- If these 25 buildings don't convince you that Montreal architecture is world-class, I don't know what will.
- Take a look at these photos of some iconic Montreal buildings that have helped shape our city's skyline.
- We're looking at historic and contemporary buildings as well as art deco masterpieces and, of course, a handful of awe-inspiring churches. 👇
A couple weeks ago, we presented you with an article that proved the Montreal metro is an architectural wonder. Which, of course, got me thinking about how the entirety of Montreal architecture is a world wonder, a living museum, with buildings spanning back nearly 400 years and fresh new building projects starting all the time.
So, we decided it was time to take a look at some of Montreal's most iconic buildings, and maybe some buildings you aren't familiar with, to appreciate how they add to the iconic Montreal skyline.
I decided to breakdown the buildings on this list into four loose categories. I'm no architecture historian but I felt it was safe to lump some of these buildings together based on their most noticeable features.
Which means if you're looking for a great date idea or just an interesting walk, there are four awesome options here that will throw you into the world of Montreal architecture.
The four categories are Early 20th Century buildings, Historic buildings, Contemporary buildings, and Churches (because a list of Montreal architecture would not be complete without a couple churches).
So take a look at these 25 iconic Montreal buildings that are 100% architectural masterpieces.
Opulent Early 20th Century
The early 20th century is well-represented in Montreal. From the iconic Université de Montréal main building located on Mount Royal to the buildings around Place d'Armes, Vieux-Montreal's historic square — the era of opulent architecture was good to our city.
Consider this little tour if you're looking to feel what it was like to walk through Montreal throughout the 1900s, as it grew to be the cultural and economic hub in Canada.
Where: 2929 avenue Jeanne-d'Arc
Why: This historic building was erected by two French Canadian brothers whose corporate empire throughout the war helped build the economy of the area and allowed them to create this tandem mansion, with each brother owning and designing his half of the residence.
The Aldred & New York Life Insurance Building
Where: 511 and 507 Place D'Armes
Why: Where would Square Saint-Paul be without these two iconic buildings, some of Montreal's first high-rise skyscrapers. The red building, the New York Life Insurance Building, was the tallest commercial building in Montreal at the time of its completion. The white building, The Aldred Building, is designed with setbacks after the style that was popularized due to New York City zonings laws that required them beginning in 1916.
Roger Gaudry Pavilion
Where: 2900 boul. Edouard Montpetit
Why: This iconic building is an immovable part of the Montreal skyline, and was designed by Ernest Cormier, who also designed the Supreme Court of Canada.
Écomusée du fier monde
Where: 2050 rue Atateken
Why: Previously the Bain Généreux, this building shares features from the Art Deco and Beaux-Arts eras and is now the Écomusée du fier monde, a cultural hub in the south end of the Plateau.
Where: 2035 rue Atateken, corner of rue Ontario
Why: Just across from the Écomusée is the Marché Saint-Jacques, a longstanding farmer's market that is part of a public square that has existed in that space since 1912.
Sun Life Building
Where: 1155 rue Metcalfe
Why: Another iconic part of the Montreal skyline, and a building that provides an art deco alternative to the more contemporary skyscrapers in the area. The building was designed by Buffalo architect Richard Waite and construction was completed by Scottish architect Robert Findlay in 1931.
Many historical buildings in Vieux-Montreal are still standing in their original form, even if they're now being used as something other than what they were built for — or turned into a museum.
Consider this little tour if you're looking to feel as if you've stepped back in time... or, Europe, at least.
Hotel Place d'Armes
Where: 701 Cote de la Place d’Armes
Why: This breathtaking boutique hotel in Montreal was originally built in 1870 by architects Marchand & Haskell and declared a historic site by the province in 1975, along with the four connected heritage buildings in the Place d'Armes square that serve up some of the best neoclassical design in the city.
Saint Sulpice Seminary
Where: 116 rue Notre-Dame Ouest
Why: This National Historic Site of Canada is the oldest standing building in Montreal with construction starting in 1684. The gardens attached are also the oldest historical gardens in North America. The clock was installed in 1701, making one of the oldest of its kind in North America, and the dial was created and engraved in Paris.
Where: 400 rue McGill
Why: Built in 1867, the Magasin-Entrepôt Dominion-Block was a functioning warehouse and sales shop that was designated a Heritage Site in 1964. Now there's a place to get your hair done! Nice.
Bank of Montreal
Where: 119 rue Saint-Jacques
Why: The Pantheon-like head office for the Bank of Montreal, Canada's first bank, was designed by the architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, who also built New York City's Pennsylvania Station and the Boston Public Library.
Montreal City Hall
Where: 275 rue Notre-Dame Est
Why: Open for guided tours this epic Montreal building was erected between 1872 and 1878 and is "one of the few spots in Montreal where you can still see physical evidence of the fortified town of yesteryear," according to Tourisme Montréal.
