Spending time in Montreal will leave you feeling like you went to Europe. But there’s even more to do in this beautiful city than most people realize.
1. Visit The Biosphere Of Montreal
In 1967 Montreal hosted a historic event: the World Fair Exposition. The US contracted scientist and architect Buckminster Fuller to design a structure as a gift for Canada to mark the occasion. What he built has lived on to this day, despite having its fair share of struggles.
The Montreal Biosphere is a massive dome that reaches roughly 20 stories at its highest point. It was a massive hit at the Fair, as visitors from around the world came here to see spaceship exhibits. The dome stood for years until an accidental fire caused it to go up in flames in 1965. The dome was out of commission until its reopening in 1995, when it was repurposed as a museum.
Although the dome hit another speedbump in 1998 when an ice storm caused the entire sphere to be shut down for months, it has weathered the storm and remains standing today. It’s the only environmental museum in North America, and it’s a fascinating structure to visit due to its design and rich history.
2. The Most Beautiful Church In North America
You don’t have to be religious to appreciate that many old churches are masterfully designed pieces of architecture. The Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal is a prime example, and it has a fascinating history to boot.
Originally intended as a larger flagship church of Montreal, the Basilica was the genius idea of James O’Donnell. It sampled Gothic Revival architectural style and turned it into one of the most beautiful churches in all of North America. You’ll marvel at the stained glass windows and the ceilings, which appear to stretch into the heavens.
Many visitors gather around the revered Casavant Frères pipe organ, as it’s one of the few of its kind. It has four keyboards, 92 electropneumatic action stops, and 7,000 individual pipes that all work together to produce an eerily pleasant sound.
Ironically, O’Donnell, the mastermind behind the church’s design, was a Protestant, not a Catholic. That meant that when his death approached, he was unable to be buried in the church’s crypt without converting. So that’s precisely what he did! O’Donnell irests in the tomb that he himself designed.
3. Take A Food Tour Through Old Montreal
You’ll have to find out why everyone raves about the food in Montreal, and one of the best ways to do that is to take the Old Montreal Food Tour.
Not only do you get a guided tour through the cobblestone streets of historic Montreal, with their distinctly European vibes, but you’ll also get to enjoy meals at some of the best restaurants and markets in the city.
Don’t worry: the tour comes complete with craft beer to refresh you after all that walking!
4. See What Urban Living Could Have Looked Like
As you travel through Montreal, you might catch sight of a strange complex of buildings and wonder what on earth they’re doing there. What you’re likely seeing is Habitat 67, a concept for modular urban living as dreamt up by an architecture student from McGill University and constructed for that infamous 1967 World’s Fair Expo.
Using geometric patterns and natural features, these units cost a total of $22 million to build, which was incredibly over budget. Rent was expensive back in the day, and it remains that way today, as Habitat 67 is one of the most sought-after addresses in Montreal. Imagine living in such a unique complex!
The downside is that Habitat 67 is nowhere near the city center, making it relatively inconvenient for its occupants. (Originally, the project was meant to have all amenities built in, making it a sort of isolated community.
Habitat 67 is worth a visit to see what once passed for a vision of future living; nowadays, it’s merely a unique piece of art that happens to house hundreds of people.
5. Tour The Museums
History buffs likely will have had their fill after touring through Montreal, but if you want to see more art and rare artifacts, you have to check out museums like the Centre d’Histoire de Montreal, Science Centre, and the Pointe-à-Callière archaeology museum. These museums can quickly take up half a day each, so make sure you leave enough time to see everything you want!
All of these points are sure to help you have an incredible time in one of Canada’s most distinguished cities, but keep in mind the Canadian weather and that things can get quite frosty in the winter. If you’re not up for bulky coats and cold streets, make sure to plan your trip for the warmer months. You don’t want to miss out on any of these unbelievable activities!