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Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Canada.
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Canada.
Before you arrive
Given that it’s perched on top of a cliff, surrounded by ancient fortified walls and guarded by a working citadel, it’s no surprise to learn that Québec City has a somewhat embattled history.
Though the First Nations Algonquin discovered it first, the British and French subsequently fought over ownership of this prime settlement on the St Lawrence River for centuries. Claimed as New France in 1608, then for the British in 1759, it was tugged back and forth before eventually Québec was declared a Canadian province in 1840.
Québec City is now distinctly more Gallic (96% of its population speak French as their first language) and war is the last thing on anyone’s mind – the locals are far too busy enjoying brunch and lattes in the many Parisian-style cafés that line the streets of the Old Town. There is one battle that you will still face though – hilly Québec City is nicknamed ‘the city of stairs’ for very good reason, so bring your comfiest footwear.
At the airport
Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport is about 16km south-west of the city centre. There are no direct flights to Québec City from the UK; the easiest route is to fly via Montréal, an easy connection. Total flight time from the UK is around 11 hours.
In Arrivals there is an information booth (help available 24 hours); there is also a currency exchange and several ATMs.
Getting into town
Taxis are readily available; the fixed rate for rides into the city centre is currently C$34.25. If you’re feeling flush limousines are also available for hire.
The Réseau du Transport de la Capitale (RTC) Bus 78 runs between the airport and Les Saules bus terminal, Monday- Friday.
Sunlight caught the metal trigger of the gun, blinding me for a second. “Don’t worry,” said the pilot, as he saw me eye the firearm, “I’d fly away before I’d use it.” I looked around at the remote shingle beach on which we were standing. Here we were, high in the Canadian Arctic, on an island inhabited by at least 50 polar bears, 70km from the nearest landmass, and the pilot of the only chartered plane hereabouts had just said that he’d desert us if the bears got too close. I gulped, hard. “We’d definitely come back for you though,” he shouted as I followed my guide Allen Gordon along the shore of Akpatok Island. Thankfully we weren’t on land for long.
A waiting Zodiac took us out to a small catamaran, from which we began our – safer – search for bears. The sea was so still that our wake felt like an intrusion. Icebergs rose from the turquoise water like frozen turrets and, above, black guillemots called out into the sky. We trained our binoculars on the island’s fort-like limestone cliffs, scanning for anything white. Excitement bubbled a few times when someone spotted a buoy or a large rock, but soon the salty air became too much and we left the deck to have lunch and commiserate with each other on our lack of wildlife sightings. Not that I could complain. In the past few days I’d enjoyed not one but three close encounters, any one of which you’d count yourself lucky to see in a lifetime.
The far, far north – Look at a map of Quebec and at first it seems fairly digestible: there’s Montreal, with its French liberalism and high-rises; the wide St Lawrence River, which snakes through the province and out to sea via a string of pretty villages; the cliff-side cobbles of quaint Quebec City. But look north and you’ll see that’s only a fraction of the story. The top third of the province, roughly twice the size of Britain, surrounded by water on three sides and stretching beyond the Arctic Circle, is Nunavik (not to be confused with the more well-known Nunavut to the north). It comprises just 14 villages, none of them connected by roads. Getting there is a challenge: if you drive north from Montreal, the road ends at Caniapiscau Reservoir – still hundreds of kilometres shy of Kuujjuaq, Nunavik’s southernmost administrative centre and unofficial capital.
Kuujjuaq is where I’d begun my journey days earlier, courtesy of the one daily flight from Montreal. It was July, and with the ice temporarily melted, a barge had also just arrived, bringing fuel for the giant generators that provide power for the entire community. “We’re reliant on bulk delivery now,” explained Allen, as he drove me around Kuujjuaq, the town where he was born and raised, as were his parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents. Evidence of human habitation in this area dates back 7,000 years but a European community, known as Fort Chimo, was first established in the 1830s by the Hudson Bay Company. In 1942 the US established an air base where Kuujjuaq airport sits now, and the town as it is today began to develop.
“I remember, in the 50s, people lived in houses made from shipping crates. In the 70s the ATV or snowmobile was the family car. Now it’s all pick-up trucks,” said Allen. In 1945 the US left the area but the community continued to develop, first with a church, then a hospital and finally a school. Allen was one of the first three students to graduate in Kuujjuaq. “When I was a kid, the outdoors was our playground,” he recalled. “We’d ride our bikes outside the courthouse – that was the only smooth place in town. I used to know everyone but things have changed, now I only know about half.”
