Although Montreal is Canada’s second-largest city, don’t be deceived by the apparent modernism of the New World skyline that will greet you on approach. Montreal is a city that boasts a European charm and proud Gallic-infused culture at its heart, and is without doubt one of Canada’s most vibrant and dynamic settlements. This, of course, owes much to the fact that Montreal is home to the second-largest population of French speakers on Earth, second only to Paris.
Here, European-influenced historic districts, monuments, cafe culture and a flourishing arts scene vie for attention. More than two-thirds of Montreal’s residents are of French extraction, with the other third a veritable cosmopolitan mix of people and races from all over the world, reflected in its restaurants, bars, clubs and vibrant arts festivals.
French-Canadian pride demonstrates itself from every corner of the city, non-less than in the historic quarter Vieux-Montreal, which sits proudly on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. Marvel at the dominant Basilique de Notre-Dame, the city’s most famous church and the steepled Chapelle de Notre-Dame de Bonsecours, which is Montreal’s oldest stone church. The district is also awash with historical homes and museums, which celebrate Montreal, both old and new.
The modern-built Pointe à Callière Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History lies over the ruins of Montreal's first settlement and documents the city’s first natives via audiovisual technology and recovered archaeological artefacts.
Of all the historical and restored homes which line the streets of Vieux-Montreal, be sure to visit George-Etienne Cartier, where two perfect restorations of 19th century Victorian homes are on display.
The Montreal Science Centre is a must amongst museum visits. This state-of-the-art complex combines an IMAX theatre and inspiring interactive science museum - perfect for those who may be bringing youngsters along with them.
If you are looking for a bite to eat or a spot of shopping, the nearby Vieux-Port has been the focus of a multi-million dollar regeneration programme in recent years. Where abandoned warehouses and the derelict ruins of industrial Montreal once sat, the port is now home to a lively array of restaurants, shops and picturesque landscaped parklands which face the St. Lawrence River.
To see the livelier side of the city, downtown Montreal is awake almost 24 hours a day. A number of nightclubs populate the rue St.Catherine, however downtown is also home to beautiful leafy squares where intimate bars and eateries compete with one another in the Plateau and Quartier Latin.
Art lovers will be bowled over by the Musée d'Art Contemporain, the country’s only museum dedicated to contemporary art, which is finely complimented by the Musée des Beaux Arts, which houses an impressive collection of Canada’s oldest fine-arts.