After two days in Montreal we needed to get some exercise and fresh air. Not because the city was grimy but because we were eating so darn much. More specifically, eating so darn much poutine. Fries, cheese and gravy may taste delicious, but your hips… are not a fan.
Luckily, there’s nowhere more perfect to find fresh air and a little exercise than Mont Royal. At more than 760 feet, it is the highest spot in the city and is the hill after which Montreal was named.
There are many ways to get there, including hiking up the hill from any point in downtown with multiple walking paths. We opted to take the metro to the Mont-Royal Station and pick up the No. 11 bus. The buses are similar to many other urban cities, however the stops are not as well marked. To get down near the peak of Mont Royal, you’ll want to get off at the cemetery on Voie Camillien Houde.
There’s a lot of unique aspects to the park, first created in 1876 by American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park. To make sure you don’t miss out, you can use an interactive map available for download on your mobile. You can also download podcasts for guided audio-video walks.
We started out at Maison Smith. The structure has a year-round information center with a small exhibit about the park and a gift shop. They also have a small café that serves up soups, sandwiches and salads. We popped in for a snack and some lattes, much needed because the temperature was dropping as the sun began to set.
After a caffeine boost we headed to Chalet du Mont Royal. It was less than a ten minute walk and as we arrived we saw a stunning building and the lookout equally so. When we entered the chalet we fell silent and did that twirl you do when you’re in a large building with a high ceiling and you’re trying to take it all in. I don’t know if that makes sense but if you’ve done that twirl you know what I’m talking about. Architecturally, the building is not unique, but there are dozens of murals lining the walls depicting scenes from Canadian history.
As we soaked in our dramatic surroundings, we did what women do when they see a striking venue – we discussed a wedding at the chalet. And no, neither of us is anywhere close to a wedding. Don’t judge.
After tinkering with our cameras to get the perfect nighttime photograph of Montreal’s skyline from the lookout, we began our half-hour walk to Croix du Mont-Royal. Incidentally, on this walk I practiced my French “r” over and over again, much to the dismay of my friend who can do it perfectly.
Local legend has it that a wooden cross was erected on Mont Royal in 1643 to fulfill a vow from the city’s founder after they survived a flood. The current cross was installed in 1924 and is lit at night, visible from all over Montreal. The cross is a little industrial looking up close, and I prefer the view from afar where it appears dazzling.
After another half-hour walk back to the chalet, we headed back to the bus stop. It was time for some drinks. And imaginary wedding planning for a fabulous fête at Chalet du Mont Royal.