Montreal

Driving into Montreal

Before we decided to visit Montreal, it had never crossed my mind. I was googling pictures beforehand and was so stunned at how pretty everything looked. Before we went I kept saying I can see Montreal being a place I want to move too.

Driving to Montreal, my initial impressions of it weren’t the greatest. On the pictures I had seen, Montreal was full of gorgeous bridges and trees. The moment we hit Montreal, all we could see were factories and massive industrial building – not what we were expecting at all. However, when you drive in towards the city, it starts to open up, with glamourous shops aplenty.

L’Apartment Hotel

We stayed at the L’Apartment Hotel and it was in a pretty good location. Pretty much bang in the middle of places we wanted to go to, but out of the way enough to have a peaceful night’s sleep.

Our room had a balcony looking out onto the streets of Montreal – the first thing we seen stepping out on to our balcony was a drunk man. I must say it was hilarious, but not for the drivers who kept beeping him to get out of the road.

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Our room was quite big and spacious, clean and tidy – just what we needed to rest our heads.

Old Montreal

Old Montreal is cute. It’s the oldest area in Montreal with remains dating back to ‘New France’. Most of it was declared a historic district in 1964. It’s based in the borough of Ville-Marie and on the south by the Saint Lawrence River.

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Old Montreal also included the Old Port which stretched along the St-Lawrence river and was used as early as 1611 as a trading post.

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Old Montreal is a major tourist attraction now – and it’s easy to see why!  You can find Montreal City Hall, Bonsecous market and the Notre Dame Basilica here. It’s so quaint and pretty due to the architecture and the cobbled streets which gives it a very European feel.

Underground City ‘Reso’

As well has having massive city shops, Montreal also has an underground city that connects with office towers, hotels, shopping centres, complexes, universities, venues etc.  It also integrates with Montreal’s Metro.

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From what I heard, it’s used during the cold seasons as Montreal suffers with very long winters.

Notre-Dame Basilica

As you may have guessed, Montreal is mostly French speaking. So when we saw the Notre Dame Basilica I wasn’t surprised that it looked like Notre Dame in Paris.

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It is based in Old Montreal and faces the Place D’Armes square. It has very dramatic gothic architecture. The church is filled with hundreds of carved, wooden, religious statues. It’s unusual as the stained glass windows along the walls don’t suggest any biblical significance.

Instead they have scenes from the religious history of Montreal – I think this is an amazing idea. Rather than having the same stories, why not have a unique church based around the location and its past.

Watch mojo

While we were out there, Rich visited the guys at ‘Watch Mojo‘.

When they finished, the boss, Ashkan Karbasfrooshan, gave us a few ideas of where to visit in Montreal, like the Botanical gardens and the Biodome.

Botanical gardens

The botanical gardens in Montreal are quite possibly the most picturesque gardens I have ever seen. Infact, they are recognised as one of the world’s greatest. It’s crazy. Its huge. They hold around 22,000 plant species. The gardens are over 75 acres and feature a series of different themes.

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If you ever visit, they have events, exhibitions and activities throughout the whole year and it’s only a few minutes away from the Biodome and Olympic Park, so you can make a day of it!

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Biodome

The Biodome is great! It was different to any zoo I’ve been to. It holds alot of ‘cold creatures’ so they have made the building suit the different habitats the animals are used too.

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It had a fab set up – you just simply followed a path that guided you around so you didn’t miss anything!

The penguins were my favourite. I think me and Rich stood there watching them for a good 20 to 30 minutes because there were so many of them and they all had their own personallities.

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Entrance fees into the Biodome are $20 for Adults and £10 for Children.

Insectarium

The Insectarium is perfect for children, especially ones who love bugs. It was so bright and colourful. Very eye-catching. It was divided into different sections based on the type of insect, with lots and lots of facts about them.

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It was $20 for Adults and $10 for children, this fee included visiting the Botanical Gardens too! Bargain much!

Olympic Park

Entrance fees for the Olympic Park are around $20 – which was fantastic for what we got to see. The park is set out in a series of different sections: Montreal Tower, The Stadium,  The Esplanard, a sports centre and some other activity areas.

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The first thing we did was go up the Montreal Tower, which is the tallest inclined tower in the world, inclining at 45 degrees, 165 metres high. Travelling up the big lift in the tower you see some breath taking views of the city. Once you get to the top, of course there is… a gift shop.  As well as there being a gift shop, there were loads of fact boards about the Olympic Park too.

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It was great seeing The Stadium from a different angle (the tower) it looked much more vibrant from a bird’s eye view. It holds about 56 thousand seats!

The Esplanard is so vibrant and colourful. It’s full of all kinds of areas for sporting activities, which are used throughout the whole year. It would be amazing to watch some live events there.

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Walking around Olympic park takes a lot of out you and even more so when the sun is cracking the flags. It’s a great venue for sports and it has loads to offer!

Gilles Villeneauve Grand Prix circuit

This was a totally random experience! We knew the infamous track was here in Montreal, but we didn’t know that you could physically ride around it on a pedal bike! The costs were reasonable though – around the $20 mark per bike.

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Me, Rich, my brother Matt and my Dad must have ridden at least three or four lapse of the track. It was a hot day, but that didn’t stop us from racing around.

Overall

Montreal is definitely an usual place to visit. The city is divided into English and French speaking, so from a cultural point of view it is eclectically brilliant.

One reason we found it hard on our first few days was that Montreal didn’t advertise things that you could do there. Everything we did was based on tips we got from locals. There wasn’t much information dotted about. So things can be easily missed. Hopefully this blog will help you find some of its hidden gems.

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