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 disembark 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.
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, renowned 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.
The namesake of the city and one of its most recognizable landmarks, Mount Royal is the city of Montreal's highest point. The volcanic hill is a part of the Monteregian Hills, nestled between the Appalachian Mountains and the Laurentians, its highest summit measuring at 233 meters (764 feet). At its highest point sits the Mount Royal Cross, originally installed in 1643 by the city's founder, Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, in honor of Mother Mary who he believes saved the colony from a potentially devastating flood. The existing, illuminated cross was added in 1924. Beaver Lake and the Mount Royal Park are other popular features of the hill, just west of Downtown. The park, in particular, is renowned as one of the city's largest, originally designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, and the venue of the weekly Tam-Tam Jams. For unmatched views of the city, Mount Royal's Camilien-Houde and Kondiaronk Chalet lookouts offer sweeping vistas over Downtown and East Montreal.
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. It has since transformed into a bustling area which beckons tourists and locals 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.
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 about 12,000 plant species and cultivators, ten exhibition greenhouses, about 30 thematic gardens and a large arboretum.
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.
Once the residence of Governor Claude de Ramezay, Château Ramezay Museum chronicles the rich history of Montreal. The history of this building dates back to the 18th Century when it was built and has been listed as an must-see historic sites by UNESCO. Now, it houses an impressive collection of antiques, photographs, paintings and costumes. This site is known for its frequent exhibitions from upcoming and veteran artists and has two permanent exhibitions.
By the Quai de l'Horloge, on the prominent rue Saint-Paul lies de la Commune Hall. Situated inside the Marché Bonsecours, this multi-purpose hall is draped in elegant simplicity and subtle sophistication. As a part of the Marché Bonsecours, one can expect this hall to be fully-equipped, with state-of-the-art facilities and excellently smooth service. The hall has two levels, one is the mezzanine level, and the other is the first level. Thus your caterer can find great ease in executing the cuisine for your event. The de la Commune Hall can be used for a range of business events as well as private events. Just a preview of the grandeur of the hall, set overlooking the Vieux-Port, would be reason enough for making it the venue for your next event. Please see the website for further information.
Located in the cultural and tourism heart of Old Montreal, this neoclassic building dates from the mid-18th Century. It has been home to a city hall, a reception center, and public markets. In fact, following an 1849 fire in the Parliament Building, it became the seat of the United Canada Government. Today, following two restorations, the silver-domed building is used as an exhibition hall. It teems with sidewalk cafes, boutiques, souvenir shops and fine arts galleries. You will find everything from maps to fashion accessories and First People's art.
Recent archaeological excavations in the cellar of the Notre-Dame-du-Bonsecours Chapel have unearthed the foundations of Montreal's first stone church, which was constructed by medical and educational pioneer Marguerite Bourgeoys in 1675. The museum, located at the back of the chapel, contains several exhibition rooms devoted to the history of the city, the chapel and to the story of Marguerite Bourgeoys, a nun credited with establishing the first hospitals in Quebec.
Maple Delights is a charming spot and a must visit if in Old Montreal. This sweet bistro and museum is a wonderful way to discover this national pride. At the bistro you can relish delish baked goodies, gelatos, candies, waffles, milkshakes, coffees and sorbets, all with the goodness of maple syrup and sugar in them. Check out their small museum that gives an insight of how the sap is collected. You can also taste the products made from maple that highlight its unique quality.
As you walk along the Place des Arts in Quartier des Spectacles, between the Place des Festivals and Le Parterre, you'll find the Promenade des Artistes. A fascinating use of public space and a unique design concept; you'll find eleven windows or 'event vitrines' designed by the prestigious design firm Daoust Lestage. Open to the public, these glass boxes or vitrines are perfect to house temporary exhibitions as well as local events. Modern design concept and technology are combined to create a unique space within the city, that is both an attraction as well as a cultural hot-spot in Montreal. Please visit the website to find out what activities and events are currently on.