Basilique Notre-Dame

Top choice church

in Old Montréal
Image by UniversalImagesGroup / UIG via Getty Images

Montréal's famous landmark, Notre Dame Basilica, is a visually pleasing if slightly gaudy symphony of carved wood, paintings, gilded sculptures and stained-glass windows. Built in 1829 on the site of an older and smaller church, it also sports a famous Casavant Frères organ and the Gros Bourdon, said to be the biggest bell in North America. Admission includes an optional 20-minute guided tour in English.

Longer 60-minute tours ($15) give access to a private balcony and part of the crypt; the two-hour Grand Tour (2 hours, $24) lets you sit at the organ.

The basilica made headlines in 1994 when singer Céline Dion was married under its soaring midnight-blue ceiling, and again in 2000 when Jimmy Carter and Fidel Castro shared pall-bearing honors at the state funeral of former Canadian prime minister, Pierre Trudeau.

A popular place for regular Montréalers to tie the knot is the much smaller Chapelle du Sacré Cœur behind the main altar. Rebuilt in a hodgepodge of historic and contemporary styles after a 1978 fire, its most eye-catching element is the floor-to-ceiling bronze altarpiece.