You should definitely take the time and effort to climb up to Mont-Royal - the big hill located in the middle of the city. From the top, you'll get a really nice view to downtown and almost the entire city. There are buses too to take you to the top but I think it's more fun and more rewarding if you climb all the way up by yourself! You can also do activities such as bicycling or skiing in the area.
Every Sunday during the summer people gather on the grass to chill out and dance as some 'tam-tam' players are providing the music. If I lived in Montreal, I'd probably be here every week!
Wanting to take advantage of a warm sunny summer day in Montreal, we started off with a visit to the Frederick Law Olmsted (famous for designing Central Park in New York City) designed park atop Mont Royal for which the city of Montreal is named, it’s actually more of a hill than a Royal Mountain but Royal Hill just doesn’t sound very impressive, now does it? Since we had a car we drove here, there is a fee for parking with a maximum amount of $6CAD for all day. On our first visit to Montreal, we hiked up through the winding streets of the neighborhood at the foot of the “mountain” or you can take the orange line metro to the Mont-Royal Station and transfer to bus 11 (get a transfer in advance at the Metro station).
We parked near the Lac aux Castors (beaver lake, now I know where castor oil comes from!) where you’ll find sunbathers in the summer and skaters in the winter and walked the short distance to the Chalet du Mont-Royal where we had a nice, if a bit hazy, view of downtown Montreal. Be sure to go inside the Chalet to see the murals with scenes from Canadian history and the cute little squirrels decorating the rafters, there's also a snack shop and restrooms here. Another short path led us to Croix sur la Montagne, a 98 foot steel cross that is lighted at night. The major sites are pretty well marked with directional signs.
Nearby, you can also visit the two cemeteries, the Catholic Cimetiere de Notre-Dame-des-Neiges and the Protestant Cimetiere Mont-Royal where Anna Leonowens of “King and I” fame is buried. Another km or so away is St. Joseph’s Oratory which you can easily walk to.
The city of Montréal takes its name from Mont Royal, the hill behind the city which, in turn, was named by Jacques Cartier (we’ll get around to him shortly). Mont Royal is now public parkland and, without doubt, the jewel of the city – count a visit as a “must do”.
We went there by public transport (frequent) and had a very pleasant walk shared with many others, some walking, some jogging, and some cycling. It’s that kind of place. (photos 2,3) Along the way, we were excited to see yet another squirrel, a different type from the one we’d seen in Vienna (photo 3). As I mentioned in my “Intro” page, we were a little jaded after our arrival in Montréal – the visit to Mont Royal was the ‘breather’ we needed.
I think it’s fitting that the photo heading this tip shows the plaque commemorating the work of Frederick Law Olmstead, responsible for development of the park on Mont Royal. You’ll see it in more detail in photo 2 or, even better, by visiting the park yourself! Montréal certainly owes Olmstead a debt of gratitude for his far-sighted vision, which broke with the traditions of the 1800s in having a natural park, rather than formal gardens.
As mentioned in the previous tip, the explorer Jacques Cartier was the first European to travel the St Lawrence River and, in 1535, to climb and name Mont Royal. He made three trips to Canada and is commemorated on the plaque shown in photos 3 and 4.
Head back from your walk to a building known as Maison Smith. This building gains its name from its original owner in the mid-1800s, but now serves as the headquarters for the park management. Here you will find some very interesting displays, plus a kiosk for those needing refreshments (the coffee was good when we visited).
The display which really caught my imagination centred on this rock (photo 2) in the basement of the building (additional information for those not looking for rocks: it’s near the toilets). The sign in photo 3 tells you of the significance: only 20,000 years ago, this rock (and presumably the toilets) was covered by ice 2km thick! Yes, people, whether or not you believe in the greenhouse effect, this clearly shows that climate change is very real and climates can change dramatically over quite (geologically) short periods! A period of cooling climate (“The Little Ice Age”) was a large part of the reason for abandoning the Viking settlement in Canada, long before Columbus reached America.
You can catch the bus back to Mont Royal Métro station from just uphill of Maison Smith.
This is where Montreal acquired its name. At 234 meters, Mount Royal is the highest point in the city; in fact, no building is allowed to be taller than this hill. The view from up here is great. And if you want to get some good exercise during your visit, then this is an excellent place to do it.
Laid out by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead (who designed Central Park in New York City and Cherokee Park in Louisville), it was officially designated a park in 1876. It was here that Huron Indian chief Kondiaronk signed a peace treaty with the French in 1701.
There are miles of hiking and biking trails to explore, and a lot of interesting things to see.
Every so often in your travels, you find something which excites the locals, but leaves you completely unimpressed. This seems to be a standout illustration that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”! The guidebooks rank it as a major attraction but I’m afraid that, when I looked, all I saw was an assemblage of of rather inelegant left-over scaffolding with overtones of mobile phone tower. Apologies to any Montrealers or other enthusiasts I may offend with those thoughts.
The guidebooks tell me that it was erected in 1924 on the site of an original steel cross dating from 1643 by the city’s founder, and that it is 31M high. I also gather that it is lit at night, though I find myself wondering why one would wish to!
