Travel

Montreal

Yves Lafontaine
Commentaires
Montréal, like some precious work of art, is framed by Mont Royal and the St. Lawrence River. Three and a half centuries later, what was initially a simple missionary village has burgeoned into the world's second-largest French-speaking city, and a metropolis of international repute. Given its prime location - only 60 km from the U.S. border - Montréal is an increasingly important hub of North American trade. Montréal has drawn on the combined strengths of its French and British roots to attract newcomers from around the world. This multicultural mix has fostered a fertile and vibrant cultural life. A broad range of movies, plays and shows draw large audiences, while bars, cafés and discotheques rock until the early hours of the morning. Shopping in Montréal - a fashion capital - is another pleasure not to be missed. Below street level, you will find "underground city," a subterranean network of over 30 km (18.5 mi) of office and apartment towers, major stores, hotels, restaurants, railway stations, parking garages, movie theatres, concert halls and much more, all connected by Montréal's clean, fast and convenient metro trains.

The sounds of horses' hooves and calèche wheels are still heard along the narrow cobblestone streets of Old Montréal, flanked by 18th- and 19th-century greystone buildings. Your best introduction to the city's 350 years of history is at Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History, rising above the very site of the founding of the city. Nearby, the Gothic Revival Notre-Dame Basilica is renowned for its opulent decor.
But the "new" Old Port, entirely made over, is by far the most popular site with visitors. Its park and wharves buzz with activities and people all day long. You can take a tour boat, a ferry or even an amphibious bus for a ride on the St. Lawrence or around the Port, or challenge the Rapides de Lachine in a special jet-boat.
Just across from the Port, in the middle of the St. Lawrence, lies the Parc des Îles, the site of the Expo 67 world's fair. It's the perfect place for outdoor activities - a picnic or swimming, skating or cross-country skiing, depending on the season. You'll be close to two other sources of thrills as well: La Ronde amusement park has everything from a kid-size roller coaster to the positively hair-raising adult version, while Lady Luck awaits you at the Montréal Casino on Île Notre-Dame.

Olympic Stadium, known as the "Big O," is home to Montréal's baseball team, the Expos. Take the cable car up its inclined tower, the highest of its kind in the world, for an incomparable view. From there you can easily see your next destination - the Biodome, right next door. You'll marvel at the flora and fauna from four different ecosystems: a tropical rainforest, a Laurentian forest, the St. Lawrence River marine environment, and the polar world. Then, across from the Olympic park, treat your senses to Montréal's Botanical Garden, the second largest in the world, with its picturesque Chinese and Japanese gardens and the intriguing Insectarium.
Montréal is home to some thirty museums, many of them essential stops on any visitor's itinerary. For instance, there are Canada's oldest art museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the McCord Museum of Canadian History, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and the Musée d'art contemporain, for modern art. The latter is part of the Place des Arts complex, whose stages have been welcoming all the great names in theatre, music and dance for over 30 years, including the Montréal Symphony Orchestra and the Grands Ballets Canadiens.

Although Montrealers are never at a loss for something to celebrate, summer is without a doubt the high point of the annual program of festivities. As soon as the warm weather arrives, the major cultural and sports events kick off: the Mondial SAQ, a dazzling pyrotechnical face-off; the Air Canada Grand Prix, a roaring, rubber-burning part of the world Formula 1 championship; the immensely popular Festival international de jazz, which draws over one million music-lovers, and the Just for Laughs Festival, the Francofolies and the World Film Festival, popular with comedy fans and movie buffs. This year, Divers/Cité, Montréal’s Gay pride will celebrate it’s tenth anniversary with an array of concerts, partys and shows which will culminate with the Sunday August 4th parade which should attracts more than 750 000 people.

- > Tourisme Montréal
Tél .: (514) 844-5400 ou 1 800 363-7777
www.tourisme-montreal.org