Montreal was once described to me as a little piece of Europe in North America, which for a teenager obsessed with the movie Amélie and desperate to get the hell out of dodge, was all I needed to know. Certainly, Quebec’s largest city has all the signifiers of Elsewhere, with the cobblestone streets, narrow alleys, and shop signs not written in English. But it was only once I’d visited a few times that I discovered Montreal has another side, separate from the tourist charms of the Old Town. This is a city of passionate people determined to find the perfect work-life balance, and kind enough to discuss it all with a nosey writer in a bar long after midnight.
Sure, Montreal is a glamorous city, but it’s a practical one too. At 166 square miles, it looks a bit like a lobster on the map, with claws reaching out toward the major ports and a long skinny tail flapping north. Nearly two million people call it home. But don’t get overwhelmed -- most of the interesting stuff is in the walkable city center, situated on an easily navigable grid. From the hottest restaurants and bars, to where the locals chill out -- here’s everything you need to know when you go.