Recently, I had the chance to visit one of the largest Francophone cities in the world. I walked down cosmopolitan streets that showcase both modern architecture and cobblestoned streets, statues and fountains, parkettes and buzzing plazas, filled with performers, visitors, and stalls selling flowers or delicious snacks.
I was still in North America, but everything felt distinctively different, like being in Roman Holiday
, though no plane ticket was required.
Throughout the year travellers love to visit Montreal, a city that offers a mix of European and North American cultures and plenty of options for bars, restaurants and venues to please even the biggest foodie and party animals amongst us. But once the cold subsides and everyone sheds their obligatory parkas, the nightlife jolts to another level and the streets buzz in anticipation of Summer.
Image credit: Jazmin Million via Flickr
And especially for those of us who live in the Northeast or most of the Midwest, the city is a close destination with a European vibe, and is the ideal quick break away from the daily grind.
If you only have a couple of days to enjoy a quick getaway, pack a bag and head to this eclectic and sleepless city.
Start your trip to Montreal with a good view of the cityscape and beyond – Parc du Mont-Royal is situated on top of the city’s namesake small mountain and offers a spectacular view of the city from the Belvedere Kondiaronk
Image credit: Clement Belludy via Flickr
After heading down from the mountain, enjoy a walk through downtown, and make your way around to the Musee des beaux arts
to see an incredible collection of art works from around the world.
Options for food and drink in Montreal are seemingly endless, but you can keep your choices simple and head out to Schwartz’s Deli
, a much-frequented deli in Montreal and known as one of the oldest in Canada.
While there are plenty of microbreweries in Montreal as in any other hip urban city, the wine bars are fantastic and offer an atmosphere that’s both cozy and lively. Modavie
, on Rue Saint Paul Ouest, is a good example of that with live music, delicious eats, an extensive wine menu, and a prime location in Old Montreal
Image credit: Shinya Suzuki, via Flickr
The best way to take in all the architectural and urban eye candy is to walk through it. Place D’Armes, a public square in Old Montreal, allows for a view of the Notre-Dame Basilica and gorgeous Neoclassical structures.
Saint-Paul Street meanwhile is a picturesque and cobblestoned stretch filled with cafes and beautiful architectural sights.
The Bonsecours Market
meanwhile is another beautiful architectural site, and offers plenty of cafes and shops to casually peruse.
And since you’re in the city that prides itself on the wide choices of delicious food from all around the world, go on a Montreal Food Tour
. This is where you can enjoy craft beers on a sunny patio, but also try (at least once) the beloved poutine – a Canadian specialty that when done right can overwhelm your senses (and clog your arteries).
If you’re going to Montreal anytime from June 29 to July 9, throw yourself into hundreds of free jazz performances happening throughout the city’s International Jazz Festival
. During any other time in the year, Montreal has a ton of music venues, catering to every taste.
Image Credit: Ross Dunn, via Flickr
And before you leave, walk out on Rue Ste. Catherine during the day and at night. Here you’ll find lots of boutiques, shops and bars, but later in the day the street transforms to a friendly, all-night nightlife that will satisfy the most committed partygoer.
When you purchase your French dictionary (bonus – most locals are bilingual), enjoy the thought that you are about to travel to a place that will feel distinctly different, but won’t require much of the hassle and stress of planning a trip overseas.
By the time you arrive at the city, you may very well forget that you’re still on the same continent.