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Notre-Dame's twin towers have served as an Old Montreal landmark since the Neo-Gothic basilica was finished in 1829. Today they continue to be the focal point, where tourists disgorge from buses and calèche drivers line up for passengers. The interior glows with gilded statuary and gold-leafed fleurs de lys, and is home to one of the largest pipe organs in the world. The Montreal Symphony Orchestra performs its Christmas production of Messiah here at the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal or the Notre-Dame Basilica. Check website for opening hours for visitors.
Straddling a two-kilometer (1.24 mile) stretch along the St. Lawrence River, the Old Port of Montreal has operated as an active hub since 1611 when it was used as a fur trading post by French settlers. Its erstwhile drab personality appears to have vanished with a transformation that started with Expo 67, converting it from a banal port to a spectacular year-round playground for residents and tourists alike. Besides being home to a bevy of attractions like the IMAX Theatre, the Montreal Science Centre and the Montreal Clock Tower, it is also a recreational wonderland, especially during winter months. Marked by ice sculptures, skating and a lively nativity scene, as well as vibrant festivals like the Festival Montréal en lumière, the Old Port of Montreal hosts a decidedly thriving cultural scene. With numerous dining options, bargain shops, trendy boutiques, tours and riverfront activities dotting its pretty vicinity, the Old Port is an all inclusive attraction in itself.
Plans for the construction of the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral first began in 1852, soon after Saint-Jacques Cathedral was destroyed by fire. At the behest of Ignace Bourget, the architect Victor Bourgeau was assigned the ambitious task of designing a cathedral in the image of the magnificent St Peter's Basilica in Rome. The architectural masterpiece was completed in 1894 and is renown today as one of Quebec's most revered religious sites. Inside a spectacular baldachin adorns the altar and elaborate paintings depict the early history of Montreal, while outside exquisitely wrought statues of the city's 13 patron saints watch over the people, replacing the 12 statues of Christ's apostles that adorn the exterior walls of St Peter's Basilica. The cathedral remains a sacred place of worship even as it attracts droves of tourists who are drawn to its austere beauty and artistic treasures.
The Pied-du-Courant Prison is a prison that had prisoners from the rebellion and currently, it houses the Prison-des-Patriotes that displays collection pertaining to the Lower Canada rebellion.
Parc Lafontaine (Park) is not only privy to beautiful scenery, but it also contains two of Montreal's famous historic monuments. One such monument is the Dollard-des-Ormeaux statue, which is a bronze and granite figure standing at about 40 feet high. The monument also depicts France's colonial journey in Quebec, Dollard one of its prime colonialists in the Montreal area. The exact story of his travels is speculated upon. After his arrival in Montreal, once known as Ville-Marie, Dollard and his men made their way up the Ottawa river to Long Sault, exact reasoning unknown. - Williamina Deneault
Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montreal is the nation's largest church, its regal dome second in height only to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. A small chapel dedicated to Saint Joseph was built at the site in 1904 by Brother André, renown for his miraculous ability to heal the injured and ailing. He was later beatified in 1982 and canonized in 2010. Completed in 1960, the renaissance church that replaced the original shrine encompasses a basilica, a votive chapel lined with discarded crutches, and the heart of Brother André amongst several other treasures. Outside, the Stations of the Cross grace the sculpture garden where scenes from the film Jésus of Montréal were shot. The oratory itself is a striking beauty that dominates the skyline for miles around, its elegant dome rising high above the bucolic scene. One of the world's most revered Catholic shrines and an important place of pilgrimage, Saint Joseph's Oratory inspires wonder in the hearts of the devout and the simply curious.
Every season at the Jardin Botanique de Montréal (Montréal Botanical Gardens), you'll be captivated by the colors and fragrances of flowers and plants as you move from garden to garden, many inspired by different parts of the world. Explore the Sonoran desert, wander into the Chinese or French Garden, and finally relax in the tranquility of the Japanese Garden. The Montreal Botanical Garden contains 12,000 plant species and cultivators, ten exhibition greenhouses, about 30 thematic gardens and a large arboretum.
The Montreal Biodome is a science center and ecological zoo that recreates four of the Americas' ecosystems at the city's Olympic Park. Originally constructed as a velodrome for the 1976 Olympics, the building was renovated and repurposed to accommodate replicas of a lush Tropical Forest, the temperate Laurentian Forest, the Saint Lawrence Marine Ecosystem, and the Sub-Polar Region. Each habitat is a realistic depiction of their counterparts in the real world, complete with wildlife that is native to the regions they represent. While the Tropical Forest brings to life the rainforests of South America and the Laurentian Forest is a slice of the North American Wilderness, the Saint Lawrence Marine Ecosystem encapsulates the estuarian habitat of the eponymous gulf and the Sub-Polar Region recreates the environments of the Arctic and Antarctic regions. A tour of the Montreal Biodome is a rare experience indeed; a chance to get a taste of the varied habitats of the Americas under a single roof.