Canada's second- largest city (after Toronto) may shiver in winter but it shines in summer. The warm temperatures bring al fresco life to the lively harbour and a carnival-like atmosphere that sweeps the cobbled streets of the historic quarter.
Montreal, the largest city in the French-speaking province of Quebec, sits on the banks of the St Lawrence River in eastern Canada. It was founded by the French in 1642. The most historic part of the city remains the cobbled harbourside area known as Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal) to the south.
To the north-west, on the other side of the modern Downtown district and dominating the city, is Mont Royal (Mount Royal), the 233m peak after which Montreal was named.
Take a view
Perched at the top of Mont Royal is the sacred dome of St Joseph's at 3800 Chemin Queen Mary (saint-joseph.org; 6am-9.30pm; free), the highest point in the city. The view encompasses old and new — gleaming skyscrapers and old buildings with fairy-tale turrets — as well as the St Lawrence River. Pilgrims believe their prayers will be answered by climbing the 101 steps on their knees. Alternatively, there's a shuttle.
Take a hike
The parkland of oak, maple, and poplar trees that clings to its slopes was designed in the 1840s by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same chap responsible for Central Park in New York. Follow the zig-zagging pathway until you emerge on to Avenue des Pins and walk south along Rue Peel, passing a cluster of mansions built in the 1850s. Finish on the corner of Rue Sherbrooke, close to the McGill University campus.
Grab a booth and dine on an old-fashioned sandwich of thinly-sliced smoked beef at Dunns at 1249 Metcalfe Street (open 24 hours). It was opened in 1927 by Myer Dunn, whose grandfather's recipes soon won quite a following. Sandwiches with fries and coleslaw cost from C$14 (£8).
The main shopping street is Rue Ste-Catherine, with its glossy stores stocked with high-end goods, but there's also retail therapy to discover in the depths beneath. A vast network of underground shops and tunnels — exceeding 32km, making it the largest of its kind in the world — covers much of the Downtown area. They can be accessed via most buildings along Rue Ste-Catherine.
Elsewhere, don't miss the indoor market of Bonsecours at 350 St-Paul St East (marchebonsecours.qc.ca; 10am-9pm daily), which offers a mix of handicrafts and trendy local fashion designers boutiques. Visit Ricchi at number 220 for skillfully-crafted Inuit art made of rock from Baffin Island. Further along the street you'll find a number of reasonably priced souvenir shops.
Dining with the locals
Communion at 351 Place Royale (restaurantcommunion.com; 10am-10pm daily) is a trendy new addition to Vieux-Montreal with bare brick walls and modern fixtures. Choices include bison bresaola with pickled mustard seeds. Mains from C$12 (£7). Soul food is on the menu at Garde Manger at 408 St-François Xavier (crownsalts.com; 5.30pm-11pm; closed Monday), where dishes such as lobster risotto are scrawled up on blackboards. Mains from C$32 (£18).
Go to church
Take part in Sunday mass (at 8am, 9.30am or 11am) at the Notre-Dame Basilica at 110 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest (basiliquenddm.org; tourist visits 12.30-4pm on Sundays, 9am-4pm other days; C$5/£2.85). The imposing structure with twin towers took shape in the 1820s upon a site previously occupied by a 17th-century chapel.
Out to brunch
The inviting smell of freshly-baked cupcakes welcomes you to Maison Christian Faure at 355 Place Royal (maisonchristianfaure.ca; 8am-7pm daily), where the pastries are almost too pretty to eat. Brunch costs C$14 (£8).
A walk in the park
Stroll along the parkland that runs the length of Promenade du Vieux-Port. Beyond the river views are rugged derelict warehouses and all manner of ships docked in the harbour. Pack your swimsuit and visit the Bota Spa boat on the corner of McGill and De La Commune West (botabota.ca; 10.30am-10pm daily; from C$35/£20). This old 1967 transport vessel has been given a new lease of life as a holistic retreat with outdoor hot tubs and massage rooms.
Pointe-à-Callière at 350 Place Royale (pacmusee.qc.ca; 11am-5pm except Mondays; C$20/£11) looks at Montreal's archaeological history, including the remains of the city's original 17th-century cemetery, rediscovered in 1989.
Montreal's past can also be traced at the Château Ramezay Museum at 280 Notre-Dame Street (chateauramezay.qc.ca; 10am-4.30pm except Mondays; C$10/£5.70), which examines the lives of early settlers.
Icing on the cake
End with a bagel at legendary St Viateur Café at 263 Rue St-Viateur Ouest (viateurbagel.com; open 24 hours), which started baking in 1957.