Situated in the park, immediately above the city, you will find the substantial Chalet de Mont Royal, shown in the heading photo and photo 2. I’ve not been able to find much information about it, and it was closed during our visit. At first I thought it was intended as a kiosk, but I surmise it may be used as a reception centre. Certainly it is well maintained and someone obviously attends to the flags!
What is important, however, is the terraced area immediately in front of it, known as the Belvedere Kondiaronk and, from here, you gain excellent views over the city (photo 3 and my Montréal page intro photo). If you’ve developed a thirst on your walk this far, you’ll be glad to know that several drinking fountains are available (photo 4).
Not quite relevant to the Chateau, but I’ll include it here as I don’t feel it warrants a separate tip, can anyone tell me what are these curious gibbet devices (photo 5) we saw at quite a few places throughout the park? We surmised that they’re something to do with snow depth. Addendum. My very real thanks to my good VT mate Bwana_Brown for the advice that "...those strange-looking 'gibbet' contraptions are winter bird-feeders, equipped with a post-mounted barrier to try to keep Grey (and maybe the smaller Red) Squirrels from stealing all the goods!"
City of snow and of tunnels, where winter seems never to be ceasing, we wonder if we'll transform into moles by the end of it. That would be, if we did'nt have our beautiful Parc du Mont-Royal, our mountain in the middle of our island, and our multitude of parks and skating rinks.
This is where I learned to ski, both cross-country (there are 20 km of trails) and downhill and both with my cross-country skis, I don't suggest trying the later. Younger and older children can have fun tobogganing and tub sliding. When your older, you usually go at night with your friends, especially if there was a fresh fall of snow. And there are snowshoeing trails as well as ice skating. You can rent some equipment at the Beaver Lake pavilion.
In summer, thought, when we have our warm temperature back, then again do we go and enjoy our mountain. Sometimes for the Tam-tams, which are so many being percutionned that you can hear them well before you arrive. They are out as soon as the last snow has melted, as in this cold climate we take everything we can of the warm weather. Others go to participate or look at medieval tournaments. Made just for the fun of it, nothing organised. But fun enought for people who enjoy reenacting such battles.
Other than that, you can simply go and have a long nice walk amongst the trees, in small paths or on larger ones. And rent a pedal boat atop. Or rent a bike and go on the mountain biking paths.
Map of the park
Some history facts:
In 1535, Jacques Cartier climbed the mountain guided by the native inhabitants of Hochelaga (Native name for Montreal), and named it Mont-Royal. And in1874, Frederick Law Olmsted is hired by the City of Montreal to draft plans for the park. The same landscape architect who design Central Park, in New York.
To drive to the Mont-Royal Park: Car: Avenue Du Parc and take Voie Camilien-Houde to go up, there's lots of parking spaces.
Le MontRoyal driving instructions
Mont Royal, or the Mountain as Montrealers call it, is the city's pleasure zone. Laid out in the 1870s on the hill that overlooks the city by the designer of Central Park in New York, offers the best views of the entire city. From its Chalet Lookout, you can see up and down downtown and the surrounding area.
Mont Royal has tons of trails for hikers and cyclists. The forests here are especially thick at times, and makes you wonder if you're actually near a city of a million people at all.
If downtown is the heart of Montreal, Mount Royal is the lungs of the city. A popular spot for joggers, picnicking families and nature lovers, Mount Royal Park has a wide array of paths that will take you to any of two belvederes (Kondiaronk, in front of the chalet, from where you can even see the fireworks competition in the summer; and Camilien-Houde, further to the east, from where you can see Olympic Stadium).
While the park has sometimes been described as a victim of its popularity, it has retained its relaxed atmosphere and makes a great change of pace from the bustling (and nearby) downtown district.
Above the city- literally on the hill called Mont-Royal, is one of the most beautiful and expansive parks any city can boast.
Climb the trails, feel like you're in the middle of the woods, then look out at the cityscape. This is very well one of the best locations and designs for a city park. (Of course, topography is on Montréal's -and Mont-Royal's - side.
This was one amazing park in Montreal - the Mont Royal. We parked at the bottom of the hill and crossed the road to begin our trek. We had our strollers so we braved the park with our three-year olds.
There were several people walking, jogging and just enjoying the wonderful weather on that September morning. After a few minutes, we found ourselves in a beautiful viewing deck where we captured some of our best panoramic views of Montreal -- wonderful blue skies and billowy clouds!
We continued our walk further to the top where we heard there was across, but on arriving there, we saw that the cross was under renovation. But this did not stop us from taking pictures with it, even from afar...
Sometimes I read, there may be music festivals here and sometimes a lot of "drummers" - but we did not see any during that time...
Truly a wonderful park and a must to visit when in Montreal!
In the southwest portion of majestic Mont Royal sits the Chateau. The building itself is beautiful with a small cafeteria inside. But in front of it sits the lookout, presenting one of the nicest views of downtown Montreal.
Mont-Royal was right near my hotel on Rue Peel-see the attached pic. It's a climb, with several circular trails around the mountain, but the view is spectacular-you can see the entire city, right down to the river. There's plenty of places to picnic, walk around, or just hang out. Local people run and bike up and down Mont-Royal. I wish I was in shape to do that!
By the way, it's free!