KidTripster Teen: Best things to do in this city with European flair & surprising history
Montreal, also called the “City of Saints,” is the jewel of Quebec. From its rich history to its hip arts and culture scene, this Canadian hub is anything but boring. One reason that makes it so unique is its strong French influence. Signs, menus, and even the labels on snacks are written in both French and English to reflect a Franco-Canadian culture.
KidTripster Tip: Since you’re going to be surrounded by French speakers, take this opportunity to introduce the language to your kids using apps like Duolingo, Memrise or Drops. They make learning fun!
KidTripster Tip: Weather-wise, summer is most ideal for a visit to Montreal. However, there’s something to be said for visiting during the winter, especially around the holidays. You’ll likely come upon a holiday festival or market and most outdoor activities will still be open, plus the snow-covered trees and twinkling lights here have a magical effect.
Montreal has a distinctive European feel with a modern flair. There are so many fun things to do that you may have trouble packing them all into just one visit. To help, I’ve selected a list of must-dos that appeal to families and to teens, in particular.
Photo courtesy: Écorécréo
1/Parc du Mont-Royal (Mount Royal Park)
1260 Remembrance Rd.
Parc du Mont-Royal is a sprawling, green haven in the heart of town where locals escape from all the urban hustle and bustle. Planned by the same architect who designed New York City’s Central Park, this spot offers terrific outdoor activities alongside its stunning scenery. The “pièce de résistance” of the park is a majestic knoll that overlooks Montreal. It’s a mere 500-step climb to the top, and from the summit, you’ll be treated to jaw-dropping views of the city. I like hiking up the hill because you can sneak in some exercise while taking in the scenic surroundings. But if you rather, there’s a bus that goes to the top.
KidTripster Tip: I’d recommend making this the first stop on your trip to Montreal. It gives you a really good sense of the city’s layout.
KidTripster Tip: Early morning is the best time for visiting the park. With fewer crowds, you’ll get better pictures!
Saint Antoine St. south to Saint Lawrence River & Bleury St. east to Saint Denis St.
Vieux Montréal, or Old Montreal, is the original heart of city and one of the oldest parts of town. As you walk through the narrow, cobblestone streets and look at the Parisienne-esque buildings, it feels like you’ve been teleported straight to Europe. There are scores of quaint shops, unique art galleries, and cool cafes to discover. Take a leisurely stroll here to soak in this area’s charm and character. If you work up an appetite with all that exploring, fear not! Along the neighborhood’s pedestrian paths, you’ll find plenty of great eateries, most of which serve French-style fare with a Canadian twist. My favorite spot for fabulous food is Jardin Nelson, but I’m not the only one who finds its menu enticing. This restaurant often has long lines out the door, so make reservations to avoid waiting.
Mais oui, Montreal has its own version of Notre-Dame! This outstanding example of Gothic Revival architecture sits in the historic district of Old Montreal, a fitting location given that this church was built in the 17th century. With the price of admission, you can take a tour (given in both English and French) and discover many fascinating facts about the beautiful basilica. If you choose to do a self-guided tour of the eye-popping interior, don’t miss the exquisite, stained-glass panels with scenes that chronicle the founding of Montreal, as well as the magnificent Casavant Frères pipe organ. Cost: Kids (7-17) about $3; Adult about $4, depending on exchange rate.
KidTripster Tip: If you have time, come back to visit this church in the evening for one of the most incredible light shows that you’ve ever seen. Schedules and ticket prices vary widely, so check here for all details.
Just south of Old Montreal at the edge of the Saint Lawrence River sits the charming district of Vieux-Port, or Old Port. This waterfront wonderland is the place to go for shopping, eating, and adventuring! The district is peppered with all sorts of fun activities for families. One of the most popular draws is Voiles en Voiles, a family-friendly aerial ropes course. It offers several different tracks which vary in difficulty, part of which runs through a pirate ship! Some of the tasks can be rather challenging, but attendants are happy to show you the “cordes.” 2-hour cost: Youth (5 & under) about $19; Youth (6 & over) about $29; Family (4 people) about $106, depending on exchange rate. Another cool attraction right on the water is La Grande Roue de Montréal, the largest observation wheel in Canada, offering a birds-eye view of the city. Cost: Family (4 people) about $36. However, I think the most amazing attraction in Old Port is the Tyrolienne MTL Zipline. If you’re seeking an adrenaline rush, I guarantee that your heart will be pounding at the end of this ride. Zipline cost: about $15, depending on exchange rate.
