Great ARCHITECTURE to See in Montreal

Montréal is home to a unique combination of both historic and modern architecture, making it a simply fascinating city to explore. While wandering the streets you will discover an array of Art Deco and Gothic Revival façades, historical buildings, and modern masterpieces.

Here are 10 of the most distinctive, impressive, architecturally- and design-savvy places not to be missed.

Notre-Dame Basilica

Image credit: Wikipedia

Where: 110 Notre-Dame St W, Montréal

Architectural style: Gothic Revival

Architects: James O’Donnell, François Baillairgé, Victor Bourgeau, John Ostell

The interior of the church is among the most dramatic in the world and is regarded as a masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture. The vaults are coloured deep blue and decorated with golden stars, and the rest of the sanctuary is decorated in blues, azures, reds, purples, silver, and gold. It is filled with hundreds of intricate wooden carvings and several religious statues. Unusual for a church, the stained glass windows along the walls of the sanctuary do not depict Biblical scenes, but rather scenes from the religious history of Montréal. It also has a Casavant Frères pipe organ, dated 1891, which comprises four keyboards, 92 stops using electropneumatic action and an adjustable combination system, 7000 individual pipes, and a pedal board.

Approximately 11 million people visit Notre-Dame every year, making it one of the most visited monuments in North America.

St. Joseph’s Oratory

Image credit: Quebec Attractions

Address: 3800 Queen Mary Rd, Montréal

Architectural styles: Renaissance architecture, Italian Renaissance 

Architects: Paul Bellot, Alphonse Venne, Dalbé Viau, Lucien Parent

Situated atop the Westmount Summit, St. Joseph’s is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and national shrine, and remains the largest church in Canada. According to Catholic lore, the basilica is associated with the miraculous healing powers of Brother Andre Bessette. On display in the basilica is a wall covered with thousands of crutches from those who came to the basilica and were purportedly healed. Pope John Paul II deemed the miracles to be authentic and beatified Brother André in 1982. In October 2010, Pope Benedict XVI canonized the saint.

Montréal City Hall

Image credit: Wikipedia

Address: 275 Notre-Dame St. East, Montréal

Architectural styles: Second Empire architecture

Architects: Henri-Maurice Perrault, Alexander Cowper Hutchison, Louis Parant

This five-story building, also called Hôtel de Ville de Montréal, is located in the historic Old Montréal neighbourhood and is the home to local government. Designed by architects Henri-Maurice Perrault and Alexander Cowper Hutchison, it was built between 1872 and 1878 in the Second Empire style. As one of the best examples of the Second Empire style in Canada, and the first city hall to have been constructed in the country solely for municipal administration, it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1984.

Construction on the building began in 1872 and was completed in 1878. The original building was gutted by fire in March 1922, leaving only the outer wall and destroying many of the city’s historical records. The architect Louis Parant was commissioned for the reconstruction, and he decided to design an entirely new building with a self-supporting steel structure built inside the shell of the ruins. This new building was modelled after the city hall of the French city of Tours. Other changes included a remodelling of the Mansard roof into a new Beaux-Arts inspired model, with a copper roof instead of the original slate tiles.

In 1967, Charles de Gaulle, the president of France, gave his “Vive le Québec libre” speech from the building’s balcony.

The Olympic Stadium

Image credit: Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal

Address: 4141 Pierre-de Coubertin Ave, Montréal

Architectural Style: n/a

Architect: Roger Taillibert

Designed for the 1976 Summer Olympics, this multi-purpose stadium is one of the most easily identifiable structures in the city, located at Olympic Park in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district. It is affectionately nicknamed “The Big O”, a reference to both its name and to the doughnut shape of the permanent component of the stadium’s roof; it is also called “The Big Owe” to reference the astronomical cost of the stadium and the 1976 Olympics as a whole.
At 165 metres (541 feet), the distinctive, slanting Tour de Montréal holds the status of being the tallest inclined tower in the world. It’s also the sixth tallest structure in Montréal. Currently, the venue is used to host special events like concerts, conventions, and trade shows, and has become the home of Montréal’s professional baseball and football teams.

The stadium has not had a main tenant since the Expos left in 2004. Despite decades of use, the stadium’s history of numerous structural and financial problems has largely branded it a white elephant.

