Montreal is located in the middle of the St. Lawrence river in southwest Quebec. It is Canada’s second largest city and has the largest population of French speakers outside of Paris. Montreal is a Canadian city with a French soul, a big heart and a very hip attitude. A city that enchants visitors with an old-world charm and an unpretentious love of good food and festivals. The first Europeans to arrive here were from France and while the British later claimed ownership, an elegant sophistication lingers like a perfume.
Order un cafe, stroll the cobblestone streets of the Old City and soak up the history and architecture of the area. Some of the buildings here date back to the 17th century, making it one of the oldest urban areas in North America. The Old City is also a great place to discover Montreal’s famous food scene. Visit one of the intimate bistros here and order Poutine the locals love it. Or, follow your nose to one of the city’s many wood fired ovens and try a real Montreal bagel. Walk off the delicious food with a stroll around Place Jacques-Cartier, named after the intrepid explorer who claimed Canada for France.
When Mark Twain visited Montreal in the 19th centuryhe nicknamed it the “The City of a Hundred Bell Towers.” The city’s churches are simply magnificent, especially the Christ Church Cathedral, the Josephs Oratory and the Notre Dame Basilica. But amidst all this history, Montreal is also thoroughly hip. The city hosts more than 100 festivals throughout the year but even if you happen to be here between events, there is always something cool going on. Head to the Quartier Latin, popular for its artistic atmosphere, cafes and clubs. Or visit Le Village on Saint Catherine Street East which closes to cars in summer, making it a great place to party.
Another great area is Plateau Mont-Royal where you’ll discover groovy boutiques, funky cafes and colourful murals. For art of a different kind, head downtown to the the Golden Square Mile and the Montreal Museum of Fine Art. Like Montreal itself, this museum combines the old and new with great èlan. Admire exquisite works of the great mastersas well as an impressive collection of local and international contemporary art. In Montreal, even Mother Nature is chic.
Get outside and enjoy the city the way Montrealers do with a hike up Mont-royal, the 764 foot green jewel that rises from the downtown area and gave the city its name. Or, discover the Montreal biodome, where five of the most beautiful ecosystems in America have been recreated in what was once the olympic velodrome. For more jewel-like color, visit the Montreal Insectrium the largest insect museum in North America. Right next door is the Montreal Botanical Garden. Stroll amongst the tranquil ponds in the Japanese Zen garden. Experience the principles of yin and yang in the Chinese Garden And of course, you can’t leave town without a trip to La Ronde, the city’s beloved amusement park.
Take a flume ride or brave one of the heart-stopping roller coasters with names like Le Vampire and the Cobra. As the sun sets on your adventures, head back downtown and discover Montreal after dark. Enjoy cool jazz, smoky blues or wind down with something a little more quirky. European…Canadian….traditional….cutting edge. Montreal is all of these things but it is also so much more. With its french past and funky present, Montreal is a city with a certain je ne sa is quoi. A flavour and a feeling that is hard to define but very easy to love.