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Must see Montreal: Our top choices for what to see and do



Where to start? With all of the things to do and see in Montreal, it can be a tricky decision. 10best has carefully selected a range of attractions to provide a well-rounded Montreal experience for all members of your party.

Start at Mont Royal for a good overview of the city then head to the art and history museums downtown and then further east to check out the science and nature offerings. It's probably best to save La Grand Roue for a late afternoon or early evening jaunt. Of course, you could always take in a concert at Place des Arts in the evening too. Mornings might be best for exploring the city markets, especially the Jean Talon Market in the city's north end, timing the end of your visit so you can enjoy lunch before leaving.

Of course in a city the size of Montreal there are many more equally good museums, markets and things to do that are not on the list. Follow your interests and rest assured there are enough attractions to cater to all tastes and interests. Just remember to leave enough time to take in the best of what Montreal has to offer and most importantly, have fun - just as Montrealers do!  




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Place Ville Marie Observatory
Photo courtesy of Tourisme Montreal


The Place Ville Marie Observatory offers everything from moonlight yoga sessions to wine tastings and specialty photography workshops all offering a 360 degree view of Montreal 185 meters above the city. The Observatory is a truly romantic destination especially on moonlit nights or other clear evenings where couples can watch the sunset from the beautiful, spacious four-sided terrace over Montreal. No visit to the Observatory is complete without a stop into Les Enfants Terrible for lunch or dinner where the reasonably-priced fare offers local twists on favorite comfort foods incorporating local products from interesting new chefs in a scenic setting just below the Observatory.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Place Ville Marie Observatory offers impressive 360 degree views of Montreal and is easily accessible in downtown Montreal.

Sherel's expert tip: Book early for specialty evening and summer sunset events

Read more about Place Ville Marie Observatory →


Jardin Botanique


Montreal's Botanical Gardens comprise 30 distinct ones including Chinese, Japanese, First Nations, traditional French, a rose garden plus 10 exhibiting greenhouses and an arboretum. Environments as diverse as the northwestern Mexican desert and the local Laurentian woodlands are faithfully recreated here too. As a scientific institution, Montreal's Botanical Gardens with 22,000 species focuses on plant physiology, genetics, ecology and biotechnology. The scientists offer advice based on their leading-edge research on using plants and trees in urban environments. Studies are also done here on using aquatic plants for wastewater filtration and treatment systems. The Gardens serve as Montreal's environmental watchdog with its public awareness campaigns aimed at more tree planting and managing and promoting green spaces. The staff also give information on specific topics such as how to grow a bonsai or African violet, garden pests, planting and pruning trees and shrubs and toxic plants.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Montreal's oldest nature museum is also the winner of a National Historic Site designation.

Sherel's expert tip: You can email your gardening and house plant questions to the staff at Montreal's Botanical Gardens.

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Housed in the cultural complex, Montreal's Place des Arts on Sainte-Catherine St West downtown, the museum is home to both permanent and traveling contemporary art exhibitions, with a strong focus on Quebec art post-1940s. The permanent collection contains more than 7,000 pieces, including the largest collection of art by Quebec artist, Paul-Émile Borduas. The museum seeks to connect visitors to Quebec, Canadian and international contemporary art by showcasing performance art, new dance, experimental theatre, contemporary music, video and film along with painting and sculpture and an extensive contemporary art library. The Montreal Museums card is honored here and the chic cafe is well worth a visit too.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: It's Canada's most important contemporary art museum attracting over 1.6 visitors annually.

Sherel's expert tip: The museum is closed until May,2019. Admission is half price on Wednesday evenings from 5 pm until 9 pm but it's closed Mondays.

Read more about Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal →


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Montreal's Place des Arts, a major downtown concert venue sits on 300,000 square feet at the Places des Arts metro station. The largest multi-use concert hall in Canada, the Salle Wilfred Pelletier, is versatile enough to hold rock, opera, dance and symphony concerts thanks to state of the art sound and movement technologies. Seating almost 3,000 patrons, the Salle Wilfred Pelletier is the permanent home of the Grand Ballet of Montreal, Opera Montreal and the Montreal Symphony. Nearby, Théâtre Maisonneuve, with seating for almost 1,500 patrons, looks like a contemporary version of a classic Italian theater. It's a popular venue for comedy productions and smaller companies where soloists appreciate the intimate setting of the hall which also hosts larger scale film presentations. Contemporary productions of the Grand Ballet can be seen here along with the McGill Chamber Orchestra, the Metropolitan Orchestra and Pro Musica.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Place des Arts is the centrally located cultural hub of Montreal.

Sherel's expert tip: Arrive early by taxi or the excellent public transportation as it can be tricky to find the correct venue, section and seat for your event.

Read more about Place des Arts →


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Old Montreal
La Grande Roue
Photo courtesy of Sherel Purcell


La Grande Roue de Montreal is the tallest observation wheel in Canada - the equivalent of a 20-story building from where visitors can enjoy great views of Montreal and beyond, four seasons of the year. On a clear day, it's possible to see 28 kilometers or 17 miles away. Set on the shores of the Saint Lawrence River, La Grande Roue de Montreal's 42 gondolas are specially equipped with climate controlled, tempered glass windows for better views of old Montreal and beyond. This state-of-the-art Ferris wheel from the Netherlands with its glass floors is to Montreal what "The Eye" is to London, England.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: La Ronde is Eastern Canada's largest amusement park including special attractions added for its 45th anniversary.

