montreal botanic gardens

Montreal [immerse]

Montreal boasts big-city activities highlighted by green-living enthusiasm. The expansive bike lanes allow visitors to explore the city and its neighborhoods, both of which feature opportunities for artistic outings, architectural eye candy, and glorious gardens.


True Vegan Fashion

Husbands and co-founders Marcus Aliaga and Franco Iacovella started their boutique AllTRUEist with one goal in mind: to combine their shared passion for sustainability and high fashion. After decades of working for luxury houses such as Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Ilori, Aliaga grew tired of the lack of environmentally conscious options revered by fashionistas and herbivores alike (not to mention those who are both). “You have to dress a certain way in the industry. It was really hard to find sustainably produced items locally,” Aliaga says. “I wanted to find high-end brands that are really good quality, and it was hard.”


yellow bag

Alexandra K. 1.5 bag in Caramello; $374. This iconic bag was the winner of the PETA Best Handbag award in 2014 and is individually handmade in Poland. Photo courtesy of AllTRUEist.


The couple spent five years curating a list of brands for their store. That hard work yielded a store that caters to a range of tastes but offers items that all share two qualities — high design and high quality. Alongside necklaces made from bombs dropped in Laos during the Vietnam War, you’ll find lacy lingerie, Italian-imported “leather” footwear, and glamorous faux-fur coats designed by stylists for luxury houses Fendi and Prada. The couple also places a high priority on knowing exactly where and how the designers source their materials. “Working in the fashion world for years, you don’t get to see all the things that happen,” Aliago says. “But the more I read, the more I saw the truth behind what really goes on behind the scenes.”

But despite their passion for cruelty-free clothing, the founders of AllTRUEist don’t lead with their activism when positioning their store or the clothing they sell. “I always want to be inclusive and not sound like an activist website because we want to be able to educate and bring people in for whom veganism is not on their radar,” Aliago says. “They just choose it because it’s beautiful and well-made, and it happens to be vegan. It happens to be sustainable.”

Check out AllTRUEist’s website for their pop-up shop locations around Montreal. Items start at $150.


The Spiritual Escape

outside shot of notre dame

Sitting opposite the church is the Place D’Armes, a square to grab a seat and a quick bite to eat while admiring James O’Donnell’s 19th-century masterpiece. Added in 1895 to the square, the Maisonneuve Monument faces the church and celebrates the 250th anniversary of the city. Photo by Michael Vesia.

Notre Dame basilica

The altarpiece of the Notre Dame Basilica is centered around the theme of the Eucharist, the Christian ceremony commemorating the Last Supper. Surrounding the crucifixion are four scenes from the Old Testament, including in the bottom right the offering of bread and wine made by Melchisedech. Photo by Gurpreet Singh.

Montrealers find it hard to resist stopping to take in the Notre Dame Basilica’s soaring spirals and midnight-blue vaults. Commissioned by the Sulpicians, a society of diocesan priests, Irish-American architect James O’Donnell designed the cathedral that was dedicated officially in 1829. It now serves as one of the oldest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in Canada. During their busiest months, Notre Dame can garner more than 2,500 visitors per day, most of whom arrive before noon to tour the historic site. So plan on arriving after 2 p.m. to ensure missing the crowds. The Basilica will be less overwhelming and allow uninterrupted time for guests to observe the intricate wooden carvings and stained-glass windows depicting religious moments of Montreal’s past, including the arrival of the Sulpicians in the 1600s. The main altarpiece of the Basilica depicts the Crucifixion of Christ with the Virgin and Saint John standing on each side and Mary Magdalene kneeling toward the cross.

110 Notre-Dame St. W, Montreal, QC H2Y 1T2, Canada. Tickets can be purchased at the front of the church for $4.50.


Paintings with H(e)art

gallery shot

Since opening five years ago, the PeterwHart Gallery remains dedicated to creating an atmosphere that welcomes art lovers, no matter their background. Administrative Director Joëlle Gauthier explains that the gallery tries to involve the community by holding workshops for numerous charities. Photo by Peter Benson.

From the MURAL Festival celebrating public art to Auguste Rodin’s Sirens found at the Montreal Fine Arts Museum, Montreal serves as an innovation hub for artists and creatives. That creativity extends beyond the the museums and festivals: Street art abounds on the Boulevard Saint-Laurent, and galleries dot the city — particularly Rue Saint-Paul, which serves as home to many, including vegan artist and community leader Peter Hart. The former Olympic-level athlete and jeweler uses painting as a way to express not only his feelings but to assist those within the community. The single-artist gallery holds fundraisers and events that help support and raise funds for the homeless community of Montreal through auctions for his work. Joëlle Gauthier, administrative director at PeterwHart Gallery, explains that Hart enjoys using materials like beads and crystals to create dimension and a bit of sparkle, but that viewers may also find few less conventional elements. “He is not afraid to experiment with materials that you would not associate with professionals like spaghetti, lentils, vermicelli,” Gauthier says. “It is a fun clash between jewelry and spaghetti.” Hart also possesses a soft spot for sunflowers, which appear in a number of his pieces. Gauthier says the flowers represent people close to Hart and allow him the opportunity to include his loved ones in almost every piece he creates.

