I travel to Montreal at least once a year, usually a few times. Like most visitors, and even as a Canadian, I get the “it’s like going to Europe” feeling. Montreal is consistently rated as one of the world’s most livable cities.
French is the dominant language. Contrary to popular belief, the province of Quebec and Montreal, are not bilingual. They are uni-lingual (French). Signs must be in French. Almost everyone speaks French- not everyone speaks English. I always try to start a conversation in French but I’m pegged as English the moment I start speaking. A Montrealer will normally move the conversation to English (assuming they speak English).
Quebecers are a passionate people. A kiss on the cheek is a real kiss on the cheek (not a brushing of cheeks). A conversation can become a spirited debate in a heartbeat. Montreal reflects this passion and is a truly vibrant city. Cafes are everywhere as are restaurants with window walls pulled back. There seems to be a festival almost every week (or at least every time I go there). The Comedy Festival, the Jazz Festival, and the list goes on.
A couple of travel tips if you are heading to Montreal:
For shopping and dining, get onto St. Catherine Street. That’s where the action is. Several department stores, chain stores, take-out food, restaurants and more. Montreal is famous for its deli restaurants. The best are: Reuben’s, Dunn’s and Schwartz’s. Smoked meat is the sandwich. The second food specialty is Poutine- french fries with brown gravy and fresh cheese curds. Although Poutine can be found across Canada in varying styles, the best is found in the birthplace of Poutine- Montreal. If you’ve had a drink too many the night before, it tastes really, really good! Bon Appetit!
It’s hard to beat summer in Montreal (winter- not so much). Montreal has the increasingly popular Bixi rental bikes and lots of bike paths. And more patios than you can imagine- many bars and restaurants have retractable walls and windows. One of the best patios with a view is on the rooftop of the Hotel de la Montagne. Enter the hotel and take the elevator to the 20th floor. La Tarrasse Magnétic has a pool and some of the best views of the city. It’s a great spot and is a popular spot with after work crowd.
Hard to go wrong and hard to not have a great time in Montreal!