Population: 5,2 million
Visitors per year: 21 million
Languages: English, French
Unit of currency: Canadian dollar (C$)
Cost index: hotel per night C$70-450 (US$63-407), TTC (subway) ride C$3 (US$2.70), CN Tower admission C$32 (US$29), Toronto Island ferry C$7 (US$6.30)
Ubiquitous condo towers, aging megahighways and the lack of a unifying architectural theme aren’t likely to seduce you, but the character and flavour of Toronto’s neighbourhoods just might. Expect this year to be another massive year for Toronto’s drool-worthy restaurant scene. If nightlife is your bag, you’ll love this city: the influences of nearby New York and Montreal keep things cutting-edge. Live music thrives in gritty, grassroots bars and band-rooms.
In June, rock on for North by Northeast’s 22nd birthday in this week-long extravaganza of live music, performance and film in bars and venues across the city.
Pride week also takes place in June. Toronto revels in its status as one of the world’s most gay-friendly cities, culminating in the mile-long Pride Parade.
Luminato, also in June, sees a delectable selection of the planet’s top performers across all genres descend upon Toronto for this series of public concerts. Some are outdoors; many are free.
Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). It’s the jewel in the crown of Toronto’s festival calendar, and one of the biggest in the world film festival circuit.
Ossington Ave (West), Danforth Ave (East), Porter Airlines, Evergreen Brick Works community environmental centre, Royal Ontario Museum, Waupoos peach cider
Mayor Rob Ford, winter, potholes, TTC delays, downtown and highway traffic, hipsters, poutine.
Get a sense of the bigger picture atop Toronto’s beloved CN Tower, and brave the tethered but hands-and-barrier-free Edgewalk around the roof of the main observation deck (356m), if you dare. Hop on a ferry to Toronto Island for a sunny afternoon stroll and the best views of the soaring skyline then zip back to your digs, lose the civvies and dress to impress. Kick off your fabulous evening with an al fresco cocktail at the Terrace at Stock, on the 31st floor of the Trump hotel. For dinner, stroll west on King to Lee Lounge, an Asian-fusion taste explosion, best shared. Once your taste buds have thanked you, the bars and clubs of the Entertainment district (at your feet) and Queen West (a few blocks north) await. Will you dance or rock the night away.
Above Queen and Dundas TTC stations, the giant Eaton Centre mall houses over 230 big-branded retailers. A few blocks north, the ‘Mink Mile’ west of Yonge St, on Bloor St, is where you’ll find Gucci, Prada, Chanel and the folks who can afford them. Funky young things should head immediately to the Queen West and Kensington Market ‘hoods for a mother lode of old-school and new boutiques and a massive selection of vintage threads and dreads.
Tucked away off Bloor St in downtown’s most desirable locale, the Windsor Arms is a 1927 neo-Gothic mansion preferred by visiting glitterati who favour privacy and personal attention over the need to be seen. Luxurious oversized suites are classically styled with modern conveniences – each has a separate bath and shower and every room features a musical instrument: many have been strummed, plucked or tinkled by the Greats.
The Four Seasons brand was born in Toronto but its first-ever hotel was looking a bit tired, especially as so many shiny arrivals were opening in the city. So the company spent $500 million on a new flagship, and from the moment it opened in 2012, soaring high above the Victorian houses of Yorkville, it has felt relaxed, refined, spot-on.
The lobby is divided into gallery-like spaces with velvet chairs and wood-panelled walls covered in Canadian Modernist art. The rooms are not only beautiful (the half-moon corner sofas are ingenious) but also have all the five-star toys, such as TVs embedded in bathroom mirrors and i-Pads to order room service or book a treatment in Toronto’s biggest spa.
The menu in Café Boulud is sassy French (lobster salad with coconut shavings; an exquisite grapefruit givre with halva candy floss); in the new Buca Yorkville, the look is distinctly Milanese but the menu is more coastal (the salumi de mari is a favourite).
Empty roads, dramatic landscapes – Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton is a driver’s dream. (Apart from the moose.)
I don’t ordinarily seek travel advice from my local dry cleaner, but at some point between a rudimentary exchange on jam removal and the weather, I mention I’m thinking of a trip to Nova Scotia. Ulla’s eyes light up as she tells me her son recently visited Cape Breton, its northernmost island, and drove for a day without seeing another car. “Not one. For 12 hours!”
