic Church, Notre-Dame Basilica. The church is know for its intricately designed interior, which includes stained glass chronicling the city’s history. For a tour and to learn more, click here.
Visit the Montreal Biodome, an indoor zoo and aquarium which hosts recreations of four different ecosystems in North America, plus some Sub-Antarctic Islands. The structure was originally built for the 1976 Summer Olympics, housing the judo and cycling events. Today it is home to more than 200 different animal species and 500 different plant species. The Biodome just underwent a two-year renovation, click here to learn more about the project and here for a peak inside.
Fans of Cirque du Soleil will surely want to see a show in the city where it all began, coming in the Spring of 2021 is Under the Same Sky, Cirque du Soleil’s newest show. Pre-COVID tours were very, very limited, and currently they are canceled, but you can check out this visit to the International Headquarters of Cirque du Soleil in Montreal.
To try some classic Montreal fare head to this combination of distinctive neighborhoods, Mile End, the Plateau and the McGill Ghetto. This area is known to have the best of the best in signature dishes; Fairmount and St-Viateur for fresh bagels, Schwartz’s for Montreal-style meat, and La Banquise for poutine. Begin or end you food tour with a stop at Wilensky’s for their Light Lunch. Check out this video for some other sweet treats and see how the St-Viateur makes their bagels, the 30 different options of Poutine available at La Banquise and how Schwartz’s smokes their meat.