I've Lived & Strolled In Montreal For 8 Years — These Are The City's 9 Best Walks
The Montreal walks that have to be on your bucket list.🚶🏙️🐈
Walks are the best way to get a peek at a city's soul: an intimate look at the neighbourhoods, parks, buildings and customs that compose an urban landscape. In Montreal, walkable human-scale streets and the accessibility of recreation infrastructure are core community values.
It's a fact you can hear as you move through the city, in the melodious pitter-patter of heels hitting the pavement during a run to the local dépanneur and in the laughter of friends enjoying a boozy park picnic.
Here, the mundane crackles with an electric charge. And the best place to harness it is the sidewalk.
Here are the nine best walks in Montreal, according to me, a resident of eight years who walks around five miles through the city most weekends.
Boulevard Gouin / Parc nature de l'Île-de-la-Visitation
One block from the Henri-Bourassa metro station is the quiet boulevard Gouin E. with its charming single-family homes and heritage architecture. Walk east and you'll eventually hit the main entrance to the Parc nature de l'Île-de-la-Visitation, a long narrow slice of green with trails stretching along the swampy riverbank.
From the Pointe Plate lookout, you can watch waterfowl along Hydro-Québec's massive dam complex in the Rivière-des-Prairies and make your way back west toward the ruins of the Moulins du Sault au Récollet.
Less packed with attractions than its flashy sister, Île Sainte-Hélène, Île Notre-Dame is more like a (mostly) quiet floating garden in the middle of the Saint Lawrence.
Enter from the Passerelle du Cosmos, not far from the Jean-Drapeau metro station. Ignore the northern half of the island; it's basically a giant construction staging ground. The southern half consists of winding trails through what's left of the Expo 67 pavilions.
Smaller and less well-maintained than the other extant world expo sites (now the Biosphère and the Casino de Montréal), the Tunisia Pavilion, Jamaica Pavilion and Canada Pavilion are monuments to the island's former glory, now mostly hidden behind overgrown vegetation.
Île Notre-Dame's paths and parterres are littered with other, smaller Expo 67 leftovers to discover, too.
The Verdun/LaSalle riverside
The series of parks that wrap around the boroughs of Verdun and LaSalle along the Saint Lawrence River is, in this writer's opinion, the best, most underrated green space in the city. They're huge, over 12 kilometres long. An ambitious, day-long stroll along their entire length, from Autoroute 15 to the LaSalle border with Lachine, brings you past beaches, historic sites, bandstands, public art displays, docks and lookouts, and the Piste de danse de l'Îlot John-Gallagher, a public dance stage that in the summer months is full of seniors joyously line dancing to upbeat music.
Of particular note along the way are the Parc des Rapides, with quiet groves and excellent views of the Lachine rapids, and the Vague à Guy, a popular surf and picnic spot.
Parallel to the Verdun/LaSalle riverside parks is the Lachine Canal, a 13.5 strip of water and recreational spaces managed by Parks Canada. Most Montrealers are probably familiar with the popular stretch between the Old Port and Atwater Market in Little Burgundy. But the quiet nine kilometres west of the market are full of monumental, decaying industrial structures, abandoned cranes and bridges that straddle the canal like flying steampunk beasts poised for takeoff.
The borough of Lachine's Parc René-Lévesque caps the canal's western end. Its green lawns are dotted with sculptural metalwork. At its tip are sweeping views of Lac Saint-Louis, the basin at the confluence of the Ottawa and Saint Lawrence Rivers.
OK, I have a thing for the Grand Sud-Ouest. No commercial street in the city compares to Time Out's 2022 coolest street in the world, dense with small shops, cafés, bars and restaurants. In recent summers, rue Wellington has become a pedestrian playground, with street art and performances, dancing and countless terrasses.
Start in the south at the intersection with boulevard de LaSalle and walk up to see what all the hype is about.
The street's allure extends beyond Verdun. Further north, beyond the Autoroute 15 in the Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood, it meets the bowery Parc Marguerite-Bourgeoys adjacent to the Maison Saint-Gabriel colonial site.
Wellington then passes through a residential neighbourhood and the Pointe-Saint-Charles railyard before meeting the Lachine Canal at Parc Saint-Patrick, a little gem of a park that in the summer is usually filled with revellers.
Parc Maisonneuve / rue Ontario
Parc Maisonneuve is perhaps most famous as the host of the Montreal Botanical Garden. But there's an entire public green space beyond the pricey attraction. Its winding bike paths and sidewalks edge enormous pine-lined lawns scattered with frisbee players, barbecues and, sometimes, even sheep.
Continue south through the park and you'll eventually hit the beating heart of Hochelaga, rue Ontario, a perhaps typical Montreal neighbourhood centre but without the sometimes-annoying bustle of avenue du Mont-Royal or boulevard Saint-Laurent.
Rue Sherbrooke to Summit Woods
An alternative to the tourist-packed paths of Mount Royal, Westmount's Summit Woods offer an equally dazzling view of the city and river without the clamour of strollers and oblivious fools swinging selfie sticks.
To get there from rue Sherbrooke requires a hike up Westmount's steep slopes past increasingly ornate mansions clinging to the hillside like their erstwhile anglo owners clung to archaic conservative values.
Beyond Summit Woods to the north is Saint Joseph's Oratory and its perhaps lesser-known Jardin du Chemin de la Croix, a spellbinding series of sculptures and landscape gardens depicting the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
Parc nature Cap-Saint-Jacques
This nature park occupies a peninsula at the City of Montreal's westernmost extremity. It has riverside paths, a working farm and cabane à sucre, and a popular beach on the shore of the Lac des Deux Montagnes. The park's swampy bays and interior trails are delightfully spooky. All of that is pretty easily accessible from the STM 68 bus stop in the park's southeast corner.
Parc Jarry / rue Villeray / rue Boyer / Parc Laurier / Parc la Fontaine
This itinerary is the product of years of exploration and mental note-taking in the dense streets of Villeray, Rosemont and the Plateau-Mont-Royal.
My advice: if you're already familiar with the city's most popular commercial streets, such as Saint-Laurent, Saint-Hubert and Mont-Royal, head to one of the parallel residential streets. You still get to revel in the buzz surrounding those central arteries and observe the people in their orbit. You'll encounter cats. And you'll make charming discoveries along the way: murals, ruelles vertes and free libraries. Plus you'll get to judge residents' design choices and landscaping.
With this itinerary, you'll hit three of the city's best parks along the way: Jarry, Laurier and La Fontaine.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.