In addition to its famous cultural and dining scene, Montreal is a great city for anyone looking to experience the best of urban nature, being home to 20 major public gardens, including the largest in Canada. The city’s commitment to ecology and biodiversity through green spaces is evident in its motto “Space for Life” and its regular creation of new and improved parks. The city’s mayor, behind these recent initiatives, is even named Valerie Plante! From grand Victorian gardens to vibrant urban oases, the city offers flower-filled attractions spanning more than 2,000 hectares within the city limits that are sure to delight visitors of all ages. Here’s a look at some of the top public gardens and floral attractions in Montreal.
PARC DU MONT ROYAL
Since 1876, Parc du Mont Royal, the small mountain in the city centre for which Montréal is named, has provided a green space for Montréalers and visitors alike to walk, bike, ski and take in the panoramic views from the top. The pathways are circular, so the climb is never too steep, but allow 90 minutes for an up-and-down walk. You may even encounter wildlife at the beaver pond, and many picturesque ponds and wide lawns for picnicking and sunbathing. In the winter time, skate skiers take over the pathways.
MONTRÉAL BOTANICAL GARDEN
The Montreal Botanical Garden is one of the largest in the world and is one of the most beloved tourist attractions in the city. It is part of the “Space for Life” project, the largest natural science museum complex in Canada. With over 225 acres of land, this sprawling garden has endless options with its network of scented passageways, themed gardens, greenhouses, and collections of subtropical plants from around the world. Don’t miss the Japanese Garden and its iconic Zen garden, or the Chinese Garden with its ornamental lake and pagoda.
Located on Île Notre-Dame, the Parc Jean-Drapeau is home to the Jardin des Floralies, an oasis surrounded by lagoons. With its vast green spaces (there are 25 K.M. of walking trails alone) and 150 picnic tables, it’s a good spot for picnics, bike rides, and bird watching. Don’t miss the many public art displays, some from Expo ’67, and the tree planted by former Quebec Prime Minister Renée Levesque. The park is free and open to the public.
PARC LA FONTAINE
After three years of improvements, Parc La Fontaine on the Plateau at the foot of Mount Royal is an excellent choice for a family excursion. With a new pétanque court, bike and skateboarding lessons for kids, the perfect picnic spot by the fountain, a summer water park and winter skating, this is a great place to visit all year round.
GRAND PARC DU MONTRÉAL OUEST
In 2019, Montréal announced the creation of a park on the West island that was to be eight times larger than New York’s Central Park (and the largest municipal park in Canada), by combining five nearby woods and green spaces. In 2020, Grand Parc du Montréal Ouest opened with 112 km of bike trails. The new Grand Park comprises diverse ecosystems, including wetlands, woodlands, forests and agricultural lands, all highly accessible from the city. Look for the prodigious water lilies in the spring and summer.
The Montréal Insectarium, the largest in North America, has recently undergone major renovations of both its indoor and outdoor spaces and is also located in the “Space for Life.” It’s a must-see for budding entomologists, boasting an impressive collection of butterflies, beetles and other insect species in beautiful gardens filled with colourful flowers. Instagrammers take note: the Insectarium also hosts an annual Butterfly Festival in the summer, so make sure to check it out if you’re visiting at that time.