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Montréal See And Do

Architecture
Montréal , Québec
Canada

Some of the world's leading architects have left their mark on Montréal. Expo 67 brought Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome on St. Helen's Island, as well as the hive of cube-shaped dwellings known as Habitat 67 (2600 Pierre-Dupuy Ave.; 514-866-5971; www.habitat67.com). The four International-style buildings in Mies van der Rohe's Westmount Square, dating from 1968, are covered in a grid of windows and raised on black columns, not unlike Mies's Seagram building in New York City (1 Westmount Square). Architecture buffs can also trek to Nun's Island, just south of downtown, to see a couple of simple, geometric-grid high-rises (100 and 200 Gaspé St.) and an Esso gas station also designed by Mies.

A bit less esoteric is the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Quality, not quantity, is the motto for this restrained downtown venue. Exhibits range from architectural models to meditations on a theme using objects, images, videos, or music: A show in 2003 explored lifestyle and design in India by displaying televisions blaring Bollywood music videos; another on architectural periodicals (on view through September 2007) encompasses 70 different magazines from the 1960s and '70s. You can breeze through the exhibitions in minutes or pore over them for hours. Roundtable discussions and film screenings are often held in tandem with exhibitions. The CCA's Mellon Lecture series can be fascinating or fatiguing, depending on the speaker (1920 Baile St.; 515-939-7026; www.cca.qc.ca; closed Mon. and Tues., free on Thurs. evenings).

Mile End
Montréal , Québec
Canada

The Orthodox church on St. Viateur Street signals that this artsy, hipster enclave was once a Polish ghetto. Although it's now home to indie rock bands like the Arcade Fire, Islands, and Wolf Parade, Mile End still hangs on to its past. After Sunday services, aging Poles mix with local creative types to slurp borscht at Euro Deli Bathory (115 St. Viateur St. W.; 514-948-2161). And members of the large Hasidic population run errands along Park Avenue, oblivious to the twentysomethings and young parents sipping cappuccinos or waiting in line at St. Viateur Bagel (263 St. Viateur St. W.; 514-276-8044; www.stviateurbagel.com). If you feel like picking up a pair of Françoise Hardy–style vintage boots or a postcard from the 1970s, head to Local 23 (23 Bernard St. W.; 514-270-9333); for new Montreal designer threads (Fairyesque, Anatasia Lomonova), head to its sister store, General 54 (54 St. Viateur W.; 514-271-2129; www.general54.blogspot.com). There are also some concert halls in the area, such as the Mile End Cultural Centre (5390 St. Laurent Blvd.; 514-285-2611; www.mileend.ca), but to experience life like a true local, walk along one of the neighborhood's colorful alleyways, where you'll cross paths with little kids playing catch and university students strumming guitars on their fire escapes.

Montréal Museum of Fine Arts
379–380 Sherbrooke Street West
Downtown Montréal
Montréal , Québec
Canada H3G 2T9
Tel: 514 285 2000
www.mbam.qc.ca

Located downtown, near the McGill University campus, the Museum of Fine Arts flanks Sherbrooke Street, with a tunnel linking the original 1912 structure to Moshe Safdie's dramatic 1991 stainless steel and glass expansion. The museum's permanent collection encompasses pretty much everything—from Canadian, Amerindian, and Inuit art to Old Masters to contemporary works—but it's not as overwhelming as the Met or the Louvre. There is an especially strong collection of European 20th-century works by Matisse, Picasso, Dalí, Otto Dix, and other modernists. Admission to the permanent collection is always free, but special exhibits are $15 for adults. Recent faves include a Jean Cocteau retrospective, pieces from Catherine the Great's Hermitage collection, and lithographs by Odilon Redon. Tickets are half price on Wednesday evenings, but the scene becomes zoolike during the last two weeks of a popular exhibit.

Closed Mondays.

Musée d'Art Contemporain de Montréal
185 St. Catherine Street West
Downtown Montréal
Montréal , Québec
Canada H2X 3X5
Tel: 514 847 6226
www.macm.org

Located just east of St. Catherine Street, the city's main drag for shopping, this is where to find the latest and flashiest the art world has to offer—the museum has displayed everything from conceptual tree-house video installations to abstract murals composed of tiny pieces of cut-up plastic bottles. The permanent collection has over 7,000 contemporary works, with a focus on Québec and Canadian artists (notably Jean Paul Riopelle and Jeff Wall). There are also temporary exhibits from the likes of Janet Cardiff, Edward Burtynsky, and Atom Egoyan. A guided tour (available on weekends and Wednesday evenings) is useful in making sense of it all.

