City Highlight: Montreal

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The Canadian city with chic appeal, Montreal has an attitude and sense of style that would be more at home in continental Europe than North America.

Perhaps it’s because it’s the capital of Canada’s Quebec province - almost a state within a state – but Montreal nurtures a spirit of independence and flies the colours of the fleurdelisé, Quebec’s national flag, with pride.

For all its unique francophile charms, Montreal does share with Canada a proudly liberal mindset, best witnessed in Le Village Gai – one of North America’s largest gay districts. Other obligatory neighbourhoods for the first-time visitor include the multilingual boho hotspot Mile End and the quaint cobbled streets of Vieux-Montréal (Old Town). For more on where to start your visit, check out our Montreal travel guide.

Montreal has become a major hub for the arts, best represented in the wealth of festivals the city hosts every year. These annual events number more than 100 and include the International Jazz Festival and Just for Laughs comedy festival. The city’s music scene continues in rude health, and its alumni include Arcade Fire and Grimes. If you’re looking to discover the next big thing from Montreal, visit the Casa del Popolo, one of our Montreal nightlife recommendations.

Winter sports enthusiasts are spoiled for choice over the winter season too. Mont Tremblant has nearly 600 acres of ski and snowboarding trails, and is only a two-hour drive from the city, while Bromont, around an hour away, claims the largest illuminated ski terrain in North America. Winter sports is just one of the things that Montreal offers on its doorstep. For more suggestions see our guide on what to do in Montreal.

Not everything about Montreal is fast moving and modern. Walk the cobbled streets of Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal) and indulge in some of the cities’ finest architecture, including one of Montreal’s most iconic sights, the 19th century Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, then head to the top of Mont Royal for vistas out over the city from Saint Joseph’s Oratory. For more recommendations, see our tips for things to see and do in Montreal.

Feeling peckish? Montreal is a glutton’s dream. Poutine, tourtière (meat pies) and grand-pères (maple syrup dumplings) are all local staples. If you have room for more after indulging in those delights then the legendary Schwartz’s delicatessen is an essential stop. Part owned by Celine Dion (some pub quiz trivia for you), their signature dish is a smoked meat sandwich on rye bread, dripping with yellow mustard. Each sandwich is ordered by fat content: lean, medium, medium-fat or fat.

Feel your blood sugar levels soaring after all that rich food? Take a break and find the perfect place to rest your head in Montreal. Accommodation is one of the city’s fortes and unless you’re travelling during one of the major festivals, when hotel availability is at a premium, you’re spoilt for choice. 

With an outdoor hot tub on a four-season rooftop terrace, Hotel Le Crystal is an LBGT and pet-friendly establishment that will take care of almost every aspect of your stay, even the babysitting arrangements. Penny-pinching travellers could do worse than a stay at Anne ma Soeur Anne, a stylish 17-room hotel in a 19th-century townhouse situated along a lively strip in the trendy district of Plateau Mont-Royal. For more hotel recommendations, see our Montreal accommodation guide