Every city needs a ridiculous roadside attraction, and Montreal’s is the Big Orange of Gibeau Orange Julep. Found on the side of the Décarie highway near the metro station Namur, this three-story orange sphere is impossible to overlook. We decided to stop by and see if its famous julep was any good.
The 1960s were an exciting decade in Montreal. The Quiet Revolution was underway, secularizing government and returning power to the city’s francophone majority. Huge skyscrapers were being erected in downtown, including the Place Ville-Marie which was the tallest building in the British Commonwealth. The World Expo was coming to town. And in 1966, the city inaugurated its underground mass transit project, the Métro de Montréal.
Like most cities, Montreal can be ugly and noisy, with its constant construction, heavy traffic, plain gray skyscrapers, chain restaurants, and cloudy days. But it can also be surprisingly beautiful… and nowhere is that more apparent than around Saint-Louis Square, in the neighborhood of the Plateau.
Built in 1962, the Place Ville-Marie was Montreal’s first skyscraper, and signaled the start of the city’s vertical construction boom. Its unique cruciform shape made an immediate architectural splash, and the building is just as impressive today. We visited its 46th-floor observation deck, shortly after it had re-opened to the public, following a period of renovation.
There’s nothing rich people enjoy more than lording it over the rest of us, especially when they can do so literally. Montreal began life as a provincial fur-trading village, but as it grew in wealth and prestige, the richest and most powerful members of society started to build fabulous mansions on the slopes of Mont Royal, in a neighborhood which would eventually be coined the “Golden Square Mile.”
Built in 1930, the Jacques Cartier Bridge connects the Island of Montreal to both the Île Sainte-Hélène and the mainland shore of Longueuil. It’s one of Canada’s busiest bridges, on which traffic comes to a standstill during rush-hour, but a separate lane for pedestrians and bikes provides an incredible view of the city’s skyline.
Built as the American Pavilion for the 1967 World Expo, the Biosphère on Île Sainte-Hélène has become one of the defining landmarks of Montreal. Today, this geodesic dome is home to a museum about the state of our planet’s environment.
Perhaps the most iconic piece of architecture in Montreal is Habitat 67, designed by Israeli/Canadian architect Moshe Safdie for the city’s World Expo. The brutalist interlocking system of identical concrete living cubes still seems as outlandish and visionary as it must have in 1967.
Housed in the former French Pavilion from the 1967 World Expo, Montreal’s state-run casino opened in 1993, and has become one of the most popular spots in the city. This is the largest casino in Canada, and is as memorable for its unique architecture as for its rollicking atmosphere. We were invited to check it out on a Saturday night.
Not to be confused with the Biosphere on the Île Sainte-Hélène, the Biodôme is a small zoo housed in the former Olympic velodrome. The zoo is organized into five distinctive ecosystems found in North America, introducing some of the plant and animal life found in each.