Amelia’s Magazine | My Top 10 Favourite Things To Do in Montreal

Montreal, <a target=more about Canada 2011 view of downtown” title=”Montreal, Canada 2011 view of downtown” width=”480″ height=”480″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-47582″ />
Montreal, Canada 2011 flags
All photography by Amelia Gregory.

I had a truly wonderful time in Montreal earlier this month. Alongside the many festival goings on during Montreal Festimania there were plenty of other things to do in this fabulous Canadian city. Here’s my pick!

Montreal, Canada 2011 Poutine quebec
Montreal, Canada 2011 Poutine quebec
1. Eat Poutine
Okay, so this is not strictly a Montreal custom, but for any new visitor to Quebec it is supremely important that you try this classic meal. Poutine consists of cheesy curds on top of thin french fries and topped with a thick gravy. At posher restaurants and Poutine specialists you can also get a wide variety of variations on the theme, including a meaty topping which ensures that this really is a full meal!

Montreal, Canada 2011 -McCord Museum 2
Montreal, Canada 2011 -McCord Museum
2. Go to the Musée McCord
It costs a bit of money but it’s well worth visiting this museum, which is dedicated purely to Canadian history, in all its variety. When we visited there was an excellent exhibition of selected goodies from the museum vaults and on the second floor there was a beautifully put together history of Montreal. In another room there were contrasting panoramic views of the city 100 years ago and in recent times. On the top floor was an exhibition of First Peoples‘ contemporary art.

Montreal Festimania 2011 Bixi bike
3. Get on a Bixi bike
In London we have the Boris bike and in Montreal they have the Bixi, which is a somewhat older system but still familiar. In fact so familiar that we actually came across one of London’s own Boris bikes. We have no idea how it got there! Bike hire is cheap and it’s a brilliant way of getting around downtown Montreal, which is a small area laid out in a simple grid system with wide bike lanes.

Montreal, Canada 2011 Old Montreal
Trip to Quebec, Canada 2011 mile end
Montreal, Canada 2011 Mile end second hand shops
Montreal, Canada 2011 Mile End yard sale
4. Go to Old Montreal
It may require you working up a bit of a sweat on the aforementioned Bixi bike to get up the hill but the architecture in this part of town is staggeringly beautiful: wide boulevards and stately homes with colourful metal roofs abound. In the trendy Mile End district there are plenty of second hand stores to peruse and intriguing wall art around every corner.

Montreal Festimania 2011 -racoons
Montreal Festimania 2011 feeding racoons
5. Play with racoons on Mont Royale
Once you are in Old Montreal why not take a walk through the Mont Royale park, which is less of a park and more of a Hamsptead Heath type wilderness, especially as you start to climb the mount (take plenty of water). If you take the back route you will no doubt stop for a rest at the viewing point, only to be greeted by a tumbling family of baby racoons, one of my unexpected Montreal highlights.
Montreal, Canada 2011 -racoon
Montreal Festimania 2011 -downtown Montreal from Mont Royale
Montreal, Canada 2011 Chalet Mont Royale
Further up the hill is the Chalet du Mont Royale – more of a vast hall than a chalet, with a wide plaza in front and amazing views of downtown Montreal.

Montreal, Canada 2011 -ice pops
6. Eat fruity ice pops. In fact, eat fresh locally grown fruits in general!
I became absolutely hooked on fresh fruit pops as a tasty and healthy way to cool down during the sweltering heat at Festival Mode et Design, where there was a stall selling pops made from imaginative combinations of strawberry, mint, pineapple, blueberry and coconut. Oh how I wish it was as easy to buy fresh fruit pops in the UK – I tell you, there would be a market here for those.
Quebec, Canada 2011 soft fruit
In Quebec they like to boast of the quality of their fresh produce, and with good reason! We ate beautifully flavoursome local strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.

Montreal, Canada 2011 Biosphere
Montreal, Canada 2011 Biosphere dome
7. Visit the Biosphère and the Biodome
They are fond of their Bios in Montreal. The Biosphère was designed by Buckminster Fuller for the World Fair Expo in 1967 and is now a remnant cast adrift in Parc Jean-Drapeau, an island of Montreal on the Saint Lawrence River. It is a perfectly spherical steel structure made up of delicate cells, inside which is housed the Environment Museum (which we didn’t visit).

