Montreal Off The Beaten Path: Discover These 7 Unusual Places on Foot

As the April days are getting longer and warmer, it's absolutely mandatory that you spend more time outside. Especially when you can st...

As the April days are getting longer and warmer, it's absolutely mandatory that you spend more time outside. Especially when you can still enjoy it mosquito-free! I don't know about you, but I become very excited when I get a chance to explore a new place. And, by the way, a new place does not mean going far. Even if it's your own city or town, I guarantee there will always be something new yet to be discovered. That has been the case for me in Montreal where I happen to spend quite a bit of my time over the past two years. I've walked pretty much everywhere in the 5 km / 3 mile radius from the central train station. Mostly after work though when it's already dark outside. But longer spring days let me see more at a daylight, that's why I'm always up to a nice walk after work. Continue reading to learn about an itinerary that I really enjoyed. It's strenuous due to its length and slightly off the beaten path, but I'm sure you'll like it too.

A small disclaimer: the pictures are from early May 2018, so don't get too excited when you'll see green grass all over and people wearing t-shirts. It's still quite cold in Montreal with the latest snowfall only two days ago.

1. Park Bonaventure.  
Start your journey at Place Bonaventure, an austere piece of concrete, across the street from Gare Centrale (Central Station). To explain why there are many concrete structures in Montreal like Place Bonaventure built in the brutalist style, we should take a small detour to its past. Montreal experienced a remarkable construction boom in the 1960s and 1970s fueled by World Expo in 1967 and the Olympic Games in 1976. Apparently, the brutalist style was popular back then (not just in Canada), and therefore it prevails in public places like a metro, parks and office buildings.
Park Bonaventure is a gateway to the city if coming from the south shore of the mighty Saint Laurent river.
This newly renovated piece of land combines a contemporary style of nearby Griffintown with old good brutalist walls.
A sculpture called "Source" has been rented from the Chretien-Desmarais family for 25 years.
Designed and build by a world-renowned Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa, the sculpture catches your sight from afar.

2. Griffintown.  
Griffintown, a district that lies west of Old Montreal and immediately south of downtown, has been part of the impressive revitalization project that kicked off in 2012 and expected to complete in 2025.
For decades, Griffintown was a junky and heavily industrialized neighbourhood whose better days have long gone after the Lachine Canal had lost its role as a main transportation corridor.
But since Griffintown is so close to downtown with its many tourist attractions, the city decided to give it a second life and transform Griffintown into a family-friendly neighbourhood with parks, bike paths, playgrounds and colourful condominiums.
I personally think the revitalization project has been a huge success. Griffintown definitely has its unique new vibe.

3. Lachine Canal.  
The Saint Laurent river might look immense in Montreal, but the fact is that it's completely impassable by vessels due to its numerous rapids. So the need to build a canal to bypass this natural obstacle has emerged a long time ago. The Lachine Canal was the solution put back almost 200 years ago!
Although no longer used for transportation (after the Saint Lawrence Seaway was completed in 1959), the Lachine Canal is frequented by kayakers and canoers in the summertime while its shores remain a favourite place for many people to just kill time and relax.
F-MR Station built from the retired STM metro cars has become a place for people to party, work, study and dine (still unfinished on this picture).
VIA passenger train crosses the Lachine Canal.
Wellington Control Tower will soon be transformed into an innovative cultural place.

4. Montreal Mills.  
It's impossible to miss an enormous sign "Farine Five Roses" at the top of one of the tall mills just west of Griffintown. The sign has a long history since it was installed in 1948. In 1977, it lost a word "Flour" as a result of the Quiet Revolution that established the mandatory requirement to use French in all forms of public communication including signs. How come "Five" and "Roses" survived remains a mystery to me. The resilience of the sign speaks for itself: the company that owned it no longer exists, but the sign continues to dominate over a cityscape.
There are a few more mills including the ones still in operation as well as the iconic Silo No 5. I don't have a picture of a latter (I promise to take it), but trust me - it's incredibly ugly and unbelievably photogenic. By the way, as of February 2019, the current owner is calling for proposals to turn this long abandoned industrialized site into a lively neighbourhood.
Old pumping station.
The view of Griffintown is spectacular.

5. Habitat 67.  
Few man-made places in Montreal or even in Canada are more recognizable than Habitat 67. Built over a half century ago, this structure still makes people stand in awe when they see it.
Habitat 67 consists of 354 identical concrete blocks assembled in various combinations forming units ranging from 1 to 8 blocks each. Each unit is crazy expensive despite the fact that it's very energy inefficient: concrete exposed to wind and frost is difficult to warm up.
What I personally found amusing about his complex is that it was designed by an Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie using regular Lego blocks.
Apparently, the complex is a private property and out of reach for general public. But you can take a 90-minute guided tour for $30 (children under 12 are free with an accompanying paying adult).

6. Parc Jean-Drapeau.  
Two islands immediately southeast of Old Montreal - Saint Helen's Island and the artificial island Notre Dame - form Parc Jean-Drapeau that was used as a site of Expo 67 World's Fair.
Although the park has a number of points of interest including a Formula 1 race track, an amusement park La Ronde (owned by Six Flags), The Montreal Casino, etc., the most recognizable landmark is the Montreal Biosphere. Built as a United States pavilion during the Expo 67, it now hosts a museum dedicated to an environment.
The park is a must-see for families with children. The wildlife is abundant.
Technically, if you walked al the way from downtown to Parc Jean-Drapeau and feel too tired to continue your journey on foot, you can take a subway back to Montreal which is conveniently located near the Biosphere.
But if you're up to a challenge, you'll be rewarded with some of the best views from the Jacques Cartier Bridge.

7. Jacques Cartier Bridge. 
In my humble opinion, this bridge is one of the prettiest bridges in Canada. It's also the 3rd busiest in the country carrying over 35 million vehicles per year.
Suicide barriers deter people from jumping off the bridge. Make sure you bring an extra layer of clothing as it's quite windy up there.
I particularly liked two things about the bridge: the view from the top and its illumination at night.
Magnificent Old Port Montreal.
The view of the eastern part of downtown Montreal.
Sainte-Catherine Street is one of the most famous streets in Montreal. Although mostly known for its world-class shopping and night clubs, this rainbow-coloured stretch of Sainte-Catherine Street marks the Gay Village, a vibrant artsy neighbourhood east of downtown.
Jacques Cartier Bridge as seen from Old Port Montreal.

You Might Also Like