French heritage and culture live in graceful harmony with North American energy and innovation in Montreal, the second-largest French-speaking city in the world. Upon entering the city's picturesque Old Town, many first-time visitors will feel as though they've stepped into a romantic European fantasy, complete with cobblestone streets, sidewalk cafes and sophisticated French-speaking locals. But there's much more to Montreal than its charming Old Town. This is a place where cultures have melded and mingled, producing not only widely varied architecture and a wealth of ethnic restaurants but also a population of friendly, open-minded people who smoothly switch gears between "Bonjour" and "Hello."
It is Montreal's diversity -- of language, of culture, of activity -- that makes it such an exciting and intriguing place to visit. Embrace the contradictions: Head back in time with a leisurely horse-drawn carriage ride, and then fast forward into this century on a wild jet boat ride down the Lachine Rapids. Spend a morning shopping in the Underground City and an afternoon hiking in the fresh air of a mountaintop park just a few blocks away.
Montreal's wide array of attractions hasn't escaped the notice of the cruise industry, and several lines are scheduling voyages here (and to many other Canada/New England ports) outside the usual fall foliage season. Summer visitors to Montreal can expect temperate weather, plenty of outdoor activities and perhaps even the excitement of one of the city's many international festivals, which celebrate everything from beer and Formula One car racing to jazz, comedy, film and fireworks.
--by Sarah Schlichter, Associate Editor for Cruise Critic's sister site, IndependentTraveler.com.
Image copyright www.old.montreal.qc.ca, le photographe masque.