5 Tourist Attractions to Skip in Montreal
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As Canada’s second largest city, Montreal is a phenomenal tourist destination. Its intriguing mix of French and English heritages, along with its artistic and creative energy, enthralls travelers from all over the world. While there may be exciting and interesting things to do in the city, some tourist spots are simply not worth the hype. Below is a list of places you should skip in Montreal, based on my personal experience. Learn from my mistakes and spend your well-deserved time off somewhere else!
1| Musée Grévin Montreal
For someone who has never been to a wax museum before, Musée Grévin Montreal may seem like an attractive tourist site. I had never been to one prior to our Montreal trip so I was quite excited to pose and “mingle” with world-famous stars and celebrities! However, excitement quickly turned into disappointment. More than half of the wax figures we saw at Musée Grévin Montreal are in reference to French Canadian entertainers, athletes, politicians as well as major historical characters in quebecois history. The only part I really enjoyed was the last room, The Ballroom, where I got a chance to take selfies with high-profile Hollywood stars.
Unless you have a good understanding of the francophone culture and the history of Quebec, I would suggest leaving Musée Grévin Montreal out of your itinerary.
[bctt tweet=”Visiting #Montreal? Here are the places not worthy of your time #travel #ttot” username=”fortwoplz”]
2| Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel
Montreal has many old churches. Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, built in 1771, is one of the oldest in the city. The 350-year-old chapel has an interesting history: it is built over the ruins of an even earlier church; founded by Marguerite Bourgeoys, who was the first teacher in Montreal and the first female Canadian Saint; and known as the Sailors’ Church where seamen came to make offerings to Virgin Mary for safe sea voyages.
Setting history aside, the interior is quite underwhelming, despite a display of artifacts from much earlier times. I would not consider it a must-see unless you are going for religious purposes.
3| Saint-Joseph’s Oratory
Another church only worthy of a visit for religious reasons is Saint-Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal. As Canada’s largest church and the third largest in the world, this Roman Catholic basilica has its appeal to believers. As a non-Christian, I was there for other reasons: to admire its Renaissance architectural style, see the beautiful gardens leading up to the main entrance, and most important of all, enjoy the marvelous views of the city from atop the Westmount Summit.
Sure, the church is grand and impressive from the outside, but I was disappointed by the plain interior. The garden was sadly not-so-beautiful. The view from the dome was so boring. In my opinion, Saint-Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal really holds no appeal to unchurched visitors.
4| Place Jacques-Cartier
Place Jacques Cartier is a historic square at the heart of Old Montreal, which is supposed to be one of the most popular spots in the city. Imagine a lively, joyful place that is filled with street stalls, street artists, and plenty of potted plants – that’s what it was supposed to be! In reality, there was no one there. No sign of liveliness. Nah-dah. In the middle of May! I was shocked how empty and quiet it was!
5| Bonsecours Market
Over 100 years old, Bonsecours Market is acknowledged as one of Canada’s ten finest heritage buildings. Today, the two-storey silver-domed building operates as an indoor public market, showcasing crafts and artwork from local artists and designers. While the building’s exterior is breathtaking, the interior is quite the contrary, with a lack of decent shopping options and excitement.
Have you been to Montreal? What’s your “to-avoid” place?
Great tips! I wonder why the square was so empty? Do you know if it is like that year-round? It looks like it could be really lively and happening! The Musée Grévin looks like a knock-off of Mdame Tussauds (which I don’t really enjoy to begin with) so that’s a definite miss for me!
I believe Place Jacques-Cartier is supposed to be open year-round. Most restaurants should have the patio out starting from April. It was so bizarre because the street across (in the old port) was fully occupied by vendors lol
haha, this is a great post! Everyone kinda knows what to do, but sometimes there are things on the list you aren’t sure if you should go to or skip and this definitely lets you know what not to go to! I’ve never been to any of these places on my last trip to Montreal and it doesn’t look like I ever will, hehe.
