(Lonelyplanet) – Edgy, unapologetic, seductive, nonconformist… these words often spring to mind when talking about Montréal. The city is Canada’s epicenter of fun and fabulousness, a cultural chameleon with a unique sense of style, jumping nightlife and amazing food. There’s always something happening here – even on Sundays, when you can rock to the rhythm of the Tam Tams (a legendary weekly drumming festival) or groove to the hottest electro beats at outdoor music festival Piknic Électronik
Congenial and charming, the Plateau is one of Montréal’s hippest districts. Once a run-down, blue-collar neighborhood, it now boasts arty residents, great bars and restaurants, and a bohemian vibe. The distinctive architecture, characterized by spiral staircases and colorful old Victorian houses, is what makes this area so cool — a refreshing change from cookie-cutter homes in the ‘burbs. Montréal’s favorite son Leonard Cohen still keeps an apartment right in the Plateau, just steps away from St Laurent Boulevard (known as ‘the Main’ to locals). The best way to explore the ‘hood? Grab a bixi bike and take a random tour, cruising its tree-lined streets (Gilford and Esplanade are pretty scenic options) and picturesque boulevards. If you’re on the Main and need a pick-me-up, be sure to join the locals at Euro Deli for an espresso or an allongé.
Montréal’s lively foodie culture and culinary scene are famous across North America. Whether you’re seeking haute cuisine, or keen to sample local specialities such as smoked meat, maple syrup, bagels and poutine (fries smothered in cheese curd and gravy), you’ll be well catered for. Dining options are endless, and the food is both tasty and reasonably priced. The iconic Schwartz’s Deli on St Laurent Boulevard is Montréal’s mainstay for smoked meat. But Montréal is a city of contrasts, and it’s no surprise to find popular vegan restaurant Aux Vivres just up the road. Permanently packed with veggie lovers, this place is so good that even die-hard carnivores won’t miss their meat. Of course, after fueling up on a healthy meal here, you’ll be in the mood to indulge. For the ultimate in sweet decadence, La boutique Grandbois offers high quality, handmade chocolates with some unforgettable flavor combinations…ganache and Monte Cristo cigar leaves, anyone?!
Montréal is known for its European charm, which is especially evident in the cobblestone streets of the Old Port. Meander along the river or stroll down St Paul, before stopping for a croissant at celebrated café and bakery, Olive & Gourmando. Feeling un peu fatigué after all your sight-seeing? Take a soothing break in the eucalyptus steam bath at Scandinave les Bains. After some pampering here, you’ll be refreshed, relaxed and ready to continue exploring the stunning architecture of this historic area.