By Patricia Gajo
Somehow Montréal knows she's the most eclectic of Canada's cities: The island metropolis hosts international gigs like the Jazz Fest, delights culinary crowds with her French-Canadian cuisine, and struts her Euro-heritage along the historic streets of the newly revitalized Vieux-Montréal. Impressively bilingual in English and French, Montréal's global mix is a diverse microplanet of Scottish, Chinese, Haitian, Arabic, Jewish, Italian, Portuguese, Filipino, and Greek immigrants, just to name a few. All this is wrapped up in a vibrant arts and culture scene and energized by an exuberant university community.
Things to Do
Hop on a public BIXI bike and wind your way up Mont Royal, the central landmark where Montréal gets her name, then enjoy a leisurely picnic by Beaver Lake. If you're smart, you packed a Schwartz's smoked-meat sandwich in your basket. Then make your way down to the Old Port for some rollerblading along the canal, stopping by a microbrasserie en route to sampling Québec's famous local ales. Unwind with a relaxing body treatment at Spa Scandinave or Bota Bota.
Shopaholics will find much to love here. All the big labels can be found on the city's main drag, rue Ste-Catherine. Add a dash of local style by visiting the vintage and antique shops in the bohemian Plateau, Mile End, or Little Burgundy neighborhoods. For a taste of Francophone living, try the alluring shops and eateries along mainly French rue St-Denis. Finally, stroll along the cobblestoned rue St-Paul in Vieux-Montréal for avant-garde fashion and art set in a most picturesque corner of Canada.
Restaurants & Dining
Restaurants in the postcard-pretty neighborhood offer authentic old-world ambience and sophisticated European flair. In summer, be the first to snag the seats on the terrace and you'll fit right in. Come winter, beeline it to the fireplace. Downtown and Quartier International addresses are equally posh with celebrity chefs, such as Normand Laprise at Toqué! While Montréal is bursting with award-winning local produce, reinvented French-Canadian classics, and typical Parisian entrées, don't miss the city's beloved fast food, poutine.
Nightlife & Entertainment
Once known as the city of 100 churches, Montréal is now the city of 100 festivals. International heavyweights include the Jazz Fest and Just for Laughs, but there's also an entire four-season calendar of things to celebrate. Of late, the infamous bar scene on rue Crescent or boulevard St-Laurent has had to make room for the trendy supper-club crowds in Vieux-Montréal. Equal parts restaurant, bar, and nightclub, come dressed to impress.