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Explore Montreal, a European-style getaway in North America

The Chinese gardens at the largest botanical gardens in Montreal.
There are many public art installations to enjoy.
European-style fixtures are a common sight in Montreal.
Just five hours away from Toronto is a Europe-like getaway that has something for everyone, including the baby boomers and millennial siblings accompanying me on a week-long trip to Montreal.
A cosmopolitan city, Montreal is conflux of French, Quebecois and English culture, along with the more recent influx of Arab, Italian and Chinese culture. A vibrant city that celebrates and embraces diversity, it is home to a dynamic arts and culture scene and architectural structures akin to those found across Europe. These are just some of the reasons that make Montreal a must-visit destination on your next trip to Canada.
Explore the city
With most places accessible by foot and via the public transportation system, it is definitely worth spending a few days immersing yourself in the vibe of the city. Owing to the large youth population, the city has a hip and bohemian vibe that adds to the experience. Plan a visit during the summer and you are sure to witness, in its entirety, what Montreal has to offer — music festivals, cultural events and fireworks galore.
The Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, held from late June to early July, brings together jazz, rock and pop artists and is touted as North America’s top music festival. The Grand Prix du Canada, also held over the summer, is one of the most anticipated and crowd-packed Formula One races in the world.
If that is not your thing, visit one of Montreal’s many roof-top cafés and, amid stunning views of the city, sample some of the best food in the country. For art connoisseurs, there is a plethora of art galleries, such as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts or the Fashion Museum.
Marvel at the city’s architectural delights
It is a city where the old and new coexist together. Montreal is characterized by narrow streets, cobblestone roads, skyscrapers and age-old cathedrals. Take a horse-cart ride around the French colonial Vieux-Montreal and marvel at historical structures like the Old Port of Montreal, Victoria Square, the Gothic Revival-style Notre-Dame Basilica or the city’s oldest bank building, the Bank of Montreal Museum. Fun fact, filmmakers in Montreal often use the area as a setting for period films and documentaries that depict Europe.
Walk further down Saint Jacques Street, a financial and commercial hub that headquarters some of Canada’s biggest banks, or visit the RÉSO, commonly referred to as The Underground City, a complete city with shopping complexes, restaurants and an interconnected transit system built entirely underground. To the northeast, the Jean-Talon Market is one of the oldest public markets in the city. It sells seasonal produce, fresh meats, artisanal cheese and baked goods and is perfect for a day of enjoying the sights, smells and tastes of products from all over Canada.
Be at one with nature
The city is home to many green spaces, parks and lakes. The Mount Royale (after which the city is named) peak and park is perhaps the most famous. Ride a bike, take a hike or plan a picnic in the beautiful surroundings. Montreal also boasts one of the largest botanical gardens in Canada, with thematic spaces, including the serene Chinese and Japanese gardens. The Montreal Biodôme showcases ecosystems, natural heritage and animal life in North America. It houses animals and birds from varying ecosystems such as lush tropical rainforests and subpolar regions. The Insectarium, the largest insect museum in North America, is an opportunity to learn about the natural habitat of insects. This summer, there is a new exhibit that curates insect delicacies for visitors to try out. So, are you feeling adventurous?
Montreal is full to the brim of joie de vivre and well-worth a visit if you are keen to explore nature and enjoy art, food and music galore.