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Montreal (QC)

Travel agents and guidebook writers can't bring up Montreal without mentioning 'joie de vivre', but it isn't a cliché in this case. The truth is, Montreal has cornered that French concept with its hip music scene, raucous nightlife and spectacular historic sites.

With 400 years of history behind it, the city center spoils visitors with sightseeing and entertainment options. The Basilica de Notre Dame is the defining old-city attraction, but it's joined by stoic 18th-century homes, airy plazas and restored heritage hotels in Montreal. There's no better way to tour the old city than in a nostalgic, horse-drawn carriage.

Downtown Montreal joins the old city and offers every cosmopolitan luxury imaginable. It boasts brand-new skyscrapers, booming restaurant districts and a tantalizing nightlife. The party exploded during the US prohibition period and hasn't slowed since. In a city often billed as 'Paris without the jet lag', it comes as no surprise that Montreal's cultural offerings are first rate. Symphonies, art galleries and world-class museums all wait to be discovered.

Montrealers love to shop, and the temptation to splurge in the city's 7,000 stores is palpable. City planners have ruled out inclement weather as a deterrent to shopping. Thanks to Montreal's 'Underground City', a vast underground network connecting ten major malls, shoppers can move from one complex to the next in the height of winter without stepping outside for a moment.

It takes half an hour to reach Montreal Dorval International Airport from the city center, and several airport hotels are on hand to ease transitions to and from the city. The Métro subway network could rival that of any major North American city.

For more information on hotels and landmarks in the different areas of Montreal, click on the interactive Montreal map on the left-hand side of the page.