Of course, visiting the Old Port is not all about heart-pounding thrill rides. Here, visitors can also visit the Montreal Science Centre or rent a pedicab and take a self-guided tour of the area. Or, if the circus is in town, be a spectator under the big tent. Canada is known for its circus tradition, so plan this into the list of to-dos (we recommend the highly energetic, innovative, and divinely fresh Cirque Eloize).
And, since they’ll already be in those neck of the woods, Old Montreal invites visitors to tour the Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum and the 300-year-old Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel—the city’s oldest—as well as the Marche Bonsecours, once the city’s main agricultural marketplace and today a bustling marketplace that features sidewalk cafes and shops. Or, families will simply adore strolling—or taking a horse-drawn carriage ride—through these streets that drip with European ambiance. Stay until the moon makes itself cozy in the night sky to experience a ghost tour through the neighborhood (kids will loves the interactive lessons on Montreal’s history).
Little historians will love Pointe-a-Calliere Museum of Archaeology, a national historic site as well as the birthplace of Montreal. Built atop actual remains, here visitors can tour the first public square, the first Catholic cemetery, and view Native artifacts. And little botanists should head to the Botanical Garden, within walking distance from the Olympic Park and a world unto itself—simply breathtaking. For kids, we highly recommend the Courtyard of the Senses, where they’ll be able to touch and smell the plants.
Children are very particular when it comes to museums, so although this city offers an avalanche of venues for art, history, archaeology, and the like, one of the safest bets is the intimate Redpath Museum at McGill University, a natural history museum with mummies, skulls and zoological specimens—right up a kid’s alley. (Three-day Montreal Museums Passes are available for purchase at most museums.)
And then, of course, there’s the underground pedestrian network that snakes its way below the city, and which, according to some locals we met, affords access to all sorts of services, including a church (we saw it for ourselves) and, of course, lots and lots of shops.
yummy, yum, yum We definitely recommend hitting a mixed bag of restaurants. From pizza and burger joints, to delis and charming eateries framed by gardens, there are so many places to eat in this city, mom and dad will be glad that it’s made for walking (read: those extra calories will shed off just as quickly as they were inhaled). Some of our favorites are the trendy Pizzedelic (pizzedelic-montreal.com), near Old Montreal (try any of the pasta dishes), Le Jardin Nelson (jardinnelson.com), in the heart of Old Montreal, with delicious crepes, and Reubens (reubensdeli.com), in the heart of the city, with mammoth smoked meat sandwiches and mouthwatering desserts.
lights off As you can well imagine, families are going to be “pooped” when they get back to their hotel and one of the comfiest beds we found in the city to ease those tired feet was the Delta Montreal. Located in downtown, this is a perfect spot to plant the suitcases, as the family can easily walk, bike or take the metro to the city’s attractions, festivals and museums. This inviting property offers an indoor pool, lovely dining venues, and top-of-the-line friendly service, and there’s a Starbucks nearby for breakfast on the run before hitting the sights. There are also a host of boutique properties scattered throughout the city, but look for those in Old Montreal as a boutique property befits that unique neighborhood. The eclectic Auberge Bonsecours Bed & Breakfast caught our eye—located right across the street from the Marche Bonsecours, it’s housed in a formerly abandoned horse stable. In our walks through the city we also came across the stunning W Montreal, and the Hyatt Regency Montreal, both centrally located.
bmw it is Getting around Montreal is easy…all clients will need is a BMW, no, not the car—more like a bike (B), the metro (M), and their feet to walk (W). And with easily identifiable biking paths and an extensive metro system, this really is the best way to explore the city—no rental cars or taxis needed. The STM, or metro, offers tourists passes that are valid for one or three days, and allows for unlimited access to its bus and metro network. For biking, there’s the BIXI, which is accessible 24/7 and allows cyclists to borrow and return a bike at one of the 300 stations across the city.