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With its alluring fusion of cobblestone streets, flashy skyscrapers, European chic and North American swagger, Montreal is unlike any other city on the continent.
Canada’s largest French-speaking city is happy to dish out a dose of old-world charm amid its grand heritage buildings and 18th- and 19th-century narrow lanes. But it’s a progressive city too: a creative hub, where swanky boutique hotels radiate contemporary cool, and a slew of flashy new skyscrapers are competing to make their mark on the skyline. This is a sophisticated riverside metropolis, crammed with cosmopolitan eateries, hyper-cool shops and a cornucopia of festivals.
When it comes to sightseeing, there’s plenty to gawp at. Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride (calèche) along the St Laurence River in Old Montreal and amble down to the buzzing harbour front. Stroll to Plateau Mont-Royal, where wrought-iron staircases, designer fashion boutiques, a thriving arts scene and snazzy nightspots pepper its funky streets. Pop over to Mile End, home to Jewish, Greek and Italian communities, and a hipster magnet thanks to its quirky restaurants, cafés, shops and bars.
Le Village Gai is one of North America’s largest gay districts, where you can dine alfresco in the summer when rue Sainte-Catherine becomes pedestrianised. Sip a cappuccino in Little Italy, home to the Jean-Talon Market, or escape from the urban hustle to Pôle des Rapides, a 21km (12-mile) park where you can enjoy a lazy cruise along the Lachine Canal.
Foodies go bananas for Montreal’s finger-licking cuisine. The city claims to have the largest number of eateries per capita in North America, and its markets are something to truly savour – tuck into delicious specialities like crepes and fried squid and ubiquitous maple syrup products. The food truck phenomenon has taken Montreal by storm too, with an eclectic mix of vendors dishing up everything from dim sum to schnitzel.
Up for a party? Montreal’s festival vibe is second-to-none, from world-class jamming at the International Jazz Festival to chuckles by the bucket load at the Just for Laughs Festival. And don’t miss the crazily chilly line-up of outdoor shows at winter festival Montréal en Lumière.