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Montreal in Canada – The City Where the Sun Sets in the North

By Neha Kulshrestha  

Do you know the city Montreal –

    Is the second largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris and is its official language.

    Where the sun sets in North.

    Is an island on the convergence of two rivers.

    Has Mount Royal park designed by the same architect as Central Park in New York?

    Named after Mount Royal hill in the city.

Bonjour, Welcome to Montreal.

The first thing that catches your eyes are the French signboards. With some guessing and translation, we begin our quest. The best place to start is the Mont Royal park.

Mount Royal Park

The 200-hectare park is the best place to relax and get beautiful aerial views of the city. The lookout points – Kondiaronk Chalet and Camilien-Houde give you panoramic views of the city from different directions. The skyscrapers, St. Lawrence River and multiple bridges over it, iconic Olympic stadium and the vibrant spirit of this French city. Behind the Kondiaronk lookout, one can’t miss the magnificent grey stone building with large red overhanging eaves – The Mount Royal chalet. With a huge courtyard and steps leading to the chalet, it’s a great place to sit and enjoy the cool breeze and the views. We even experienced a group doing yoga, with good postures healing the body and live piano music soothing the mind.

Mount Royal Park Montreal

Sculpture at Mount Royal Park

Walking our way back from the lookout point, past Smith house, eyes sight stone structures in the sculpture garden. Further ahead is man-made Beaver lake. Perfect place to just relax and read a book, or enjoy a barbecue with friends, boat ride on the lake, or just walk around and indulge in the freshness. While you relax, the kids can have extra fun at the playground near the lake. But in winters this lake freezes and is popular among skaters. Wanna swizzle???

Beaver Lake Montreal

Beaver Lake, Montreal

There are a few paid parking lots available around the park. We parked near the Smith House which houses the Information center also. There are maps available both in English and French. Depending on the time, you can further explore the park.

Are you still scratching your heads wondering “How can the sun sets in North and not East???“. Montreal uses an unconventional orientation, considering the mountain Mount Royal as North and river St. Lawrence as South. Thus all the directions are with respect to the new compass orientation.

Maps Montreal

Regular N-S orientation

Maps Montreal

new N-S orientation by Montreal








(Maps courtesy – )

Montreal, a city of spires has a history that is around 375 years old, with beautiful architecture and charm to the city. And to experience it head over to Old Montreal. From cobblestone roads to slender spires, from statues to beautiful buildings you are in for a feast to the eyes.

Notre Dame Basilica

Notre dame refers to Mother Mary. This basilica is a replica of Notre-Dame Paris.

Church Montreal

Notre Dame Basilica, Montreal

Entering the arched interiors illuminated by dim blue light, you will be awed by the beauty of Montreal’s oldest church. The blue color represents Mother Mary. Walking down the aisle, towards the altar is the spiral wooden staircase to the left and stained-glass windows on both sides. The glass windows depict different stories from the history of a basilica. The ornate carvings on the wooden staircase are magnificent.

Notre Dame Basilica Montreal

Wooden spiral staircase, Notre Dame Basilica

There are guided tours of the basilica both in French and English that divulge all about the history and architecture of the basilica. It is interesting to know that the altar and crucifix from old church are still present.

A look at top of the entrance, you might sight huge pipes. These are a part of a musical instrument called “The Organ” which is made up of about 7000 big and small pipes and is played with 4 keyboards. We were lucky to have witnessed the playing of that organ and amazed by the beautiful rhythms.

Walking at the back of the church is a chapel, where you are not allowed to photograph. I guess the divinity that you feel while sitting there cannot be captured by lenses. At the front is a huge bronze sculpture made up from different panels built in England. There is a contrast to the colors and light from the basilica. Glowing in the natural light the golden color stands out. Perfect place to connect to the supreme power.

Admission fees to the basilica is $6 for adults and valid for a whole day while kids 7 and above $4.

The square outside the basilica is a perfect place to view the beautiful facade of the basilica and the statues in the square. You might experience a live musical treat.