I have done quite a bit research on attractions before we went and still, we encountered places that were a total disappointment. Oh well, at least now I get to pass on my experience and help others! LOL
I’m so happy you shared this! Normally we only see great things about every attraction but few people write about what they didn’t like. About the Place Jacques-Cartier, could it have been the day/time you visited? Too early on a week day maybe? No idea, I’m just guessing, as I made this mistake in Toronto…
I have no idea as well! Based on my research, Place Jacques-Cartier is supposed to be open year-round. Most restaurants should have the patio out starting from April. In fact, the street across (in the old port) was fully occupied by vendors lol It was so bizarre!
Good article there is nothing worse that spending time when traveling and finding out the place was a dud !! Thank you
Right? I was so disappointed, but food in Montreal was so good – that kinda made up the bad sight-seeing experience.
Gosh, I would have probably made those some of my first stops. The Cathedral especially, such gorgeous architecture. Hoping to explore more of Canada starting this summer.
Summer is a great time to visit Canada, especially the East coast! So many festivals going on!
Lol I love the honesty of this post. Why are all the stalls closed in the middle of May?! That is one sad square 😛 It kinda feels like the cheap man’s version of Paris… ridiculous how flying to France is probably cheaper than flying to Montreal from here!
You’re right, air travel within Canada is ridiculously expensive. Oh well, I learned my lesson 😛 I have no idea why it was so empty… in fact, the street opposite was fully occupied with vendors!!
I enjoy visiting churches, so will probably visit them even if they are disappointing. But thanks for your other tips – hate to spend time traveling to see things that don’t interest me, or that are super over-hyped.
No problem, John! I was sad to have visited so many over-hyped places on our visit, but this experience made me realize what kind of traveler I am and the amount of research I should have done before the trip!
Haha well it’s always good to know where NOT to visit so thanks for sharing. I would never wanna see a wax museum anyways. Period. I don’t understand the appeal in that!
Thanks, Dave! It is kinda disappointing to go to a place and realize it is a total waste of time. Some of these places are quite far away to get to too! I hope this post is helpful in someway for people planning a trip to Montreal!
I can totally agree with the first one about the wax museum! I’ve only been to one, Madame Tussaud’s in NYC, and afterwards, I don’t see the point in buying a very expensive ticket to go to another one! Loved this post and its fresh take on travel guides!
I agreed! The ticket to wax museum is not cheap. After this experience, I probably wouldn’t go to another one haha!
Come on now, it wasn’t just a hockey player. It was Wayne Gretzky. The great one with his original Oiler gear on. However, the rest of Francophone culture is probably too much. Growing up in Ohio, which is ever so much further south than Quebec, I can say that nothing really got rolling in May. You never knew what the weather was going to be any given day (or hour really). Nobody planned travel till after Memorial Day. Between the threat of rain or the dearth tourists, I could imagine vendors choosing to stay home.
Jenn and I have a saying about travel. Travel as you live. If you love going to churches and wax museums at home, go to them on the road. If your heart beats to a different drum then you should dance to that music.
I agreed that the weather in May was a little unstable – it rained from time to time and was still a bit cold. What made me scratch my head was that Place Jacques-Cartier is supposed to be open year-round, with most restaurants already having the patio out already. On the same day when we visited, the street across (in the old port) was fully occupied by vendors so it was so bizarre that this square had no one there!
I guess we had a different travel style then! To me, I like to experience the local culture and do things that we don’t normally do when we travel – so even if I am not into churches, I still go to them to learn about the history of the area and look at the architectural style. Just like on our recent trip to Bali – we are not Hindu, but we were fascinated by their religion, the temples, the history behind it, and the view!! In Montreal, there are other churches that are truly amazing (which I will share in the next post). So I think the lesson here (for me at least) is to choose wisely what I want to visit when time is a constraint 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me!
Oh thanks for this list! I rarely find people who will share what NOT to waste time on.
