Visiting Montreal’s Botanical Gardens and Insectarium
Visiting the Montreal 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.
Close to the Chinese Garden is the Japanese Garden. It is worth seeing for its lake, waterfalls, and streams. It’s a peaceful place built and planned in conjunction with the city of Hiroshima.
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.
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.
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 the “Space for Life” package (“Espace pour Vie” in French) ticket that combines 1) the Biodome and Observation tower, 2) Botanical gardens/insectarium (what I’ve covered above) and 3) the Montreal Biosphère museum. It costs $83 per person and is valid for 12 months (and you can visit as many times as you want)
If wanting to just visit the Botanical gardens/insectarium, the cost for a ticket is $22.75 per person.
PS. Looking to book flights, hotels, tours, or rent a car? Have a look at our Travel Resources page.