A little bit of France in the Heart of North America
The city of Montreal is well positioned on the St Lawrence river some 100 km north of Plattsburgh, New York. Its the largest city in the French speaking province of Quebec, second largest city in Canada and likewise the second largest French speaking city in the world.
Montreal has long been a strategic location since explorer Jacques Cartier's first visit in 1535. After which it became a center of the fur trade. The British captured the town from the French in 1762, and it remained under British control until Canada's confederation in 1867.
Montreal today is a vibrant metropolis of over 1.9 million people. French is the official language and is spoken as a mother tongue by close to 50 % of the population. The city is primarily centered on the island of Montreal with the island's west end "West island" being more of an English speaking area. None the less - English is widely spoken through the city center and Old Town areas and especially in hotels / restaurants where one is often greeted by a "Bonjour / Hi" by fully bilingual staff.
Montreal is well known for its fabulous restaurants, intense night life and year round cultural festivals. Montreal has much more of a Latin, old European feel and flavor than most other North American cities with perhaps the only exceptions being Miami and or Quebec City. Its street cafes, bakeries, cobble stone streets, buskers, artisan boutiques, fashions and over all vibe lend to its uniqueness. This isn't your classic North American grid pattern Walmart / Coca Cola town. its authentic onto itself as a city of culture. .
Montrealer's love their sports. In particular NHL Hockey - Montreal Canadiens. Yes that Canadien's spelt with an "e". Other sports include MLS soccer "Montreal Impact". CFL Football - "Montreal Alouettes". Formula 1 racing via the Canadian Grand Prix. Finally there is the UFC, which Montreal is nuts for - and it should be noted Montreal is the home of Georges St. Pierre one of the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.
Old Montreal which dates back to the 17th century is very lively with its cafe culture, horse drawn carriages, Notre Dame Cathedral and bustling water front.
The Montreal Water front and the adjacent old Montreal are the places to be on a summers day and feature the likes of paddle boating, amusement rides, zip lining, The Science Center and some great restaurants. It has a real Barcelona feel to it.
The Notre Dame Cathedral and its Gothic revival architecture was built in 1672 and is one of the most popular attractions.
Montreal is a treasure trove of beautiful architecture and especially its churches as shown above.
Getting around Montreal is a snap. The city is well serviced by its Metro which boasts of having the second largest ridership per capita in North America, and delivers some 1.3 million riders a day. Montreal's metro connects Montreal's famous under ground city with some 33 km of tunnels. The Underground city has everything one needs to hibernate from the long cold Montreal winters.
Montreal also hosts bike rental services, and has well marked paths and trails through out the city.
Downtown Montreal is relatively free of Graffiti - instead beautiful Wall Murals take their place.
No Trip to Montreal is complete without partaking in some of the local fast food delicacies as Poutine and Montreal Smoked Meat sandwiches.
One of the many parallels Montreal has with Paris is its great bakeries specializing in French breads and pastries.
Montreal apart from being a city of great cuisine is also a mecca for some of the best night life in North America as evident by the many stag and hen parties that partake. Some of my favorite places include The Montreal Casino, Crescent Street bar district, St Denis district and Montreal's Irish pub district.
For Fashionista's Montreal is perhaps second only to New York itself for its unique fashions and selection thus boasting many of their own designer brands.
After a party night in Montreal, the breakfast restaurants are second to none. Lots of fresh fruit, meats all served by a bilingual waitress and in a very nice setting.
Montreal is a great city for live entertainment. All the big name bands come through here, not to mention Montreal also has a great music scene all on its own.
Modern Montreal has all the tall gleaming buildings of any other city.
Alas Montreal is a one of kind city which should be experienced with an open mind and without judgement. The locals are friendly and exceptionally proud of their city as so they should be. For North American's a trip to Montreal is like a trip to Europe without the long flight. Getting here can easily be had by either Via Rail, Amtrak and or major airlines which fly direct from Europe and or most major North American destinations.