The largest city in the province of Quebec, Montreal is an ‘island city’ nestled on the Saint-Laurent river, housing a quaint hub of grand historical and architectural interest. A city of over 50 Historical sites (more than any other city in Canada) and a UNESCO City of Design (one of three in the world), Montreal’s traditions are preserved, its old structures still in their original form and its modern day design community celebrated.
While many tell me that I absolutely must visit Montreal in the summer (which I most certainly will), it’s fair to say I fell in love with the city even when it was encased in the misty air and snow showers of the winter season. It might have been a more challenging introduction, but it didn’t stop its true character shining through and, at times, added a more enchanting feel.
Montreal really is as beautiful as it sounds and although my time here was brief, I was able to see enough for it to be put on my ‘I Would Live Here’ list – the highest accolade I give to a city when accessing if I like it or not. So what exactly captured my attention there during my three days of exploration?
The Preservation of Old Montreal
Narrow cobbled streets, quaint shop fronts, ancient churches, centuries old structures, aged pavilions, warehouses and factories line the streets of Old Montreal and the adjacent Downtown and Old Port. Colour may be lacking, but character certainly isn’t.
A window into the past, the city’s historical legacy is interspersed with the new rendezvous of quaint cafes, gourmet restaurants, bars, boutique hotels and chic hangouts, making Montreal an artistic and architectural haven. The Notre Dame Basilica, the scattered monuments and sculptures and the dominating historical city and museum buildings make for a beautiful for a stroll, especially after fresh snowfall.
A friend took us on a stroll through some of the key residential areas and to see the infamous outdoor staircases the city is well known for. We spent our time primarily in Plateau Mont-Royal, a chic neighbourhood of colourful houses and grand mansions, close to the beautiful Mont Royal Park.
Modern Artistic Montreal
From the rainbow clad National Convention Centre and it’s ‘Lipstick Forest’ art installation, to the 20-mile long Underground City which features public artwork in its interconnect below ground network, modern Montreal is a thriving hub of colour, art and design (with an abundance of museums to boot). It’s always best to keep your eyes peeled, since you never know what’s around the next corner.
Tradition in Outer Montreal
You know when you’ve seen a real picture of Canada when you come across a snow-capped forest canvas dotted with traditional barns like this.
The Sucerrie de la Montagne is a French Canadian maple grove, more affectionately known as a ‘Sugar Shack’. Nestled within acres of stunning woodland atop Mont-Rigaud, around 45 minutes drive outside of Montreal, this official ‘Canada Signature Experience’ open to visitors all year round is not one to be missed.
The owner, Pierre Faucher, is a real character (if you are lucky enough to meet him) and likes nothing more than to share with you the stories of Quebecois heritage and the traditional hospitality of the old pioneers. Maple farming here is still carried out using the same early methods, which you can learn all about before enjoying a traditional hearty feast of maple glazed meats, pancakes and other treats in the family dining room.
From beautiful neighbourhoods to the bustling areas of modern city life, Montreal is both rich in traditional heritage and diverse in modern culture. You could square off the city into its many different parts and find something new in each one – something I’ve only just begun. I can’t wait to head back one day and see more of Montreal. Have you been charmed by Quebec’s big city?
My visit to Montreal was a part of the #LoveWinter blog trip created and managed by iambassador in partnership with the Canadian Tourism Commission, Tourism Montreal and Tourism Quebec. I maintain all editorial control over the content produced as a result of this trip and all opinions remain my own, especially the strong desire to live here.