Nestled between mountain and river, Montréal's compact downtown core vibrates to a world beat. This is where Montrealers live, work and play—there's no 6 p.m. exodus to suburbs unknown.
Along Sainte-Catherine Street—which traverses almost the entire city from east to west—and up and down the cross streets, restaurants of every nationality share sidewalk space with international name-brand boutiques, great department stores, intimate café-terrasses and very happening nightclubs and bars. A spectacular view of McGill College Avenue and Mont-Royal comes into view from the Place Ville Marie esplanade, the birthplace of the underground network.
Wander up to Sherbrooke Street and browse (or splurge) in the designer boutiques, trend-setting art galleries and museums—including the prestigious Museum of Fine Arts—of the Museum Quarter. Stroll east and enter Chinatown, where a thriving Chinese community continues to celebrate traditional festivals and holidays, and where you'll find all kinds of neat things, like medicinal roots, exotic foodstuffs and hand-painted porcelain.
With centuries-old buildings and modern skyscrapers, a medley of architectural styles stands side by side for all to behold. The Quartier international, an exceptional new urban space, is one such site. In addition to the Palais des congrès (Convention Centre) and its colourful glass façade, Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle is well worth a visit for its remarkable fountain-sculpture that features a ring of fire.
Then there's downtown's famous alter ego: the underground pedestrian network. Directly under the heart of the city lie 33 kilometres (20 miles) of brightly lit, scrupulously clean passageways, linking thousands of boutiques, major hotels, restaurants, universities, dozens of office buildings and attractions. This is definitely the Montréal of Montrealers. Every day more than 500,000 people connect through here on their way to work, shop, dine or spend a night—or day—on the town.
Montréal in June 2012
An added attraction, provided by Montréal itself, is the 33rd edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, from June 28 to July 7, 2012. Set in the heart of the Quartier des spectacles in downtown Montréal, the Jazz Festival is completely accessible on foot, by taxi or public transit. Festival legends include Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny and John McLaughlin. This event is worth incorporating into your plans if you are a jazz lover. You can follow the event on your smart phone: Montréal Jazz Festival apps for iPhones and Blackberries are online at www.Montréaljazzfest.com Ideas for how to extend your stay are online at www.montrealjazzfest.com/plan-your-stay/default.aspx
Stay for Jazz Fest and take advantage of NI2012 room block rates through June 29, 2012.
Other Montreal Attractions
It is the city's architecture that most revealingly attests to Montréal's dual personality: an exciting mix of European warmth and North-American modernity. Everywhere, lovingly preserved Victorian mansions, stately buildings from past centuries, and Beaux-Arts style monuments blend with the long cool lines of modern skyscrapers, making Montréal one of the most creative and eclectic urban landscapes on the planet. In fact, several late 20th-century buildings, like the stunning Canadian Centre for Architecture, have integrated the graceful stone structures of their more historical neighbors right into their high contemporary designs. A more recent trend has seen huge industrial spaces recycled into modern businesses.
Place Ville Marie, the daring, multi-towered complex built in the late 1950s, set the bar for modern architecture in Montréal and was the starting point for the city's world-renowned underground pedestrian network. Since then, architects have designed such highly original constructions as Habitat '67, an apartment building that looks like it was made of building blocks, Environment Canada's Biosphère, completely round and made of mesh, and the Casino de Montréal, a brilliant merging of two of the most outlandishly designed pavilions of Expo '67.
Everyone will be charmed by the brightly painted wrought iron staircases that wind up on the outside of duplexes and triplexes in Montréal and by the cobblestone streets of Old Montréal.