The French charm of Montreal is immediately obvious on arrival. Often noted for its Parisian style, particularly in architecture, the city is a breath of fresh air in North America, having gained its distinctively French roots during its heyday as a centre of fur trading. Many of the locals speak French as their first language, while other notable aspects of Parisian culture, such as the art-house cafes, boutique bookshops and immaculately-dressed Montrealers, all evoke a uniquely French vibe. The popular district of Plateau-Mont-Royal has a particularly Parisian character, and attracts a youthful bohemian crowd.
Montreal is a city of opulence; at least it was during its prosperous fur-trading days at the Old Port. At the time, the city was keen to show off its wealth and invested much of its fortunes in grand, elegant buildings in the city centre. Evidence of this wealthy past can be seen by visiting the impressive Notre-Dame Basilica, or Canada’s largest church, St. Joseph’s Oratory. Of course, Montreal’s splendour was not solely limited to religious buildings. The Bonsecours Market also provides ample evidence of the city’s love of spectacle, with its reflective silver dome dominating the city skyline. While you’re shopping, continue towards the Underground City, the largest underground shopping centre in the world, and explore over 30 kilometres of underground walkways.
Music and the arts have always had a strong pride of place in Montreal and the city’s dedication to world-class festivals and cultural events throughout the year is an ode to that. The ‘Just For Laughs’ comedy festival is just one of a number of large events and festivals that entice people from all over the globe, to this rich Canadian centre of culture. Many annual festivals, from jazz music to fireworks, can be enjoyed in the magnificent facilities of Quartier des Spectacles in the Downtown district.
Built on an island, at the intersection of the St. Lawrence River and the Rivière des Prairies, Montreal has grown and sprawled well past its original centre at Mount Royal. The metro, with its own unique sense of style and design, provides an easy way of getting around the island and across the rivers, and stops at most major tourist sites.
Just 72 kilometres from its US neighbour, the city of Montreal is situated in a lovely part of Canada, in the southern province of Quebec. It is the largest city in Quebec and the second largest city in the country.