While Montreal Canada is sometimes overshadowed by the capital Quebec, the province holds its own as a vibrant, culturally diverse metropolis. The island city holds strong to its French roots with an abundance of Parisian eateries, boutiques and markets – (so brush up on your French, oui?). A glimpse into the city's past can be spotted in the cobblestone alleyways of Old Montreal, while areas like Mile End are bringing a new wave of North American style with bagel nooks and vintage thrift shops. Montreal is a festival hot spot, celebrating everything from Asian cinema to Lebanese cuisine, always promoting a strong creative edge.
If you are wondering what to do in Montreal, you will find your options are almost limitless. Lovers of the outdoors will find their niche with river surfing down the Saint Lawrence and cross-country skiing at Parc du Mont-Royal (Mount Royal) – the origin of the name 'Montreal'. A flourishing arts scene with film, music and comedy festivals throughout the year means your appetite for culture will definitely be satisfied. Montreal is home to museums aplenty – Musee des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts) and Pointe-a-Calliere Museum (Museum of Archaeology) are two must-dos.
Many Montreal restaurants are BYO wine ('apportez votre vin') if you want to save a few extra dollars. The buzzing street culture of Montreal means your choices range from delis and diners to swanky sit-down restaurants and everything in between. Downtown Montreal offers a smorgasbord of cheap, tasty multicultural food at the Jean-Talon market and surrounding shopfronts. A trip to Montreal is not complete without Poutine (hot French fries with cheese curd and thick, brown gravy). The origins of the dish are shady, but the name is rumoured to have come from an expression meaning 'to make a mess' – you will definitely need a napkin or two but it's worth it!
Where to Stay »
If you are simply looking for somewhere to kip for a few hours, Montreal offers youth hotels and budget bed-and-breakfasts close to the metro train service. Couch surfing (also known as hospitality exchange) is a popular Montreal accommodation choice where you can stay with a local host – just make sure you find your host through a reputable source. Those who like to bunk down in luxury should head to Old Montreal for boutique hotels and elegant apartments. In a former life, some Downtown stays were once banks or even leather factories – today they are fitted out with free wifi, in-hotel spas and all the mod-cons.
Shopping in Montreal caters to all tastes from lovers of high-end fashion labels to those preferring a more quirky, edgy style. The underground shopping promenade houses some 2,000 stores – about the size of five standard malls! Welcome home, shopaholics. For a more boutique style shopping experience, explore the retailers of Boulevard St-Laurent where Italian fashion designers neighbour with Asian grocers. Antique hunters are likely to find a gem with a stroll along Notre-Dame Street where even modern stores favour a more historical aesthetic. Independent bookstores have a huge presence in downtown Montreal – shelves are lined with locally illustrated zines, rare comics and locally published novels.
Montreal like a Local
If you are looking at flights to Montreal in warmer weather (April to October), pack your most comfortable walking shoes and take in the city as the locals do – by foot or bicycle. Watch your step when the temperatures drop as sidewalks can get a little icy. 'Happy hour' (loosely taking place from 5 to 7) is a very serious ritual where hardworking residents clock off and head to their favourite bar for a tipple. You will spot locals with a cider or cocktail in hand and antipasto platters on the table. Enjoy a long, leisurely brunch by day and cheer on at a raucous hockey game at night to embrace Montreal in true local style.