367 Rue Saint-Paul East, Montreal, QC H2Y 1H4, Canada. Open every day, PeterwHart’s gallery is free to the public.


Space for Life

closeup of begonias

The Jardin botanique is home to over 21,000 species of plants. Native to Colombia and Venezuela, the fern-leaf begonia is known for its white or pale pink petals and is housed within one of the 10 exhibition greenhouses in the botanical gardens. Photo by Peter Benson.

japanese garden

Spanning over six acres, the Japanese Garden—designed by Ken Nakajima and opened in 1988—celebrates the restorative powers that nature offers. Visitors can meditate and relax as they listen to the gentle noises of the waterfall or take in the meticulously groomed bonsai courtyard. Photo by Peter Benson.

close up of orchids

One of the largest at the Botanical Gardens, the orchid collection contains almost 4,000 specimens of the genus. Henry Teuscher, the designer and first superintendent of the Montreal Botanical Garden, had a passion for orchids and started the collection. Photo by Peter Benson.

close up of flowers

Yellow lupines line a path through one of the 30 thematic gardens at the Jardin Botanique. Guests can take in the majesty of the lotus flowers and water hyacinths in the Aquatic Garden or visit the babbling brook. Photo by Lindsey Sabado.

Montreal’s botanical garden extends across more than two acres and features roughly 22,000 plant species. Its gardens and greenhouses take guests from a tropical rainforest to a Japanese koi pond with a stop at a hacienda along the way. Located right beside the Olympic Stadium from the 1976 Summer Games, the Space for Life complex also includes an Insectarium, one of the largest collections of bug life in North America with more than 250,000 species, and the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, complete with a statue to Nicolaus Copernicus, the astronomer whose theory placed the sun at the center of the universe.

4101 Rue Sherbrooke E, Montreal, QC H1X 2B2, Canada. Explore the multitude of gardens for just $15.50. Tickets can be purchased at the box office in front of the Space for Life.


Where Heritage Meets Innovation

VR art installation

Treehugger: Wawona is an interactive exhibit at the PHI Centre. Created by London-based multimedia design studio Marshmallow Laser Feast, the virtual reality piece explores endangered trees through a trippy, color-filled experience. Photo by Sandra Larochelle.

Boasting their own green rooftop terrace and garden offering stunning views of both the new and old parts of the city, The PHI Center is named after the golden ratio and serves as a nod to founder Phoebe Greenberg’s search for perfection. It’s also a museum that celebrates art in a multitude of forms. Their summer exhibit, Particles of Existence, allows patrons to experience some of the world’s most innovative virtual-reality art exhibits, including one allowing visitors to hug a sequoia tree. The center also features a free exhibit, Roxham, by Montreal-based photographer Michel Huneault documenting U.S.- and Canadian-border interceptions of asylum seekers. The LEED Gold Certified building meets the high standards on green practices such as low-water usage and building materials, and prides itself on an intimate, sound-proofed, 180-capacity music venue, playing host to various local and international artists, including Detroit Swindle and Ross from Friends.

407 Rue Saint-Pierre, Montreal, QC H2Y 2M3, Canada. Tickets to Particles of Existence ($19; $15 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays) are sold for three-hour blocks to allow enough time to immerse yourself in the different VR exhibits.


A Late Summer Night’s Dream

Outdoor performance

Adam Capriolo (left) and Gitanjali Jain perform in Repercussion Theatre’s 2015 performance of Twelfth Night. Both actors will be in this year’s Romeo and Juliet: Love is Love as Mercutio/Prince Escalus and Juliet’s Nurse, respectively. Jain is also the music and sound composer for the show. Photo courtesy of Studio Baron Photo.

Thank Amanda Kellock, artistic director of Repercussion Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park and the first female in charge of the production, for injecting some gender diversity into the bard’s signature plays. Only the fourth artistic director in the production’s 30-year history, Kellock continues the long tradition of celebrating diversity and representation to mark the anniversary. This version of Romeo and Juliet, entitled Love is Love, will play 30 times throughout the summer, featuring two female leads as well as a host of characters in drag to modernize the 421-year-old play. “It’s about this kind of society of rigid ideas of who you’re allowed to love,” Kellock says. “So Romeo and Juliet happen to find themselves loving each other against what society would like them — the way they’re supposed to be behaving.” Kellock has done this before. Two summers ago she put on an all-female production of Julius Caesar. “I just took gender out of the equation so people could audition for whatever character they identified with, regardless of gender,” says Kellock. The inclusivity goes beyond the stage too, as there’s no admission fee but donations are encouraged.

For show times of the performances across Montreal and the province of Ontario, visit the Shakespeare in the Park website.


Banner photo by Peter Benson.

Peter Benson is the City Guides editor for NEHA. He has lived in four different countries and visited another couple dozen. He brings the lessons he learned from traveling and meeting people from all over the world to the publication. Benson earned his degree in business management from The University of Edinburgh in Scotland, his home country.

Sarah DiMarco is the Savor editor for NEHA. DiMarco has reported stories on various topics, including the LGBTQ+ community, urban development, and food. Prior to Newhouse, she earned her bachelor’s degree in English at Baldwin Wallace University. When she isn’t editing or writing, she can be found trying to master her grandmother's recipes in the kitchen.

Lindsey Sabado has bachelor’s degrees in history and English and a minor in education. Sabado is a contributing writer at and is pursuing a career in education reporting.

Neha Tandon is the founder of NEHA. From a young age, trips with her family sparked her interest in compassionate travels. She witnessed how insensitively people and animals were being treated across the globe. As she grew up, she found many people who shared her interest and inspired her to create NEHA with the mission to foster a like-minded community and encourage and educate others.