A tale of four cities: Montreal

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The Independent Travel

WHERE The second-largest French speaking city in the Western world (after Paris), Montreal was named for the “Royal Mountain” on and around which it was built. This culturally diverse and cosmopolitan city is located on a large island at the confluence of the Saint Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers in the southwest of the province of Quebec. For something more spacious than a regular hotel room, Embassy Suites Montreal (001 866 561 7666; www.embassysuites montreal.com) opened a few weeks ago directly opposite the Convention Centre. Doubles from C$220 (£104). In Old Montreal, the Hotel Gault (001 514 904 1616; www.hotel gault.com) is a sophisticated boutique hotel with 30 spacious loft-style rooms. Doubles from C$220 (£104). Le Petit Prince (001 514 938 2277; www.montrealbandb.com) is a good downtown B&B choice. Doubles from C$150 (£70).

WHY Montreal may ooze European flair but it has a unique flavour and style of its own. There’s a great live music scene and it is renowned as a centre for contemporary dance. Summer is festival season – details of all festivals – including the International Jazz Festival (001 888 515 0515; www.montreal jazzfest.com), the world’s largest – can be found through (001 514 844 5400; www.tourisme-montreal.org). The city is also home to the Canadian Grand Prix (001 514 350 0000; www.grandprix.ca). There is a plethora of sites to enjoy, but just wandering through the narrow cobblestone streets of the Parisian-style historic district is a delight in itself. Be sure to see the revitalised waterfront of the nearby Old Port. Rue Sainte-Catherine is downtown’s main commercial artery. It runs parallel to the most substantial segments of Montreal’s “underground city”, a series of interconnected tunnels linking the main office towers of downtown and housing shopping complexes, boutiques, cinemas, banks and restaurants. Rue Crescent and Rue St-Denis both have a concentration of bars and clubs, although St- Denis is more popular with French speakers.

WHAT Over 30 museums cater to most tastes. The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal (001 514 285 2000; www.mmfa.qc.ca) features modern design, Old Masters and contemporary Canadian art, and the Biodome de Montreal (001 514 868 3000; www.biodome.qc.ca) consists of four different ecological habitats - rainforest, polar, marine and forest. On display are the flora and fauna of each habitat. Montreal’s Botanical Gardens (001 514 872 1400; www2.ville.montreal.qc.ca) are huge and varied. Outdoor types should visit Mount Royal Park (001 514 843 8240; www.lemont royal.qc.ca), to hike, bike, in winter crosscountry ski or ice skate. There aren’t many major cities where you can surf or kayak 15 minutes from downtown. To splash about in the rapids of the Lachine Canal, contact KSF (001 514 595 7873; www.ksf.ca). The Casino de Montréal (001 514 392 2746; www.casino-de-montreal.com), is open around the clock and if you feel like chips of a different kind, it has four decent restaurants. Le Club Chasse et Pêche (001 514 861 1112; www.leclubchasseetpeche.com) has been in vogue since it opened in 2005. Les Caprices de Nicolas (001 514 282 9790; www.les caprices.com) is another reliable choice. For live music, La Sala Rossa (001 514 284 0122; www.casadelpopolo.com/salaconcert/) is one of many options, while jazz fans should try Upstairs (001 514 931 6808; www.upstairsjazz.com). On Sunday morning, try to attend a service at the 1656 Basilique Notre-Dame (001 514 842 2925; www.basiliquenddm.org).

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