By Miller Main
Roaming the alleyways and vibrant neighborhoods of Montreal―Canadaʼs second largest city and the largest city in the province of Quebec―leaves one with the impression that they are much further from home than just an hour north of New York state. History, culture, and class beautifully weld the past with the present and are permeated in the voices of French-speaking locals, antiquated buildings sharing street blocks with modern architecture, plentiful gardens, and never-ending restaurants that punctuate each street with the scent of delicacies and the promise of creative dishes.
Montreal encompasses all of it: art, entertainment, glorious cathedrals, museums, gardens, and an entire other Montreal underground. The inescapably wonderful part is that though each neighborhood has distinct flavors, it mingles perfectly with the one next to it allowing a seamless transition from one to another―evident in the enchanting juxtaposition of captivated Old Town tourists sitting in horse-drawn calches while immediately embracing the noise of cabs on the the bustling Rue de Saint Catherine, just footsteps away.
Built in 1829, the excruciatingly beautiful Gothic revival architecture of Montreal’s Notre Dame is well worth the visit . . . just as gorgeous inside as out, the stained glass windows lining the cathedral depict the history of Montreal rather than religious scenes. The perfect setting for a history lesson.
Plateau Mont Royal
Just one of many thriving Montreal neighborhoods to stroll, Plateau Mont Royal promises to be one of the hippest ones on your itinerary, filled with delicious eateries, boutiques, galleries, walk-up homes and overflowing with character.
Words will never do justice to the quaint cobblestone-lined streets and alleys peppered throughout Old Towne Monteral . . . restaurants (really delicious ones) abound, as do cafes to sip your favorite hot beverage and bars to quench your libational pursuits.
For an afternoon filled with activity, head to the Old Port . . . lining the beautiful St. Lawrence River, you’ll find activities ranging from ice-skating to in-line skating as well as perfect cycling and boat watching of every variety.
Cirque de Soleil
Unbeknownst to most, Montreal is actually the home of Cirque de Soleil―taking in a performance in one of the vibrant blue and yellow tents can be likened to eating Dutch chocolate on the canals of Amsterdam or eating a French Eclair while people-watching on the streets of Paris. Do it. The performances are brilliant and the authenticity sublime.
Centre des Sciences de Montreal
When the kids are in-tow (or even if they aren’t), you’ll find plenty to keep you visually and kinesthetically occupied in this gem of a museum. It’s a large enough to stay occupied for hours, but not so completely overwhelming that you’ll tire and leave before pushing every button in the building.
This fragrant ornament occupying 190 acres provides hours (or days. or weeks) of stimulation―its comprehensive inclusion of plants and thematic gardens have earned it a rank among the best botanical gardens in the world . . . if you are short on time be sure to find zen in the impressive Japanese garden.
The food in Montreal has a mind of its own . . . the streets flow freely with the scent of fresh warm pastries and authentic French onion soup, as well as creative gourmet dishes masterminded by world-renown chefs. Try any of the following. You won’t be disappointed!
Toroli (Asian Fusion)
Pinxto (Tapas &Spanish)
Au Cinquieme Peche (French & Romance)
St-Viateur Bagel (24/7 Bakery)
Barroco (Eclectic menu & amazing cocktails)