Wander around the oldest part of the city which is located on the waterfront (from McGill Street east). Points of interest include cobblestone streets, Notre Dame Basilica, Place Jacques-Cartier (a square with artists and buskers), St-Paul Street which features art galleries and interesting shops, the Science Centre, a clock tower, green space, paddle boats, labyrinth, zip line, boat tours, and more. This is a great place to spend a few hours or an entire day. Note: it is a bit touristy.
Located in the heart of the city is a gigantic park on the mountain (more of a hill, really) with lots of walking and biking trails and a man-made lake. Be sure to check out the lookout point by the chalet which gives you a great view of the city. I recommend taking the path and stairs which start at the intersection of Peel and Avenue des Pins.
This park takes up two islands and is just 10 minutes by car from downtown Montreal. This was the site of Expo 67 (one of the islands was constructed just for this purpose) and the area features an amusement park (La Ronde), a casino, the Stewart Museum (which is a fort), the Formula One track (you can bike and drive on parts of it), a huge aquatics centre, and an environmental museum (Biosphere).There is also a man-made beach and access to various water sports (paddle boarding, boat rentals, water obstacle course, and wakeboarding on a cable). La Ronde is the site of the International Fireworks Festival each summer. The park is readily accessible by subway.
Montreal is home to many beautiful historic Catholic churches, most of which are open during the day. If you see a church, go in and take a look around, perhaps sit in silence for a few minutes. Here are some of the most popular: Saint Joseph’s Oratory (3800 Queen Mary Road) is Canada’s largest church and a Catholic pilgrimage site with a history of healing. If you have time, walk through the peaceful Stations of the Cross garden on the grounds. Notre Dame Basilica (110 Notre Dame Street West) is a highly decorated church where state funerals and grand weddings are held. There is a $6 fee to enter the church as a tourist. Mary Queen of the World (1085 rue de la Cathedrale) is modeled after St. Peter’s in Rome. St. Patrick’s Basilica (460 Rene-Levesque West) is a church in the gothic revival style and features intricate ornamentation and beautiful woodwork. Christ Church Cathedral (635 Ste-Catherine West) is right downtown and has an underground mall underneath it.
The two main seasonal markets in Montreal are the Atwater Market (138 Atwater Ave, just a 20 minute walk from the conference venue) and Jean-Talon Market (7070 Henri Julien Ave).
Montreal has a lot of small, local parks, but there are some larger parks in the city which are fun to explore: Westmount Park, La Fontaine Park, Jarry Park, and one of my favourites, Parc de Dieppe (a small park on a peninsula with a view of the Old Port).
There are plenty of ways to take in the city. You can rent a Bixi bike (stations all over the city), you can take a tour bus (Hop-on Hop-off double decker starts at $56), you can get a horse-drawn carriage ride in the Old Port, you can partake in differently themed walking tours, or you can rent scooters and drive through the city (Montreal Scooter). There is also the Amphibus which takes you from water to land (2 de la Commune West). Check out the various tours available here.
Museums, galleries, and more
Point-a-Calliere (350 Place Royale in the Old Port) explores the history of Montreal and features an underground excavation. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1380 Sherbrooke West) spans several buildings in the downtown core and boasts over 41,000 works. The permanent collection is free to view and there will be a special Picasso exhibit over the summer. Redpath Museum (859 Sherbooke West) is on the McGill University campus; it is a museum of natural history (old style). McCord Museum (690 Sherbrooke West) focuses on Canadian history. The Museum of Contemporary Art (185 Ste-Catherine West) displays modern art. The Montreal Science Centre is located in the Old Port (2 de la Commune St. w) and features interactive displays for the whole family. The Ecomuseum is a small zoo located on the western part of the island of Montreal (21125 Ste-Marie Rd, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue). The Biodome (4777 Pierre de-Coubertin Ave) recreates the ecosystems of the Americas. The Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium is right next to it (4801 Pierre-de-Coubertin Ave) and features two theatres, each with different presentations. Nearby you can find the Montreal Botanical Gardens and Insectarium (4581 Sherbrooke East): 75 hectares of themed gardens and the largest insect museum in North America.
On the water
Go jet-boating on the Lachine Rapids if you dare (Jet Boating Montreal, 47 de la Commune West) or you can take a raft ride down the rapids (Rafting Montreal, 8912 Boul. Lasalle). Or maybe you want to ride a jet ski on the St-Laurent (Aventures Wet Set). There are slower-paced river rides (Croisieres AML takes you on a 20k ride down the St-Laurent and Le Petit Navire offers a 45 minute boat ride which views Montreal from the water). There is also a dinner cruise (Le Bateau-Mouche) which leaves from the Old Port.
Fast food favourites
- Schwartz’s Deli (3895 St-Laurent, smoked meat, cash only)
- Fairmount Bagel (74 Fairmount West, open 24 hours, get them fresh from the wood fire oven)
- St-Viateur Bagel (263 St-Viateur West)
- La Banquise (994 Rachel East, poutine, Quebecois grub, open 24 hours)
- Orange Julep (7700 Decarie Blvd, creamy orange drinks, fries and poutine, hot dogs, all served from a giant orange orb; car clubs hang out at this drive-in during the summer).
Beaches and camping
Cap Saint Jacques Beach is a popular spot on the western part of Montreal (20099 Gouin West). If you are interested in camping, Oka National Park is home to a long, shallow beach with a campground and is less than an hour from downtown Montreal (2020 Oka Road, Oka).There is also a KOA site south of Montreal (Montreal South KOA, 30 minutes from the conference venue).
Check out the Montreal tourism website for more information.