Usually, the first thing we do after arriving in a city is ascend to its highest point for a birds-eye view. But we waited a full month before heading up Mont Royal, the hill (sorry, “mountain”) which provides Montreal its name. When the weather finally cleared up enough, we found that the view was worth the wait.
The first truly nice day of the year happened to be on a Saturday, and the Parc du Mont-Royal was packed, the paths which wind around the slopes as crowded as a city street during rush hour. But we joined the throngs of joggers, bikers and families, and made our way from the park’s eastern slope all the way up to the Chalet du Mont Royal, where there’s a large platform with one of the city’s best views.
We started our trek up the hill (mountain!) at the memorial statue to Sir George-Étienne Cartier, a Quebecois statesman who was the father of the Canadian Confederation: the 1867 union of the four colonies of Quebec, Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. From this plaza, a wide path called the Chemin Olmsted winds gently up the slopes of Mont Royal.
We reached the Chalet du Mont Royal after an easy half-hour walk. There’s a law in Montreal restricting the height of skyscrapers to 200 meters, so that they remain underneath the summit. As a result, the view from the chalet’s Kondiaronk Belvedere is outstanding. The viewpoint is named for the great Huron chief who was instrumental in forming the Great Peace of 1701, which arguably saved the city from being wiped out during the Fur Wars.
The Chalet itself is large and curiously empty. It’s a beautiful building, with wood-carved squirrels supporting the arches of the roof… and nothing inside, apart from a few chairs, bathrooms and vending machines. It seems like a wasted opportunity for there not to be a restaurant or at least a cafe inside this building. But regardless, it’s a nice spot to relax after the ascent. And with downtown Montreal laid out before you, the view couldn’t be better.