On day one we arrived to Montreal mid-afternoon. Our first task was to track down a currency exchange location and then we continued on our way to the Montreal Botanical Gardens. Our first stop proved to be a very unfortunate start to our visit. We arrived to the sight of fire trucks and police cars lining the entrance. We were, however, still able to enter the parking lot and walk to the entrance of the gardens. Upon arrival, however, we soon discovered that the power was out and thus the computers were down. The admission booth was unable to allow ticket purchases and therefore only the lucky few that had paid ahead and had printed tickets at home were able to enter. This was not us.
We, therefore, had no choice but to continue on to our next stop: Olympic Stadium. This was a much more pleasant experience. We parked in the underground parking (take note, however, that this is not inexpensive) and entered the stadium. We strolled past the Montreal Biodome, which unfortunately was closed at the time of our visit due to construction. We continued on to the Montreal Tower. We took the two minute ride to the top and took in the stunning views of the stadium and surrounding city of Montreal. After the ride we spent some time exploring the grounds of the stadium and enjoying lunch from a Mexican themed food truck on the premises.
Our next stop was Old Montreal. I can not say enough about Old Montreal, I would be satisfied spending the entire trip in Old Montreal. The atmosphere is wonderful and the architecture is absolutely stunning. The cobblestone streets and charming shops and cafes take you right back into the 17th century.
Our first stop in Old Montreal was Notre-Dame Basilica (it was close to closing and I didn’t want to miss it!). The design and architecture of the interior is splendid. The church was very crowded, even less than an hour before closing. The entrance line spanned the street and many had to be turned away. Any trip to Montreal would not be complete without a visit. Directly across from the basilica is the Place D’Armes Square, where live music was being played during our stop at the basilica.
After visiting Notre-Dame Basilica we headed down St. Sulpice Street for some shopping and a bite to eat. We found a small café that offered homemade ice cream and an old-fashioned candy shop, where we spent a few minutes relaxing. We then headed down Notre-Dame St. East to Place Jacques Cartier. Here we were greeted by many street performers and vendors. My daughter was naturally drawn to the woman making balloon animals. After exploring Place Jaques Cartier we headed down St. Paul St. to Bonsecours Market. We didn’t spend to much time here before heading down to the Old Port of Montreal, but did get some great views of the architecture and cobblestone streets. There was a summer festival going on at the time with fair like vendors set up and inflatables for the kids at the Old Port. After a short jump we headed to La Grande Roue de Montreal. Once again we were greeted with stunning views of Montreal from above, and the line was very short. From above we got views of pedal boats and zip liners. The Old Port of Montreal offers plenty of activities any member of the family is sure to love.
After the ride on La Grande Roue de Montreal we headed back for check in for our accommodations for the night. For this trip we opted for an Airbnb, which was definitely the right choice. For less than we would have paid a standard hotel room we were able to enjoy our evening in a condo with a private balcony offering stunning views of the Montreal skyline. After check in we headed straight to the balcony, enjoyed our dinner while taking in the breathtaking views of the city, and ended up falling asleep (unintentionally) on the patio couch. I think this was one of the most relaxing naps I’ve ever taken!
We started the day at Parc Jean-Drapeau. Navigating through the park to get to the locations we wanted to visit was a little bit difficult at first, but once we got the hang of it we were able to find our way. The majority of our time was spent at the Jean-Doré Beach. We arrived shortly after opening while the crowds were still low, giving us a couple hours to enjoy a chunk of the beach to ourselves. There were various food trucks set up along the beach and we were able to save some time from stopping for lunch. There was also a hopping bar, for those of you who enjoy a good drink while soaking up the sun. One important lesson we learned was, unlike our home town, never feed the seagulls. My daughter and I are accustomed to feeding the seagulls at our local beaches, but we were provided with some scowling from the lifeguards when they took note of the swarm of seagulls around us. We soon found out that these seagulls are not very friendly and have no problem jumping up onto the table and stealing the bun right off your burger. Boy was that an experience!
We spent the second half of the day before venturing home hiking Mount Royal. If you are looking to enjoy some nature in this very city like environment Mount Royal is the perfect choice! You can start at the bottom and hike to the peak or you can drive up with a couple parking lots at Beaver Lake, Chalet Du Mont Royal, and the overlook. We chose to drive up. The walk to Beaver Lake is a short one from the parking and worth the stop. There is also a very nice restaurant near the lake, but we did not stop for a meal. Take note that you do have to pay for parking at the top, but once you pay you can park in any of the parking lots along the Mount Royal drive throughout the day. If you’re lucky you may be able to find someone willing to give you their ticket on their way out-it seems to be a common thing there.
The must do on Mount Royal is the Chalet Du Mont Royal. It sits near the summit with absolutely stunning views of Montreal’s skyscrapers. It is a short walk from the parking area and a great place to relax. It is the most populated area on Mount Royal, so be prepared for the crowds. Inside the building is a souvenir shop and small café offering great treats and coffee, of course. One of the most memorable moments of our trip occurred on our way back to the car from Chalet Du Mont Royal. We came across three racoons, who were very obviously accustomed to people. We spent some time admiring them and then continued on our way.
After visiting the Chalet, if you continue on the drive you will come to an over-look area. While the views are not quite as spectacular as those from the chalet, these are still worth stopping for. This location also gives you access to some hiking trails, taking you to the summit and Mount Royal cross. Also at this location you will find a small bar with a balcony and wooden swings.
After visiting Mount Royal we said goodbye to Montreal and continued on our way.
Three tips for making the most out of your visit to Montreal:
1. One important thing to consider when visiting Montreal, not unlike most cities, is the parking. Almost every attraction you visit you can expect to pay for parking. If you plan to travel around the city via personal vehicle be sure to include this in your budget.
2. Research festivals before arriving. To make the most of your visit and take in life as a local be sure to do some research before arriving and see what festivals are going on during your visit. The Old Port of Montreal often has some kind of celebration going on.
3. Map out Old Montreal. Old Montreal is full of great sights, history, shopping, and food. There are public walking tours available (at a small price) or you can do some research and go at your own pace (my preference). A little planning will ensure you see all the highlights.