Montreal, the largest city in Canada’s province of Quebec, is celebrating its 375th anniversary this year and there has never been a better time to visit the spectacular city. Some swear that Montreal is the greatest city in Canada, but others go as far as ranking it one of the best cities in the world. 2017 will be the year for individuals and families to revel in the city’s history and accomplishments. The celebrations this year will reinforce Montreal’s image and the pride of its residents.
Aside from the world-renowned yearly festivals, vibrant art scene, and the second highest number of restaurants per capita in North America after New York City, we love Montreal for its people. The city is the perfect representation of Canada’s multiculturalism, with about a third of its population made up of minority groups. Although Quebec’s official language is French, Montreal is extremely bilingual with English-only speakers easily able to make their way around the city. As a cultural mosaic, it is not uncommon to hear Arabic, Mandarin, and Spanish among other languages throughout Montreal’s streets.
Whether you are taking steps toward permanent immigration to Canada, or are just a curious traveller, Montreal is a city not to miss. There are over a hundred festivals and activities lined up this year for the 375th, which will depend on what time of year you plan to visit. Aside from attending festivals, here are our top seven activities of choice for visitors to experience in Montreal:
1. Walk the streets of Old Montreal
Old Montreal (or Vieux-Montreal in French) is Montreal’s oldest spot, with its port on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River. This historic part of the city still boasts roads and walls paved in cobblestones from the 17th through 19th centuries. Old Montreal has more historical homes and museums than elsewhere in the city, and includes many of Montreal’s most-visited tourist attractions, including the Chateau Ramezay and the Notre-Dame Basilica.
The city of Montreal is committed to retain Old Montreal in its original state to offer visitors an authentic experience. In the warmer months, the pedestrian street Place Jacques-Cartier is vibrant with street performers, boutique stands, and packed restaurant terraces. In the winter, visitors still abound to go ice skating, or dance the night away at Igloofest. Streets are lined with unique gift shops and is the perfect place to purchase souvenirs.
2. Enjoy a picnic at Mount Royal Park
In 1876, Mount Royal Park (or Parc du Mont-Royal) was instated as a place where people could enjoy the great outdoors in the middle of the city. The park was designed by the architect of New York’s Central Park, Frederick Law Olmstead, and offers the best view of the city below. While many visitors drive to the top of the mountain to experience the breathtaking views of the city, there is also the option to walk to the top using one of several trails through the park.
Recreational activities are enjoyed at the park year-round, from paddle boating to sledding. The park overflows with people during the summer months as it feels like a true getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city, being surrounded by acres of greenery.
3. Visit the Botanical Garden
The Montreal Botanical Garden (or Jardin Botanique de Montréal), consisting of 185 acres of native and exotic flora, receives nearly 700,000 visitors each year. Established in 1931, the Botanical Garden was declared a National Historic Site of Canada in 2008. Visitors explore the beauty through its many themed gardens and 10 exhibition greenhouses which showcase plants from around the world.
The Japanese garden hosts a traditional Japanese tea ceremony in the summer. The First Nations Garden honors Canada’s indigenous people, and features the native maple, birch, and pine trees. The poisonous plants garden is popular among visitors. A typical visit lasts between 2 to 3 hours, but visitors can spend the entire day visiting the other three nature exhibitions under the Space for Life group, including the Biodome, the Insectarium, and the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium.
4. Eat your heart out
Montreal is nothing short of a foodie paradise. Being such a culturally rich city, you can find any type of cuisine you can dream of, from Portuguese, to Japanese, to Middle Eastern, to Ethiopian. And let’s not forget the Montreal staples. Stop at Schwartz’ for some delectable smoked meat, at Fairmount or St-Viateur for the best bagels in the world, and at a local poutinerie to enjoy a late-night treat that’s native to Quebec (poutine: fries, gravy, and melted cheese curds).
If you’re looking for fresh produce, look no further than the Jean-Talon Market (Marché). Established in 1933 as a spot for farmers to sell their produce to both restaurants and directly to individual consumers, the market is one of the largest outdoor markets in North America today. Open year-round, you can find produce, spices, cheeses, meats and fish, and flowers among many other offerings of this marketplace.
5. Tour the city by bicycle
With close to 400 miles of bike paths, it’s no wonder that Montreal is known as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. Even those who don’t own a bike can rent a Bixi Bike at any of the public bike rental stations around the city. Pay for a rental at one station and return it at another. Bixis are accessible to everyone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from April to November and is the healthier way to tour the city. Best of all, a full day, 24-hour rental only sets you back $5. Bike riders can cruise to Old Montreal or along the Lachine Canal for scenic views of the city, and for the avid or casual rider, Montreal also holds several bike tours each year.
6. Explore the underground city
Montreal’s underground city is a series of interconnected offices, shopping malls, residential, and commercial buildings, as well as universities located in Montreal’s central business district (Downtown Montreal). The underground connections between buildings as well as Montreal’s entirely underground transit system, known as the Métro, is what makes this network referred to as “underground.” During inclement weather, people can take refuge in the climate-controlled indoor space with 32 kilometers of tunnels to get from one point to the next. It is estimated that over half a million individuals use the underground city every day during the coldest winter months.
7. Cheer for the Habs at a hockey game
The Montreal Canadiens, commonly referred to as the Habs, are a professional ice hockey team that is a member of the National Hockey League (NHL). The team was founded in 1909 and is longest-standing hockey team in the world. The Canadiens have also won the Stanley Cup more times than any other NHL team, and as such, Montreal is home to the most die-hard fans. In a city united by hockey, attending a live game at the Bell Center is a memorable activity to be experienced at least once in everyone’s lifetime.
Once you’ve discovered Montreal and vow to move there, we can help you out. The Quebec Immigrant Investor Program offers a way to the city and Canadian permanent residence through Canada’s only passive investment program. There are too many wonderful experiences of Montreal to mention in a single blog post. The only way to understand its glory is to plan a visit and see for yourself!
For more information on Quebec’s Immigrant Investor Program, please click here.
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