Jacques Cartier plaza

Montreal seems to have art, music, architecture all in abundance. You would experience this spirit everywhere you go. A perfect example is the Jacques Cartier plaza within walking distance of the Notre-Dame. This lively square is the perfect place to relax and unwind yourself. Restaurants are lined along both sides of the plaza with balconies adorned with colorful flowers. Live music, artists displaying their art, yummy food, lovely flowers, classical architecture all add up to elevate your spirits.

Live Music Montreal

Walking down the road downhill is the waterfront and Jacques Cartier Pier. Another way to explore Montreal is on water. Various cruises are available from the pier.

Waterfront Montreal

The plaza offers so much to eat. Maple Taffy, maple syrup over snow is just like a chewy candy.

Maple Taffy Montreal

Double cone ice creams were our kids favorite. The more the merrier.

Ice cream Montreal
Evenings add more charm to the place with music and events all over. The various buildings in Old Montreal act as a canvas to project the videos of the history of the city.

Visit to Montreal is incomplete without eating the Poutine. It is a typical version of French fries with cheese curds and gravy. We had it from a food truck at the pier. There are different versions of Poutine available with various toppings.

Montreal Travel Tips

  1. Parking is a big issue in Old Montreal. We had spent an hour circling the Old Montreal in evening to find a parking spot but in vain. There is metered street parking available generally for 2 hours. Parking lots are also available but are expensive. Evenings during weekends can be even harder.
  2. Parking meters don’t have instructions written in English so can be challenging. We figured out that holding the credit card for a while rather than taking it out instantly was the trick.
  3. Long queues expected outside basilica during holidays and popular events.
  4. Exploring Old Montreal is best on foot. So wear comfy shoes.
  5. Rue Saint Paul (Saint Paul street) is the oldest street of city and enjoyable to walk with cafes and shops lined on both sides.

Common French terms used

  1. Rue – meaning Street. Most street names will be “Rue street name
  2. Parc – meaning park.
  3. Bonjour – meaning Hello.
  4. Merci – means Thanks
  5. Au revoir – means Bye.

Au revoir Montreal, till we visit again…

Are you planning to take a road trip to Canada? Check this.

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  • Reply
    Tania Potter - Soul Sense Coaching
    October 6, 2017 at 7:52 am

    I thought you were joking about the sun setting in the North! What a strange orientation this beautiful city has. The Notre Dame Basilica looks stunning.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      October 6, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      Ha ha. you know when i heard it i also felt it was a joke, then I saw that its official. They use this orientation for all city maps and street directions also.
      The basilica was stunning, especially the chapel at the back which we could not photograph. Do visit to see for yourself.

  • Reply
    Taylor Smart
    October 6, 2017 at 8:49 am

    really interesting! never realised that about the sun setting there! just makes me want to go even more now!

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      October 6, 2017 at 9:07 pm

      Yes very interesting, Don’t know the reason why they did it though. Yes you should visit the beautiful city.

  • Reply
    Tania Potter
    October 6, 2017 at 9:40 am

    I thought you were joking about the sun setting in the North! What a strange orientation for this beautiful city to have. The Notre Dame Basilica looks stunning, I’d love to see that.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      October 6, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      Ha ha. you know when i heard it i also felt it was a joke, then I saw that its official. They use this orientation for all city maps and street directions also.
      The basilica was stunning, especially the chapel at the back which we could not photograph. Do visit to see for yourself.

  • Reply
    October 6, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Hey this was a beautiful read! I love visiting diverse places and after reading your post I definitely have to check it out. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      October 6, 2017 at 9:03 pm

      Thanks a lot. Appreciate it. Yes Montreal is a must visit, very lively city.

  • Reply
    October 6, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    That’s a great post. i’m going to subscribe to your blogs too

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      October 6, 2017 at 9:02 pm

      Thanks a lot for the words of appreciation. Humbled.

  • Reply
    Star harford
    October 6, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    Jaques cartier plaza looks really fun! Especially the maple taffy (never seen that before) and icecreams! The park looks lovely to relax in too!

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      October 6, 2017 at 9:01 pm

      Oh yes it was so lively and fun place. There were so many artists there- live music, caricature artists. Maple taffy was so amazing and yummy. My kids were excited to see the double cone ice cream.

