Montreal offers European flair without euros

by Alfie FEATHERSTONE on July 31, 2009

For a slice of Europe’s old world charm, cafe culture and epicurean delights, minus the long flight and tres grande euro costs, head to Montreal. The Canadian city on an island in the St. Lawrence River has maintained the culture and language established here by the first French settlers in 1642, while adding some new world ingredients.

Stroll down the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal, grab a drink during “cinq a sept” (5-7 p.m., the city’s version of happy hour) and tuck into a local specialty called poutine. The best way to tour la belle ville, especially Old Montreal, is by foot following one of the city’s comprehensive walking tour guide map.

Or hop on the metro and move between sightseeing spots across the island switching between the metro and bus at no extra cost. Special tourist passes are available.

Montreal has some fabulous city-based B&Bs. Check out Azur at $68-131, Angelica Blue B&B is very close to Old Montreal and Chinatown $68-140 includes a sumptuous breakfast. Alternatively, hostels can be had in downtown Montreal for $28 a night.

Museums and galleries abound in this city. Trace the path of evolution at the free Redpath Museum, from dinosaur bones to fossils to Egyptian mummies. Check out its collection of over 17,000 anthropological and archaeological artefacts covering Ancient Egypt, South America, Sri Lanka and more.

The permanent collection at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is free at all times. Temporary exhibits are by admission only, which is half-price on Wednesdays. Musee D’Art Contemporain De Montreal (Museum of Contemporary Art) is free Wednesday evenings from 6-9 p.m.

Many more suggestions at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/

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