Montréal is a forward-thinking, party-loving island metropolis of 1.9 million people that expands to about 3.8 million with its environs. A new art gallery, a new concert hall, refurbished downtown parks, and the return of Formula 1 racing are all signs of Montréal's restored fortunes.
Culturally, Montréal is in constant motion. A new concert hall for the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal is the pièce de résistance of the Quartier des Spectacles, an effervescent downtown district of more than 80 venues for film, music, theater, dance, visual arts, and comedy.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, one of Canada's oldest museums, has created a new pavilion of Canadian and Québec art in an adjacent church. To the relief of local architectural preservationists, the museum retained the church's magnificent stone exterior and its main nave, which will be used as an auditorium and site for temporary exhibitions. It also rescued the 20 Tiffany stained-glass windows—the largest collection of Tiffany glass outside the United States—from the chapel and remounted them in the nave.
Even in a city full of chic boutique hotels, the Ritz-Carlton Montréal is something to behold. After a four-year hiatus while major renovations were taking place, this iconic Montréal hotel re-opened in 2012 just in time for its 100th birthday. Even if you can't afford a Ritzy room, this exquisitely restored landmark is the place for celebrity spotting, cocktail sipping, and dining in the new Maison Boulud, home to international star chef Daniel Boulud.
At most, Dorchester Square and Place du Canada, which face each other across boulevard René Lévesque, total just a little more than 5 acres, but their location right in the center of downtown make them worthy of the money and care the city has lavished on them in the last few years. In 2010, Montréal reopened Dorchester Square after a restoration project that added new lawns and wide walkways and replanted trees.
In 2012, Place du Canada also benefited from a major facelift. The two neighboring squares with their lawns and mature shady trees play an important part in the lives of Montrealers. If the corner of rues Ste-Catherine and Peel is the heart of downtown, Dorchester and Place du Canada are its lungs.
Montréal's new Bixi system—short for bicycle-taxi rental—is a smash hit, and the city's whopping 350 miles of cycling paths are greenways for both transportation and leisure. Pick up a bike from any of the rental stations around the city and drop it off at your destination.
If you're interested in sampling a wide array of Montréal's many famous restaurants without spending a fortune, then Taste MTL is the ideal solution. In early November, close to 100 dining establishments participate in Montreal's newly established Restaurant Week, offering their table d'hôte menus at the particularly appetizing prices of C$19, C$29, and C$39. Over the course of 11 days Taste MTL not only enables foodies to savor the creativity of the city's top chefs for considerably less money than usual, but to also witness a variety of activities that showcase the fine art of dining. Reservations are mandatory and can be arranged via www.tourisme-montreal.org/tastemtl.
A state-of-the-art planetarium, due to open in 2013, will add a powerful new element to the natural-sciences district the city is developing in the east end near the Stade Olympique. Built right next to the Biodôme and just across from the Insectarium and the Jardins Botaniques, the Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan de Montréal will use the latest audiovisual techniques to create a realistic experience for the digital generation.