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Luftbild von Montreal mit dem Biosphärenmuseum und dem Saint Lawrence River, Bild: R.M. Nunes / shutterstock

Festivals, nature and art: Life pulsates in Montreal, Canada

Canada is big and offers travelers a lot of options. Here you can spend an unforgettable holiday, no matter what you are in the mood for and where your personal preferences lie. Canada is just as exciting for nature lovers as it is for city travellers. If you want to take a look at Canada’s unofficial cultural capital, travel to Montreal in the province of Quebec.

The border with the USA is only about 50 kilometers away from the city with its more than 1.7 million inhabitants. But in contrast to their American neighbors, and also many Canadian compatriots, the majority of Montreal residents do not mention English, but French as their mother tongue. Although English is not only understood by most of them, but also mastered perfectly. Perhaps this peculiarity is one of the cornerstones of the fact that a deep multicultural idea has been lived in Montreal since time immemorial.

On foot and by rental bike through Montreal

St Joseph Oratory Montreal
St Joseph Oratory, Image: Pierre Leclerc / shutterstock

Particularly worth seeing is the old town of Montreal, Vieux Montréal. The Place Jacques Cartier, lined with small cafés, restaurants and quaint shops, is centrally located. Here you could also think you are in Paris , because the atmosphere is very similar. Especially during the summer months, the Place Jacques Cartier is always bustling with street artists, i.e. jugglers and magicians as well as musicians. This place is ideal as a starting point for a city walk, because from here radiate a number of romantic and winding old town alleys, which often even serve as film sets. This is no wonder, because the old houses and the cobblestones make it look truly tranquil and also a little enchanted.

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Vieux Montréal is surrounded by the St. Lawrence River. Since Montreal is a bicycle city with many well-developed bike paths, it is a good idea to rent a bike at one of the rental stations accessible to everyone and explore the surrounding area. You should definitely head for the Old Harbour, because along its waterfront there are beautifully restored houses from the 18. and 19th century, all of which are listed buildings. The old market hall Marché Bonsecours, which was built in the classicist style and now serves as a cultural centre, stands out.

On the way back to the old town, you will pass the Tour de l’Horloge, the 45-meter-high clock tower built in 1922, which is positioned directly on the shore. The tower can be climbed by visitors. Centre-Ville, i.e. downtown, is the economic heart of the city. Mighty skyscrapers are lined up here and Montreal no longer looks European, but like a typical financial metropolis on the American continent.

Montreal and its sights

The Basilica of Notre-Dame in Montreal
The Basilica of Notre-Dame in Montreal, Image: Denis Roger / shutterstock

Probably the most famous sight in the city is the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Montréal. The neo-Gothic basilica was built between 1824 and 1829 on a site where a parish church had previously stood, which was demolished in favor of the new building. The interior of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Montréal impresses with magnificent vaulted ceilings, an artistically designed altar and a Casavant organ. The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal houses the oldest art museum in the country. It deals with Canadian as well as contemporary and modern international art.

Especially for nature lovers and families with children, the Biodôme Montréal is very exciting. Right next to the Olympic Station, where the 1976 Summer Olympics were held, is the Biodôme Montréal, which is a conversion of the velodrome used during the Olympic Games. Instead of world-class cyclists, you will now meet different ecosystems here. A total of four sections can be roamed, which form a replica of the South American rainforest, the North American Laurentian Maple Forest, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Antarctic polar region. If you are looking for even more greenery and nature, you can pay a visit to the city’s botanical garden. On almost 750,000 square meters, there are 22,000 different plant species to discover. There are 30 themed gardens and an extensive insectarium.

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High on Mont Royal

Mont Royal is Montreal’s local mountain and, at only 233 meters high, is actually not really high. Nevertheless, Mont Royal, which was formed from an extinct volcano, has no less than three peaks. In the past, the mountain was called Monte Real, from which the name of the city, Montreal, was derived. On the highest of the three peaks, a cross shines that can be seen from afar, illuminated in the darkness and outshines Montreal from afar. There are also two lovingly landscaped terraces on the local mountain, from which you can enjoy a wonderful view of the city.

The ascent to Mont Royal is particularly worthwhile at sunrise and in the evening hours. But you can also make a complete day trip out of a visit to Mont Royal if you want. Because there are several walking paths and artistically designed cemeteries on the entire area that are worth visiting. It is also home to St. Joseph’s Oratory, a Roman Catholic basilica.

It’s always festival time in Montreal

Furthermore, the Canadian metropolis is famous for its many festivals, which enliven the city in both summer and winter. About 100 different festivals take place in Montreal every year. One of the highlights is the International Jazz Festival. There is music and art to experience at the Black and Blue Festival, and Montréal Pride also attracts a lot of visitors.