Updated May 9, 2015
The Casino de Montréal is a 24/7 extravaganza of gambling, food and drink, freshly renovated in 2013. Built inside the pavilions of France and Quebec from Expo 67 on man-made Île Notre-Dame in the midst of the mighty St. Lawrence River, it's a multi-level experience of roaring, tinkling fun. Cards, dice, slot machines, keno, roulette. Only for people aged 18 and over. Bring money.
Many people come to Montreal to shop in its wide range of international boutiques. Possibly the most famous shopping area in Montreal is the Underground City, waymarked by its official name RÉSO (from the French réseau, meaning network). Constantly growing, the "city" – which links many major buildings and multi-level shopping malls in the downtown area – is a shopper's paradise in any season.
Shown above is a reflection of Place Ville-Marie, whose underground mall was one of the initial segments of the Underground City. The building, designed by Henry N. Cobb and I.M. Pei design, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012.
The major portion of the underground city is reached via Peel and McGill metro stations on the green line, which links via passageways to Bonaventure station on the orange line. East of McGill station is another axis from Place-des-Arts metro down through Complexe Desjardins and beyond.
Safe and sheltered from the elements, the underground city offers a huge range of goods and services, food courts, cinemas and entertainment, as well as a handy way to get from place to place without weather or traffic problems.
Montreal's Notre-Dame Basilica has nothing in common with Paris's except the name. It's a neogothic building originally built in 1829, constructed on the site of a much older and smaller church which had been outgrown by its parishioners. Work continued on the towers and the interior throughout the 19th century. Montreal's Notre-Dame is not a cathedral. The Roman Catholic cathedral is Mary Queen of the World on René-Lévesque Boulevard.
Notre-Dame is noted for its lavish and beautiful interior – stained glass windows, paintings, statues, gold-tipped polychrome carvings, rich altarpiece. It also has a notable Casavant organ and its largest bell, le Gros Bourdon, is the biggest on the continent.
Céline Dion got married at Notre-Dame, it's typically the site of funerals of significant people such as Pierre Trudeau and Maurice Richard, and classical and choral concerts are held there. A son et lumière that tells about the church's history is often shown in the evening.
A ticket price of $5.00 is now charged to enter the church unless you are going inside to say a prayer (hint).
Notre-Dame shares Place d'Armes with the Vieux Séminaire, dating from 1685, the red sandstone New York Life building (1888) – Montreal's first skyscraper – the elegant deco Aldred Building (1931), the imposing Roman-style Bank of Montreal building, and the central monument to de Maisonneuve, founder of the original settlement of Ville-Marie. Place d'Armes was recently renovated to 21st-century tastes.
Notre-Dame is only one of many beautiful churches in the city.
The lookout on top of Mount Royal is an excellent goal for an urban walk. It's part of Mount Royal Park, laid out long ago by Frederick Law Olmsted, best known for landscaping New York's Central Park.
From the beautifully appointed lookout terrace, downtown Montreal is at your feet, with a view to the river and beyond to the other Monteregian hills. Some sight lines to landmarks are marked along the parapet wall. The chalet by the lookout is open in the daytime and offers shelter and bathrooms, as do Smith House and the Beaver Lake chalet.
Mount Royal is an attraction in Montreal in all seasons. In summertime it's a cool airy refuge from the heat of the city, in autumn the changing colours of the trees are a joy, and in winter there's a range of sports from cross-country skiing and snowshoeing to skating and tobogganing or inner-tubing down the slopes.
The top of Mount Royal is divided between the park and two large cemeteries, the Catholic Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery and the nondenominational Mount Royal cemetery. Both of these can be interesting walks: together they form a necropolis among the largest in the world.
The Olympic Stadium was built for Montreal's 1976 Summer Olympics and is used today for occasional sports events and concerts. An elevator ascends the world's tallest inclined tower to a lookout on top; tickets are for sale at the base. The stadium is one of Montreal's most curious pieces of architecture and is accompanied by the Biodome (originally used for cycle racing during the 1976 games, now a kind of indoor zoo), shown at left above.
The stadium dominates an area now known as Espace pour la vie, which includes the Botanical Garden (best in summertime, but with large greenhouses worth a visit any time of year), the Insectarium the Planetarium and the Biodome; tickets can be bought to enjoy more than one of these installations during a single visit – see the official website grouping them all.
Across Pie-IX from the stadium is the Dufresne-Nincheri museum, originally built as a grand mansion. The Olympic park also contains Saputo Stadium, home of the Impact soccer team, a cineplex, the Maurice Richard arena, and also an internationally known, if unofficial, skateboarding venue.