Between the splendour of the St Lawrence River and the extravagance of the skyscrapers that grace the horizon, Old Montreal, the historic centre once surrounded by city walls, reminds visitors of the city’s European past. The labyrinthine streets and alleyways charmingly take you from one historical period to another. There are elegant art galleries, lovely modern outdoor cafes and tempting restaurants. Cross the river via the Jacques Cartier Bridge, with its complex structure that cuts through the clear blue sky; this is the pretty starting point for the exhilarating Montreal Marathon, which takes place every year in late summer. Here, on Saint Helen’s Island, you’ll find a beautiful green oasis: Parc Jean-Drapeau, with its tree-lined paths, is the perfect place for a fascinating walk. Also worth a visit is the Montreal Biosphère, a museum dedicated to the environment, with its stunning geodesic dome dreamt up by avant-garde inventor and architect Buckminster Fuller.
The Place d’Armes is like a history book in its own right, where you can marvel at the Neo-Classical temple of the Bank of Montréal and discover the secrets of the imposing Notre-Dame Basilica. Step inside and enjoy the stunning gallery of religious art set off in a symphony of colours and some gorgeous sculptures. In this erudite land of culture, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts houses an internationally renowned encyclopaedic collection – from delicate Italian originals to famous contemporary artists – putting on lots of inspirational and impressive exhibitions. Just as fascinating is the McCord Museum, near the prestigious McGill University, which celebrates the city’s social history in a modern, interactive environment, with a whole host of different activities to choose from.
After feeding your soul, you’ll need to feed your body with local or more exotic flavours and organic ingredients from land and sea snapped up at Atwater and Jean-Talon markets; two wonderful destinations for epicurean discoveries or discussions.
When winter kicks in, Montreal continues to surprise, revealing an amazing underground city, to protect inhabitants from the bitter cold. The light-filled heated corridors of the Underground City are packed with chic boutiques to please any self-respecting shopaholic. Here, the snow is no excuse for shutting yourself up at home, and at Christmas in particular, Montreal is a magical place, with plenty of festive cheer, covered by a blanket of white that reflects the Christmas lights. On the ice, the Montreal Canadiens fight it out in the National Hockey League, the other highlight of the winter.
When the winds of spring sweep across the St Lawrence estuary, feet start to tap to the captivating sounds of the Montreal Salsa Convention, where incredibly talented dancers take over the dance floor and celebrate Latin culture. Well-known around the world, the amazing Montreal International Jazz Festival kicks off the summer. The irresistible, frenetic rhythms remind you that the city boasts with an impressive selection of venues and cafes in which to enjoy one of the many concerts put on throughout the year.