Free on Wednesday evenings. Closed Mondays during the winter.

Old Montréal
Montréal , Québec
Canada
www.vieux.montreal.qc.ca

Horse-drawn carriages still trot through the winding cobblestone streets where, in the 17th century, French settlers erected a city hall as well as a market and some stables. These days, the carriages cart visitors on 30- to 60-minute tours through the area between the Old Port and the modern city center. You might feel a bit cheesy clomping along while cars zip past, but rest assured you'll be getting a better view of the scenery and, thanks to the interesting guides, an understanding of the historical context for the well-preserved colonial buildings. This district isn't just for tourists: Some of the hippest and most affluent segments of society call Old Montréal home. A recent influx of excellent bistros, such as Club Chasse et Pêche; cafés like Olive + Gourmando (351 St. Paul St. W.; 514-350-1083; www.oliveetgourmando.com); and boutiques on St. Paul Street cater to this crowd. The city's best hotels, such as the St. James and the Nelligan, are also clustered in the area, lending it a sense of modern cosmopolitanism. Be sure to take the 20-minute tour of the neo-Gothic Basilica of Notre-Dame, whose pews are dappled in a mystical blue light streaming through the extensive stained glass. Call ahead, as visiting hours are subject to change (110 Notre Dame St. West; 514-842-2925; www.basiliquenddm.org).

Olympic Park
Montréal , Québec
Canada

The 1976 Olympic stadium, designed by French architect Roger Taillibert, is a white, sloping beacon that can be seen from almost any east-facing point on the Plateau. The Olympic games are long gone, and so are the Expos, the baseball team that called the stadium home until 2004. Still, there's something magical about the structure's massive, extraterrestrial facade. For $10.50, you can get a great view of the city by taking a cable car to the tower-top observation deck (4545 Pierre de Coubertin Ave.; 514-252-4141; www.rio.gouv.qz.ca; closed mid-Jan.–mid-Feb.). Nearby is the flourishing Botanical Garden. Highlights include the Chinese Lantern Show in September and October, and the lilac garden in May; for a complete calendar of blooms, consult the garden's website (4101 Sherbrooke St. E.; 514-872-1400; www2.ville.montreal.qc.ca/jardin/en/menu.htm). Kids will delight in the nearby Insectarium, where visitors can gawk at a wide array of creepy crawlies. The stick bug terrarium is fun for a game of "I Spy." The gift shop might inspire a game of double-dare, given the bug-filled lollipops and crunchy barbecue- or cheese-flavored insects for sale (4581 Sherbrooke St. E.; 514-872-1400; www2.ville.montreal.qc.ca/insectarium).

Parks
Montréal , Québec
Canada

Laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted (of Central Park fame), the gorgeous hilltop green acres of Mount Royal are perfect for strolls, picnics, and admiring the forever view, south over the city and on toward the United States, from the lookout terrace near the summit. Walk up from the top of Peel Street to begin your ascent (www.lemontroyal.qc.ca). At the corner of Sherbrooke and Papineau streets, the turn-of-the-century landscaping at Park La Fontaine is a mix of French manicured gardens and English-style "tamed wilderness." And it's said that Leonard Cohen once owned a home around the beautiful fountain in Saint Louis Square (bounded by Saint Denis Street and Laval Avenue).

Plateau
Montréal , Québec
Canada

The Plateau, just north of downtown, is the pumping heart of Montréal bohemianism. A tableland adjacent to the city's namesake mountain, Mount Royal, it's a mélange of doe-eyed university students, elderly Francophones, and budding yuppies, all of whom cross paths on St. Laurent Boulevard and St. Denis Street. Unlike in other major metropolises, affordable rents allow for this socioeconomic melting pot, although newcomers are finding out fast that the city isn't as cheap as it used to be. A promenade along Duluth Avenue, with its knickknack-filled antique stores and Portuguese cafés, such as Chez José, is a perfect way to spend a mellow afternoon (173 Duluth Ave. E.; 514-845-0693). The Plateau is also where you'll find L'Express bistro and Martin Picard's Au Pied de Cochon.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.