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Mont Royal is where Montréal locals go for fresh air, lovely walks, cross-country skiing in the winter and picnics in the summer. This is the best place in the city to enjoy the outdoors, play sports or to simply daydream. From downtown, take any random street leading uphill. They will all eventually lead to the 233-metre-high summit with great views of the city.
Inaugurated in 1876, the park was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, famous for his design of Central Park in New York. In 1860, most of the mountain had been clear-cut by loggers, much to the dismay of the population. When the area was designated a city park, Montréal gained a real gem and to this day the park is a very popular destination.
Mont Royal actually has 3 crests, but the highest and best known one is the Mont Royal Summit. Several walking trails lead to the viewpoint at this summit. The 6-7 kilometre-long routes climb very gradually, making for a fairly easy walk. From Peel Street, you can walk up a twisting trail known as the 'serpentine'. Cycling is another option. Olmsted Road is a wide bike path that begins at the George-Étienne Cartier monument on Park Avenue and leads all the way to the top of the mountain. Those who would rather avoid the athletic challenge can also take bus 11 to the viewpoint. The bus departs from the Mont-Royal metro station.
A beacon on the mountain, the 30-metre-high cross is beautifully illuminated every night. This is in memory of the wooden cross that was placed here in 1643 by the founder of Montréal, Governor Paul Chomedey.
“The residents of Montréal are proud of their ‘mountain’ and affectionately call it 'La Montagne'.”
There are 2 large cemeteries on the north side of Mont Royal: Cimetière Mont-Royal and Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges. The former is the final resting place of at least 200 Canadian celebrities. The cemetery dates back to 1852 and is a peaceful oasis and bird watching paradise. Almost as old as Cimetière Mont Royal, Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges is Canada’s largest cemetery – more than one million people have been laid to rest here. The design is based on the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. At the entrance you can pick up a brochure, a good guide for a walk along the cemetery’s most beautiful spots.
Beaver Lake, or Lac aux Castors, is the favourite place of many Montréal residents. In summer this is the domain of boaters and sunbathers, but as soon as the temperatures drop and the harsh Canadian winter arrives, Beaver Lake transforms into a skating paradise. From December to March you can skate around the rink. On weekends it gets very busy, so go on a weekday to avoid the crowds.