Discover the gardens of Montréal

Jessica McGovern

Jessica McGovern is a freelance writer and editor based in Montreal. Her work has appeared online and in print publications all over the world. When she's not creating articles about travel, food, or health and wellness, you can find her baking, leading wild food foraging tours, or teaching mushroom growing workshops. 

This article was updated on May 18, 2022.

Montréal is, of course, celebrated for its mouth-watering food scene, unparalleled festivals, and unique history and cultural sites, but surprising pockets of green Montréal gardens – both tiny hidden gems and lush, sprawling parks – are dotted all over the city, and make the perfect time out from busy city adventures. Grab some street food or pack a picnic for a day of people-watching at the park, or simply detour while downtown to a hidden urban oasis!

Botanical Garden | Space for life

Let’s start with the crown jewel of Montréal gardens: ‘Space for Life’ is an entire museum district, a quick 15 minute metro ride from downtown, that features one of the biggest and most beautiful (if we do say so ourselves!) botanical gardens in the world. You’ll find fabulous rose and tulip collections, aromatic herb gardens, a bonsai tree display, as well as an extensive arboretum (we love it in May, when the crabapples and cherry trees are in bloom). In fact, you can take a look at their ‘blooms of the week’ page to get a sneak preview of what awaits you when you arrive.

Aside from the immense outdoor and themed gardens (with over 22,000 species of plants from every part of the planet)  there’s also ten stunning greenhouses, where you can wander to the sound of an indoor waterfall, pose for a pic by giant succulents and showy orchids, or smell the bark of a real cinnamon tree.

And don’t think that once the colourful blooms of summer are gone that the magic is over - one of the best times of year to visit the Botanical Gardens in in early fall, when the annual lantern festival ‘Gardens of Light’,  creates a breathtaking glow in the Japanese, Chinese and First Nations gardens after sundown.

And for amateur botanists and landscapers, the Botanical Gardens Library is packed with thousands of books, videos, periodicals and brochures in both French and English.

Opening Hours: Daily 9-6pm
Admission: Adults $22
Website

Floralies Gardens | Parc Jean-Drapeau

Parc Jean Drapeau is another local favourite, nestled out on its own island - Île Notre-Dame - just minutes from Montréal’s Old Port. And in the park, right next to the famous Formula 1 track, sits an unlikely neighbour: the peaceful Floralies Gardens.

Surrounded by small lagoons, this charming slice of nature came about thanks to a 1980 Horticultural exhibition, The Floralies internationales de Montréal - which welcomed 20 participant countries and left a legacy of thousands of flowers, trees and shrubs for Montréalers and visitors to enjoy. The gardens are designed by renowned landscape designers from around the world, and you can walk or ride bikes on the trails, do some birdwatching, or try to spot the public art dotted throughout the gardens.

Opening Hours: Daily 6am-10pm
Admission: Free
Website

 

Governor’s Garden at Château Ramezay

Whether you’re a history buff or a lover of green spaces, Chateau Ramezay is definitely worth a visit. Built in 1705, it was the first building to be designated a historical monument in the whole province of Quebec. And you don’t have to go too far off the beaten path - just wander along Notre Dame street in old Montréal, and just 5 minutes stroll from the beautiful Notre Dame basilica sits this French Colonial-Style house, built for the then governor of Montréal, Claude de Ramezay. 

When it was built, the residence was surrounded by a large garden and orchard full of fruit trees, with spaces for growing food for the kitchen and spots for just enjoying the outdoors (and lively 18th century receptions!) Nowadays, the gardens are smaller than they were originally, but still offer a peaceful oasis and a glimpse of life back in ‘New France’.  Amateur horticulturalists will be interested in the hybrid species that are still grown here - genetically very close to the ones grown over 300 years ago for the Governor and his family.

Opening Hours: Daily 10am-4:30pm
Admission: Adults $10.44
Website

 

Secret Gardens - For a Moment’s Relaxation

If you happen to be in the vicinity of The Museum of Fine Arts, The Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul nearby has a gorgeous little ‘Quiet Garden’ that is open to all (but please respect this quiet space, there’s often prayer and bible study happening in the summer months). A spiritual oasis for many, it’s a lovely spot for meditation, or just a peaceful walk amongst the thriving leaves and flowers thoughtfully planted alongside the path and fountain.

