To truly understand Montreal, take a weekend to explore the city’s fascinating history. From must-see museums and historical sites to milestone celebrations, Montreal is a city with a compelling story to tell. Here’s what to do in Montreal to experience the city’s rich history firsthand:
The best place to start? The very spot where Montreal was founded is now home to Montreal’s Museum of Archaeology and History. The museum is also located at the site of the most important archaeological digs in the city, which have revealed layers of history dating back to the 14th century.
Start your visit by watching the captivating 18-minute educational video, which gives you a crash course on Montreal’s history. Then enter the archaeological crypt located right underneath Place Royale, accessed through a vaulted stone underground tunnel. As you embark on this immersive experience, you feel like you’re actually stepping back in time.
Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal
Continue your exploration with a wander through Old Montreal’s picturesque streets. At Place d’Armes you’ll see four different styles of architecture, each reflecting one of Montreal’s founding communities: French, English, Irish, and Scottish.
Stop by the Notre Dame Basilica on the square, one of the most recognized architectural buildings and spectacular historical sites in the city, and marvel at this perfect example of the Gothic Revival style. If you think the outside is stunning, head inside. You’ll find yourself surrounded by dazzling sculpture, bas-relief, and brilliant stained glass windows. The best time to visit is on a Friday afternoon from July to October when you can take a guided tour of the basilica and listen to live classical organ music.
Just across from Montreal’s City Hall is Château Ramezay, one of the city’s favourite historical sites, which boasts a dynamic museum and a wonderful French colonial garden. Here you’ll experience what life must have been like in a prestigious, 18th-century residence.
After exploring the past, enjoy a jolt of contemporary culture in nearby Place Jacques Cartier, where you can catch some of Montreal’s infamous street performers during the warmer months.
Montreal History Centre
Montreal’s recent past is just as fascinating as its archaeological and centuries-old history. The Montreal History Centre is the perfect place to discover the city’s development through the 20th century to the present day. Check the museum’s website for information about their engaging temporary exhibitions. And if you’re wondering what to do in Montreal for an upcoming trip, the museum is also planning a 50th anniversary celebration of the city’s pivotal 1967 expo to mark Montreal’s 375th anniversary in 2017.
Montreal en Histoires
Perhaps the best way to experience Montreal’s rich history is with a self-guided walking tour of Old Montreal using the free Montreal en Histoires app. It’s like having your own personal tour guide as you learn fascinating details about 50 different points of interest. Augmented reality lets you experience the sites in front of you in a whole new way. The app’s interactive interface is ideal for kids too, bringing history to life before their eyes.
Stay at the Hotel Omni Mont-Royal in the historical district, an ideal central base from which you can explore the city at your own pace. And don’t forget your camera! With Montreal turning 375 in 2017, now is the perfect time to discover the city’s rich history.