Nothing speaks to me more powerfully of escape than an empty road, so I book my tickets the next day. The journey is the destination on this trip, and the end point is the Cabot Trail – 300km of (empty) road encircling Cape Breton.
Nova Scotia is a blustery outcrop on Canada’s wild Atlantic edge, joined to the rest of the country by just a neck of land across the Bay of Fundy – and Cape Breton is attached to the rest of Nova Scotia by a slender causeway.
‘Remote’ doesn’t come close (the area was only opened up to cars in the ‘30s), which explains why the Trail’s richly forested Highland stretches, seat-grippingly dramatic oceanic sections and tenacious little settlements attract so few visitors – as I explained to my friend Wynn, to persuade him to join me.
It’s late summer, but snowflakes burn my face like embers in the 50-knot wind. I’m standing on the deck of MV Ocean Endeavour, a 117-passenger expedition ship Cruising the south coast of Devon Island.
We’re currently on a two-week expedition through Nunavut, Canada’s newest and largest territory. “Our Land” in the indigenous language of Inuktitut, Nunavut was the eastern half of the Northwest Territory up until 1999, when the government settled a sweeping aboriginal land claim. Today, Nunavut is one of the least populated regions in the world, a vast swath of tundra and polar ice caps three times the size of Texas with barely 37,000 souls — almost three-quarters of whom are Inuit.
Tourism isn’t exactly new to Nunavut. Adventure-seekers have been exploring the Northwest Passage for decades. This August, the 900-passenger cruise ship Crystal Serenity is set to embark on its inaugural crossing of the Canadian Arctic. But few tourists venture farther north into the territory’s least-known corner, the wild Queen Elizabeth Islands. These 13 large isles — and hundreds of smaller ones — shoulder right up against northwest Greenland, nearly 2,000 miles north of Toronto but only 500 miles from the North Pole. If Nunavut is lightly populated, the Queen Elizabeths are all but empty: Only 390 people, mostly Inuit, live in two small settlements. Another handful of scientists and soldiers rotate in and out of a remote research station and an even remoter military base.
Through the gale, I catch glimpses of Devon Island, its mesas draped with snow, not a tree or bush in sight. The nearest forests, stunted and twisted by continuous wind, are about a thousand miles south. In fact, the island is so barren that NASA considers it an analog to Mars; an abandoned mock-up space station sits on the edge of a crater somewhere nearby. Watching the frozen desert drift past, I wonder, what — or who — can possibly survive up here. And, maybe more importantly, how?
The next morning, the storm has faded. The mercury peaks just above freezing when the hundred or so passengers begin boarding a fleet of inflatable Zodiacs for a shore excursion. We cut through a heavy fog and wade ashore on a gravel beach. On close examination, this island looks stark. But not to Becky Kilabuk, an Inuk cultural guide accompanying this Adventure Canada expedition.
“It might not look like it from where we stand today in the 21st century, but this coast, this island, was full of life and food for our ancestors,” she says. “Long before the Inuit came, our ancestors, the Thule people, had a summer whaling camp here.”
The Thule inhabited Nunavut and the Queen Elizabeth Islands between the 10th and 17th centuries, surviving mostly by hunting bowhead whales and other large marine mammals. But as the climate cooled during the Little Ice Age and open waters became choked with ice, the large camps — some had more than 100 people — disintegrated. Eventually, the Thule culture morphed into smaller hunting groups that became known as the Inuit. But today on Devon Island, only ghosts remain. Twice the size of Massachusetts, Devon Island holds the distinction of being the largest uninhabited island in the world.
As guides with shotguns fan out to keep guard against polar bears, passengers break into groups of about a dozen or so. Some set out to look for fossils on a distant ridge, others head of to go birdwatching. I join Kilabuk and her friend, Lois Suluk-Locke, on a hike. Neither of the two cultural guides has been here before, but their instincts are keen. It takes them only a few minutes to discover the remains of an ancient camp.
Lichen-painted whale skulls and ribs are scattered in loose circles. “These were once houses built from rocks, sod and bones,” Kilabuk explains. “In Inuktitut, ‘igloo’ means house, not just a snow house. These were the original igloos.” Snow buntings, unused to humans, flit around us. Nearby, an arctic fox, small and delicate as a cat, blinks curiously.
“So many people think of the Arctic as barren lands, a wasteland,” Kilabuk says. “But they forget it’s full of life. Where Western explorers struggled and died trying to conquer the land, trying to find the Northwest Passage between Europe and Asia, our people thrived.”
