Have you entered Canada or France? Montreal offers the best of both worlds with a distinct French-Canadian culture all its own. The largest city in the province of Quebec, Montreal blends European-styled art, sidewalk cafes and cobblestone streets with the natural beauty that Canada is so famous for. The end result is a charming city you’ll want to return to, to hang out in the colonial Old Town, see the greenery of the Biodome, and go shopping in its designer boutiques. Just beyond the city limits, nature awaits, from Mount Royal’s hiking trails to the St Lawrence River’s water sports.
Montreal’s cruise terminal is centrally located, so you’ll be able to reach the historic district on foot. There are plentiful attractions right at the Old Port, with the beach and science centre enticing you to stick around! Montreal is quite compact, making it an easy city to explore on a walking tour, but you’ll also find a line-up of taxis right at the dock. The city’s Metro service is clean and convenient, as is the bus system. If you plan on covering a lot of ground, it’s a good idea to get a one-day tourist pass to hop on and off as you like.
The historic district, or Vieux-Montreal, is one area you won’t want to miss during your time in this picturesque city. It’s where you’ll find French colonial architecture from the 17th century, as well as the central Place Jacques-Cartier pedestrian walkway. Keep an eye out for the intricate carvings and massive pipe organ of the Notre Dame Basilica, and view European masterworks at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. When you’re ready to get away from the crowds, why not head to Parc du Mont-Royal? It’s designed by the same architect of New York’s Central Park, with twisting walkways, forests and fountains.
There are two main influences in traditional Quebec cuisine, stemming from its settlers over the centuries. French influences have led to a creative use of local cheese, while Irish influences have led to an abundance of rich stews and meat pies. Don’t leave without trying poutine, an amazing combo of French fries, squeaky fresh cheese curds and savoury gravy. It’s messy, but oh so worth it. Montreal also boasts a number of bagel shops, which are wood-fired to give them a different flavour profile than their NYC counterparts. Naturally, maple syrup pops up in many local sweets, like pudding topped with maple syrup sauce.
Shopping is one of the prime pastimes in fashionable Montreal, giving Paris a run for its money! There are several shopping districts to explore, including the Latin Quarter with its independent boutiques and vintage shops. Visit the Rue Ste-Catherine to find modern shopping malls including the airy Eaton Centre, or look for designer goods in the posh boutiques lining rue Sherbrooke. Montreal residents love shopping so much, that there are even tunnels underground lined with stores!
A unique attraction well worth a visit is the Montreal Biodome. It combines the animal attractions of a zoo with the plant life of botanical gardens, broken up into five different ecosystem zones. From the Sub-Antarctic Islands to the tropical forest, you’ll feel like you’ve explored the world in a day. There’s also an Insectarium, Botanical Gardens, and Planetarium in Montreal to keep kids of all ages busy.
You don’t have to travel far to find yourself out of the city and into spectacular scenery. For example, the Parc National des Iles-de-Boucherville is only a few miles away. This chain of beautiful islands attracts Montreal residents on the weekends, who can snowshoe and ski in the winter and walk, hike, run or cycle their way through its trails in the summer.