Montreal travel guide
Montreal is the second largest city in Canada, the cultural capital of Quebec, a city rich in history and culture. The city has one foot in the past with an old-world atmosphere and one in the present. You will find a charming world with churches belong to 19th century those nestled in the shadows of ascending modern skyscrapers. Montreal is also the second largest French-speaking metropolis in the world. It is one of the most vibrant cities in North America, possesses a vibrancy and excitement. Enjoy watching attractive, fashionably dressed people go by from a sidewalk café.
Montreal is Canada's most diverse metropolis. Victoria Square is a place that best sums up the Anglo-French culture - a clash of Montreal. Place Jacques Cartier in Old Montreal is another example. Named after the Frenchman who first visited the island on which the city now stands; it also features Nelson's Column, celebrating Britain's victory over the French at Trafalgar.
While most signs in in the city are in French, it is definitely a bilingual city. Walk down a Montreal street and you will hear locals switch effortlessly between the two mid-conversation. Hotel or restaurant staff will normally first address you in French but switch to English in a heartbeat if your French is bad. This mix of two languages and cultures in a North American setting creates an exciting big city atmosphere that you couldn't find elsewhere on the continent.
Stroll through the streets of Old Montreal, with its classic French architecture, art galleries, stylish boutiques, museums and welcoming bistros, and you could be in France. But walk uptown and shopping malls, grid-like streets, skyscrapers and fast-food chains place you firmly in North America.
Food and culture lie at the heart of Montreal's attractions. The city lacks any real "must-see" attractions – Notre Dame Basilica and the Biosphere are probably the top sights in Montreal. But what really makes the city special are its inhabitants and their joie de vivre. Dine at a fine French restaurant and follow dancing the night away at a club.
It hosts events throughout the year – the jazz and comedy festivals being two of the highest profile. Several downtown areas are closed for the biggest festivals with many free events being held outdoors, helping to create a real buzz.
Even when there are no major events, the city has a genuinely lively downtown – much of the population still lives in the area so it doesn't empty every day after 5pm unlike some North American cities. A big student population also makes life more interesting.
The Latin Quarter is popular with students and is packed with bars, restaurants and boutiques. It's a café culture district – ideal for people-watching. This also goes for the Village, which has some stylish restaurants alongside its gay-orientated bars and clubs. Montreal is a very walkable city with funky areas such as the Latin Quarter and the Village that can be reached easily on foot or by a short metro ride from the city centre.
Further North is the little Italy. It's much more of working area and the main draw is the Jean-Talon Market, a farmers' market where you can experience the best Quebec produce including a variety of cheeses and even ice cider. Montreal is also famous for its smoked meat and bagels – mention eating bagels in New York and you are likely to get short shrift from a local.
A more North American experience is offered Underground City, a 21- mile series of linked shopping malls, office complexes, hotels and metro stations. It includes more than 900 shops, 50 restaurants, 13 cinemas and three ice rinks. It's a haven for locals and visitors during the bitter winter, but is still packed during the summer.
Getting lost in the maze is inevitable – even locals struggle at times to work out where they are. But wander around for a few minutes and a helpful sign will help guide you to where you want to go. Still, it's a dangerous place for anybody with a shopping addiction.