The Montreal Ten

Montreal is the country’s French-speaking cultural and artistic heart. The city hosts many summer festivals and is home to the globally renowned Cirque du Soleil, which always guarantees mind-boggling entertainment. Here are ten must-sees.

By: Julia Henríquez 

Photos: Javier Pinzón


1. Old Montreal

Seventeenth century cobblestone streets, and breathtaking French architecture. This neighborhood is the cornerstone of the city of Montreal and serves as its historic center. Far from being forgotten, the old Montreal of today shines, attracting visitors and residents alike to its restaurants, museums, galleries, and markets. Plaza Jacques Cartier, for example, comes to life in the summer, becoming a pedestrian zone you won’t want to miss. Speaking of sights you won’t want to miss, head for the Notre-Dame Basilica.

For information on activities as well as maps and photos, visit


2. Notre-Dame Basilica

The construction of this ecclesiastical museum and self-contained work of art began in 1824. The neo-Gothic style, the impressive woodwork, the bell towers, and the majestic altar make the Basilica an unforgettable part of old Montreal. Nonetheless, the Basilica is of interest for more than its role as a sacred shrine. AURA, a light and music show staged inside the church, takes the experience to another level, forging a connection with the divine elements of the universe, regardless of what labels you might pin on them. The revamped AURA show premiered in mid-August. 

For further information on the show, visit


3. St. Joseph’s Oratory

Set amidst magnificent gardens, St. Joseph’s Oratory, like the Basilica, has become more than a sacred shrine. This Renaissance-style Catholic church is a lovely place to revel in the warm days of summer. Regardless of personal beliefs, visitors find the colorful flower gardens, the wooded natural reserve, and the piano concerts excellent reasons to visit this temple.

For further information on the site and upcoming projects, visit


4. Museo de Bellas Artes de Montreal

Inaugurado en 1860 por la Asociación de Arte de Montreal, el Museo de Bellas Artes es el primero del país. Esta gran iniciativa trajo a la ciudad toda una vida de cultura, arte, música y ahora instalaciones multimedia. El museo parece tener vida propia, con su interminable expansión y constante cambio, siempre intentando innovar y democratizar el arte y la cultura. Ahora tiene más de 45.000 elementos entre pinturas, fotos, decoraciones y demás expresiones artísticas, que van sumando a esta meca de la inspiración. Además de las muestras permanentes y cambiantes, el museo ofrece actividades especiales de todo tipo.

Para más información sobre horarios o actividades especiales, visite


5. Mount Royal Park

Mount Royal Park, a green lung and meeting place that is the pride of the city, consists of three mountains that were once linked by a now-extinct glacier. This place has been highly significant from the time the first settlers walked these lands. McGill University was founded here in 1821, and the park is now home to other institutions of higher education as well. In 1872, the city of Montreal, anxious about industrial growth and the possible destruction of green areas, purchased the park’s 692 acres to protect its biodiversity and ensure that this urban lung would survive. 

For information on summer festivals and activities, visit the official websites. 


6. Lachine Canal

The 8.3-mile route from the new port to the old —passing over the Lachine Canal— is perfect for a bike ride. You can take a boat along the canal and luxuriate in the lovely weather, amble among the bars and shops, or simply admire the scenery. You might want to end your day in the old port. You can ascend some 200 feet in a glass-bottomed gondola with tempered glass panes to drink in the gorgeous panoramic view of the city. We are, of course, talking about the iconic Montreal Observation Wheel. 

For further information on this attraction, visit


7. Parc Jean-Drapeau

Located on two islands across from the port, this park is dedicated to the environment, conservation, and healthy recreation on both land and water. The park offers eco-tours, yoga classes, art exhibits, paddle boarding, walking paths, bike rides, canoeing, kayaking, and of course, the gigantic, jaw-dropping Biosphere museum. In winter, when snow lays a white blanket over the greenery, it’s time to get out the sleds and skates. Good times continue even in the cold.


8. Botanical Garden

Despite the Great Depression, local elections, and World War II, a visionary managed to achieve his dream of creating a botanical garden in central Montreal, a city that appreciates nature and fun in the sun. During the 1960s and 1970s, research, the growing economy, and a partnership with the University of Montreal set the Garden on the right path, including continuing expansion of the greenhouses. The Garden houses a collection of 22,000 species of plants and flowers, ten greenhouses of exhibits, and more than twenty themed gardens scattered around the garden’s 185.3 acres. 

For further information, visit


9. Biodome

The Montreal Biodome lets you experience five types of ecosystems under one roof. The dome was originally built as a velodrome for the 1976 Olympic Games; however, to commemorate the city’s 350th anniversary in 1989, it was converted into the Biodome or Space for Life. Heedless of summer sunshine or winter cold, visitors to the Biodome can stroll through the tropical rainforests of the Americas and the Laurentian maple forest, walk along the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Labrador coast, and explore sub-Antarctic islands. It is a magnificent oasis of life and a splendid place to learn about how plants and animals interact at different latitudes.


10. Place des Arts

Known also as the Quartier des Spectacles (entertainment district), Place des Arts is home to the Montreal Symphonic Orchestra, the Metropolitan Orchestra, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, and the Opera of Montreal. Place des Arts started as an initiative of Mayor Jean Drapeau, a noted opera lover, as part of a project to expand the city center eastward. The district hosts major festivals, cultural events, and popular activities all year round, including the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Les Francofolies, Just for Laughs, Montréal en Lumière, and the Grand Marché at Christmas.

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