Hôtel William Gray
Where: 421 rue Saint Vincent
Why: Not only has Hôtel William Gray been beautifully preserved, it has also been beautifully re-imagined by local firm Béïque Legault Thuot Architectes to add an urban and functional feel to the original historic building.
As Montreal moved past the Art Deco phase, Brutalism soon took over... but there are Brutalist buildings to love! Plus, many other, more recent projects in the city prove that Montreal is an architectural hub with designers that don't waste the chance to turn a cultural physical site into a cultural landmark.
Consider this little tour if you're looking to see some great art and feel on the cutting edge of our city.
Where: 2600 ave. Pierre-Dupuy
Why: Designed for Expo '67 by Montreal architect Moshe Safdie, Habitat 67 is an architectural success, but an affordable home failure. The community on the St. Lawrence was created as a model for the future of urban dwelling with suburban comforts in mind, but due to the high demand, the properties quickly moved past affordable, as they were intended to be.
Where: 1 avenue du Casino
Why: Originally built as the France Pavillion for the World Expo, the Montreal Casino became the largest casino in Canada when it was re-purposed and re-opened in 1994, with modernization continuing into 2013 by architecture firm Provencher Roy.
Esplanade de la Place des Arts
Where: 175 rue Saint-Catherine Ouest
Why: This massive public outdoor space, which plays host to events like the Festival international de Jazz de Montréal, Just for Laughs, and Montréal en lumière was designed by Montreal architecture firm Provencher Roy and is currently undergoing two $34 million renovation projects.
Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal
Where: 185 rue Sainte-Catherine O.
Why: The MAC moved from Cité du Havre to its current place in Place des Arts in 1992, where it currently serves as Canada's "premier museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art." As with Montreal's other big museum, the architects Jodoin Lamarre Pratte responded to the public design contest and won, inaugurating the building in Montreal's 350th year.
Le Complexe environnemental de Saint-Michel
Where: 2235 rue Michel-Jurdant
Why: Le Complexe environnemental de Saint-Michel is made up of the TOHU, Stade de Soccer and the massive Parc Fréderick-Back, amongst other aspects that are unfolding as part of a plan scheduled by the city through 2026.
Complexe Sportif Saint-Laurent
Where: 2385 boulevard Thimens
Why: Designed by local architects Saucier + Perrotte in 2017, the Complexe Sportif Saint-Laurent has already won awards for architectural design as it pulls together the two buildings and the surrounding space.
Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace
Where: 2085 rue Bishop
Why: Opened in 2017 to celebrate Montreal's 375th anniversary, the Pavillion Pour Paix now houses over 750 works of art from the Middle Ages to the contemporary period over six floors. Designed by Atelier TAG and Jodoin Lamarre Pratte architectes.
Montreal is known as the "la ville aux cent clochers" (the city of a hundred belltowers), so this list would not be complete without a couple nods to the best belltowers in the city.
If you're looking for a nice architecture tour, consider this the Twain Tour, as he once famously said about Montreal, "This is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window."
Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal
Where: 110 rue Notre-Dame Ouest
Why: Perhaps one of the most famous and prominent churches in Montreal, the Gothic Revival of the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montreal is a breathtaking centrepiece to the Place d'Armes square that was built between 1824 and 1829 and is quite reminiscent of its namesake in Paris.
Basilique Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde
Where: 1085 rue de la Cathédrale
Why: Another classic church from Montreal's downtown core, Mary, Queen of the World Basilica was build in the late 1800s and renamed in 1955 by Pope Benedict XV.
St. James United Church
Where: 463 rue Sainte-Catherine O.
Why: Erected in 1889, the church is a heritage building that also includes the exterior square onto rue Sainte-Catherine and the ground that wraps around to rue Mayor. It is now often used as a multi-purpose venue for cultural, social, and artistic groups.
Where: 3800 chemin Queen-Mary
Why: Located in Côte-des-Neiges, right atop the Mount Royal, Saint Joseph's Oratory is one of Canada's largest churches and a National Historic Site of Canada. Construction was completed in 1966 and its dome is the third-largest of its kind, only after the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro in Côte d’Ivoire and Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Saint Patrick's Basilica
Where: 460 boulevard René Lévesque
Why: This Irish Catholic church was opened in 1847 and its spire can be spotted throughout the city, a mark of its Gothic Revival style. Pope John Paul II raised the status of this church to a Basilica in 1989 "because of its historical importance as the mother church of the English-speaking Catholics of greater Montreal."
Musée Marguerite-Bourgeoys et Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours
Where: 400 rue Saint-Paul Est
Why: Synonymous with the Old Port skyline, this museum and chapel work together to share a piece of Montreal history with all who visit. Apparently, when Leonard Cohen sings, "And the sun pours down like honey of our Lady of the Harbour," in his song Suzanne, he's singing about the female statue overlooking the chapel.
I hope you enjoyed this jaunt through Montreal's most iconic buildings as much as I did. If you think we've missed an important building, let us know!