June 26, 2013 — Montréal’s downtown core is an amazing place to steal away and just hang out. Or get some “culture”. Or go shopping. Or eat. Or people-watch. You name it: whatever you feel like doing, downtown has it going on in upbeat style even if you are by yourself. Plus Montréal is a safe city, so exploring our core on your own isn’t a worry. If you plan to visit Montréal solo, then you should have an itinerary to get you off on the right foot. Here are a few suggestions for your day in the city.
Why not start out by visiting one of Montréal’s many museums. The downtown has many great museums whether you prefer contemporary arts, architecture, beaux-arts, or history.The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on Sherbrooke Street West houses an encyclopedic permanent collection of varied and exquisite artefacts ranging from European and Inuit art to decorative art to Ancient cultures, as well as hosts many temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
Or, just down the street closer to the McGill University campus, you’ll find the McCord Museum of Canadian History.Home to one of the finest collections in North America, including the most significant First Nations collection in Québec, the McCord also displays the foremost collection of Canadian costumes and textiles, as well as an incomparable archive of photographs by William Notman.
Now, it’s on to explore the core on foot. Meander through the streets of downtown Montréal, wearing out your plastic as you go! Yes indeed, there is shopping to be done and treasures to be had!
Sherbrooke Street offers high-end designers amidst art galleries and antique shops; Sainte-Catherine Streetis a celebrated 15-km commercial artery lined with major department stores, shops and restaurants; and Crescent Street, while old-money posh above De Maisonneuve Boulevard with haute couture showrooms and luxury boutiques, is young and buzzing with nightclubs, trendy restaurants and bars to the south. And if the weather isn’t co-operating, then simply escape to the Underground Pedestrian Network, where you’ll find a multitude of shops, boutiques, attractions and eateries of all kinds. Rain or shine, Mother Nature has nothing on Montréal’s shopping scene!
During your Montréal walkabout you will undoubtedly notice the impressive displays of public art that are scattered throughout the city. Some of the many noteworthy downtown works to see are the McCord Museum’s Inukshuk – an authentic Inuit landmark made of 200 stones – on Sherbrooke Street West, The Illuminated Crowd and The Secret Bench on McGill College Avenue, the Sculpture Garden of the Canadian Centre for Architecture on Baile Street (corner René-Lévesque Boulevard), and Jean-Paul Riopelle’s awe-inspiring La Joute in front of Palais des congrès, complete with a ring of mist and synchronized fire.
A detour towards the corner of De la Cathédrale Street and René-Lévesque Boulevard is a definite must, especially if you appreciate Neo-Renaissance architecture. A Canadian National Historic Site, Montréal’s Mary Queen of the World Cathedral is Québec’s third largest church and certainly one of its most beautiful. Built in the late 19th century, this cathedral is a scale replica of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, both inside and out, with favoured Vatican artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s vast baldachin over the high altar and magnificent statues adorning the exterior rooftop. However, unlike St. Peter’s 12 apostles, our cathedral features 13 statues representing the patron saints of the parishes that donated them to the diocese of Montréal.
If your travels have taken you towards the Quartier des spectacles (the Entertainment District), then you should definitely drop into the Musée d’art contemporain (MAC) on Sainte‑Catherine Street West, corner Jeanne-Mance Street. Canada’s leading museum devoted exclusively to the art form, the MAC features an outstanding collection of contemporary art, as expressed through a variety of interesting and diverse mediums.
Located across the Place des Arts Esplanade is La Vitrine, a one-stop shop for all goings-on entertainment- and culture-wise in Montréal. This unique information centre has all the latest info as well as a central box office where you can often get last-minute deals on tickets… Perfect for a night out on the town!
A day of exploring can certainly whet the appetite. Saint-Laurent Boulevard to the south leads to Chinatown, where local restaurants offer out of the ordinary specialties. Also, if you are in the mood to sit down at a more stylish restaurant where socializing is on the menu, head north on the lively thoroughfare to places like Brooke Restaurant + Bar.
Once the sun sets, the Quartier des spectacles Lighting Plan lights up the night, marrying urban design with dynamic light projections to create a lively aesthetic outside nearly 15 cultural venues. The numerous illuminated building façades highlight Montréal’s unique urban rhythm!