The 10 Best Attractions in Montreal and Quebec City
Explore the museums, parks and tourist attractions that make Montreal and Quebec City two of the most diverse, beautiful and exciting travel destinations in Canada.
Montreal Attractions: Basilique Notre-Dame
The most significant of all Montreal attractions is this mammoth Gothic Revival undertaking designed by Irish architect James O’Donnell and built between 1824 and 1829. This thriving Catholic church has a stunning medieval-style interior that features walnut-wood carvings, exquisite stained-glass windows, 24-carat gold stars in a vaulted blue ceiling, as well as one of the largest Casavant organs in North America. Don’t miss the fine art paintings in the nave and the impressive Chapelle du Sacre-Coeur hidden behind the altar.
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Quebec City Attractions: La Citadelle
Dramatically set atop Cap Diamant in Quebec City, this installation of 10 buildings is the largest military fortification in North America. Overlooking the St. Lawrence River, the site was begun by the French in 1750, but much of the striking star-shaped battlement seen today was constructed by the British between 1820 and 1850, built to defend the city from possible invasion from the United States, in the 19th century. The fort is an active home to the Royal 22nd Regiment of the Canadian Forces and daily military spectacles are staged to entertain visitors during the summer months.
Montreal Attractions: Parc du Mont-Royal
The geographic highlight of all Montreal attractions is undeniably Mont-Royal’s steep slopes. Named by Jacques Cartier in 1535, the protected district of Parc du Mont-Royal covers more than 343 acres of forested mountain, providing abundant green spaces, shrubs and flowers, as well as habitats for hundreds of species of birds and other wildlife. Designed in 1876 by Frederick Law Olmsted, Mont-Royal continues to inspire locals as an arboreal delight in the centre of their metropolis. Activity options, depending on the time of year, include skating, cycling, paddle-boating, tobogganing and snowshoeing. To the northwest of the park is the impressive Oratoire St-Joseph.
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Montreal Attractions: Parc Olympique
One of the most remarkable Montreal attractions, Parc Olympique is also one of the most controversial. Built for the 1976 Olympic Games, it remained unfinished until the 1980s, despite a cost of $1.4 billion, and the retractable roof over the stadium has never fully worked. Nevertheless, visitors can easily spend a full day or two entertained by the varied exhibitions, sights and activities available within this immense quadrilateral. Ride the funicular to the top of the Tour Montreal for the most enthralling view of the region.
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Quebec City Attractions: Basilique Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré
The oldest pilgrimage site in North America began life in 1658 as a shrine to this patron saint of Quebec and was established as a basilica in 1887. The present church, started in 1923 but only completed in 1963, has a striking interior with sumptuous decoration, including impressive window archways. Hundreds of crutches, canes and medical aids can be seen stacked in pyramids beside the medieval-style entrance, testimony to pilgrim prayer and the healing powers associated with Sainte Anne de Beaupré. Stunning religious statues frame the entrance and line the luxurious gardens, including a Way of the Cross.
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Quebec City Attractions: Ile d’Orléans
A haven of greenery and tranquility, Ile d’Orleans was one of the first European settlements in the New World, and is referred to as the cradle of French civilization in North America. Ever since Jacques Cartier arrived here in 1535, the six parishes along this 30-km island have maintained many of the French traditions of the first settlers, and over 600 heritage buildings present a preserved architectural gem. The fertile soil means that the island’s produce has become known as the area’s open-air market.
Montreal Attractions: Musée Pointe-a-Callière
Ascending like a sentinel from the confluence of the St Pierre and the St. Lawrence rivers, this National Historic Site honours the founding of Montreal at Place Royale. Within this landmark of stone and brushed steel are three sections: a chic building constructed on top of the ruins of older structures; the archeological crypt and the renovated Customs House. A self-guided tour system allows each visitor to explore at their own pace, but guides are employed throughout the site to answer questions. These escorts are accomplished storytellers, bringing the history of the city to life. Truly one of the must-see Montreal attractions!
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North of Montreal Attractions: Les Laurentides
Les Laurentides (the Laurentians), located two hours north of Montreal, are best known for their magnificent ski slopes and family activities all year long. First Nations relics indicate Amerindian settlements here over 4,000 years ago and since the 19th century the region has been a rich agricultural zone famous for hunting, trapping and fishing in its 6,000 lakes and ponds. Visitors can enjoy the historic Francophone villages, cycle and hike on numerous trails in summer, or sample the luxury of modern ski resorts in winter.
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Quebec City Attractions: Musée de la Civilisation de Quebec
Few museums in the world receive the kind of rave reviews given to the Musée de la Civilisation de Quebec (MCQ). The exhibitions (two of which are permanent) cover history, culture, sports, science, and intellectual and esoteric themes in a range of interactive ways that entertain and educate visitors. Designed by the celebrated architect Moshe Safdie, creator of Ottawa’s National Gallery, the MCQ incorporates the Musée de l’Amerique Francaise, the Maison Chevalier, the Seminaire de Quebec, as well as the Place-Royale Interpretation Center, to produce this vibrant look at local life in all its facets.
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Montreal Attractions: Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montreal
One of the greatest Montreal attractions (and one of the most impressive museums in North America) dominates both sides of stately rue Sherbrooke Ouest. It began life in 1860, when a group of collectors set up the Art Association of Montreal to present exhibitions, establish an art school, assemble a permanent collection of paintings, and develop an art library. The members eventually raised finances to construct their own building, now the Michal & Renata Hornstein Pavilion, to house Old Masters and contemporary works. In 1991 the museum expanded into the modern Jean-Noel Desmarais Pavilion, on the south side of the street.
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