Opening Hours: Seasonal, 9am-4pm
Admission: Free
Website

 

If you don’t mind making an advance reservation, then you’ll be rewarded with a private visit to the garden at one of the best preserved convents in the city. The Musée des Hospitalières - home of the ‘nursing sisters’ - is part of a complex built in 1861 that includes the former monastery, three chapels, a crypt, and, of course, the garden. First used as a practical kitchen garden to feed the patients in neighbouring Hotel Dieu Hospital and the surrounding community, it’s been gradually transformed into the contemplation garden that exists today. Shrubs, plants and flowers line the whimisal stone path that winds through the garden behind the stone walls of the monastery - you can easily forget the busy streets outside

Opening Hours: By reservation, May-September, phone  514 849-2919 or email reservations@museedeshospitalieres.qc.ca
Admission: Adults $15
Website
 

Montréal is full of great social organizations, and when it comes to green space, Sentier Urbain is leading the way. Their mission is to bring urban communities closer to nature, educate them on urban natural spaces, and to ‘greenify’ the city. Their Garden Circuit is based on the idea of transforming vacant spaces and socially problematic waste grounds into thematic gardens and to add biodiversity to the city. These sites – located in the Ville Marie (downtown) and Hochelaga Maisonneuve neighbourhoods – are open to the public, and you might even be lucky enough to catch a live music performance or free workshop during the summer months. 

Click here to download the map of the Garden Circuit

 

Urban Agriculture – Green Rooftops and More

When it comes to urban agriculture, or ‘growing food in unlikely places’, Montréal is celebrated as an innovative and creative city. If you know where to look, you can spot mini allotments of fruit, vegetables and herbs growing on rooftops, in schoolyards, and in public parks and alleyways.
 

The organization synonymous with urban agriculture in Montréal is Lufa Farms, who built the first commercial rooftop greenhouse in the world in 2011. Since then, they’ve built bigger and more ambitious greenhouses – packed full of sustainably-grown tomatoes, greens, and other fresh veggies across Montréal – all perched up in the air above the city’s action. Keep an eye on their site for open house tours of the greenhouses, and greenhouse activities like ceramic painting, yoga, and pumpkin carving.
 

It’s hard not to notice Palais des congrès  - our beautifully designed convention centre between busy downtown and the Old Port, but what many don’t realise is that the building features an expansive rooftop garden  -  part of the Palais de congres’ commitment to sustainability. Its container farming system and vertical garden means lush growth of everything from gooseberries to eggplants and edible flowers in the warmer months, as well as a busy beehive. To get a glimpse, you’ll need to contact the Palais and request a tour.
 

The ideal place to enjoy a little bite of nature before heading to your next festival performance or downtown concert, Jardins Gamelin is a vibrant summer terrace with art exhibits, background music, giant games and a snack counter and bar, combined with great examples of container gardens and urban agriculture projects. As with many gardens in Montréal, it’s a short 4-month season, so stop by for greens and gourmet action if the sun is shining!

 

Surround Yourself with Blooms and Blossoms

Despite our short growing season, Montréal has ways to charm us with fresh flowers throughout the year. A local favourite for over 30 years in the Mile End neighbourhood is The Dragon Flower Shop on rue Bernard can’t be missed, with it’s whimsical wall of hanging white birdcages and filled flower pots, and a charming space overflowing with stunning blooms and branches (check out @dragonflowershop on Instagram.)
 

Other worthwhile stops to really smell the roses are Montréal's Public Markets, where Montrealers flock to fill their arms with potted plants, herbs and veggie seedlings in the springtime. You could say our markets bring Montréal’s little gardens and living balconies to life! The city’s 15 markets are worth a visit not only to admire and photograph the lush greenery, but also for amazing local fruits, breads, cheeses and other delectable treats that make for the perfect picnic. Two of the most popular are Jean Talon Market in the heart of Little Italy, and Atwater Market, right on the lovely Lachine Canal.
 

Keep your eyes peeled and you may also notice the many community gardens tucked into lots all across the city. Montréal has one of the largest Community and Collective Gardens programs in the world. They allow thousands of citizens to cultivate land right in the city. In 2021, there were 97 community gardens throughout the city, covering 25 hectares of land – and it’s still not enough to meet the demand! Access is usually limited to members, but feel free to peek through the fence and get inspired by what the locals are growing!

Another surprising little slice of green can be found in the city’s ‘green alleyways’, people-friendly spaces that local communities have designated as places for growing, social interaction, and safe space for children to play. They’re gaining in popularity as they improve air quality, reduce heat island effects, reduce vehicle traffic and promote human connection. There are almost 400 of them in Montréal, see if you spot some while out discovering our eclectic neighbourhoods!

 

And finally, the perfect background to all these green spaces and gardens, are the blossoming Montréal murals to get you in the mood for spring. Maybe it’s the long winters, but green themes, flowers and trees often pop up in Montréal’s incredible murals, and these colourful canvases bloom all year round!

Jessica McGovern

Jessica McGovern is a freelance writer and editor based in Montreal. Her work has appeared online and in print publications all over the world. When she's not creating articles about travel, food, or health and wellness, you can find her baking, leading wild food foraging tours, or teaching mushroom growing workshops. 

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