Montreal, Canada 2011 -Casino de Montreal
Montreal, Canada 2011 Quebec Pavillion
The Casino de Montreal, including the Quebec Pavilion, are also remnants of the World Expo 1967.

Montreal, Canada 2011 Biodome
Montreal, Canada 2011 Biodome bird
Montreal, Canada 2011 Biodome penguins
The Biodome is a remnant of the 1976 Olympics, a velodrome which now houses an interactive zoo that replicates four different biospheres. We saw grooming bright orange tamarin monkeys, a sleeping otter and playful puffins – all caged in the most minimal manner possible. Needless to say the sea of children swarming around our feet were also having the time of their lives (get there early to avoid the primary school rush).

Montreal, Canada 2011 Olympic Stadium
Above the Biodome looms the much maligned Olympic Stadium; its tilting tower (the tallest in the world) and hanging roof have become a relic of badly judged design. We enjoyed the amazing concrete spirals of its ambitious carpark.

Montreal, Canada 2011 -Jardin Botanique
8. Take a walk around the Jardin Botanique Montreal
Above the Olympic Stadium is the entrance to the excellent Botanical Gardens, which is amongst the largest in the world. It features copious beds of well labelled plants from all around the world, dramatic Japanese and Chinese gardens and a brand new Insectarium, where we once again fought small children to look at beautiful bugs.
Montreal, Canada 2011 insectarium hall
Montreal, Canada 2011 -insectarium
Montreal, Canada 2011 -insectarium
Look out also for the wonderful art deco decorations on the welcoming fountains and on the outside of the main research building.
Montreal, Canada 2011 -Jardin Botanique 2

9. Dine out in style at Europa
This high end restaurant is by no means cheap but it was such an interesting and different dining experience that I highly recommend a visit for a special occasion. We ordered a set menu of four courses, but throughout our meal we were offered further unexpected dishes and nibbles so that by the end we had lost count of exactly how many courses we had eaten: I estimate it to have been something closer to 20! The food was very experimental: we ate cheese cigars, candyfloss, ice cream pops and food served in pots of dry ice. Main courses included a tagliatelle made from calamari and the largest scallops I have ever seen. Altogether an extremely enjoyable dining experience.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Jean Paul Gaultier 2011 Quinn
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Jean Paul Gaultier 2011 Barry
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Jean Paul Gaultier 2011
Montreal, Canada 2011 Musee Beaux Arts
10. Go to the Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal
This museum is the jewel in Montreal’s cultural crown: two buildings connected by an underground passage which house a huge selection of modern and ancient art. We visited when the Jean Paul Gaultier retrospective was on, which is a pay exhibition well worth seeing (read my review of The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk here) but there is also plenty of stuff to see for free. There’s also a really good gift shop.

Montreal, Canada 2011 Contemporary art museum
Montreal, Canada 2011 Notre dame
Montreal, Canada 2011 La Ronde
Montreal Festimania 2011 -Kiss Grill
Of course, there is so much more to do in multicultural Montreal… we also loved the Contemporary Art Museum, the Notre-Dame Basilica, La Ronde amusement park and great value Japanese food at new restaurant Kiss Grill (above). Plus, don’t miss Montreal strip joints lit up at night! But then, why not visit and discover all this and more for yourself?

Montreal Festimania strip clubs

Categories ,1967, ,1976 Olympics, ,Amusement Park, ,Bixi Bikes, ,Boris Bike, ,Botanical Gardens, ,Buckminster Fuller, ,canada, ,Casino de Montreal, ,Chalet Mont Royale, ,Contemporary Art Museum, ,Festival Mode et Design, ,First Peoples, ,Insectarium, ,Jardin Botanique Montreal, ,Jean Paul Gaultier, ,Kiss Grill, ,La Ronde, ,Mile End, ,Mont Royale, ,Montreal, ,Montreal Biodome, ,Montreal Biosphère, ,Montreal Festimania, ,Musee d’art Contemporain de Montreal, ,Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal, ,Notre-Dame Basilica, ,Old Montreal, ,Quebec, ,Quebec Pavilion, ,Racoons, ,Saint Lawrence River, ,Strip Bars, ,Telus, ,The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, ,World Fair Expo, ,Zoo

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