Visiting Montreal’s Botanical Gardens and Insectarium
After having explored the Biodome and Tower Observatory a few weeks ago, we completed the Space for Life package (Espace pour Vie in French) last weekend with a visit to the Botanical Gardens and Insectarium.
Visiting the Botanical Gardens might seem to be a daunting task – it covers a space of 175 total acres including the Chinese Garden, the Japanese Garden, the First Nations Garden, and a huge arboretum (I had to look that word up – it means an area dedicated to only trees). And those are only the outdoor features of the Botanical Gardens. They also have a permanent indoor collection of greenhouses which most visitors, especially those coming to Montreal for a summer visit, will overlook. On top of all that, the Insectarium is also within the confines of the Botanical Gardens. Honestly, if you were going to try to see everything on the grounds you’d be stuck here for 3 days. You’d also most likely be so sick of trees, shrubs, and flowers that you’d never set foot in a Botanical Garden again.
So I’m going to tell you what to see in the 3 to 4 hours that most tourists are willing to take to visit the site.
The highlight of the outdoor thematic gardens is the Chinese Garden which is a collaboration between the city of Shanghai and Montreal. All the structures were constructed in Shanghai and shipped to Montreal where they were reassembled. The Garden comprises of a beautiful collection of temples, pavilions, and courtyards arranged around a little lake. There are over 500 different varieties of flowers, trees, shrubs, and bamboos on the 2.5 acre grounds. It is a beautiful spot, there are always artists coming here to paint or draw the surroundings. The Chinese Garden should be your first stop in the Botanical Gardens.
Below: Photos from the Chinese Garden
Close to both the Chinese and Japanese Gardens is the Insectarium. It is definitely worth a visit, kids will especially love it. In it are collections of all kinds of butterflies and bugs, both living and dead, from around the world. You’ll see tarantulas, huge scarab beetles, and live stick insects.
Below left: that’s not a painting. If you look closely, you’ll see the shells of hundreds of different beetles.
Below: lots of kids in the Insectarium
Below: just outside the insectarium
Visiting the Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, and Insectarium will take anywhere from 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours depending on your pace. In between visiting these sites you’ll come across a lot of other gardens, see lots of beautiful flowers, and even come across some really cool mosaics. But unless you are really inspired, finish your outdoor tour here – there’s other stuff to explore.
Below: Mosaics. Every summer they have a mosaic competition which is worth seeing
Instead, go see the permanent indoor exhibit. Most people overlook these. But they are wonderful and maybe the best part of the whole Botanical Garden experience. Inside you’ll see greenhouses dedicated to various climates, from dry Mexican deserts to humid Tropical forests. Give yourself at least 45 minutes to explore them. We had the place almost all to ourselves.
Below: other activities that might interest you in Montreal
Note: We bought tickets that combined the Biodome, Observation tower, and Botanical gardens/insectarium. It totaled $75 for the two of us – the ticket is valid for 30 days. We did all of it in two separate visits of about 4 hours each but the ambitious can manage it all in one full day.
Related: Our detailed Montreal Guide
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