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Find beauty in Montréal’s best city parks – Lonely Planet

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Montréal has its urban wonders, funky architecture, old cobblestone streets, and lots of pretty neighborhoods to wander in, but what makes this city such a wonderful place to visit and live are the green spaces dotting nearly every neighborhood. 

Almost 5000 acres in Montréal belong to green space, and what better way to enjoy your snacks and wine (yes, you can actually drink in Montréal parks if you’re also eating), than sitting under a grove of trees with a fountain streaming in the distance?

Parks in Montréal are absolutely thriving in all seasons. In the spring, the gardens in the parks bloom. In the summer, they become a hotspot for picnics and activities. During fall, the vibrant colors of Canadian foliage emerge and the Instagrammers pop up by the dozen to capture it all. In the winter, Montréal parks become coated in snow for brisk and picturesque walks…and maple syrup taffy stands. 

Whether you want urban parkettes with lots of statues and surrounded by big old houses, or sprawling spaces with bike paths and picnic areas, Montréal will have a park for it. 

Montreal cityscape
There are almost 5,000 acres of green space in Montréal to enjoy © Saptashaw Chakraborty / 500px

Mount Royal 

Montréal’s most famous park, a heritage site since 2012, rises up from the center of the city. If you make the trek to the Kondiaronk Belvedere, you’ll gain panoramic views of the city.

In the spring, admire the many gardens that flourish in the park. In the summer, in addition to popular activities like picnics, kayaking on Beaver Lake, and hiking, on Sundays you can experience the Tam-Tam-Jams, where Montréalers gather to play the hand drums and dance. In the fall, the park is transformed into a kaleidoscope of fall colors, and in the winter, you can skate on Beaver Lake, cross-country ski, and visit the pop-up sugar shacks. If you’re feeling peckish during your wandering, there are three Café des Amis locations scattered around the park.

Saint-Louis Square

This little parkette is a beautiful break between the bustling streets of Saint Denis Street and Laval Avenue. It’s reminiscent of Belgrave Square Garden in London, with a centerpiece fountain and stunning architecture surrounding the green space. There are several monuments scattered around the park and a few benches to sit on while you gaze at the colorful Victorian houses on Laval Street. 

Parc Saint-Henri

Also known as Saint Henri Square, this is another city parkette that harks old European vibes and is centered by a large monument dedicated to the French explorer Jacques Cartier. The park is surrounded by towering, mature trees and Victorian houses that used to belong to Montréal’s elite. You can grab a coffee at the beautiful Café Saint-Henri on your way there. 

Canal Lachine in Montreal
Lachine Canal can be traveled by foot, bike or waterway © Valérie Bélanger-Roy/Getty Images

Lachine Canal

One of Montréal’s most unique parks, the Lachine Canal, is a connection between city and nature. It is a 13.5km (8.4-mile) route that can be traveled by foot, bike, or waterway, and it runs between the Old Port and Lake Saint-Louis. It’s also an official historic site, and the canals that make it up are located on maps as early as 1700. It has been named by Time Magazine as one of the best urban bikeways in the world. 

Other than your usual outdoorsy activities, you can grab a drink on the floating Canal Lounge, and if you’re already on a boat, you can paddle on up and be serviced right on your watercraft. If you’re feeling really adventurous, rent a houseboat and spend the night on the canal. In the winter, the canal turns into a skateable path.

Dorchester Square and Place du Canada

These twin green squares are tucked between stunning heritage buildings and towering skyscrapers. Dorchester Square used to be an 18th-century Catholic cemetery but has since been converted into a busy public park located off of Sainte-Catherine Street and steps away from Mary Queen of the World Cathedral. Both squares have plenty of benches, oak trees and monuments. Don’t miss the fountain, an optical illusion that looks like it’s split in half.

Parc Jean-Drapeau 

Part park, part island getaway, Park Jean-Drapeau has it all. The park is made up of Saint Helen’s Island and the manmade Notre Dame Island. It’s also home to the visually magnificent Biosphere (an Expo 67 relic and now an environmental museum). There are plenty of trails and gardens, dotted with public art installations. In the summer, you can drop by the aquatic complex, an outdoor waterpark for family-friendly fun.

Ice skating in Montreal
In the winter, bring your ice skates to Parc La Fontaine © Ray Laskowitz / Lonely Planet

Parc La Fontaine

A very popular destination for sunbathers and bird-watchers (see if you can spot the park’s famous flying resident, the northern starling), this gorgeous farm-turned-park in Plateau-Mont-Royal is a destination just to see the fountain in the middle of the lake. In the summer, you can catch a performance at Théâtre de Verdure, and in the winter, bring your ice skates to glide across the pond. 

Parc Jarry 

Parc Jarry was first home to the Montréal Expos, Canada’s first major-league baseball team, and was also the chosen location for Pope John Paul II to host his mass when visiting the city. Enjoy cricket pitches, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, skate parks, basketball court, a manmade lake for watersports and more. Whatever you want to do, Jarry Park will have the amenities for you. 

Sweets for sale in Montreal
Don’t forget to visit one of the pop-up sugar shacks in Montréal’s parks © Ray Laskowitz / Lonely Planet

Place Émilie Gamelin

This city square was inaugurated to celebrate Montréal’s 350th anniversary – and still has a celebratory atmosphere. Dotted with art installations, most notably the “Gratte-ciel, cascades d’eau / rues, ruisseau… une construction” sculptures by Melvin Charney, the park is also host to gardens, concerts, the occasional protest, buskers, and food trucks. In the winter, the sparkling square transforms into a Christmas village accessible by many modes of public transport. 

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