KidTripster Tip: Go online to purchase your zipline tickets at a significant discount.
Photo courtesy: Voiles en Voiles
5/ Centre des Sciences de Montréal (Montreal Science Center)
2 de la Commune St. W.
Located in Old Port, the Centre des Sciences de Montréal, or Montreal Science Center, is the most “rad”ical museum around. With tons of hands on exhibitions, everyone in the family is sure to be entertained for hours! There are permanent exhibits that cover a wide range of topics from learning about inventions and machines to discovering facts about the wonderful machine that is the human body. The museum also hosts traveling displays that are equally amazing but always changing, so it’s best to keep an “ion” its website for the latest news. Cost: Youth (2 & under) Free; Youth (3-12) about $7; Youth (13-17) about $11; Adult about $15, depending on the exchange rate.
KidTripster Tip: To avoid the crowds, purchase your tickets online in advance and get there early in the morning.
Photo courtesy: Centre des Sciences de Montréal, Luc Lavergne
6/Pointe-à-Callière Museum (Museum of Archaeology)
350 Place Royale
Pointe-à-Callière Museum, or Museum of Archaeology, is one of the coolest museums that I’ve ever been to. It relates the human history of Montreal on the spot where the city’s history first began. It may not sound that exciting, but I’m here to tell you that it’s amazing inside or, should I say, down below! This underground museum tells Montreal’s history through visually stunning and captivating exhibits that will have even the most skeptical teen in awe. For some Instagram-worthy photos, be sure to check out the Memory Collector, where visitors can stroll through a section of an original sewer that’s been lit up and transformed into a multi-sensory display. It was the highlight of the museum for me and appropriately named because I won’t be forgetting the experience anytime soon. Cost: Youth (4 & under) Free; Youth (5-12) about $6; Teen (13-17) about $10; Adult about $16, depending on exchange rate.
Photo courtesy: Pointe-à-Callière Museum, Jacques Nadeau
7) Olympic Stadium & Montreal Tower
4141 Pierre-de Coubertin Ave.
When the Olympic Games were held in Montreal in 1976, the city built an arena to impress the world. This stadium has 56,000 seats and is the largest in Quebec. It’s colossal, but it’s not even the main attraction at the park. That title belongs to the observation deck built above the stadium. At a staggering 541 feet tall, this engineering marvel is the tallest inclined building in the world. Montreal Tower provides unparalleled panoramas of the city and surrounding areas that are so “incroyable,” the Michelin Guide gave it 3 stars. Observation deck cost: Youth about $9; Adult about $17, depending on exchange rate.
Photo courtesy: Tourisme Québec, Stéphan Poulin
8) Marché Jean-Talon (Jean-Talon Market)
7070 Henri Julien Ave.
Gastronomes, like myself, will love this space! Marché Jean-Talon, or Jean-Talon Market, is one of the oldest, open-air markets in Montreal and one of the largest in North America. In the warmer months, it’s an outdoor market, and during the colder months, it transforms into an indoor market. Regardless of the time of year that you visit, there’s a mind-blowing variety of cuisine that will satisfy any palate. Here you can grab fresh produce, a quick meal, and fun souvenirs - all in one spot. My favorite place to stop is Le Ryad Pâtisserie, a Middle Eastern sweet shop that has the best Turkish Delight this side of the Atlantic! If discovering great food is an important part of your trip, Marché Jean-Talon is certainly worth of a stop. C’est magnifique!
Laine Messier is a homeschooled high school student, who currently splits her time between Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi. She’s lucky enough to be able to explore the globe with her parents and is always on the lookout for unique and exciting experiences. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her surfing, jamming on her guitar or searching for new adventures with her trusty canine sidekick, Tess.