Included in the ticket to the Insectarium is a free entrance to the neighboring Botanic Garden. With two dozen thematic zones like the Chinese Garden, Rose Garden and Courtyard of the Senses, the Botanic Garden is huge... but we wouldn't be seeing much of it. It was freezing in Montreal, and snow was still covering the ground. So we decided to delay a thorough exploration of the garden, and instead scurried straight into the greenhouse.
Imagine an enclosed area just swarming with tiny, freakish beasts. Millions of them crawling around, randomly piercing the air with hideous ear-piercing screeches. This is Montreal's Insectarium on a Saturday afternoon... and the beasts of which I'm speaking are, of course, children. The insects? They're cool.
Five hundred years ago, Western civilization didn't even know about the existence of Montreal Island. The Renaissance was just winding down in Europe, as the first wooden houses were being erected in a settlement called Ville-Marie. So, in order to evolve into a modern-day metropolis, Montreal has had to cram a lot into its short history. Here's a brief rundown of the highlights.
Set inside an imposing art deco building on the waterfront near the Lachine Canal, the Atwater Market is home to a wide variety of butchers, bakers and produce stands. The market was too far away from our apartment in Old Montreal, but this was probably a good thing. If we had shopped there every day, we might have been healthier and happier, but we'd also have gone broke.
A huge complex located within the Old Port, the Montreal Science Centre introduces children to the worlds of science and technology with hands-on workshops, experiments and games. The focus of this center is almost entirely on kids, but we were drawn by a temporary exhibit called "Animal Inside Out."
If your thirst for history isn't quenched after visiting the Archaeology and History Complex Pointe-à-Callière, then walk a few dozen meters down the Place d'Youville and into the Montreal History Center. I'm not sure we've visited another city which has two history museums in such close proximity to each other, let alone two as impressive as these.
A vast network of tunnels leading to practically all of downtown Montreal's shopping malls, food courts, office buildings, metro stations, museums and theaters, the so-called Underground City enables people to get around without ever having to step foot outside. And in this city, that can often be a real life-saver.
Before doing anything else, newcomers to Montreal might want to check out the Archaeology and History Complex Pointe-à-Callière. Located at the site where Montreal was born, this museum takes visitors on a journey through the life of the city, from its earliest occupation into the present day.
When it opened in 1830, Montreal's Notre-Dame was the largest church in North America, and it would remain so for fifty years. Today, this French Gothic Revival basilica is one of the top attractions in the city.
Established in 1909, the Montreal Canadiens are the world's oldest still-active hockey team, as well as its most successful, having won more Stanley Cups than any other. We arrived in Montreal at the tail end of the 2015-16 campaign, and snatched up tickets for one of the final matches of the year. How could we ever claim to "know" Montreal, if we hadn't seen the Canadiens take the ice?