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Montréal is an enchanting blend of old, new, English, French and dozens of other ethnic communities. With so many different cultures it is not surprising that the city is known for its irrepressible vitality and unique character. It also demonstrates a European sophistication and charm not found elsewhere. This reputation is underscored by a vast array of small luxury hotels, ethnic restaurants, significant museums, galleries and boutiques.

A first timer’s trip to the city should begin with a visit to the top of Mount Royal. The massive park is a great place to get your bearings and it serves as a hub for the many communities that make up the city. This is where the historic St. Joseph’s Oratory, a massive Roman Catholic basilica was erected in 1942 to celebrate the city’s spiritual roots. From the summit of the Mount, on a clear day it is possible to gaze over the city and beyond to the Old Port of Montréal and the mighty St. Lawrence River, one of the largest navigable waterways in the world.

It was here, 1600 km inland from the Atlantic that the city and the old port came to life more than 350 years ago. Montréal is also home to one of the busiest commercial inland ports in the world which is capable of handling ships of any size, year round, including the world’s largest cruise ships.

Your itinerary should include a stroll along the cobble-stone streets of Vieux Montréal (Old Montréal) and the Old Port area where you will get a sense of the city’s history. You will find the usual tourist haunts but its done better here somehow.

Because of its appeal to international visitors, it is not surprising that the city hosts a remarkable number of international festivals, congresses and conventions. In 1967 it was host to a World Exposition and in 1976 staged the Summer Olympic Games.

Montréal is also home to three of Canada’s top rated universities, the most internationally recognized being McGill University. Alumni of this university include Baron Black of Crossharbour, aka Conrad Black, and William “Captain Kirk” Shatner.

Montréalers are known to be audacious party animals who will celebrate anything at any time. The partying goes on long into the wee hours as evidenced by the many bars and restaurants along St. Catherine and Crescent Streets. Typically there are more people strolling along the streets of downtown Montréal at 3 am than in Victoria in the middle of the day.

There is no bad time of the year to visit Montréal but two annual events that are particularly exciting are the International Jazz Festival and the Grand Prix The Just for Laughs Loto-Quebec Festival, has become the world’s largest and most prestigious comedy event featuring some of the biggest national and international veterans and new talent. The Festival brings over 2,100 shows, including over 1,600 free open-air shows, to Montréal’s Quartier latin. Nothing compares to being there!

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