  • Reply
    October 7, 2017 at 1:42 am

    Fascinating, didn’t knew of this sun setting fact. A beautiful city to enjoy the sunset, parks and food as well.

  • Reply
    Laura Dove
    October 7, 2017 at 11:21 am

    Wow I had no idea about the sunset either! What a beautiful place to visit! I never knew there was a replica of Notre Dame there, we have seen the original in Paris and it is breathtaking!

  • Reply
    October 7, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    I think I need to review my French notes and take a trip there! I’ve seen many images of the city and always thought it was so beautiful. Plus double cone ice-cream? I’m sold!

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      October 14, 2017 at 3:26 am

      Cool, if you know some French it’ll be great. And you get to enjoy the beautiful parks, churches and yummy double cone ice cream. 🙂
      Go for it.

  • Reply
    October 8, 2017 at 6:25 am

    My husband has spent quite a bit of time in Montreal and has said more than once that it’s one of his favorite cities. I hope one day we can go together. It would be so fun to see this different sunset (from the north!) and also I’d love to see the replica of Notre Dame. So beautiful. x

  • Reply
    October 8, 2017 at 9:48 am

    Cant believe this is real !! so surreal i swear

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      October 14, 2017 at 3:12 am

      Thanks. Its more magical when you visit the place.

  • Reply
    Nicole Anderson
    October 8, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    Montreal certainly looks like a beautiful city although unfortunately I do not speak a word of French. The only part of Canada I have seen so far was British Columbia which I found really beautiful. Montreal also looks to be such a lovely place to see.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      October 14, 2017 at 3:17 am

      Ha ha, we also didn’t know a word of French. At most of the tourist places, there would be people who would speak English. But you might find some trouble connecting to people around, in some restaurants. But its not bad.
      Wow British Columbia, yes i have read and seen its very beautiful with lot of natural beauty. Hoping to visit sometime.

  • Reply
    October 9, 2017 at 2:56 am

    Wow, really! I had no idea. I have been to Montreal and it is such a gorgeous palce.

    xx, Kusum |

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      October 14, 2017 at 3:18 am

      Yeah sometimes you find some interesting facts about a place. Great you liked Montreal.

  • Reply
    Rahul Khurana
    October 9, 2017 at 3:55 am

    I didn’t knew that it is a french speaking country and that north sunset thing amazed me. Awesome. Nice suggestions about the places to see in the city. Want to have that Mapple taffy now.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      October 14, 2017 at 3:22 am

      Quebec state is mainly French dominant. Isn’t it interesting to know these strange facts.
      Oh sure you must try Maple taffy, it was so tasty. Infact when you start eating it, it will start melting. But fun to try.

  • Reply
    Scotch & Stilettos
    October 9, 2017 at 5:17 am

    I’ve lived in Canada 8 years and not yet visited Montreal, though I’d love to! Mount Royal Park looks so beautiful and peaceful and Notre Dame Basilica is just breathtakingly stunning. One day I’ll get there for a visit!

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      October 14, 2017 at 3:10 am

      Oh that’s great. Then it gives you all the more reason to visit Montreal and explore the beautiful Mont Royal and Notre Dame.
      Hope to hear back about your visit soon. Do let me know if you need any help planning.

  • Reply
    White Pen
    October 9, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Reading your blog makes me crave to go places like this. It looks so wonderful yet stunning. A must visit for travelers.

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      October 14, 2017 at 3:08 am

      Thanks a lot, that’s very sweet of you to appreciate it. Boosts us to explore more and share the experiences.
      Yes indeed Montreal is a must visit city.

  • Reply
    Dreaming Loud
    October 9, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    You got me at Sun setting in North. That’s amazing. I never knew it can even possible. What a beautiful place. Notre Dame is stunning. I want to see this place one day. Hopefully soon

    • Reply
      Neha Kulshrestha
      October 14, 2017 at 3:04 am

      Yeah, i was also intrigued on hearing about the different orientations. Indeed Montreal is very beautiful. Yes, you should visit it sometime. Do let us know if you need any help planning.

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