Home to more than half the population of the province and the second largest French-speaking city in the world, Montreal is the largest center of production and dissemination of French-Canadian culture. Having several major French and English universities have made it an important center for students and artists alike.
In the summer, when temperatures exceed 30C, balconies and terraces are crowded, street performers are everywhere and downtown and the old town have performances from commercial St-Catherine to the area of Notre Dame. During the hard winter, the underground city comes alive: 30 kilometers long used by 500 000 people daily, transiting between 2000 shops, restaurants and points of services – and the subway goes from one end to the other.
Montreal has six large spaces for concerts and festivals, and the Place des Arts is the most important. The giant International Jazz Festival of Montreal, which takes place every year in July, is featured from over 120 annual events in the city. Montreal is also the headquarter of Cirque du Soleil and the École nationale de cirque.
Formed by a mosaic of ethnic neighborhoods that also reveals the diversity of its cuisine, Montreal has the highest number of restaurants per capita in North America, with Michelin-starred chefs and more than 350 food trucks around town.
The French heritage has left an indelible trace in the pleasure of eating well. Held in winter, the Montreal en Lumiere festival translates this gourmet vibe, with the participation of renowned chefs and traditional restaurants in town. The local restaurant week, MTL the Table, offers high cuisine menus at affordable prices. Not to mention the open air markets with fresh products and typical food, like the Jean-Talon Market in Petite Italy, attracting crowds since the early 1990s.
Downtown is the place to be morning, noon and night. There skyscrapers and historic buildings share space harmoniously with shops of all kinds, from luxury megastores like Ogilvy to other brands. Students, artists, fashionistas, professionals of all kinds and tourists around the world are there. The Sherbrooke Street is the heart of the neighborhood and it has some of the most interesting museums in Montreal – as the Museum of Fine Arts and the McCord Museum – and McGill University, whose beautiful campus buildings and gardens are worth visiting. Saint-Catherine Street is the commercial heart with shops ranging from luxury to fast fashion, always crowded with passers-by and street performers at full performance – and still keeps the Museum of Contemporary Art. The Crescent Street is the street to see and be seen, with bars and restaurants busy day and night. The nightlife also begins at “5-7” – the happy hour time.
You must visit Vieux-Montreal, the historic city center. There is the port (and the interesting Montreal Science Center, from where boat tours), important historical buildings (like the beautiful City Hall and the unavoidable Notre-Dame), restaurants, shops and routes for bike rides. To understand the city’s history, the Museum of Archaeology and History is a must. The promenade of the port in the summer is full of cyclists, skaters – tourists and locals – walking or jogging. In winter, ice skating takes over the space. The heart of the district is the Place Jacques-Cartier, with street artists, caricaturists and Handicraft Market when temperatures rise. The picturesque Rue Saint-Paul, with restaurants, boutiques, designers’ workshops and small art galleries.
The coolest neighborhood in Montreal is Plateau-Mont-Royal, with bistros, cafes and restaurants, designer shops and local artists, bookstores and the La Fontaine Park. Densely populated, it has beautiful Victorian-style houses with the famous “crooked stairs” of Montreal on the facade.
NDG (Notre-Dame-de Grace) is a nice residential area and more affordable than areas like the Plateau and downtown. There are many NDG condos for sale that will have you living in one of the greatest cities in the world.