Montreal

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 April, 2006, 12:00am

1 Underground City


Stay out of the cold in this 24km stretch of walkways, connecting metro stations, public art repositories, hotels, shopping centres and offices. Each of the privately developed pathways is in a different style, ranging from exposed brick to geometric white tiles and stainless steel, and colourful stained glass. Start at Bonanventure metro station and make your way to the Eaton Centre, the shopping area on St Catherine Street. There's plenty more shopping at Les Ailes to the east and the ritzier Cours Mount Royal to the west.


2 Three Monkeys


This fashionable boutique at 1455 Peel Street sells quality pieces from emerging Quebec designers. For urbanites who don't want to pay outrageous prices the place is a breath of fresh air. The boutique's signature T-shirt range bears the Three Monkeys silhouette or Montreal landmarks. The friendly service is professional without being pushy (www.threemonkeys.ca).


3 Premiere Moisson


You can smell the freshly baked bread long before you see the bright yellow sign at 895, rue de la Gauchetiere Ouest. A foodie's institution in Montreal, the bakery offers more than 40 different varieties of authentic homemade bread, as well as fine French and Viennese pastry made from natural ingredients and baked in a traditional wood-fired oven. Premiere Moisson operates a series of outlets throughout the city. The basic baguettes and croissants are enough of a treat, but also on offer are homemade pates, garnishes and desserts made with lashings of butter, cream and fresh fruit.


4 Musee d'Art Contemporain


A part of the country's major cultural complex - the Place des Arts - which is devoted to visual and performing arts, the Musee d'Art Contemporain is the first Canadian museum to show German-born artist Anselm Kiefer's Heaven and Earth, a retrospective exhibition and the first major exhibition


of his work in North America for 20 years. Running until the end of this month, it comprises about 40 pieces, including paintings and lead sculptures. The 6,000 pieces in the museum's permanent collection represent mainly French Canadian and Canadian artists from the 1940s onwards (www.macm.org).


5 La Maison Simons


This 165-year-old department store at 977 Sainte-Catherine Ouest (www.simons.ca) has long been a shopping staple for Montreal's hip, chic and sophisticated locals. With its international trends, affordable prices and affable service, Simons has become a local institution for its house brands: Twik for children, Contemporaine for women and Le 31 for men. Discounts from its usually reasonable prices mean near riots during the sales.


6 Marriott Chateau Champlain


Fidel Castro stayed here and so did George H. Bush. And when George Clooney found out, he wrote in the guestbook that it was good enough for him, too. Connected to the Underground City in the heart of downtown, this is the city's tallest hotel and features floor-to-ceiling windows in every suite, from which guests can enjoy breathtaking views, no matter which of the 38 floors they're on. This city stalwart, built for the 1967 World Fair, offers old-world comfort and service with a smile (www.marriott.com).


7 Cirque du Soleil


The circus acrobatics, street-busker theatrics and sophisticated pageantry


of Cirque du Soleil have been enjoyed by millions around the world. Originating in Quebec, the innovative company has reinvented itself again, this time foregoing the big-top tour for an arena-sized spectacle. Forthcoming productions will feature more music and less circus than before, but the entertainment is certain to remain outstanding (www.cirquedusoleil.com).


8 Biodome


The Biodome on Pierre-De Coubertin Avenue is a must-see for animal-lovers of all ages. Meet penguins, puffins and monkeys in their natural environments. The Biodome consists of four ecological habitats - rainforest, polar, marine and Laurentians forest (named after the mountainous region north of Montreal) - so visitors can view the flora and fauna indigenous to each ecosystem (www.biodome.qc.ca).


9 Olympic Stadium


Next door to the Biodome stands the C$1 billion ($6.6 billion) Olympic stadium. Built for the 1976 Olympics, it features the world's tallest inclined structure. This oversized recreation centre is now home to the city's Bal en Blanc (White Ball) and gay rave Black and Blue, which attracts up to 10,000 revellers. The venue will host the first Gay Olympics - called the Out Games - in July (www.rio.gouv.qc.ca).


10 Jazz and jokes


Montreal takes its love of music and laughs onto the streets. Every June, the city dedicates entire districts to the Montreal Jazz Festival (www.montreal jazzfest.com). Running from June 29 to July 9, the event attracts more than two million music lovers from around the world. The hundreds of indoor and outdoor concerts - many of them free - are a roll-call of jazz and blues greats such as guitarist Bonnie Raitt and jazz guitarist and vocalist John Pizzarelli. This year's pre-opening concert features B.B. King. From July 13 to 24, Montreal will play host to the Just for Laughs festival (www.hahaha.com), a sort of Olympics of comedy, where a who's who of stand-up come to joust verbally. The festival has featured the likes of Drew Carey, Colin Mochrie, Rick Mercer, Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live and Carl Reiner.