Landmarks of Montreal
Montreal's Underground City (French: La ville souterraine) is the set of underground city complexes in and around downtown. It is also known as the indoor city (ville intérieure), as not all of it is underground. With over 32 km (20 mi) of tunnels spread over an area of 12 km2 (4.6 sq mi), the 60 residential and commercial complexes comprise 3.6 km2 (1.39 sq mi) of floor space, including 80% of all office space and 35% of all commercial space in downtown Montreal. Services include shopping malls, hotels, banks, offices, museums, universities, seven metro stations, two commuter train stations, a bus terminal and the Bell Centre hockey arena. There are more than 120 exterior access points to the underground city. Some 500,000 people use the underground city every day, especially to escape the traffic and/or Montreal's harsh winter.
The Olympic installations site is next to Metro Pie-IX and Metro Viau, 6 km (3.7 mi) from downtown in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district, and consists of several buildings designed by French architect Roger Taillibert. The Olympic Stadium is ovoid shaped with a distinctive 'ribbed' look, and has the world's tallest inclined tower at 175 m (574 ft) high; it leans at 45 degrees. The complex includes the Montreal Biodome (originally a fully functional Velodrome), the Montreal Insectarium, municipal golf course Le Village, and the Montreal Botanical Garden, one of the largest botanical gardens in the world, second only to Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in England. Two pyramidal towers, known as the Olympic Village, were built to house athletes but now serve as apartments and offices.
The Montreal 1976 Summer Olympics were successful, but construction problems and corruption created a massive financial burden for citizens. At the opening, the tower and the retractable roof were incomplete. The tower was completed years later but the retractable roof was never completed as originally planned by Taillibert. Anglo locals refer to the stadium as the "Big O" due to its shape, but also as the "Big Owe" — a reference to the Olympic Park's exorbitant total cost, which was only paid off thirty years later with the help of a special tobacco tax.
The stadium was also home to the Expos from 1977 until the team moved to Washington, D.C. after the 2004 season, and has sometimes been home for the Montreal Alouettes. Today, Montreal's Olympic Park hosts limited professional sports events and is mainly a tourist and cultural attraction.
Montreal hosted the 2006 1st World Outgames holding the opening/closing ceremonies and many of the events at the Olympic Stadium. The event drew over 10,000 participants. Most were Gay athletes, but many participated in other cultural events such as ballroom dancing. Opening ceremonies brought international athletes, local politicians, and entertainers.
Museums and cultural centres
Montreal is the centre of Quebec culture and a major centre of Canadian culture in general. It has many specialized museums such as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), the Musée d'art contemporain (MAC), the Redpath Museum, the Stewart Museum, the McCord Museum of Canadian History, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. The Place des Arts cultural complex houses the MAC and several theatres, and is the seat of the Montreal Opera and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, although the latter is slated to receive a new concert hall adjacent to Place des Arts. The Museum Quarter’s historical and architectural richness, spilling over into surrounding streets, creates a special ambiance that leaves a lasting impression on visitors. Crescent, de la Montagne and Sherbrooke Streets are the hub of the district’s vibrant business life. High-end, designer fashion and décor boutiques, international shops, art galleries, jewellers and exquisite fine dining never fail to win visitors over.
Churches and other religious buildings
Nicknamed "la ville aux cent clochers" (the city of a hundred belltowers), Montreal is renowned for its churches. As described by Mark Twain, "This is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window." The city has four Roman Catholic basilicas: Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, the aforementioned Notre-Dame Basilica, St. Patrick's Basilica, and Saint Joseph's Oratory. The Oratory is the largest church in Canada, with the largest dome of its kind in the world after that of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.
Other well-known churches include the pilgrimage church of Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Secours, which is sometimes called the Sailors' Church, the Church of St. Michael and St. Anthony, known for its Byzantine architecture, and the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral, which was completely excavated and suspended in mid-air during the construction of part of the Underground City. All of the above are major tourist destinations, particularly Notre-Dame and the Oratory.
An impressive number of other churches, synagogues and mosques can be found, and church steeples are a familiar view all over the city and island.
Mount Royal is Montreal's outstanding urban park, designed in 1876 by Frederick Law Olmsted, best known as the designer of New York's Central Park. Mount Royal's features include the Chalet and the Kondiaronk Belvedere overlooking downtown Montreal (the most famous view of the city), and man-made Beaver Lake (Lac aux Castors) with its recently renovated pavilion. Mount Royal is topped by an illuminated cross that has become a Montreal landmark.
Observant hikers on the park's many trails will find an abundance of small wildlife. In the winter, the park is the site of numerous cross-country ski trails and a new, refrigerated skating rink near Beaver Lake.
Once, a funicular railroad brought sightseers to its peak, but has long since disappeared. A tramway also went up the mountain on the north side, replaced in the late 1950s by the Camillien Houde Parkway, which now bisects the mountain (the parkway is named for long-time but controversial former mayor, jailed during World War II for his opposition to conscription in Canada). The "11-Montagne" bus line perpetuates the route of the tram.
Every Sunday in the summer, hundreds of people gather at the statue of Confederation co-founder George-Étienne Cartier at the foot of Mount Royal for several hours of drumming, dancing, and juggling (among many other activities), in an event that has come to be known as the Tam-Tams. It is unclear how this event started; but, as it has no formal organization and has carried on both in a lively and peaceful way since at least the late 1980s, it remains a popular event.
The intersection of Avenue du Parc and Avenue des Pins, just to the south, formerly a winding urban interchange (inspired by the New York parkways of Robert Moses), is also undergoing a major transformation to become more pedestrian-friendly.
Located in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, Parc Jean-Drapeau consists of the islands of Sainte-Hélène and the manmade Notre-Dame, which hosted Expo 67. A large green space with diverse attractions and events, Parc Jean-Drapeau is accessible by métro, car, bicycle or boat. The islands are a popular destination for Montrealers due to their green spaces and sports and cultural activities.
The Floralies gardens are located at the centre of the island. Île Notre-Dame also has a network of canals, and, further west at the lake, offers a beach and other water sports. The Casino de Montréal and a youth hostel are also located here. The Montreal Grand Prix takes place here at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, which in winter is used as a skating rink.
Dominated by the geodesic dome of the Biosphère and the rollercoasters of Six Flags La Ronde, the island is also home to the Hélène de Champlain restaurant and the De Lévis tower. Built in 1814, the Fort on Saint Helen's Island houses the Stewart Museum, dedicated to the history of New France. The island also contains several large public works of art, such as the imposing “Man”, sculpted in steel by artist Alexander Calder. Buses run every 15 minutes from the Jean-Drapeau metro station to La Ronde.