10 Free Hidden Gems of Montreal

May 28, 2018

In honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary on July 1, we’re bringing you 150 Travelzoo Tips — one per day until July 1 — to help you explore and enjoy this great land. Tip 56 comes from travel blogger Nathalie De Grandmont, who shares her favourite free attractions in Montreal, her adopted hometown. 

There are a lot of hidden gems in Montreal, many of which you can enjoy without spending a dime. Here are some of my favourites:

1) Two Gifts from Two Cities

Apart from being a truly interesting building itself, the World Trade Center Montreal also holds a precious gift the city received for its 350th birthday. From Berlin, it is a fragment of their historic wall and a charming reminder of our own former fortifications, which are also represented by some black tiles on the floor. Just outside, in Victoria Square, the Parisian-style art nouveau metro entrance was also a gift -- from France, bien sur!

2) A Truly Royal Bank

A the end of the 19th century, St. James Street was called the Wall Street of Canada. The banks were flourishing and reaching new heights in both wealth and beauty. To get a glimpse of this golden era, walk inside the former branch of the Royal Bank (at 360 St-Jacques), to admire the majestic lobby, the wooden ceilings, plus the many bronze ornaments (such as the elevator doors and the mailbox). The site is now a cafe/workspace.

3) A Private Moment with Public Art

There are over 1,000 works of public art scattered all around Montreal. Some of my favourites include The Secret Bench, the Illuminated Crowd (on McGill College) and most of all, Les Chuchoteuses (pictured), hiding on a small square off Saint-Paul street. Created by Rose-Aimee Belanger, this beautiful bronze sculpture represents three women who might be whispering, like the name suggests. Or could they be gossiping? In any case, it's up for you to decide! 

4) Lights on Sainte-Helene   

In Old Montreal, it's also worth making a slight detour to see Saint-Pierre and Sainte-Helene streets, which are lined with beautiful stores/warehouses from the 19th century. On Ste-Helene, you will also notice the charming streetlamps -- the only ones which are still fuelled by gas, like in the old days. No wonder Ste-Helene has become one of the more beloved streets for movie producers, who really appreciate its unique atmosphere.

5) The Secret Alleys of Plateau Mont-Royal

Plateau Mont-Royal is known for its trendy boutiques, restaurants and ambiance. But this neighbourhood also features dozens of colourful alleys. Their rows of sheds, clothesline and open yards have inspired local writer Michel Tremblay, among others. These backstreet paths (such as the one between Garnier and Fabre) are worth exploring on foot, especially in the summertime, when lots of them also have flowerbeds and small vegetable gardens.

6) Beach in the City

In the summer, there's no need to cross the ocean to experience a tropical atmosphere! The Clock Tower Beach (ou Plage de l’Horloge) is doing just that, with white sand, beach chairs, umbrellas and even a misting system to keep you cool. 

7) A Street with a View

Looking for a view of Montreal? Of course, you could head to the two main lookouts on Mount Royal. But there is another one, much less familiar and just as interesting: the Summit lookout, located at the foot of Summit Woods in Westmount. Located furtherto the west, it also provides a spectacular view of Montreal, the Lachine Rapids, the South Shore and Sunnyside Park.

8) Don't Miss the Murals

Over the last few years, the city of Montreal has fostered the creation of dozens of colourful outdoor murals. Many of them have been created by the nonprofit organization MU, and very often, they reflect the history and the character of the neighbourhoods around them.

9) Dive into the Morgan Bath

At the beginning of the 20th century, la cite de Maisonneuve (today Hochelaga-Maisonneuve) had great ambitions to look like Paris, which led to the building of the impressive Morgan Bath on Morgan Boulevard. Built in the beaux-arts style, this public bathhouse was inaugurated in 1916, just two years before the independent city of Maisonneuve had to merge with Montreal due to bankruptcy. In front of the building stands a beautiful sculpture by local artist Alfred Laliberte. Just down the street, the Maisonneuve Market is also worth a visit.

10) The Wonders of the Redpath Museum 

Egyptian mummies in Montreal? They're one of the city's best-kept secrets, as is their location: the Redpath Museum, on McGill University's downtown campus. Besides the Egyptian artifacts, this surprising museum also houses many dinosaur skeletons, a large collection of shells and minerals from Quebec, plus countless cultural objects from around the world.

Feeling Inspired? Browse our Only in Canada collection or visit our Quebec Guide for more information.

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