9 things to do in Montreal, Canada
A quick guide to the historic Canadian city.
THE ONE PUBLIC PARK
The green crowning glory of Canada's second and most cosmopolitan city, Parc du Mont Royal is built atop an eponymous hill above Downtown. It was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect of New York's Central Park. The delightful Parc du Mont Royal is as beloved a part of Montreal as its US equivalent is to New York. See lemontroyal.qc.ca
THE ONE VIEW
The most frequented spot for day and night views of Montreal is beside the French Beaux Arts Chalet du Mont-Royal, built in 1932. But even better panoramas can be gained at the Mount Royal Summit, at 233 metres the hill's highest point. Aside from its lookout, it's the site of a huge monumental cross illuminated at night and visible across the city. See lemontroyal.qc.ca
THE ONE PUBLIC BUILDING
Half a century ago, Charles de Gaulle, during a state visit, delivered a divisive oratory in support of Quebec separatism from the balcony of the beautiful 19th century Hotel de Ville. Guided tours of City Hill, including a visit to the said balcony, are conducted in English once or twice of a week. Built in the Second Empire style, the City Hill is a designated Canadian national historic site. See ville.montreal.qc.ca
THE ONE STROLL
Montreal is one of North America's oldest cities, having been established by the French in 1642. A fine place to experience its history is Vieux-Montreal, the well-preserved old town. A slice of Europe in the middle of North America, it's home to some of Montreal's most important and attractive buildings. Above all, Vieux-Montreal is a delight to wander, despite its touristy parts. See vieux.montreal.qc.ca
THE ONE NEIGHBOURHOOD
Once you've seen how Montrealers used to live in the old part of town, head to Le Plateau, the hip and gritty part of the city which best illustrates modern inner-city Montreal life. Here you'll find streets lined with restaurants, cafes and bars, as well as rows of the city's distinctive vintage townhouses, which feature external staircase entrances that are much criticised for their impracticality in winter.
THE ONE RESTAURANT
The fashionable inner-city neighbourhood of Little Burgundy is where you'll find Joe Beef, one of Canada's most lauded restaurants. Renowned for its commitment to regional Quebecois produce, the eatery has spawned a spin-off just a few doors down, Liverpool House, where Justin Trudeau and former US President Barack Obama once dined together. See joebeef.ca
THE ONE CAFE
Montreal is experiencing an independent cafe boom, with Pikolo Espress, in the heart of Le Plateau, among the best. The cafe also boats Australian connections with the owner having worked in Melbourne, where she discovered the antipodean piccolo latte. Curiously, while piccolo lattes are available, another Down Under creation, the flat white, is not. See pikoloespresso.com
THE ONE SQUARE
Named after the British 19th century monarch, Square-Victoria is a piece of Little Britain in Montreal's heart. Here you'll find a statue of Queen Victoria that was unveiled in the 1872, but the most interesting aspect of the square is unequivocally French: a classic art nouveau Paris Metropolitan sign, donated by the French, above a station entrance. See vieuxmontreal.ca/en/
THE ONE CHURCH
Square-Victoria is the also the location of Basilique Notre Dame, one of North America's most beautiful Catholic cathedrals and at one time the continent's largest. Originally built in the 17th century, the cathedral hosted the state funeral for former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau – father of Justin – after whom the city's international airport is named. See basiliquenotredame.ca/en
ONE MORE THING…
French, or at least the local dialect of it, is the legislated main language in Montreal, with all street signs and other public notices written in French. Nonetheless, English is widely and freely spoken and, just like in France itself, it can pay to learn and use a few basic words and phrases in the language.