I ask Kilabuk if it’s true that the Inuit have a hundred words for snow. She laughs. “We probably have about the same number of words in our language as you do for snow.” But, she says, there is one concept the Inuit have an abundance of words and expressions for: “Gratitude. We have a deep appreciation for the gifts we are given from the land, the sea, the animals, the birds. From each other. From our ancestors.”
“Maybe we are allowed to live here because we are grateful,” Kilabuk says. “We didn’t come here seeking to destroy or conquer.”
Over the next two days the ship makes its way eastward through the gray waters of Lancaster Sound. Hundreds of harp seals erupt from the dark green waves, chasing panicked baitfish. Pods of narwhal, their pale freckled heads piercing the waves with spiral tusks, catch the afternoon sun. The skies above ring with the cries of fulmars and kittiwakes.
There is life among the brown, windswept hills of eastern Devon Island. Hiking along a ridge one afternoon, we surprise a herd of musk oxen grazing in a willow thicket. Shaggy survivors of the Ice Age, they gaze back at us from eyes sunken deep in their nut-colored wool. And there are polar bears. Dozens of polar bears. They pause while swimming between ice floes to watch us pass. They peek out of broken rock slides. One mother, with her back propped up against a slab of ice, unconcernedly nurses her two cubs as the ship slides by. The cubs barely interrupt their feeding to watch us.
We leave the long coast of Devon Island behind. A few hours later, the Arctic dawn greets us at Grise Fiord, a hamlet of houses tucked between a stone beach and 1,800-foot peaks on Ellesmere Island. At 76 degrees north, the settlement of 130 people is Canada’s northernmost town. After breakfast, a delegation of locals meets us at the dock. Guides take some passengers of to see cultural games; others take us on a walk around town. I join Frankie, a lanky youth in a gray hoodie, for a tour.
“Summer never really came this year,” he says as he leads me up a gravel road into the settlement. “That’s probably why our ancestors called this bay ‘the place that never thaws.’” My cheeks feel waxy in the steady sea breeze. It must be around 20 degrees with the wind chill. The houses are boxy and painted in dull browns, greens and beiges. Seal skins are strung taut over wooden racks outside doors. Satellite dishes hang from the eaves, but we’re so far north — only 970 miles south of the North Pole — that the dishes are angled down at the southern horizon instead of up at the sky. In the town’s only store, you can buy fresh wolf pelts alongside boxes of macaroni and cheese.
Walking around Grise Fiord, it’s easy to imagine that this settlement has been here forever. But it’s an illusion. “Our people were moved here from northern Quebec in the 1950s as part of a relocation by the government,” Frankie tells me.
Long after European diseases had decimated Inuit settlements throughout the Arctic with the arrival of whalers and explorers in the 1600s, the Canadian government realized that the Far North was a strategic military asset, not a worthless wasteland. At the height of the Cold War, the government pushed to repopulate the Queen Elizabeth Islands.
“The feeling was: If you’re going to hold territory, then you need to settle people there,” Frankie says. So 87 Inuit were dropped off 2,000 miles north of their homes onto barren beaches here as kind of human flagpoles.
Several days later, on another empty island, Skraeling, Kilabuk and Suluk-Locke are once again scouting out the ruins of their ancestors. We’re as far north as we will go this journey, only a few hundred miles south of the North Pole. But the whale bones and stone foundations are testimony that people lived here sometime over the last several thousand years.
Just before we prepare to depart, Kilabuk and Suluk-Locke stand nose to nose on the broken slate beach beside an ancient tent ring. A weak sun glows in the sky, warming us.
The two women look deeply into each other’s’ eyes. And then they start to grunt and bark and growl. It’s called katajjaq, throat singing. Back and forth, faster and faster, the two women harmonize and compete, their grunts and squeaks seem to expand and fill up the wild Arctic sky. I don’t know what the song is about yet. But I can make a guess. It’s a song that helped their people survive in a land where no one else could. It’s a song of thanks and gratitude.
I’m propping up the bar at the Wolf in the Fog, a buzzy restaurant in Tofino, cradling a Cracker Jack cocktail — made from popcorn-infused rum, Canadian whisky, honey, macadamia-nut liqueur, lime and local salt water. It’s possibly the effect of that improbable combination, but I’ve lost count of the number of man-buns in the room. I’d heard this 30-mile stretch on the west coast of Vancouver Island was a mecca for foodies and adventure-lovers, but I hadn’t expected this particular town to be so hip.
