Last year when our parents turned 60, my sister and I were thinking about what we should give them as a present. As my mother dropped several times how she would love it to visit Canada one day to visit our cousin living there, we decided to gift them the plane tickets to Canada and invite ourselves along for the trip. In about one and a half week we made a trip around the cities in central-eastern Canada, visiting Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa and Toronto.
The first stop of the itinerary was Montreal, after a smooth flight with Lufthansa we cleared customs and immigration at the airport in almost next to no time.
As there still is no proper rail connection between the airport and the city centre we opted to take a ‘Bonjour‘ taxi from the airport to our hotel, the InterContinental Montreal. The evening of our arrival we just went for a stroll around the area around the hotel and grabbed a bite at the Tim Hortons in the Palais des congres de Montreal.
As Montreal is a city in Quebec you can see a lot of French influences, like the stone houses in the historic city centre. The metro network is also typically French, running on rubber tires just like you would see it in a French city.
The first full day we started off by following a part of the Promenade Fleuve-Montagne running from the bank of the Saint Lawrence River towards the foot of the Mont-Royal, the city’s mountain.
When the Promenade ends, the Mont-Royal park starts and we began our ascend over the more than 300 steps all the way up.
On the top of the stairs you can find theChalet du Mont-Royal, on the square in front of it you have a spectacular panoramic overview of the city below. The building itself houses a big hall with some seating, a souvenir shop, a café, a tourist information centre and some toilets.
We continued our walk through the park towards the Lac Aux Castors after which we left the park to head along the Cimetiere Notre-Dame-des-Neige” towards L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal.
This Roman Catholic basilica is built on the northern slope of the Mont-Royal and it’s the biggest church in entire Canada.
The construction was started in 1924 and only finished in 1967. To get there you first have to climb a set of outside stairs before you can enter the bottom level of the Basilica, inside you have escalators taking you towards the different levels.
The top level consists of the main church area, where the masses are held. Down below you also have a cafeteria and a souvenir shop while on the bottom level there is a crypt where you can light some candles.
After a enjoying a first sumptuous Canadian lunch we took a metro down towards the Olympic stadium, which unfortunately was not accessible this day because of a festival of Canadian French rap being held there.
The main reason for coming here was to take a stroll in the Botanical Gardens together with our cousin and her family living in the area. The Botanical Gardens have several different themed mini gardens outside, like a first nations garden, a Chinese garden and a Japanese garden.
At the front of the park there are also greenhouses where you have some more tropical themed gardens inside.
After finishing our tour of the Botanical gardens we finished the night by having the typical Quebec dish, the poutine. It’s a bunch of fries covered in a brown sauce and day fresh cheese, with other ingredients added to it to your liking. It’s a must have to eat whenever you visit Canada, even though it looks like it has been eaten before it is actually quite delicious.
The second day we started off by taking the metro to the Parc Jean Drapeau, which was the site of the Expo 1967.
Unfortunately they were reconstructing the park at the time and the entire park was fenced off so we could not have a proper walk through it.
We crossed the Pont de la Concorde towards the Habitat 67, a futuristic apartment complex built for Expo 1967. As it is private property you cannot visit this on your own, so we booked a guided tour of the complex. The very knowledgeable guide told us all about the construction and the ideas behind the design.
We finished our tour by visiting the apartment of Moshe Safdie, the architect that designed it. The apartment was restored into its original 1967 look and in my opinion still looks very modern today. If you are interested in (modern) Architecture the guided tour of the building is a true must to do!
After finishing up our tour, we took an Uber towards the historic city centre. Here we strolled along the most important sights of the city like the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal, the City Hall, Place Jacques Cartier and the Bonsecours Market. We also walked a bit along the quay side of the Vieux Port area.
To learn a bit more about the history of the area we visited the Chateau Ramezay, right across the street from the City Hall.
The building itself looks anything but a Chateau in the European sense of the word as it is a rather humble building, but it housed the people ruling the area back in the days hence its historical importance. The upper floor is filled with an exhibition telling you about the history of Montreal and the surrounding region while the lower floor has some historically themed rooms showing you how the people lived here in the earlier times.
While I was not overly impressed by Montreal I can see it being a nice place to live. I would not recommend it as a city trip destination on its own, as from my European point of view it has not that much to offer. It is however a very good starting or ending point for a trip around this part of Canada.
Have you ever visited Montreal and what did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below!