Food, art and culture. Just three reasons Montreal attracts visitors from all over the globe. This little gem of hustle and bustle just oozes arty hipsterness (that’s a word right??) and there is much rich history to be explored. So explore it I did!
I reached Montreal on Thursday, hopping on my first greyhound bus of the journey for a 2 hour trip from Ottawa. The bus had ridiculously comfy seats, loads of leg room, WiFi and at only $19 I finally understand why Greyhound has the reputation it does! Amazing!
Arriving in Montreal I walked the 10 minute walk… okay so it was meant to be 10 minutes but it may have turned into 20 when I went in a circle 🙈 Shhh though let’s not prove my mother’s ‘you have no sense of direction’ theory right! So anyway after my ‘ahem’ 20 minute walk I reached my hostel called M Montreal.
Voted as the top hostel in North America and one of the top 10 in the world, M Montreal didn’t fail to impress! Nice staff, very clean, cute rooms, ensuite bathroom, fast WiFi (even in the rooms), yummy breakfast and a great bar area downstairs.
The only thing I found slightly annoying was the noise at night, a few people drinking in the rooms suddenly sounded like a herd of elephants having a dance party on the wooden floors. There is of a course a simple trick to that though: headphones! Lifesaver. Here are a few pics of the hostel:
I think four nights was plenty of time to check out the main sights of Montreal, especially this time of year when there’s not as much going on. You could easily do it in 2 or 3 nights, but it was nice for me to take my leisurely time and chill.
Here are the main attractions I covered:
The Notre-Dame Basilica and Old Montreal
Montreal’s French-Canadian heritage is evident in the old, European inspired buildings that dot the city. The place to see these is of course Old Montreal. It reminded me very much of parts of York or Paris.. which I guess makes sense given the European influence!
The Basilica was beautiful:
Mont (Mount) Royal
The cities famous park is basically a HUGE hill and a must visit. There’s this lookout called Kondiaronk with views that overlook the whole city and on clear days you’re meant to be able to see all the way across to the USA border! I was a bit apprehensive of getting to this lookout for a few reasons:
1. The day I went it was -15 (that’s just out of the wind)
2. The paths were frozen over and had basically become ice rinks, which equalled clumsy-megee over here skidding around like an idiot
3. You have to climb these steep steps
4. I’m not great with heights… especially steep steps!!
So I chickened out and didn’t go.
Just kidding! 😉 Here’s me at the top;
It wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting! The steps are wide and sturdy, there wasn’t as many as I had first thought, they were also gritted and mostly cleared of ice and the views.. well what can I say:
There’s also this nice chalet at the top where you can go inside and have a sit, get warm, use the loo or get some food and drink.
On the way back down I walked back to the hostel through the park, which looked lovely covered in snow.
I may have gotten a teeeny tiny bit lost on the way back (I’m not helping my case here I know), but because I got lost I stumbled across some groovy looking streets with quirky shops I hadn’t seen before! Of course I now have a stinking cold from this venture, but hey ho I had fun 😊
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada (The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts)
I couldn’t come to this arty city without checking out a gallery and it’s main museum of fine arts is dazzling. For starters it’s huge! It’s comprised of a number of buildings which you can access through underground galleries and walkways, a great escape on a cold, wintery day.
With so many gallery spaces there’s something to suit all tastes and you could easily spend an entire day looking around! I zoomed through a load of the modern stuff, got distracted by this wall of teddies…
…then explored all the fascinating archaeological bits. I loved all the old Egyptian relics and Roman and Greek pottery. I kind of wanted to find a cool hat and pretend I was in Indiana Jones or The Mummy (cool I know).
Oo I forgot to mention the art gallery was also free! I think it might only be free for under 30s, but the guy had quite a strong French accent so I may have heard wrong.
I paid extra to get into the Pompeii exhibition though:
This was great but very busy and I went on a Friday! It explains all about the city and the culture of the citizens of that time, then goes into the events of the volcanic eruption. In one room there are projections on the wall and sounds simulating the tragedy which is quite emotional!
The Biodome and Planetarium
On my last day I battled through my cold and sniffles to make my way to the Biodome and Planetarium at The Olympic Park complex. The Biodome houses these amazing ecosystems, educating visitors about the different climates and animals within these.
First you walk through tropical forest. A tip, take your jumper off as it gets steamy! Then you go through the Laurentian Forest (North America), then underwater at the Gulf of Saint Lawrence section and finally get to see Penguins and Puffins in the Arctic and Antarctic areas!
I liked the Penguins 😄
I spent about 20 minutes staring at the trees in the rainforest bit trying to spot a sloth as well, but alas he evaded me! I was very tempted to buy this in the souvenir shop as a substitute…
Mr sloth was quite expensive though so I tore myself away and headed to the Planetarium!
The Planetarium holds two screening rooms where educational and artistic films are projected about different subjects and you go in and watch the shows you’ve chosen.
I really wanted to see one they were doing on the Aurora, but the only time slot they had was in French, so instead I opted for the English speaking show about space and time!
The screening hubs are basically these huge dome rooms and the film is projected all around you as you lie back on cosy bean bags or chairs.
They also use this pretty awesome looking star projector so you can see constellations as you would in the real night sky! I LOVED IT! So beautiful and fascinating and made me ponder a lot about our fragile but amazing little planet 🌍
So that was my Montreal journey! There’s certainly lots to do and see and I’d love to come back another time in the buzzing summer months to compare!
After slipping and sliding to the station I’m now on a train on the way to Quebec City, my next snowy destination!
Ta ta for now