Source: Best Health magazine, January/February 2016
First called Ville-Marie, the island of Montreal was later renamed after the mountain that sits at its centre, Mount Royal. It is Canada’s second-largest city, with about 1.65 million people calling it home. French is the official language, spoken by more than 60 percent of the population. It’s nestled between the shores of the mighty St. Lawrence River. While many visitors arrive with a list of go-to hotels and restaurants, there’s so much more to enjoy. Here’s how to play tourist in style.
Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the visionary behind New York’s Central Park, Mount Royal is one of the city’s great outdoor escapes. You can bike and hike ‘the mountain,’ as it’s known locally, in summer and cross-country ski or skate during the winter months. You can also just hang out and enjoy the plants and bird life.
Montreal is known for its culinary delights, and a food tour is a great way to learn about the various communities and the cuisine that defines each of them. Check out Local Montreal Tours for its Mile End Montreal Food Tour. The three-hour walking tour lets you soak up the rich history of this district while nibbling on a variety of foods, from a vegan falafel at La Panthère Verte to a Montreal-style bagel at St-Viateur Bagel to bonbons from Chocolats Geneviève Grandbois. Delish!
A visit here would be incomplete without a trip to the old quarter ‘ you’ll feel like you’ve landed smack dab in the middle of Europe. With narrow cobblestone streets dotted with galleries, restaurants and boutiques, Old Montreal is the perfect way to top up your cultural quotient.
For a spa with a little something-something extra, check out Bota Bota. It’s a ferryboat that’s been reimagined as a spa, and it’s anchored at the base of Old Montreal, floating gently on the St. Lawrence River. You can spend the day luxuriating at this full-service spa or just an hour enjoying the water circuit. Either way, plan for lunch: Michelin-starred chef Eric Gonzalez runs the kitchen.
You can fly into Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and you’re only a quick cab ride from the city. The train is also an option from some destinations, and Via Rail Canada will deliver you right into the heart of the city, ready to start your adventure.