Montréal World Trade Centre

Image credit: Wikipedia

Address: 747 Rue du Square-Victoria, Montréal

Architectural Style: Large-scale mixed-use, rehabilitation, restoration, and new construction project

Architectural Firm: Arcop

Located in the Quartier International, the World Trade Centre in Montréal, completed in 1992, is a “horizontal skyscraper.” From the outside, the structure looks like a classic late-19th-century block of business buildings, but a glassed-in atrium actually encases them. Visitors will notice a combination of historic and modern architecture, and there’s even a piece of the Berlin Wall, which was given to the city in 1992, on public display in the building.

The Contemporary Art Museum of Montréal

Image credit: Wikipedia

Address: 185 Saint-Catherine St W, Montréal

Architectural Style: Contemporary

Architect: Fred Lebensold 

Located in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal makes today’s art a vital part of Montréal and Québec life. For more than fifty years, this vibrant museum has brought together local and international artists, their works, and an ever growing public. It is a place of discovery, offering visitors experiences that are continually changing and new, and often unexpected and stirring. The Musée presents temporary exhibitions devoted to outstanding and relevant current artists who provide their own particular insight into our society, as well as exhibitions of works drawn from the museum’s extensive collection. Every form of expression may be featured: digital and sound works, installations, paintings, sculptures, ephemeral pieces, and more. In addition to its wide range of educational activities familiarizing the general public with contemporary art, the Musée also organizes unique artistic performances and festive events. It is a window onto a myriad of avant-garde expressions that increases the exposure and awareness of art throughout the city and beyond.

Arsenal Montréal

Image credit: Arsenal Montreal

Address: 2020 William St, Montréal

Architectural Style: n/a

Architect:  n/a

At more than 80,000 square feet, Arsenal is arguably the biggest art venue in Montréal, a 19th-century former shipyard turned into a great, echoing, and fascinating showcase for contemporary art from around the world, with much of its industrial character preserved intact. Between the 1950s and 2011, the building hosted several light industries, and in 2011, Arsenal Contemporary took possession of the building, making minor alterations to its large rooms and architectural features.

Montréal Museum of Fine Arts

Image credit: Quebec Original

Address: 1380 Sherbrooke St W, Montréal

Architectural Style: Modernist

Architect: Fred Lebensold

Spread across various buildings and wings erected over the course of more than a century, the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts is home to a number of mind-expanding galleries. Among them is an area devoted to 20th-century Canadian Abstract Expressionists as well as a decorative-arts pavilion that spans eons of style, all spread across several open levels knitted together by terrazzo ramps and stairways.

Palais des Congrès de Montréal

Image credit: Wikipedia

Address: 1001 Jean Paul Riopelle Pl, Montréal

Architectural Style: Modernist

Architectural firms: Saïa et Barbarese Architectes, Tétreault, Parent, Languedoc et Associés Inc., Hal Ingberg Architecte

The Palais des Congrès de Montréal is a convention centre in Montréal’s Quartier international at the north end of Old Montréal. It was built above the Ville-Marie Expressway, downtown Montréal’s main underground highway, and is connected to Montréal’s underground city by indoor walkways. The 1980s modular space is encased in hundreds of multicolour glass panels that transform its sunlit interior into a magical kaleidoscope of blues, greens, reds, pinks, and yellows in the daytime, and into a bizarrely beautiful lantern after dark.

Philippe Dubuc Flagship Store

Image credit: Saucier+Perrotte Architectes

Address417 Rue Saint-Pierre, Montréal

Architectural Style: Contemporary

Architectural firm: Saucier et Perrotte

Phillippe Dubuc is the biggest name in men’s high-end fashion in Montréal. His career in the fashion industry unfolded throughout the 1980s and early 1990s as he worked in design, pattern-making, and as a production manager. With an international reputation, he continues to retail at his flagship location. The design for the Dubuc Store on Saint-Denis Street in Montréal juxtaposes existing architectural attributes with an invented archaeology to bring out the true essence of its space. Original building elements, such as the exposed stone wall, are enhanced by the added, contemporary artefacts. The assemblage of historic and new elements, seemingly unearthed along with the built form, results in a superimposition of many eras of the building’s life. To catch the eye of passersby, the storefront window is encased by a deep black steel frame, which in a dramatic fashion catches the light of the boutique. Raw concrete, painted stone, tinted glass, and white lacquered shelves combine to compose the project’s materiality.