Eating Out

Montreal is predictably and deservedly famous for its French cuisine and is home to a number of glorious French restaurants and bistros. While Quebec's signature dish is a pile of fries, gravy and cheese curds called poutine, classics such as bagels and croissants remain ever popular in the city.

Old Montreal is naturally the main tourist district and many quality restaurants can be found along its narrow streets, but downtown also boasts a bustling culinary scene. Boulevard Saint-Laurent (La Main to locals) splits the city into eastern and western sections and is one of the best streets for eating out in Montreal.

Another good stomping ground for grazing travellers is Plateau Mont-Royal, a gourmet paradise of restaurants, bakeries and snack stalls. For a break from French-style cuisine, and good budget options, take a stroll through Montreal's Chinatown, of which Rue de la Gauchetiere is the main pedestrianised strip.

Foodies who want to explore the fresh produce scene in Montreal should visit either the celebrated Marche Jean Talon or the smaller Marche Atwater to browse the stalls; both markets are sure to delight serious gourmands.

Shopping

Montreal is one of those rare international cities where shopping actually enhances one's experience of the destination. Rather than kitsch souvenirs from plastic chain stores, the shopping in Montreal is as cultured and glamorous as any other aspect of the city.

Not only does Montreal have boutiques and organic markets in equal measure, but it is the world's only underground city in which to shop. For those who pay Montreal a visit during winter, this subterranean retail experience will be a welcome refuge from the icy gloom above and a highlight of their trip. The Underground City has more than 20 miles (30km) of passageways connecting all the Montreal Metros with around 1,600 little boutiques, 200 restaurants and 34 cinemas. Over 500,000 local people use the underground city every day, so we'd recommend visitors plan their shopping excursion during office hours when it is much quieter.

Montreal's two best markets are at opposite ends of the city. Marché Jean-Talon is an enormous open-air market selling high-quality goods, including fresh and organic maple syrup which one can buy by the litre, perfect as an authentic Quebec gift for sweet-toothed friends back home. Marché Atwater is another good option, with wonderful baked goods, artisanal breads and other fresh produce on offer.

The best Montreal shopping districts are Avenue Laurier Ouest, a centre of designer boutiques and foodie stores; Cours Mont-Royal for its haute couture and fashion accessories; and Ste-Catherine Street, which boasts an array of trendy stores. The iconic shopping centre Faubourg Ste-Catherine is also nearby.

For unique Montreal gifts, don't miss the Canadian Guild of Crafts Québec, which sells aboriginal art and local artisan works. This is a good place to pick up classic Canadian souvenirs such as furs and Native American crafts like dream weavers, polished stone jewellery, leather goods and musical instruments. Another must is Marché Bonsecours in Old Montreal, which has an eclectic and interesting range of shops well worth visiting.

Nightlife

Ever since it earned its nickname of 'Sin City' during the country's era of prohibition, Montreal's nightlife gained a wild reputation throughout the 20th century. Even today, it's arguably home to the hottest nightlife in Canada.

One of the best areas for a night out is Saint-Laurent, with fashionable clubs and bars that are constantly being reinvented. Crescent is a popular area with those who prefer a chilled evening and is a regular choice for couples and diners.

The Latin Quarter also has a lively party scene, attracting students and tourists in substantial numbers during the summer months when the good times spill into the streets. The Gay Village is a lively cocktail of charming cafes and vibrant nightclubs, boasting some of the most raucous nightlife among both gay and straight crowds.

Bars in Montreal close around 3am. Clubs tend to open late and close around dawn. Entrance fees are usually charged but these can be avoided by calling ahead and talking your way onto the guest lists, which is not nearly as hard as it sounds.

Be aware that Montreal has some fairly advanced public health regulations that mean smoking cigarettes in bars or even near them is strictly forbidden. Do so at the risk of a fine. A drawcard for visiting young Americans is the legal drinking age of 18, as opposed to 21 across the border.

Montreal also offers loads of culture, boasting its own symphony orchestra, dozens of theatres and countless venues for live music concerts, ranging from intimate clubs to international arena tours.

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