Montreal in 3 Days

Photo by A Yee

Beyond Montreal city center: leaning towers, penguins and gardens

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If you have the pleasure of 3 days to spend in Montreal be sure to first explore Old Montreal by following the Walk Montreal in One Day itinerary; then visit Mount Royal and Downtown in 48 Hours in Montreal; before making full use of the city’s fast and efficient Metro to move beyond the center on day three of your long weekend.

Olympic Park & Montreal Botanic Garden

Outside the center, Montreal’s premier attractions gather near Metro station Pie-IX and in and around the Montral Olympic Park. This hails back to the 1976 games and is best known for its landmark leaning tower – the world’s largest inclined structure (190 meters at 45º) – which is worth a closer look, including from a funicular to the top for fine city views.

The building next door was once Montreal’s Olympic Velodrome, but has since found a novel use as the Montreal Biodome, an indoor wildlife park. No matter the weather outside, several ecosystems thrive within – including tropical forests, temperate woodlands and a polar world. The animals are the biodome’s crowning glory and include penguins, which you can view close-up swimming in tanks.

From May to September a free shuttle connects the biodome to the nearby Montreal Botanical Garden (combination tickets offered), which ranks among the finest in the world. About 22,000 species thrive in 30 outdoor gardens where temporary art exhibitions or light shows often provide an added attraction. Memorable, too, is the Insectarium, which celebrates bugs of all shapes and sizes (most thankfully dead and mounted!).

Neighborhood Hopping

Other Montreal attractions are more minor, scattered, and require a bit of travel, so the best approach is to home in on a particular neighborhood that interests you.

From the Olympic park take the metro back to Berri station to explore the Gay Village. Or change lines here and head to Mont-Royal to explore The Plateau; get off a stop later (Laurier) for Mile End, a newly hip neighborhood. Here many offbeat small shops and cafes tempt, while the excellent bagels baked around-the-clock at St-Viateur Bagel recall the district’s Jewish roots. Or head west a few more stops (Jean-Talon) for vibrant Little Italy and Jean-Talon Market, an exceptional indoor food market that’s brilliant for picnic lunch ingredients and gifts based on quality local produce and products.

Boat & Bike Trips

If wandering neighborhoods does not appeal, consider heading back to the Old Port for either a boat trip, to see some now-familiar places from a new angle, or to rent a bike and follow the cycle paths to Parc-Jean-Drapeau. Here you’ll be able to cycle on the Montreal Grand Prix course and visit the Montreal Biosphere, an environmental museum in a quirky geodesic dome, before looping back over Jacques-Cartier Bridge (superb city views). Old port bike shops can provide rentals and free maps for this fantastic two-hour bike ride.

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