Lots of cities claim to be cool, but Montreal goes beyond the “hip and trendy” definition. It has a distinctive francophone culture, European vibe and historical heritage that makes it stand out from other North American urban centers. It’s the second largest French speaking city in the world after Paris, but is also a multicultural melting pot of Jewish, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Arab, Haitian and other ethnic groups. It’s a fashion-forward creative hub where artists, musicians and cirque performers thrive. It’s a foodie haven offering the spectrum from gastronomic to casual fare. In fact, it has the highest number of restaurants per capita in Canada, second only to New York on the continent. Like Manhattan, it’s a city on an island but you’ll never feel cut off from the mainland here. There is just so much to see, hear, do and experience in this vibrant city, it’s where other places look to discover the next big thing. Montreal doesn’t have to try hard to be cool, it just is. Here are 12 reasons why Montreal is the coolest city in North America.
1. Cool Festivals
Montreal has got to be the most festival-filled city in the world. There’s always something spectacular going on in the streets, theaters, galleries and skies. These are not just small-time neighborhood gatherings, but large scale world class extravaganzas that close streets, set up stages, line up the gourmet food trucks and draw enormous crowds from across the globe. Some offerings are free, others are ticketed, but there’s always something for everyone. Summertime has a particularly active calendar of events, with the Montreal Jazz Festival, Film Festival, International Fireworks Festival, Just For Laughs Comedy Festival, Reggae Festival and Beer Festival, to name a few. The annual FrancoFolies de Montréal is the biggest musical festival in the French-speaking world, with over 1000 performers taking part.
2. Old Montreal Oozes Cool
True, it’s a tad touristy, but Vieux Montreal is the authentic historic heart of the city with some of its buildings dating back to the 1600s. It like stepping back in time and across the pond to Old France, with its well-preserved colonial architecture, cobblestone streets and clip-clopping calèches. Place Jacques-Cartier is the main public square where people gather to watch street performers and wile away the day at one of the many sidewalk cafes. There’s never a rush to turn tables here, one coffee or glass of wine entitles you to sit and chill for as long as you’d like. Poke down the alleys and side streets to discover funky galleries, curio shops and all manner of restaurants. The Old Port along the St. Lawrence riverbank has been restored and hosts a range of museums, attractions and recreational opportunities. Can’t forget Notre-Dame Basilica overlooking Place d’Armes – the pipe organ inside is particularly impressive.