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Edgy, unapologetic, seductive, nonconformist… these words often spring to mind when talking about Montreal.

The city is Canada’s epicentre of fun and fabulousness, a cultural chameleon with a unique sense of style, jumping nightlife and amazing food. There is always something happening here – even on Sundays, when you can rock to the rhythm of the Tam Tams (a legendary weekly drumming festival) or groove to the hottest electro beats at Piknik Électronik (an outdoor dance party).

Bohemian vibes
Congenial and charming, the Plateau is one of Montreal’s hippest districts. Once a run-down, blue-collar neighbourhood, it now boasts arty residents, great bars and restaurants, and a bohemian vibe. The distinctive architecture, characterized by spiral staircases and colourful old Victorian houses, is what makes this area so cool — a refreshing change from cookie-cutter homes in the ‘burbs. Montreal’s favourite son Leonard Cohen still keeps an apartment right in the Plateau, just steps away from St Laurent Boulevard (known as “the Main” to locals). The best way to explore the ‘hood? Grab a bixi bike and take a random tour, cruising its tree-lined streets (Gilford and Esplanade are pretty scenic options) and picturesque boulevards. If you are on the Main and need a pick-me-up, be sure to join the locals at Euro Deli for an espresso or an allongé.

Culinary treats
Montreal’s lively foodie culture and culinary scene are famous across North America. Whether you are seeking haute cuisine, or keen to sample local specialities such as smoked meat, maple syrup, bagels and poutine (fries smothered in cheese curd and gravy), you will be well catered for. Dining options are endless, and the food is both tasty and reasonably priced. The iconic Schwartz’s Deli on St Laurent Boulevard is Montreal’s mainstay for smoked meat. But Montreal is a city of contrasts, and it is no surprise to find popular vegan restaurant Aux Vivres just up the road. Permanently packed with veggie lovers, this place is so good that even die-hard carnivores will not miss their meat. Of course, after fuelling up on a healthy meal here, you will be in the mood to indulge. For the ultimate in sweet decadence, La boutique Grandbois offers high quality, handmade chocolates with some unforgettable flavour combinations… ganache and Monte Cristo cigar leaves, anyone?

European charm
Montreal is known for its European charm, which is especially evident in the cobblestone streets of the Old Port. Meander along the river or stroll down St Paul, before stopping for a croissant at celebrated café and bakery, Olive & Gourmando. Feeling un peu fatigué after all your sightseeing? Take a soothing break in the eucalyptus steam bath at Scandinave les Bains. After some pampering here, you will be refreshed, relaxed and ready to continue exploring the stunning architecture of this historic area.

© 2009 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘A tour of Montreal’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.

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