And by “gardens” I don’t mean what you have planted in your back yard. I mean some incredibly amazing works of natural art. I mean the Botanical Gardens of Montreal.
On my third day in Montreal with my Aunt Georgann, we started our morning with a fantastic breakfast at Olive + Gourmando. This cafe is located in Old Montreal and is small, hip, and quite popular! I absolutely loved my housemade granola with yogurt and a huge assortment of fresh fruit!
And the pastries we picked up for breakfast the following day were superb as well! I do love me some fresh French pastries. 😉
From here we made our way by metro to the Montreal Olympic Park, which was host to the 1976 Summer Olympic Games. That was before my time, 🙂 but I do know about some of the historical performances that took place then, including gymnast Nadia Comaneci scoring the first perfect 10 in competition and winning three gold medals.
We took a few pictures then continued on to the Botanical Gardens where we started our visit by waiting in line for over thirty minutes to buy tickets. 😐
Once we had our tickets purchased, we entered the outdoor gardens which cover about 190 acres. Let me just stop now and say that you could spend an entire day here and not have enough time to explore all of the gardens, paths, and ponds that this place contains! It is huge and seriously one of the most beautiful and unique outdoor spaces I’ve ever visited.
Our first walk was through the Rose Garden. There were so many roses of every size and color. Most of them some of the largest I’ve ever seen! So, so beautiful.
We actually didn’t make it through the entire Rose Garden because we took a detour to visit the Chinese Garden. Wow. This place was amazing! We were literally walking around with our jaws hanging open. Definitely the most spectacular of all of the gardens we visited.
It’s huge and absolutely stunning. There are Chinese buildings and pagodas, lots of water and bridges, and many paths leading to other interesting areas. It was overwhelming! But in a good way. 🙂
This garden was created in collaboration with the Chinese government and felt like we had been transported to the Far East. We spent quite a bit of time here exploring as much as we could including the many penjing trees (Chinese version of bonsai trees), some of which were over 100 years old!
We left the Chinese Garden and headed next to the Alpine Garden. This wasn’t quite as impressive as the Chinese one but I still enjoyed walking through the different areas representing various alpine regions of the world including the Alps, the Rockies and the Pyrenees. It really did feel like walking through the type of terrain found in an alpine meadow or trail (like I’ve hiked in the Swiss Alps and on Mount Rainier).
From there we visited the Exhibition Gardens. There are nine different Exhibition Gardens and we visited Perennials, Useful Plants (food, etc.), Garden of Innovation (amazingly beautiful flowers!), and the Contemplation Garden. I so wanted to come back with a shopping bag and pick some fresh veggies and herbs from the Useful Plants area! 😀
Next, we walked through the Flowering Brook and Lilacs garden, then sat for a bit by a lake and just enjoyed the shade and the view. It was so peaceful! I could seriously spend an entire day here with a blanket and a book!
The First Nations Garden was nearby and was designed to represent areas where native aboriginals first lived.
It’s crazy how some areas are beautiful, flowery gardens, some are rocky and mountainous-looking, and others are like walking through a forest. All of these distinctly different outdoor areas are contained in one 190-acre complex. Just amazing.
We were getting a bit tired and hungry at this point so we quickly walked through the Japanese Gardens (koi ponds, bonsai trees) and then made our way to an outdoor dining area where we picked up some yummy salads and ate them outside under a tent.
After our refreshing break we headed next to the Insectarium. This is an indoor exhibit covering two floors and containing both dead and live insect species. It was actually pretty fascinating and we saw some crazy-looking insects. Although, I think I’ve decided there are at least five countries on this planet I will never be visiting based on the monster insects that are found within their borders. Just sayin’.
We left the Insectarium and decided our final visit for the day would be the Exhibition Greenhouses. I wasn’t expecting these to be very exciting but I really should have known better after everything we had already seen!
I think there were ten greenhouses and again, they were amazing. Each greenhouse was themed and very unique and beautiful: tropical rainforest, hacienda, ferns, arid regions, and many more. I actually just stopped taking pictures because there was just too much to see!
We left the Botanical Gardens, not exploring even half of the property, and returned to our apartment where I made us dinner.
Around 9:00 we headed back out and made our way to the Jacques-Cartier Bridge where we planned to view a fireworks exhibition hosted by Italy as part of the annual Montreal International Fireworks Competition. We didn’t actually make it up onto the bridge (which we were told is the best, free viewing location), but instead stood by the water next to the bridge.
There were just masses of people about! The streets were closed to pedestrian-traffic only and were teeming with people carrying blankets and lawn chairs. The actual ticketed “show” took place across the river and included music synchronized to the fireworks. But we had a lovely view of the explosions from our vantage point that saved us $70 each. 🙂
The fireworks started at 10:00, lasted thirty minutes, and were spectacular! I have to admit that my expectations were not very high. I live in Disney country and the theme parks put on quite the impressive nightly fireworks show, so I figured these would be similar. Boy was I wrong! I saw some fireworks I’ve never seen before! All of them were so impressive and the finale was just crazy impressive!
I thought it was going to take us hours to make our way back to our apartment since thousands of people (including us!) were heading to the same metro station at the same time. But everything flowed pretty quickly and we were snug in our beds in no time! 🙂
Visiting the Botanical Gardens was a highlight of my trip to Montreal. I absolutely love being outdoors and this is an absolutely lovely spot to do just that. If I lived in this city I would definitely own an annual pass so I could visit anytime I wanted (if annual passes even exist 😛 ). Rates to the Botanical Gardens and the Insectarium are $18.75 for adults. I would definitely reserve an entire day for this attraction if at all possible – especially if you love the outdoors and love to walk.
The Montreal International Fireworks Competition takes place every year on Saturday evenings from the end of June to the beginning of August. Tickets run about $70 for adults and give you a front row seat to the show. But I was fine with watching from the “cheap seats” across the river. We couldn’t really hear the music but the fireworks were so spectacular that I didn’t really miss it. As mentioned before, the Jacques-Cartier Bridge provides the best, unobstructed view.