No problem, Cez! Glad you find it helpful! I wish someone had written about this when I was planning my trip 😛
Omg yess!! These kinds of posts are too rare but they are the best! I always love knowing what I don’t need to waste time on, haha. Great post. I’d love to go to Montreal someday and not do all these things!! =D
This post is informative. While I find the other three places to be interesting enough for me to see it’s architectural designs and what-not, why it the square so empty? I would definitely leave that off my list and that wax museum?? I don’t like wax museums so that’s another one I’d leave off my list as well.
I’ve got to say I love Montreal, so this was a bit of a different angle to take, but you bring up some solid points! Thanks for sharing!
I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan so I’d have to visit and take a photo like yours! Great pose by the way! I’d skip the rest of the wax museum though. The market I’d definitely skip too.
I’m embarrassed to say that I have not been to Quebec in more than 10 years. The last two seem the most interesting to me. I like the angle about places to skip rather than always to TO DO.
I really agree with most of your list. I did enjoy Easter Sunday mass at Notre Dame and it was nice but like you mentioned, go for religious reasons not to see a spectacular church. I have not been to that square but I’ll bet it is bustling in the summer months. Should have been more people there in May, you would think. A nice list that will save some visitors a lot of time.
Montreal looks like a nice place to visit!
I adore Montreal!! I haven’t been in several years but your article makes me want to go back soon!
Great post! Sometimes city “highlights” could be quite disappointing. Thank you for giving us those hints about Montreal!
Thanks for these honest tips. There are so many resources recommending places to see, that its hard to choose what to avoid. This really helps.
Having never been to Montreal, I have no context within which to frame this advice. I do appreciate your honesty, as almost every destination has places to skip. I do know I’d definitely skip the wax museum. I have no interest whatsoever in that type of attraction!
Thank’s for the tips !
If there’s one activity which is useless for me it’s wax museum.. Except if you want to please some kids (and not sure they really like them anyway) I don’t see the point to pay for a picture with wax model…
Interesting twist on the normal places you should visit lists. I am glad you mentioned that just because a church was one of the oldest it did nothing for you when you wandered inside. I have felt this on occasion when I am wandering around somewhere that others have said I should visit purely because it is old.
I’m a certified skipper of any museums especially if I have to pay haha. Thanks for sharing these things because I always wonder what touristy places to avoid. Now I know when I visit Montreal!
This is such a funny post. I love that you didn’t recognize most of the “celebrities” at the wax museum (nor would I). And the empty town square… not very inviting. This is actually as helpful in planning a trip as the “must see” posts.
I’ve only been to Montreal once, and entirely by accident, didn’t visit any of those spots! 🙂
I just went to Montreal for the first time last November and enjoyed it. I went to Bonsecours but only took photos from the outside! I loved Chateau Ramezay though and Pointe-a-Calliere. Glad I hit the good ones and managed to avoid the bad!
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Very Good Article. I still remember when I first go to Montreal. If I were to share my experience then I have no words to praise the beauty of Montreal. This was my official tour so I could not stay here for too long But for as long as there was a lovely moment.
I am a Montreal native and can tell you that Place Jacques Cartier is open all year round, 24/7. The ‘stalls’ you showed on the photo are not stalls but visuals only. That area, straight in the Old Port, is also bordered by the Chateau Ramzay (museum) and the City Town Hall (light up at night). The Place Jacques Cartier is (really) busy mostly in the afternoon and evening, even in the winter. You probably just got unlucky. It’s a place not to miss, especially when walking along the old streets like Saint-Paul Street, then De La Commune. Well worth the detour!
I am a Montrealer. I’ve been dozen of times at place Jacques-Cartier and it’s never been empty, so you’ve probably been at a wrong moment. My guess : cloudy week afternoon. May is not the vacation month and people work in the afternoons.
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I agree with saving time on places that are not worth the time. Thank you for the list! Although I have to add that I will still visit the 3rd and 5th. Just because of photography purposes. Maybe they will be worth the visit with the right lighting. That being said, thank you for the content.