A bilingual city where French and English are the languages of the day and with roots in Scottish, Chinese, Indian, Jewish, Italian and Greek, it’s no wonder the Canadian city of Montréal is an exciting mix of culture, culinary and exciting nightlife. It is a city where the past and present are seen and felt in its diverse neighborhoods, monthly festivals and vibrant food scene.
DO visit the city’s birthplace, Old Montréal. Located on the St. Lawrence River, “Vieux- Montréal” is the epicenter of all things cultural. Filled with picturesque public squares, Instagram-worthy architecture, art galleries, shops, and cafes, it’s the perfect place to soak in the local ambiance and experience the history of Montréal. Be sure to tour the city’s iconic landmark, Notre-Dame Basilica that houses stained-glass windows and sculptures and snapshots of the Gros Bourdon, notable as the biggest bell in North America and the world famous Casavant organ.
Take a CULTURE BREAK at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts where you can see the very first exhibition of the works of the French couturier Thierry Mugler. Thierry Mugler: Couturissime will showcase more than 140 haute-couture garments from 1973-2001 along with unpublished archival documents, sketches, and photographs from world-renowned fashion photographers such as Pierre et Gilles, Richard Avedon, Herb Ritts, and David LaChapelle. The Museum also features some 43,000-works comprised of paintings, antiquities, sculptures, and photographs from artists such as Rembrandt, and Renoir to Picasso and Cézanne, so there is something for every taste and interest.
While the occasional Rembrandt, Picasso and Monet masterpiece can also be found at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, the real star is the Canadian art. Works by Jean Baptiste Roy-Audy, Paul Kane, Jean-Paul Riopelle and the Group of Seven make this an art lover’s paradise.
ATTEND one of the numerous cultural, sports and food festivals. Depending on which month you are there, the city boasts an exciting array of events throughout the year. June is the perfect time to catch the famed Montréal Jazz Festival, the Grand Prix du Canada or discover a new libation at the Montréal Beer Festival. The Montréal Film Festival in late August and September is a must for film aficionados while the Grand Prix Cycliste in September offers a rare chance to see the biggest cycling event in North America.
DINE on some of the most unique cuisine the city has to offer. While traditional Montréal fare translates into French classics, broaden your palate with Thai, Mexican, Hassidic, Moroccan, Indian and Portuguese plates. Boulevard St-Laurent and rue Crescent are popular avenues for dining and it is often said the bagels in Montréal rival that of New York City. Maple donuts, fried or grilled arepas, marshmallow and Nutella pizza, yucca French fries, poutine grilled cheese and smoke beef are just a few of the diverse delicacies that await.
SEE the breathtaking views from the top of the 761-foot hill known as Parc du-Mont Royal. Popular with joggers, picnickers and tourists alike, you can take the stairs to the top of the small mountain and view the 470-acre park below that was designed by New York’s Central Park designer Fred Law Olmsted. Panoramic views are best seen from Kondiaronk Lookout near Chalet du Mont-Royal or the Observatoire de l’Est.
EXPERIENCE the sights and colors of the Montréal Botanic Gardens (known as Jardin Botanique Montréal). With 22,000 species of flora housed in 10 greenhouses, rose and alpine gardens, there is plenty to see. Don’t miss the peaceful tranquility of the bonsai trees in the Japanese Garden and the designs reminiscent of the Ming Dynasty in the Chinese Garden.