First time in Montreal? Here are 5 things you should do

MONTREAL — Less than three miles from the St. Lawrence River, a small wooded mountain stands just 764 feet above sea level but still lays down the law from high above the surrounding metropolis.

This is Mount Royal, a landmark that gave this city its name, according to local legend — “Mont-real.” It also has been such an important part of the landscape that local regulations have forbidden any nearby buildings from rising above its highest point.

Compared to Toronto, New York or even Cleveland, Montreal’s skyline scales short in stature as a result. But Montreal’s depth — not height — is what really makes it stand out, especially for Americans seeking a European-style adventure just an hour or so north of the border.

Here are five tips and observations from a recent summer vacation here and other French Canadian stops in Quebec province.

It was a trendy time to visit. Last year, Canada’s second-most populous metro area hosted a record 1.6 million American tourists, a number that is expected to grow again this year with 700 weekly direct flights from 29 American cities, according to the Montreal’s tourism authority. 

Guess which country tops the list?: The 25 countries that love to visit America the most

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Go underground

Part of the underground city in Montreal. (Photo: Brent Schrotenboer)

Who needs giant skyscrapers when you’ve got an underground city? Beneath Montreal lays a subterranean mall, subway and tunnel system that’s like something from a dream. Descend via scores of outside entry points and find a labyrinthine network of pathways that covers about 20 miles. Here you can shop or walk in warmth in the winter and step out of the sun or occasional rain during the rest of the year.

Besides that, we found this system to be much easier than driving a car downtown, with all of its one-way streets and infamous road construction during peak tourism season in the summer.

Souvenir shops even sell pillows and fridge magnets depicting “Rue Barree,” a famous street sign. But “Rue Barree” is not a famous boulevard in the historic part of the city. It’s a construction warning in French, meaning “street closed.”

We ordered an Uber for longer treks across town (no Lyft available as of August 2019). To get an even better sense of the city, walk through its diverse neighborhoods, which are dotted by lush parks and restaurants offering flavors from France, China, Syria and beyond. They fan out from Old Montreal, the more Parisian, upscale section of downtown near the river.

Taste-travel the world

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