The history and heritage of Canada come to life in the city of Montreal – a frontier settlement grown into one of North America’s most vibrant cultural capitals. Our tours to and around Montreal focus on the city’s significance – and immerse visitors in the charm and character flowing through every street.
Montreal is located on an island on the St. Laurence River in a scenic corner of Quebec province. Before Montreal became a meeting point for Canada’s French and English cultural identities, the territory was occupied for thousands of years by First Nations people. A settlement was first established on the island in 1611 by French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, who set up a trading post known as ‘Ville Marie’. The outpost fell under British rule in 1760 and was incorporated into the city of Montreal in 1832. Over the next century, Montreal became one of North America’s most well-known cultural and political hubs but, throughout years of modernisation, retained a strong historic and Gallic identity.
Nowhere is this identity more visible than in Old Montreal, a district of the city which dates back to the 17th century. Walking tours of Old Montreal are common, bringing visitors to famous attractions like the Old Port, a sprawling waterfront and green space, and the Place Jacques-Cartier, a thriving gathering place for artists and musicians with lots of fine restaurants and bars. Museums are located throughout Old Montreal and highlights include the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, the oldest stone church in Montreal, and The Museum of Archaeology and History which looks further back – to the time of the city’s first settlement on the banks of the St Laurence.
Montreal’s charm extends beyond its historic quarters. Downtown, visitors experience the modern side of the city – with glossy skyscrapers rising on either side of the street and tours arriving at the McGill university campus, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and The Underground City, an impressive subterranean network of malls, food courts, cinemas and boutiques. For nature lovers, the city is home to the Insectarium, the Botanic Gardens and the Biodome, formerly the Olympic Velodrome now converted to showcase a variety of ecosystems.
When your explorations come to an end, Montreal offers up a mouth-watering variety of food and drink. The city claims to have the largest concentration of restaurants in North America, so choice is vast: Quebecois cuisine draws heavily on French influence, which includes rich flavours and fine wines – but visitors should not have to look far to find a classic American steakhouse or burger joint. A must-try is the traditional fast food dish ‘poutine’ – an indulgent mix of chips, gravy and cheese curds.
Montreal is a quintessential gateway to Canada and, if you are thinking of embarking on your own North American adventure, make sure you plan your time in the city carefully: there’s always more to see an do than can be fit into a single trip!