Montreal Main

montreal-main

Cosmopolitan, stylish, elegant, sophisticated...all the best adjectives apply to this island city that in many ways feels more European than North American - especially when you begin your visit with a walk through romantic Vieux Montreal, the Old City. From the Place Jacques Cartier, the café-lined plaza at the heart of the district, stroll past street performers, flower vendors, and horse-drawn carriages to the riverfront park at the Old Port, and gaze across the waters of the St. Lawrence River to Parc Jean Drapeau, a pair of sister islands (Ile St Helene and Ile Notre Dame) that host the Canadian Grand Prix in summer and legions of ice skaters in winter.

The island of Montreal is some 24 miles long, and throughout it is an isle of contrasts, from cobblestone streets and 18th-century architecture to skyscrapers and trendy clubs. Culture? Just park yourself at the Place des Arts, a vast performing arts center that is home not only to the city's symphony orchestra, ballet company, and opera, but also the world's largest jazz festival each summer.

Language (two-thirds of the city residents speak French, more than any city outside Paris) shapes the cultural landscape, but the dining scene tells you this is a multi-ethnic metropolis. And, yes, the winters can be brutal, but you can always take refuge in the warmth of the "Underground City," a maze-mall of some 2,000 shops and restaurants (and Metro stations) stretching for 18 miles beneath the city streets of the new Montreal.