Canada’s cultural capital, Montréal is a heady melange of Gallic joie de vivre and North American confidence. It’s traditionally been split down the middle between Anglophone and Francophone communities, but this rivalry has been eclipsed in recent years by a flourishing arts scene, energetic nightlife and the city’s status as the epicentre of Canadian indie rock.
Cobblestone streets and colonial buildings make up Old Montréal, the city’s
historic waterfront district. At its heart, Place Jacques Cartier is packed
with cafés and street musicians, and it’s a short walk to the 19th-century
Gothic Revival Notre-Dame Basilica (basiliquenddm.org; £3).
by the man who designed New York’s Central Park, Mount Royal Park is an urban
mountain – the Kondiaronk Lookout at the top has panoramic views. Don’t miss
the Cross of Montréal – a 40-metre-high illuminated cross that marks the
founding of the city in the 17th century (lemontroyal.qc.ca).
Montréal Museum of Fine Arts is Canada’s oldest museum – a treasure trove of
works from Canadian artists such as Jean-Baptiste Roy-Audy and Paul Kane, with
the likes of Picasso, Rembrandt and Monet in support (mmfa.qc.ca;
closed Mon; free).
Quartier Latin is the beating heart of bohemian Montréal – a resurgent
university district full of thriving restaurants, clubs and record shops. It’s
a hive of activity during the jazz festival, with free open-air performances a
regular occurrence (quartierlatin.ca).
hour's drive north of the city, the Laurentians are a landscape of oak-forested
hills and crystal-blue lakes peppered with villages. St Jérôme is the gateway
town, marking the beginning of the Parc Linéaire le P'tit Train du Nord – 124
miles of walking trails (laurentians.com).
Eat and drink
La Croissanterie Figaro styles itself as ‘un petit coin perdu de Paris’ (a
little lost corner of Paris), and the pavement outside is always packed. Try
bowls of café au lait and croissants in the morning (00 1 514 278 6567; lacroissanteriefigaro.com; 5200 Rue Hutchison; mains from £5).
boisterous Juliette & Chocolat was born of its eponymous owner’s passion
for the brown bean, which comes in the form of drinks, desserts and pastries,
alongside delicious savoury crêpes (00 1 438 380 1090; julietteetchocolat.com; 3600 Blvd St-Laurent; crêpes from £6).
own Robin Hood, Judy Servay donates profits from Robin des Bois to charity.
Seasonal international cuisine is delivered around the exuberantly decorated
interior by volunteer staff (00 1 514 288 1010; robindes bois.ca/fr; 4653 Blvd St-Laurent; mains from £7).
in up-andcoming Mile End is a favourite with locals, who come to feast on raw, vegan
and organic dishes in a cheery canteen-style interior. Try a lunch of courgette
lasagna with macadamia nut ’rawcotta’ (00 1 514 510 9299; crudessence. com; 105 Rue Rachel Ouest; mains from £8).
Montréal’s top restaurant, Toqué! sees fresh Québec produce rendered with
classic French finesse and paired with recommended wines in an elegant dining
room (00 1 514 499 2084; restaurant-toque.com; 900 Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle;
mains from £15).
La Loggia Art & Breakfast is a flamboyant b&b in a 19thcentury house in
the heart of the Village, Montréal’s gay district. Five modern guest rooms are
decorated with original artwork and there’s a leafy sculpture garden behind the
house where guests can eat breakfast (001 866 514 524; laloggia.ca; 1637 Rue Amherst; from £50).
Bonaparte exudes a faintly European ambience with wooden floors, Louis Philippe
furniture, exposed-stone walls and French windows – some with views of the
Notre-Dame Basilica. There’s also a rooftop patio with great city views (00 1
514 844 1448; bonaparte.com; 447 Rue St-François-Xavier; from £95).
the waterfront in the heart of Old Montréal, Le Petit Hôtel is the latest
pretender on Montréal’s boutique hotel scene. Rooms feature hardwood floors,
colourful furniture and an array of electronic gadgets. Don’t miss the lively
café in the lobby downstairs (00 1 514 940 0360; petithotelmontreal.com; 168 St-Paul Street West; from £100).
Design aficionados will love The Gault, in Old Montréal. It features polished
concrete floors and steel accents, original 19th-century cast-iron columns and
iPads on request. The thirty stark but serene loft-style rooms are spread over
five floors (00 1 514 904 1616; hotelgault.com; 449 Rue St-Hélène; from £130).
Hôtel le Germain is close to McGill University campus. With an air of calm
sophistication, rooms are decked out with crisp white linen and Québec-crafted
furniture, plus there’s a good in-house restaurant (00 1 514 849 2050; germainmontreal.com; 2050 Rue Mansfield; from £135).
Montréal’s Métro runs quickly and quietly on rubber tyres. Tickets are valid
for a one-way journey anywhere in the city – bulk-buying works out cheaper.
Trains operate until 12.30am, but some bus services run throughout the night
(tickets £1.75; stm.info).
When to go
In late June, before the humid summer hits its peak, the world’s biggest jazz
festival (montrealjazzfest.com) takes place. In July 2012, the
Just for Laughs Festival marks its 30th anniversary (hahaha.com).
How to go
Air Canada (from £415; aircanada.com) and British Airways both fly direct from
Heathrow to Montréal Trudeau Airport (from £610; ba.com). From there, take STM bus 747 downtown from
the airport (£4; stm.info).
The article 'Mini guide to Montreal, Canada' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.