Standing proudly on an island in Canada’s St Lawrence River, Montreal is the world’s largest French-speaking city after Paris. It oozes joie de vivre, from stylish shops and fine restaurants to avant garde bars and cosy neighbourhood cafes.

What to see and do

Old Montreal is the site of the original fortified city, with buildings dating from the 17th and 18th Centuries. Cobbled streets are lined with elegant boutiques and restaurants, while in summer Place Jacque-Cartier (c) is home to pavement cafes and street entertainers.

Rising to a height of 232 metres, the wooded hill of Mount Royal is the dominant feature of Montreal. Parkland with belvederes, a lake and a sculpture garden makes it a pleasant place for getting lovely views over the city.

The Old Port was once one of the major trading spots in North America. Today it’s home to a promenade alongside the St Lawrence River that is popular with walkers, cyclists and rollerbladers.

Where to eat

Latest restaurant openings in downtown Montreal include Le Marly (c) (1065 Beaver Hall Hill), which serves Franco-Quebecois cuisine featuring local ingredients.

Chez L’Epicier (c) (www.chezlepicier.com) in the Old Port is rated one of the best restaurants in the city. Combining elegance with an informal setting, it specialises in local dishes with a modern twist. Ingredients include fresh fish, rabbit, lamb and veal.

Also in the Old Port, a recycled shipping container opens up in summer to house Resto Muvbox (c) (www.muvboxconcept.com), a self-service bistro cum snack bar that serves lobster rolls, clam chowder and lobster pizza.

Where to drink

With high ceilings and big arched windows, stylish Santos (www.ilovesantos.ca) is a cafe and lounge bar in Old Montreal that has a strong following among urban professionals.

House of Jazz (www.houseofjazz.ca) is regarded as a Montreal landmark. In the heart of the downtown area, it attracts jazz artists from throughout the world.

French microbrewery chain Les 3 Brasseurs (www.les3brasseurs.ca) has four old world-style locations in downtown and Old Montreal. Sip beer while inspecting the sacks of barley, gleaming copper tanks and ageing barrels that form part of the decor.

Where to stay

New in downtown Montreal is the four-star Le St-Martin Hotel Particulier Centre-ville (cc) (www.lestmartin.com). The 129-room hotel is decorated in a contemporary, Euro-chic style.

The grand Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth (www.fairmont.com/queenelizabeth) has been welcoming royalty, politicians and film stars for more than 50 years. It was also the scene of one of John Lennon’s ‘bed-ins’ in 1969.

The 59-room LHotel (c) (www.lhotelmontreal.ca) has recently been renovated to feature elegant, classic furnishings. A contemporary art collection features works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Chagall.