Postcards & Passports

Montreal Botanical Garden & Gardens of Light

This post was most recently updated on July 9th, 2019

There’s a softer side to the city of Montreal, and you’ll find it at the Botanical Garden. A large expanse of gardens, ponds, and art, Montreal’s Botanical Garden is actually part of a larger area called Espace Pour La Vie (Space for life). It really says something about a city that creates green space where city dwellers can unwind and get back to nature.

Botanical Garden

Botanical Garden

Espace Pour La Vie includes the Biodome, Insectarium, Planetarium, and Botanical Garden. As our time was limited, we opted for just one of these attractions, primarily the Gardens of Light within the Botanical Garden. I thought it would be a shame, however, to arrive after dark and not see any of the gardens during daylight, so my husband and I arrived at about 5:30 pm on a warm September evening.

Botanical Garden

Exhibition Gardens

The Botanical Garden encompasses 185 acres of land. As in HUGE! It was suggested to us that we start at the Exhibition Gardens, as they would close at 6:00 pm. Here we found gardens that highlighted perennials, useful and medicinal plants, vegetables (including corn taller than my 6’4″ tall husband!), shrubs, toxic plants, Monastery-themed plants, and plants that youth would enjoy.

Ponds

After strolling in and around the Exhibition Gardens, we saw a large beautiful pond and headed in that direction. The ponds were so large as to seem entirely natural and not man-made at all. We saw what I think was a blue heron perched and ready to dive for a fish. As the sun set, this area became idyllic. I loved the golden light, beautiful grasses, and trees arching over the water. And there were plenty of benches creating a perfect place to rest.

OOPS — It is possible to get lost here!

It was at about this time we realized we had made a major mistake. We had not picked up a map of the gardens, and as I mentioned before, they were huge. It’s not like being at the mall where every few hundred feet there’s a “You are here!” sign. We wanted to find the beginning of the Gardens of Light before it was completely dark! There weren’t many people around us to ask, either.

We passed a few more themed gardens: an alpine garden with a babbling creek and the First Nations garden with a special exhibit. Finally I did what anyone would do in this situation — walk up to a stranger and ask for directions! I was directed to the Chinese garden and told to follow the path of lights. Only now that it was much darker did I even realize there were lighted globes along the path.

Japanese Garden

With the last moments of daylight we explored the Japanese Garden. It was very serene and beautiful in its order and simplicity. Glimpses of fall colors made it all the more gorgeous!

Chinese Garden

The Chinese Garden is perhaps the very best garden in the Botanical Gardens! It is really quite spectacular as it celebrates with color, light, music, reflections, pavilions, a pond, and winding paths that let you explore all that you see. There is so much to see it is difficult to decide where to focus your attention. There’s the dragon inside one of pavilions, the lighted lanterns in trees and even in the water, whimsical creatures awash in color and light — it’s really a celebration that makes you happy! It was also interesting to learn that the Chinese Garden has a new exhibit each year for the Gardens of Light with new lanterns and a new theme.

FIRST NATIONS garden

We re-visited the First Nations Garden as it lit up for the Gardens of Light exhibit. While there were a few visual attractions in this garden (a luminated sacred tree with simulated seasons, for example), I felt the focus was on what you hear as you walk the lighted paths: crickets, birds, wolves, the beating of the heart, chanting, narration, and more. It definitely felt in character with what you would expect from a First Nation experience.

What did we think of the Botanical Garden?

Montreal’s Botanical Garden outdoes itself! It offers so much to so many. You could spend hours there and see a lot…or you could just go sit on a bench beside the pond and relax. We never even got to the Arboretum section of the Garden, where we could have meandered on paths that highlight over 20 different tree collections. We also didn’t have time to see the greenhouses, the Shade Garden, or dine at the Garden Restaurant. And the Insectarium, which is very popular with children, is included in admission. There you’ll find a “Buzzground” – bug-themed playground, and lots of interactive displays. But that just means there’s a reason to go back!

And the Gardens of Light?

The Chinese Garden was absolutely specatacular! While the Japanese and First Nation Gardens were also nice, they did not have the “Wow!” factor of the Chinese Garden. But just to prove how popular the Gardens of Light is, you should have seen the line of people waiting to enter when we left at about 7:30 pm! If you’re visiting Montreal and thinking about visiting Espace Pour La Vie, I highly recommend you allow time in your schedule for the Botanical Garden and Gardens of Light. There’s nothing else like it!

Botanical Garden

PRO TIPS:
  • Buy your tickets online to avoid waiting in line ($20.25 adults, 10.25 children — there are discounted rates for seniors, students, and families).
  • Come in the late afternoon so you can see the gardens by daylight, catch a bite to eat at the Garden Restaurant or Cafe, and then stay for the Gardens of Light
  • Do be sure to pick up a map!
  • If you have infants with you, a baby carrier is much easier to use than a stroller, especially during the Gardens of Light.
  • I suggest bringing a water bottle when it’s warm. I completely underestimated how large the gardens were and got thirsty walking around.
  • Gardens of Light 2017 ends October 31, 2017 — but don’t worry! There will be a new exhibit next year…
  • The Botanical Garden address is 4101 rue Sherbrooke Est, right across from the Montreal Olympic Stadium

I’d like to thank Espace Pour La Vie for hosting my visit to the Botanical Garden and Gardens of Light! We gladly paid for my husband’s admission, and we are happy to add our recommendation to that of thousands of other happy visitors!

Please share this pin so others can enjoy the gardens too!

Botanical Garden

13 thoughts on “Montreal Botanical Garden & Gardens of Light

  1. Jenn and Ed Coleman

    This brings back memories of my childhood in the Midwest. Just on the edge of my biking range was the municipal rose garden. My lifetime love of biking developed from those rides to the gardens. I particularly miss the maples changing colors in the fall. So beautiful.

  2. Skye Class

    Wow. I love these kind of attractions. I actually try to visit the botanical gardens in all the cities I visit, but these soiund bigger than any others I’ve been to yet. Absolutely massive! I really like when they are set up as an actual nature reserve. Would have loved to see that heron go fishing. And of course those Gardens of Light seem absolutely magical. I’ll definitely have this place on my bucket list when I make it to Canada again.

  3. amit

    You know I have to admit, in all the countries I’ve traveled to, walking through their botanic gardens are always a welcome and calming experience and this one in Montreal seems to be the same. There is always so much to enjoy, I’ve added this to my list of places to visit when I do get out to Montreal, I would especially like to visit the Japanese Garden section 😀

  4. Prasad Np

    I love Botanical gardens as they are living breathing spaces making a city much more habitable while educating the next generations. Montreal botanical garden sure takes it to the next level with active community involvement events.

  5. Jim

    Wow, this place is beautiful! Getting lost in the gardens must have been a bit harrowing…but then again, there are few places better in which to be lost! 🙂

  6. Lucy

    I didn’t know Montreal had a botanical garden! It looks absolutely beautiful, especially the Japanese and Chinese gardens. The more I read your articles about Montreal, more I would like to go!

  7. Indrani

    They sure know how to make gardens interesting! Almost every garden incorporates the Japanese and Chinese garden themes. They really enhance the whole look. Loved these various photographs.

  8. Suruchi

    The Montreal Botanical Garden looks awesome and it has so much to offer. One can easily spend a whole day here watching those ponds, waterfall, and colors. The Chinese garden is just spectacular and it is adding magic to the whole place. For sure adding this to my list.

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