Notre-Dame Basilica, Montreal

Notre-Dame Basilica, Montreal (must see)

The Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal (Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal) is a stunning piece of Gothic Revival architecture. Designed by the Irish-American architect James O'Donnell, it was completed, for the most part, in 1829.

The sanctuary was constructed a year later, while the first and second towers were added in 1841 and 1843, respectively. Both towers have bells: the West Tower (La Persévérance), has a bourdon bell nicknamed Jean-Baptiste. It was cast in John Dod Ward’s Eagle Foundry in 1848 and weighs 10,900 kg. Jean-Baptiste tolls only on special occasions, such as funerals, great religious festivals, and Christmas Eve. The East Tower (La Temperance), houses a ten-bell carillon from the same foundry, made in 1842.

The facade of the church was completed in 1865 and includes, among other features, three statues by the French sculptor Henri Bouriché, namely: the Virgin Mary (representing Montreal), Saint John the Baptist (representing Quebec), and Saint Joseph (representing Canada).

The interior – colorful and lavish – took much longer to complete and is quite impressive with its richly decorated columns, intricate wood carvings, statues, and elaborate stained glass windows. Quite unusual for a church, the stained glass windows here depict scenes from the history of Montreal rather than biblical scenes. Another spectacular highlight of the basilica is the Casavant Frères pipe organ, created in 1891, which is one of the largest organs in North America, comprising four keyboards and 7,000 individual pipes.

The Notre-Dame church was raised to the status of a minor basilica, by Pope John Paul II, in 1982 and was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1989.

Today, the Notre Dame of Montreal is a popular landmark, attracting yearly more than 11 million tourists from around the globe, making it one of the most visited sites in North America. Even the $10 admission fee doesn't turn visitors away.

Over the years, the basilica has hosted a number of important events, such as Céline Dion's wedding in 1994 and the funeral of the former Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, in 2000.

If you're interested in classical and religious music, the basilica offers musical programming of choral and organ performances, including Handel's Messiah every Christmas.

Tip:
The provided on-site brochure is very informative and can be used as a self-guide. Additionally, there's a free 20-minute English/French tour available at entry.
The 'AURA' light show (starting usually at 7 and 9 pm) is exceptional but often sold out, so plan your visit in advance: you can book a ticket online or come early to get a place. Try sitting somewhere in the middle to get the best music & light experience.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Montreal. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Notre-Dame Basilica on Map

Walking Tours in Montreal, Canada

Create Your Own Walk in Montreal

Create Your Own Walk in Montreal

Creating your own self-guided walk in Montreal is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Montreal Introduction Walking Tour

Montreal Introduction Walking Tour

The second-most populous city in Canada, Montreal is an old, yet at the same time, modern metropolis, flagship of Canada's Québec province. Sitting on an island in the Saint Lawrence River, with Mount Royal at its center, the city owes its name to this triple-peaked hill (Mont Royal in modern French, although in 16th-century French the forms réal and royal were used interchangeably).

The...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Historical Churches Walking Tour

Historical Churches Walking Tour

The religious fervor that inspired French settlers in the mid-17th century to build a “Christian commonwealth” on North American soil gave rise to a number of churches, chapels, and cathedrals. Each sacred edifice in Montreal's ecclesiastical panorama – notably, in its religion- and architecture-infused oldest area, Vieux-Montréal – is a testament to the divine craftsmanship and...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.2 Km or 2.6 Miles
Historical Buildings Walking Tour

Historical Buildings Walking Tour

Whenever you gaze upon the historical buildings of Montreal, you are reminded that the true measure of a city's greatness lies in its ability to preserve its past while embracing its future. Old Montreal – home to four centuries of architecture shaped by French sophistication and English practicality – is a place all its own.

Here, modern buildings coexist with some of the oldest and...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 Km or 2.4 Miles
The RMS Titanic Walking Tour

The RMS Titanic Walking Tour

Built as the ship of dreams, the RMS Titanic went down in history as the one that carried “both the hopes and the tragedies of a generation.” The luxury cruiser sank on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic in the early hours of April 15, 1912, and today is largely remembered throughout the world, in part, due to the blockbuster movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Although Montreal's...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles
Old Montreal Walking Tour

Old Montreal Walking Tour

Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal) is a historic neighborhood southeast of the downtown area, home to many architectural monuments of the New France era. Founded by French settlers in 1642 as Fort Ville-Marie, the settlement gave its name to the city borough of which it is now part.

Most of Montreal's earliest architecture, characterized by uniquely French influence, including grey stone...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


Montreal Souvenirs: 15 Trip Mementos to Bring Home

Montreal Souvenirs: 15 Trip Mementos to Bring Home

The outpost of Frenchness in North America (and the world's 2nd largest francophone city after Paris), Montreal is the meeting point of the New and Old World styles, the collision of the French, English and Aboriginal cultures. The historical and ethnic uniqueness of the city is seen throughout...