With over 1,000 parks and green spaces and 530 kilometres in bike paths, Montréal is a major metropolis with a soft spot for nature. Crowning the urban landscape is the popular Mount Royal, a gigantic four-season playground and downtown’s backyard. With its leafy trails and gravel footpath winding all the way to the summit, “the mountain,” as locals call it, is a great spot for walking, cycling, jogging and even spotting indigenous birds. When winter comes, residents bundle up and head out for activities like tobogganing, tubing, cross-country skiing and skating that this majestic greenspace offers.
Just south of downtown, the historic Old Port features a 2.5-kilometre-long recreational park and panoramic views of the old city’s grand greystones and the mighty St. Lawrence River. In warm weather, the Old Port is populated by a merry assortment of strollers, cyclists and in-line skaters, and when the temperature dips, people go there for crisp winter walks and to carve loops on the open-air Bonsecours Basin Skating Rink.
You’ve heard of flower power? Well, here, it’s called the Montréal Botanical Garden, a 180-acre fragrant oasis of indigenous plants, exotic greenhouses and beautiful outdoor gardens. This lush and expansive getaway, mere metro stops from downtown, is considered one of the finest in North America.
BIXI, the city’s public bike system, which enters its second year of operation, offers residents and visitors a pollution-free way of getting around town. It’s the perfect complement to Montréal’s already vast network (350 kilometres) of city-wide bike paths, frequented by everyone from Sunday cyclists to serious pedal pushers.
In fact, Montrealers tend to head outside no matter what the season. The street is their most popular place to meet, with major festivals like the Jazz Fest, the Just for Laughs and the MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE festival rolling out under the sun and stars, summer through winter. They salsa in the moonlight, sip café au lait on sidewalk terraces and catch up with the neighbours in their ruelles vertes (green alleys). And though they take pride in Montréal’s cosmopolitan reputation, they know that you really don’t have to go far to get your green fix here.