Montréal — A Dance of Contrasts

Montréal is a dance of contrasts. This city-island, nestled between the Prairies and St. Lawrence rivers of Québec, excels at being many things simultaneously. It was founded as a mission in 1642, yet has a vibrant nightlife and commercial scene. Its residents are proudly Francophone, yet English exists in bilingual signs, pamphlets and a sizeable population of local speakers. Its old town district, “Vieux Montréal,” says European architecture, while other parts of the city project modern Canada. If you are fortunate enough to visit this celebrated city, be certain to place these decadent experiences on your Montréal-must-do list.
Historic views in Old Port Montréal


Much can be learned about a city from a leisurely walk, and Montréal provides several settings conveying the beauty of this town. While walking through Vieux Montreal, take note of its cobblestone streets, townhouses, sidewalk cafés, horse-drawn carriages and nightclubs with live music performances. If you’d prefer another neighborhood with a bit more Bohemian flare, one place to consider is Old Port Montréal, with its narrow streets and aged architecture — quite similar to Brooklyn.

Listen to evening jazz with dinner


Since this American artform’s exposure to France in the early 20th century, French culture and jazz have been forever linked. This appreciation exists in Montréal as well, with a number of lounges and open-air venues specializing in live jazz performances. Located in Old Montréal, Jardin Nelson is a creperie with a garden patio, open from April to November, where visitors can listen to evening jazz with dinner. The bistro and wine bar Modavie feature local groups performing jazz, R&B and Blues.

Michelin-worthy meals abound, like this Duck Magret


From a culinary standpoint, Montréal is a city of tucked-away treasures. Although its Chinatown isn’t huge, the flavors of dim sum, fresh-made noodles, dumplings and dragon’s beard candy (handspun cotton candy with nuts, chocolate bits and sesame seeds) will make your visit worth it. As for restaurants worthy of a Michelin star, there’s Toqué, a forbearer of the farm-to-table movement, which serves fresh seafood, lamb, duck magret and parsley root soup.

Interior view of the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal


Built between 1824 and 1829, with inspiration from the Gothic-Revival style of that time, the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal is the city’s oldest Catholic church. With its brilliant blue hue, ornate sculptures, pillars, and stained glass, the majestic house of worship is an architectural wonder. Take one of its guided tours or sit in and listen to the church’s 7,000 tubed organ. 

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