In the ’60s, Vietnam draft dodgers drifted to Vancouver Island — if you’re looking to disappear, where better than a rugged, sparsely populated, 12,400-square-mile enclave of Canada’s Pacific coast? Most of them settled in Ucluelet and Tofino, two fishing towns about 25 miles apart. Later came the surfers, chasing the big waves.
Eventually the zeitgeist of these villages became sporty-hippy, creating a hub of Canadian and American artists, outdoorsy types and early organic farmers. Nowadays, the best way to describe many of the 2,000 Tofino residents is buff-boho, with bearded men in flannel shirts warding of freezing winds and women clad in shorts and hand knitted beanies year-round.
Perched on a rocky promontory above the St. Lawrence River, Quebec City was settled in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain and built up over the years into a perfect simulacrum of old France. It’s all here: cobbled streets, slate-roofed stone houses, a 95-percent French-speaking population, patisseries, vin rouge, and fresh baguettes. North America’s only walled city, Vieux Québec (Old Quebec) is divided into the Haute-Ville and Basse-Ville (upper and lower cities), designations that are now simply geographic, but were once economic and strategic – the lower city filled with warehouses and other necessities of the river trade, the upper with homes built on the heights as protection against the English. As it turned out, the altitude wasn’t much of a help: In 1759, British general James Wolfe took the city after a two-month siege, losing his own life in the process but ensuring England’s hegemony on the continent. The Québécois still haven’t gotten over the shock, and the more nationalistic among them harbor dreams of partition from Canada and the establishment of an independent country.
To get the full flavor of the place, go in February for the seventeen-day Carnaval de Québec, when the Québécois make peace with their climate. Once a sort of northerly Mardi Gras where a drink called caribou (a mixture of brandy, vodka, sherry, and port) laid many a strong man low’, Carnaval is now a family-friendly event.
At the famous Dufferin Terrace, a pedestrian-only rampart that offers the city’s best views, adults and children sail down icy chutes on toboggans, while on the Plains of Abraham – the fields where the French and British fought it out – horse-drawn sleighs transport all comers back to a simpler time. Elsewhere, teams from around the world compete in snow-sculpting events, and brave souls participate in canoe races across the ice-choked St. Lawrence. At log-cabin “sugar shacks,” revelers looking like the Michelin Man in their layers of down and fleece line up for maple taffy, while others strip down to their Speedos for a quick dip in the Snow Bath.
To warm up less bravely at the end of the day, nothing is more Quebec than a stay at the Château Frontenac, the very symbol of the city, dominating the skyline from the top of Cap Diamard, the highest point in town. Designed in the style of a Loire Valley château and looking as if it’s stood here forever, it is, in fact, only a little over a century old, built in 1893 by Canadian Pacific railroad baron William Van Horne, who hoped to lure tourists with the promise of hotel luxury. Outside, it’s all stone-and-brick turrets, green copper roofs, and dormered windows, while inside, its labyrinthine corridors lead through various wings built over a hundred-year span with total stylistic consistency. Book an odd-numbered room in the main tower for a view of the St. Lawrence, or an even-numbered room for a panorama of the city’s rooftops – probably the most European vista this side of Paris. Various suites and the eighteenth-floor “honeymoon rooms” help relieve the Carnaval chill with Jacuzzi tubs. To dispel the chill in a different way, try a martini in front of the fireplace at the hotel’s Bar St.-Laurent, overlooking the Terrasse Dufferin.
In 1938, Philadelphia millionaire Joe Ryan visited 3,001-foot Mont Tremblant, liked what he saw, bought it, and built the second real ski resort in North America, after Sun Valley. The highest peak in the Laurentians, Tremblant derives its name (Trembling Mountain) from an Algonquin Indian legend in which the angry god Manitou gave the mountain a good shake whenever humans disturbed nature in any way.
Perhaps Vancouver-based Intrawest (owner of Whistler/Blackcomb and other North American ski resorts) had the god’s wrath in mind, then, when in the early 1990s they spent $800 million on a massive rebuilding project that specifically sought to blend man-made structures with nature, to provide intimate glimpses of the mountain and surrounding country at every turn. The resulting Mont Tremblant Resort has been called the best in eastern North America, with more than 46 miles of trails (broken up into ninety-two runs) attracting skiers from across North America and farther afield. Fully 50 percent of its trails are classified expert-grade, including the daunting double-black-diamond Dynamite, with its 42-degree incline, the steepest in eastern Canada, The 3¾-mile Nansen Trail is its opposite number, a gentle slope that takes in the resort’s entire 2,131-foot drop.