Sherel's expert tip: Book tickets online as they can be used anytime.

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Mont Royal


Visible by night thanks to its well-lit cross, Mont-Royal designed by Olmstead of Central Park fame is filled with hiking trails, and opportunities for various outdoor activities. It is also a natural haven for local flora and fauna and rare tree species. On top of Mont Royal sits Saint Joseph's Oratory, one of the world's most visited pilgrimage centers. The basilica's dome, second only in height to Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, reaches 97 meters. Its founder, Saint Brother André, the humble doorkeeper who inspired its construction in 1904 dedicated the edifice to Saint Joseph. The shrine includes the original chapel, a votive chapel, a crypt church, and the Basilica which can accommodate over 2,200 people. The votive chapel contains personal items left behind by thankful pilgrims in memory of a claimed healing. Its pipe organs and carillon composed of 56 bells celebrate the world's great composers.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Montreal's year-round nature retreat in the city provides plenty of outdoor activities including hiking and ice skating and is home to other attractions.

Sherel's expert tip: On Sunday afternoons (weather permitting) come to the tam-tam near the monument to Sir George-Étienne where locals gather to play music, sing, dance and hang out.

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The Musee des Beaux-Arts, founded in 1860, is Canada's oldest museum and boasts some of the finest paintings in the country. Among its permanent holdings are artworks from Canadian artists and those created by European masters. The museum also features native Canadian artifacts and a collection of period furnishings, along with drawings, engravings, silverware and works of art from ancient Asia, Egypt, Greece and South America. More contemporary exhibitions include an examination of Andy Warhol's advertising, the images of local photographers as well as a look at art as a means to social and environmental change. An on-site restaurant offers light fare.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The studio highlights the creativity of Nincheri, the prolific artist who created no less than 5,000 glass masterpieces, now displayed across North America.

Sherel's expert tip: Major exhibits are half price on Wednesday evenings after 5 pm.

Read more about Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal →


Le Musée du Château Dufresne
Photo courtesy of Courtesy of Musee du Chateau Dufresne

Built between 1915 and 1918, the Chateau Dufresne is a beaux arts-style private mansion which was owned by the Dufresne brothers, two important members of the Montreal French Bourgeoisie. Today, it houses the museum, dedicated to Montreal's East End history, which is today a predominantly French neighborhood. The studio features cardboard mock-ups of finished artworks as well as an ancient stove and explanations of stained glass production techniques. The studio highlights the inspiration of Italian - Canadian artist Nincheri whose murals, painted in the 1920s are found in Catholic churches across North America. Stained-glass windows, marble floors and Italian Renaissance ceilings and beautiful furnishings are on display year-round.

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Marché Jean-Talon
Photo courtesy of Courtesy of Tourisme Montreal. Photo by Ron Stern


The highlight of Little Italy (Petite Italie) in the north end of Montreal is undoubtedly the Jean Talon Market. Since 1934 the Jean Talon market has been supplying Montreal with fresh Quebec products and specialty items from around the world. The Jean Talon market is open every day, year-round with fine herbs available throughout the year. Not only will visitors find a wide variety of produce, (including pesticide-free items) flowers, fish, meat and specialty ice cream for sale, the area is also a great destination for lunch. Delicious barbecued lamb, pork and chicken sandwiches, as well as bison on a stick, are all available for a few dollars.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Serious foodies and restauranteurs alike shop the 300-vendor Jean Talon Market for the best local products and specialty foods from France and Italy.

Sherel's expert tip: Since cars are banned in this city block-sized market, get here early to find neighborhood parking or take the subway to the Jean Talon Metro stop nearby.

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Planétarium de Montréal
Photo courtesy of Mikayla Taylor


The Montreal Planetarium brings astronomy to Montrealers and visitors alike who appreciate the clear, light-pollution-free skies and the chance to handle samples of meteorites. The regular show is comprised of three events: the main exhibition, The Sky This Month and the feature show. The exhibit focuses on new events and discoveries from the past 40 years, especially in Quebec skies. The Sky this Month is a 15-minute presentation where an astronomer points out all the major visible constellations. Highlights include the "Extinctions" show that focuses on how astronomical phenomena may be responsible for the disappearance of some species, raising pertinent questions such as: Could we disappear? Will life continue to survive on Earth? Multimedia shows, "Our Galaxy: The Milky Way" and "The Quest for Galactium" explore the Milky Way as an adventurous mission and allows participants to explore the sun, planets, star clusters, star nurseries and gas clouds.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The main show takes visitors on a 30 - minute spaceship journey through the solar system, a meteorite shower and multiple galaxies.

Sherel's expert tip: Afternoon visits are best as mornings are generally reserved for school groups.

Read more about Planétarium de Montréal →


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Meet Sherel Purcell

Sherel Purcell is a travel writer who specializes in golf, Montreal and Quebec, contemporary art, cycling and food and wine. Her articles appear on USA Today's 10Best, About.com, Aol, Matador,...  More About Sherel

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