110 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Mount Royal
Located in the heart of Old Montreal and dating from the early 1800's, Basilique Notre-Dame is a Gothic Revivalist masterpiece. The church is worth a visit—irrespective of faith, or lack thereof—purely to marvel at the incredible craftsmanship that fills every corner. Pinewood sculptures depict the stations of the cross, there are exquisite black walnut wood carvings framing the aisles, the altarpiece artwork (thirty-two bronze panels) depicts humankind marching toward Christ, and the organ has an incredible 1,648 pipes. The most striking features, though, are the stained-glass windows, and the vaulted, star-painted ceiling with three octagonal skylights. The ceiling—a mix of lapis lazuli blue and shimmering gold—combined with the multicolored flecks of light cast through the cavernous space from the stained glass, creates an incredible interplay of light and color.
An indoor market flowing through six former ship-building factories, Granville Island Market is packed with food vendors, locally-made crafts, and fresh groceries. Hop on the ferry and spend a morning drinking too many coffees as you eat your way through the seafood, produce, and snack stalls. Aside from the food, there are dozens of artists-in-residence on the island selling their wares, which include ceramics, jewelry, paintings, and glass pieces. Musicians regularly set up shop, adding to the already lively atmosphere.
After undergoing a full hipster-inflected gentrification, this part of town is packed with some of the city's coolest bars, eateries, and shops. A maze of streets and alleyways are packed with brightly-hued Victorian-era houses and standouts including April Bloomfield's Blackbird Bakery and Oddity Kombucha.
Montreal Botanical Garden
4101 Rue Sherbrooke Est, Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie
A taste of the tropics in the middle of the city: Visiting the Montreal Botanical Garden—bursting with color—in the middle of their glacial winter feels like an unexpected surprise. The sheer scale here is staggering, with 10 greenhouses and 22 themed gardens, both containing over 22,000 varieties of plants and flowers. Making your way through the grounds feels like taking a journey through the continents, with Japanese- and Chinese-style gardens, tropical plants, and cacti all in abundance. The most interesting spaces are in the aquatic garden, which displays the incredible range of natural life below water; and for the more medical-minded, the toxic and medicinal plants garden is a fascinating look at the natural world's impact on healing. With a special youth garden and an on-site restaurant, it makes an ideal weekend family activity no matter the season.
Mount Royal Park
Canada’s trend of having incredible green parks smack in the center of her cities continues with Montreal. Mount Royal Park spans part of the city and creeps up the mountain that frames part of the cityscape. Montreal dwellers treat the park as an extended backyard: It is packed daily with hikers, joggers, and aimless wanderers. Through the winter months, you can actually cross-country ski the grounds or take advantage of the ice rink (with kids in tow).
Richmond Night Market
8351 River Rd., City of Richmond
Active throughout the summer season (May to October only), this night market is reminiscent of the markets you find throughout Asia, open in the darker hours to keep the food (and the vendors) cool. Over 10,000 visitors browse through the market every night which makes for a fun, chaotic-in-a-good-way atmosphere. For legitimate Asian food, skip the restaurants and come here instead; cash essential.
Stanley Park, Downtown
The Seawall (mostly contained within Stanley Park) is the world’s longest, uninterrupted waterfront path, hugging the sea for a full 14 miles along Vancouver’s waterfront. You can walk or bike the trail—there’s a pedestrian-specific section of around five miles that takes two to three hours to complete, depending on the person—and take in the driftwood-strewn beaches, views of the city skyline, cedar-covered mountains, and the Lions Gate bridge. A dream for nature-lovers or parents looking to give kiddos a chance to run off some energy.
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