Likely the only place in Canada that combines the feel of Old Europe with modern living, Montreal is in a class of its own. There are many good reasons why it remains a top tourist destination for the newbie visitor or seasoned traveler, ranging from its landmarks to its flavours. So, it’s no surprise that last year, for the third year in a row, the Time Out Index rated Montreal in its top ten, among forty of the world’s best major cities – topping Dubai, Barcelona, Miami, and Paris!
The city is a cultural hub with no parallel as host to various festivals. From Osheaga, to Montreal Jazz Fest, to the Circus Festival, to Just for Laughs, to Nuit Blanche and Igloo fest in winter; there is a never-ending mélange of special activities in the city.
No trip is complete without strolling through the cobblestoned-lined Old Montreal. Lined with boutique shops, galleries, sidewalk vendors, and bars, you can’t miss traces of the original New France architecture from the fortresses of hundreds of years ago.
Voiles en Voiles is located at the Old Port of Montreal and is a family-friendly adventure park themed around royal and pirate ships. Open all year long, summer activities include climbing aboard life-sized ships, wall climbing, playing inflatable games, shooting in an archery arena, or watching something exciting at the Pirate Movie Theatre. In winter, you can expect tubing, snow scootering, and winter obstacle courses.
Bota Bota Spa has all the satisfying and relaxing sessions of a regular spa, but Bota Bota Spa offers these services while anchored in the Old Port of Montreal, so that patrons can be lured into further relaxation by the natural waves of the St. Lawrence River. Consisting of five decks, various spa services are provided, alongside a sauna with river views, outdoor whirlpools, hot baths, cold showers, and even a restaurant. The views are breathtaking, and relaxation is guaranteed.
The Promenade Wellington is a commercial centre in the Verdun borough that hosts open air sidewalks, shops, group events, tea houses, restaurants, and bars. With abundant bike paths and extended pedestrian-only streets in summertime; the Promenade is a great place to stroll around or even take a night-time dance class.
Le Centre de la Nature is a 50-hectare urban park that services programing all year long, no matter the season, delighting lovers of the great outdoors in and around Montreal. Known for its recreational and educational programming, it is also home to several ponds, a greenhouse, a farm, many gardens, and even an observatory.
Montreal’s culinary and food scene, of course, is world-renowned. Two good examples to explore include Flyjin and Daou.
A speakeasy style, but modern club – Flyjin is an Asian brasserie in the centre of Old Montreal, with Japanese and South American fusion cuisine. Live music and DJs play on a regular basis.
Because Montreal’s food scene is as rich as – and often a reflection of – its multiculturalism; places like Restaurant Daou thrive, offering authentic Lebanese fare. Enjoy their labane (a type of spicy yogurt), homemade hummus, various meats cooked in the traditional way, tabouleh, and other Mediterranean treats. As an interesting point of trivia, the owner’s son plays a villain on the Jack Ryan series.
In summary, Montreal is a city of gastronomic pleasures, arts and culture, excitement, and indulgences that rivals any bustling European metropolis.
Montreal In a Snapshot:
- Montreal’s Underground City extends over 33 kilometres, starting in the east at Complexe Desjardins. It includes various shops, restaurants, and entertainment opportunities, with links to art museums and entire malls.
- Montreal was not built for cars. It’s a bustling city of parks, narrow roadways, and abundant public transit options. The entire city is easily accessed through public transit and beautiful pedestrian walkways.
- Cycling is so common in Montreal that the city was named the ‘most cycle-friendly’ city in Canada, with more than 1000 km of bike paths. Montrealers are even known to ride their bikes in the snow and ice.
- Montreal is known for its bagels, and what sets these treats apart from others is in their preparation and baking. Montreal bagels get their unique texture and colour from being baked by hand. First, they are poached in a honey-water mixture, and then placed in a woodfire oven to bake to perfection.
- Montreal is one of the most diverse cities in Canada, with 27 per cent of its population being a visible minority, and representing 120 cultural communities from five continents.
Travel Essential Tools
Every travel pro has a checklist of the “essentials” that take your vacation to the next level. Here are some must-haves:
The right backup: You don’t want to risk losing power in the middle of an important video or be on a self-guided walking tour when your Google Maps blanks out. Pack a portable battery charger.
A selfie stick: Quite important for those social media posts and live feed videos.
The right carry-on: For the traveler who wants a quick and smooth off/on the plane, pack light and tight with the famous Bentley Tracker. The easy-turning wheel design and pop-up handle makes it the perfect grab n’ go from the airport to the hotel.
The right plan: If your cell phone service doesn’t cover certain areas or you’re unhappy with the out-of-city plan you have, pop into a local electronic store to rent a local SIM card.
Never lose a bag: Get a luggage tracker (aka SmartTag). For those times when you need to check the luggage and want some relief to know that the bag will never be totally lost, it’s always just a GPS signal away.
Dave Gordon | Contributing Writer