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Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, builder of Central Park in New York, the parks atop Mont Royal provide one of Montreal’s finest attractions. From there the view of the St. Lawrence River along its edge, as well as that of the city itself, is breathtaking.
Comprising over a hundred hectares, and reaching to 234m (725ft), Mont Royal (from which the city’s name derives), offers a variety of things to see and do. Just sitting in the cafeteria inside the Chateau is alone worth the trip. From here, the buildings of Montreal are easily visible against the bold blue sky present in winter and summer. The western lookout, built in 1906 and named Belvédère Kondiaronk for a local Huron chief, offers equally spectacular vistas.
Inaugurated in 1876, the park encloses woodlands, man-made lakes, a ski slope, a sculpture garden and much more. Locals and visitors alike can enjoy sports on the tennis and basketball courts, let their kids play in the pool or just relax and enjoy the view. There are numerous bicycle trails along gravel paths and, in winter, cross-country skiing is popular.
In summer, a popular activity known locally as Tam-Tams is held. Montrealers play drums (which give their name to the event) near the monument to Sir George-Étienne Cartier. Visitors come to hear the music and watch the locals perform a communal dance.
Not far from St. Joseph’s Oratory, the large copper-domed basilica on the mountain, there are other religious motifs as well. A large cross illuminates in purple during the time a Pope dies and another is elected. There are two cemeteries in the area – Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery (Catholic), Mount Royal Cemetery (non-denominational). Both are a pleasant place to walk and contemplate.
For a more avant-garde activity, visitors can enjoy the Beaver Lake pavilion. Retro-futurist in design, it offers a snack bar and, in the winter, skating is nearby. There are numerous sculptures, retained from a large show held in 1964, that dot the slope above.
The mountain is also home to the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) transmission facility. There are two large buildings and a 100m (310 ft) candelabra tower, which generates nearly all of Montreal’s TV and FM radio broadcasts. For those interested in stellar engineering, it’s an awesome sight.
An alternative peak is the site for the University of Montreal, which is also worth a visit. For those who enjoy academic architecture, the tower is a location of note.
Access to the mountain is simple. Any hill with a base near downtown will lead up to the top. Those preferring to ride rather than walk can take a bus or take the Metro (Montreal’s subway). Cars are permitted, as well. Just drive up Côte-des-Neiges.