The second-most populous city in Canada is the most populous city in Quebec and is located in the utmost southeastern part of the country.
Montreal was founded as “Ville-Marie” or “City of Mary” in 1642 but was renamed after Mount Royal, the hill around which the original settlement was built.
Today, the massive metropolitan area is centered around the Island of Montreal and features a large number of architectural highlights.
The rich history of Montreal transformed it into the industrial and financial heart of Canada, a position it has since lost to Toronto. Because of this, the city is home to 50 National Historic Sites of Canada.
Some of the oldest buildings in Montreal can be found in a section called Old Montreal. These structures date back to the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
This in combination with modern architecture and amazing skyscrapers means that the city has a very diverse architectural landscape.
Let’s check out some of the most famous buildings in Montreal!
1. Habitat 67
Habitat 67 is an enormous residential complex that is located at Cité du Havre, a neighborhood in Montreal that is situated on a man-made peninsula on the Saint Lawrence River. This is right in the center of the city, not too far east of downtown Montreal.
The Brutalist building was designed by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie who had a great vision of revolutionizing urban living. He wanted to achieve this by producing prefabricated concrete units that are stacked on top of each other to provide a comfortable urban living environment. This didn’t work out as planned but Habitat 7 remains a remarkable landmark in Montreal.
Official website: Habitat 67
2. Notre-Dame Basilica
Notre-Dame Basilica is an amazing church in the heart of the Old Town district of central Montreal. It’s an amazing example of Gothic Revival architecture in the city and was completed between 1823 and 1843. This was the year that the second tower was erected.
When you visit this building in Montreal, make sure to get inside. It features a stunning Gothic Revival design that is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world. The interior of the church was completed much later in the late 19th century.
Official website: Notre-Dame Basilica
3. Montreal City Hall
Montreal City Hall is the seat of the city’s government and has served this purpose since the building was completed in the late 19th century. It features a distinctive Second Empire architectural style and was constructed between 1872 and 1878.
It’s considered to be the most remarkable Second Empire building in Canada, an eclectic style that became popular in North America following the American Civil War in 1865. Because of this and the fact that it was the first purpose-built administrative building in Canada, it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1984.
Official website: Montreal City Hall
4. Saint Joseph’s Oratory
Saint Joseph’s Oratory is officially known as “Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal” and that’s a reference to its location. It’s one of the most prominent buildings in Montreal because it dominates Mount Royal, the hill just west of downtown Montreal after which the city was named.
The building serves as both a Roman Catholic minor basilica and a national shrine. Equally remarkable is the fact that it’s Canada’s largest church with a length of 105 meters (344 feet) and a width of 65 meters (213 feet). The imposing dome reaches a height of 102 meters and has an outer diameter of 39 meters (128 feet) making it one of the largest domes in the world.
Official website: Saint Joseph
5. 1250 René-Lévesque
1250 René-Lévesque is an amazing skyscraper in the Ville Marie district just south of downtown Montreal. It’s the tallest building in the city with 47 floors and a height of 226 meters (741 feet). It’s a great example of Postmodern architecture in Montreal.
The building was designed by the American architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and was completed in 1992. The tower’s design had to be shaped in a particular manner because of its location on the western edge of the downtown core of the city. It was based on another skyscraper designed by Kohn Pedersen, the Westend Tower in Frankfurt, Germany.
6. Montreal Olympic Stadium
The Olympic Stadium in Montreal is a huge sports arena that was constructed as the main venue of the 1976 Summer Olympics. It’s nicknamed “The Big O” because of its doughnut-shaped design and the fact that it’s the biggest stadium in Canada with a seating capacity of 56,040.
The most remarkable feature of the stadium is the tower that supports the retractable roof. This is the tallest inclined tower in the world. It’s known as the Montreal Tower but originally went by the name “Olympic Tower.” It stands 165 meters (541 feet) tall and is included at an angle of 45 degrees.
Official website: Olympic Stadium
7. Bonsecours Market
Bonsecours Market is one of the most famous buildings in Montreal and is located in the Old Town District of the city. It’s a large domed public market that features 2 stories of retail facilities and it was the main public market in the city for over a century.
This Neoclassical building was constructed between 1844 and 1847 and also briefly housed the city’s city hall between 1852 and 1878. The building was named after the Notre Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, a nearby chapel that was constructed in 1771. Its design was based on Dublin’s customs house which indeed looks strikingly similar.
Official website: Bonsecours Market
8. Sun Life Building
The Sun Life Building is a historic office building that was commissioned by the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada. It wasn’t the tallest building in Montreal upon completion in 1931, it did hold the record of being the largest building in the British Empire based on floor space.
What’s remarkable about his building is that it took quite some time to complete. The first phase of the building, which comprised the lower floors, was completed in 1913. The 24-story tower on top of it wasn’t completed until 1931 and reaches a height of 122 meters (400 feet).
Official website: Sun Life Building
9. Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral
Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral is a minor basilica in the heart of Montreal and serves as the official seat of the Roman Catholic archdiocese in the city. It’s the third-largest church in the city and was completed between 1875 and 1894 in the Renaissance Revival architectural style.
The church has a length of 101 meters (333 feet) and a maximum width of 46 meters (150 feet). The distinctive green dome is topped by a copula that reaches a height of 77 meters (252 feet) above the ground below. The interior of the church also incorporates Neo-Baroque elements, including a baldachin with twisting columns that resembles Bernini’s masterpiece at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Official website: Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral
10. 1000 de La Gauchetière
1000 de La Gauchetière is another fantastic Postmodern skyscraper in Montreal. It’s located in the downtown core area of the city and stands 205 meters (673 feet) tall, a height that makes it the second-tallest building in Montreal after 1250 René-Lévesque.
Apart from its remarkable design, the building is also one of the most popular tourist attractions because its atrium features an amazing ice skating rink. It was completed in 1992 which was amazingly the same year that its slightly bigger brother in Montreal was completed.
Official website: Le 1000
11. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts isn’t just the largest art museum in Montreal, it’s also the largest art museum in Canada based on gallery space. The immense museum is spread across 5 pavilions that feature a total floor area of 53,095 square meters (571,510 square feet).
The museum was founded as the “Art Association of Montreal” in 1860 and gradually grew over the years. The collection was moved to an amazing Beaux-Arts building that was constructed between 1910 and 1912. Since then, the museum has been expanded multiple times. It’s a popular museum as it becomes well over a million art enthusiasts every year.
Official website: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
12. Montreal Biosphere
The Montreal Biosphere is a stunning museum that is dedicated to the environment. What’s remarkable about the museum is that it’s located inside a large geodesic dome that was originally constructed for Expo 1967, a world fair that was held in the city that year.
This incredible building in Montreal is located on the grounds of Parc Jean-Drapeau on Saint Helen’s Island, just northeast of the historical heart of the city. The dome was designed by American architect Richard Buckminster Fuller and served as the American pavilion during the event in 1967.
Official website: Montreal Biosphere