At the base of the mountain’s five high-speed lifts lies Mont Tremblant village, a pedestrian-only area designed to resemble Quebec City’s historic district, right down to its cobbled streets, wrought-iron balconies, tin roofs, and old-fashioned signage. More than eighty bars, restaurants, and shops line the ground floors of the quaint, brightly painted buildings, while the top floors are filled with privately owned condos managed and rented by Intrawest. Le Shack, located on the St.-Bernard Plaza, is Tremblant’s largest and most popular après-ski spot, with a continental menu, rustic decor, sports on the big screen, and a relaxed, completely nonglitzy feel that’s shared by the whole resort. Scene seekers need not apply.
The resort’s activities center offers a range of nonski activities, including dogsledding and evening sleigh rides that come complete with storytelling and hot chocolate. The resort’s own La Source Aquaclub offers heated indoor pools, a eucalyptus steam bath, whirlpools, and a full fitness center.
The area’s best hotel is the ski-in/ski-out Fairmont Mont Tremblant, located on a crest above the village. Pleasantly scaled, homey, and harmoniously integrated into its natural setting, the hotel has the feel of a country inn, its north-woods decor drawing from the tradition of Quebec’s 19th-century Provençal-style residences and its lobby warmed by the requisite huge stone fireplace. In summer, Tremblant transforms into a destination for canoeing, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and climbing, with miles of trails and two world-class 18-hole golf courses, the par-71 Le Diable and the par-72 Le Géant.
In 1535, Jacques Cartier arrived in a village called Hochelaga, populated by about a thousand Iroquois, and claimed it for France, renaming it Mont Réal (Royal Mountain) in honor of his king. Actual change didn’t come, though, until 1642, when a group of missionaries led by Paul de Chomedey arrived and set up shop, intent on converting the Iroquois to Christianity. Within thirty years the mission had grown into a settlement of about 1,500, becoming in the process a major trading center and base for trappers and explorers. By 1759, when the British took the region from France, the population had grown to 5,000, inhabiting about 95 acres on the St. Lawrence River. Today, this area is known as Vieux Montréal or Old Montreal, and despite almost 250 years of British rule and the influence of anglais-speaking Canada and the United States all around, it remains a bastion of French diaspora culture – in its architecture, its cuisine, and its general attitude toward life.
By the 1960s, the area’s predominately 18th- and 19th-century buildings and cobblestone streets had fallen into disrepair, but a popular restoration program saved it from ruinous modernization. The move has certainly paid off: Today, it’s a hot spot of nightlife, café culture, and tourism, and preserves its atmosphere so well that it’s commonly used by American and Canadian film producers as a stand-in for Europe. Don’t miss the Rue St.-Paul, with its Victorian street lamps, or appealing public squares such as the Place d’Armes and the Place Jacques-Cartier. The latter is the epicenter of Montreal summer life, with its street performers, cafés, flower merchants, and a line of horse-drawn calèches waiting to put the vieux in your experience of Vieux Montréal. Nearby are some of the city’s most beautiful and historic sites, including the 1824 Basilica of Notre Dame, with its stunningly rich interior; the Sulpician Seminary, Montreal’s oldest building, dating to 1685; and the Art Deco Prévoyance Building, giving the city a dose of Big Apple with its resemblance to the Empire State Building. Along the riverfront, the Vieux Port has been transformed from a gritty warehouse district into a 1.2-mile promenade full of parks, exhibition spaces, skating rinks, and playgrounds. It’s also the jumping-off point for various boating activities on the river.
For perfect 18th-century Montreal accommodations, check in at the Auberge Les Passants du Sans Soucy, a former fur warehouse built in 1723, now converted into a delightful bed-and-breakfast whose nine rooms – with their stone walls, beamed ceilings, polished wood floors, and traditional Québécois furniture – are veritable time machines. For a quick bite, head north of the old quarter to L’Express, one of the most popular spots in town for French bistro cuisine. For something more elaborate, Toque! offers an ever-changing menu that uses only the freshest (and sometimes rarest) ingredients. It mixes modern French with a tiny dash of Asian influence, and arrives at what has almost unanimously been considered the best meal in town since chef/owner Normand LaPrise opened the place in 1993.