A historic cultural entrepôt with lashings of French chic.

Monocle magazine called it: “Canada’s cultural capital”. True enough, Montreal revels in year-round festivals from fine arts to film, from classical music to throbbing house. Its historic downtown area is a dual-accented delight. Pancake crêpes are served with escargots in tiny bistros that haven’t changed in centuries. But Montreal is also a modern city with a window on the world. It’s the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil and home to one of the largest Gay Pride festivals on the planet.

Things to know before you go

  • Montreal takes its name from Mount Royal, or 'Mont Royal' in French. The large grassy hill just west of downtown is now a leafy park with a small ski slope on top.
  • Madcap theater troupe Cirque du Soleil was founded in Montreal by two street performers in 1984. The circus group, still based in the city, has now performed in over 300 cities in every continent except Antarctica.
  • Montreal is one of only three UNESCO Cities of Design. Top architectural sights include Montreal Biosphere, the art deco Université de Montréal, and the EXPO '67 pavilions.

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About the author

Tristan Rutherford

Nice, Italy

Tristan Rutherford writes for National Geographic and The Times of London. He lectures in travel journalism at Central Saint Martins in the UK.