If you’re in North America, Montreal, the largest city in Quebec, Canada, is a destination that can give you a flavor or Europe without traveling as far. The city also tends to be quite a bit cheaper than Paris, the European city that it most closely resembles. Montreal, however, is not an imitation of Paris; it’s a world class city with a culture and atmosphere all it’s own. Montreal and all of Quebec are bilingual but most people in Montreal speak at least some English.
- Quartier des Spectacles is the part of the city where you can find a high concentration of restaurants, clubs and special events such as concerts, art installations and light shows.. Many festivals are held here throughout the year. Even if there isn’t a festival going on when you visit, you can have a good time walking around and enjoying the sights.
- Old Montreal (Vieux—Montreal) Montreal provides a nice contrast between the old and the new. This section of town, located in the Ville-Marie borough, gives you a flavor of what life was like centuries ago, with narrow streets, historic buildings and plenty of shops, restaurants and cafes. you can explore this area on foot, by bicycle or even take a horse-drawn carriage. One of the highlights is Rue St.-Paul, the city’s oldest street and where you’ll find old buildings such as Notre Dame de Bonsecours Chapel.
- Underground City -Also called Reso, this is a vast network of underground stores, restaurants, Metro stations, department stores and hotels. Montreal’s harsh winters provided the motivation for this feature, which can be considered a network of intersecting malls. It’s very convenient when you don’t feel like braving the cold and fun to explore even in warm seasons.
- Mont Royal -You can hike, drive or take a bus to this mountaintop park and get great views of the city.
- Museums -Montreal is a city that offers many excellent museums, so make sure you explore at least a few. These include Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which opened in the 19th century and has over 40,000 works from ancient to modern times. Montreal Science Centre is the place to see dinosaurs, as well as many exhibits dedicated to science and technology. One of the city’s most innovative museums is Biodome de Montreal, which offers the experience of living in different habitats such as tropical rainforests, Antarctica and many other ecosystems.
Dining and Nightlife
Montreal offers a great diversity of places to eat. While the traditional focus is French-oriented, the modern city has lots of other choices as well. The following is only a small selection of some of the city’s most popular places to eat.
- Damas Restaurant, in the Outremont section, offers modern interpretations of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes in a casual atmosphere. This is a popular restaurant, so it’s best to reserve a table or be prepared to wait.
- Le Robin Square, in Vieux-Montreal on Boulevard Saint Laurent, is family style restaurant with a very diverse menu. Favorites include slow-cooked pork and other pork dishes, macaroni & cheese, glazed ham, a variety of pasta dishes and homemade hot sauces.
- Like any world-class city, Montreal has its great sushi places, such as Kyo Bar Japonais on Cote de la Place d’Armes downtown. With modern and chic decor and items such as fresh sushi, soba noodles, Japanese tapas and a sake menu, this is a good choice for Asian cuisine in downtown Montreal.
- If you want to experience French dining inspired by the modern world (the chef spent many years cooking in New York among other places), Maison Boulud at the Ritz Carlton downtown is an excellent choice. Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, you can order a six-course menu for dinner. Prices are high but quality is first rate.
- L’Express, on Rue St.-Denis in the Le Plateau-Mont-Royal area, is a bustling bistro type restaurant offering expertly prepared dishes such as fish soup, homemade toulouse, quiche nam and cheese and roasted quail with wild rice.
For entertainment, you can enjoy some of Montreal’s pubs and jazz clubs, such as Upstairs Jazz Club on Rue MacKay downtown, Bistro a Jojo in Quartier des Spectacles on Rue St. Denis, which has live music almost every night or House of Jazz downtown on Rue Aylmer.
Montreal also has many larger venues where you can see plays, musicals and concerts. These include Place des Arts, L’Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, Bell Center, Centaur Theatre, which specializes in English language productions and Metropolis.
Where to Stay
If you want to stay downtown and prefer a 4 or 5 star hotel, some of your best choices include Hotel Le Crystal on Rue de la Montagne, which offers beautiful suites and amenities such as a rooftop spa and a salted pool or The Ritz Carlton Montreal, one of the city’s most elegant hotels and where you can find the aforementioned Maison Bououd restaurant.
For more economical accommodations, you can try Hotel Ambrose, a quaint hotel near McGill University and other downtown attractions or Chateau Versailles on Sherbrooke Street West, in a nice old building also centrally located downtown.
Auberge du Vieux-Port is a good choice for Old Montreal, with views of the river and right in the heart of the historic district.
Montreal also has many B & B’s and inns, such as La Loggia Art & Breakfast on Amherst or Git Ocoin B & B on due Dufresne, both in the Ville-Marie area and close to the metro and many restaurants.