It's easy to beat the drum for the second largest French-speaking city in the world, which is renowned for its parties and its bagels. 1. The Mountain Mount Royal (as close to Montreal's core as The Peak is to central Hong Kong) dominates the city's landscape and provides a refuge for locals fed up with urban clatter. (See the view from 'the mountain', as locals refer to it, top left, below.) The pine-forested slopes, which rise more than 200 metres, were first climbed in the 16th century by explorer Jacques Cartier, who claimed the area for France. Today, in winter, the slopes are alive with cross-country skiers and tobogganists, while the small lake near the top is popular with ice-skaters. In warmer weather, runners take to the dirt trails and picnickers to the grass. But the mountain's must-see event is its weekly drum festival; drummers from all over the city and from all cultures come to jam, while hundreds of others dance, laze or play catch to a beat that segues from Latin to African and back. See www.lemontroyal.com/en . 2. Mile End At one time this was a neighbourhood of Greek, Italian, Portuguese and Eastern European immigrant garment-factory workers. Today the quartier maintains its diversity but has become the city's hipster 'hood, the destination for young artists, designers, filmmakers and, especially, musicians. At Cafe Olympico (124 Street Viateur, tel: 1 514 495 0746) and Club Social (bottom left; 180 Street Viateur, tel: 1 514 495 0114), elderly Italian men watch football and drink espresso jowl to jowl with guitarists, tattooed and pierced painters and video-game designers. Every other doorway in the district offers a different kind of snack. Grab a crepe at the take-out window of Une Crepe (221 Street Viateur, tel: 1 514 270 6322), a pierogi at Euro Deli Batory (115 Street Viateur, tel: 1 514 948 2161) or a souvlaki at Arahova (256 Street Viateur, tel: 1 514 274 7828). Shop for one-of-a-kind items at the eccentric S.W. Welch Books (225 Street Viateur; www.welchbooks.com ), a treasure house of rare and hard to find tomes or at Poterie Manu Reva (5141 Saint-Laurent Boulevard; www.poteriemanureva.com ), where you can see the work of local potters. 3. All-night bagels Despite being almost as French as Paris, one of Montreal's favourite snacks is the bagel. How this city - known for its croissants, crepes and cafe au lait - developed this passion is a mystery. Montrealers love bagels so much that any time of day or night, you can find a crowd lined up for a soft sesame-seed-covered bagel fresh from an old-fashioned wood-burning stove. Montrealers of all ethnicities claim that their bagels are the best in the world. At the heart of the legend is the 50-year-old Street Viateur Bagels (263 Street Viateur West; www.stviateurbagel.com ), which is open and crowded 24 hours a day. 'Going for bagels' and hanging around the cramped bagel store is an event in itself. 4. Saint Joseph's Oratory The enormous dome of the basilica of Saint Joseph's Oratory (below right; www.saint-joseph.org ) soars 97 metres and is only slightly smaller than that of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. But it is not just to see the dome and hear the bells chime that visitors come. Many devotees are here to be healed and arrive hoping for a miracle. Even if magic cures aren't on your mind, check out the eerie chapel and crypt. Also, don't miss the preserved heart of the oratory founder, Brother Andre, who oversaw the its construction a century ago. 5. Nightlife Montreal has a well-deserved reputation as a city that loves to party. The unofficial time for starting an evening's adventures is 11.30pm. After a leisurely dinner in one of the city's many chic bistros, party people make their way to Boulevard St Laurent, where dozens of clubs and lounges line the street. At Buona Notte ( www.buonanotte.com ) dancers rub shoulders (carefully) with ice hockey honchos, glam French TV stars and visiting Hollywood heroes in town for a shoot. The New York flavour of this club can be over the top but it's worth a visit for a glimpse of the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney. 6. Jean-Talon Market The Jean-Talon Market (7075 Casgrain Avenue; www.marchespublics-mtl.com ), a sprawling tented marketplace in the city's Little Italy area, is worth experiencing for its sights, sounds and smells. Vegetable stalls are piled high with pumpkins, squashes, red potatoes and other produce. Fresh garlic woven into ropes dangles over the goods. The air is perfumed with the odour of freshly baked croissants from French bakery Boulangerie Premiere Moisson (7075 rue Casgrain, tel: 1 514 270 3701). And the tastes of Quebec are on display at Marche des Saveurs, where the best of the province's maple syrup products line the packed shelves. 7. Creepy crawlies Visit the Insectarium (4581 Sherbrooke Street East; www2.ville.montreal.qc.ca/insectarium/insect.htm) and boast you've seen the largest collection of insects on the continent (close to half a million alive and dead). Watch cockroaches cavort behind glass (and be grateful they're not in your hotel), visit the butterfly tent and see the delicate creatures flutter above you, then watch caterpillars munching on milkweed and bees making honey. 8. 'Secret' museum collections The city has numerous major museums but just under the radar are several less popular but fascinating collections. At the University of Montreal Music Faculty (200 Vincent-d'Indy, tel: 1 514 343 6921) there are more than 500 of the most astonishing musical instruments from around the world, such as Latin American percussion instruments hewn from the whole head of a goat or from an entire hairy shell of an armadillo. This peculiar and wonderful collection can be viewed by appointment. At the McCord Museum (690 Sherbrooke Street West; www.mccord-museum.qc.ca ) there are thousands of objects relating to the aboriginal Indians of Canada, including stunning headdresses and beadwork. 9. Indie music scene If hip-hop and country and western bore you, the city - home to Arcade Fire - has a vibrant indie scene. Creative types flock to Casa del Popolo (4873 Boulevard St Laurent; www.casadelpopolo.com ), a cosy place with the feeling of a neighbourhood hang-out. And check who's playing down the street at The Green Room, where there is live music for early birds, and DJs and dancing later in the evening. Collectors will binge on new, used and rare vinyl and CDs at L'Oblique (4333 Rivard, tel: 1 514 499 1323). 10. Old Montreal architecture Visit the most historic section of Montreal and travel back through the centuries. A stroll through narrow cobblestoned streets and alleys takes you along the edge of the St Lawrence River, where fur traders and native Indians created a flourishing business that opened up the New World. You'll also pass Montreal's oldest structure, the Old Seminary of Saint-Sulpice (130 Notre-Dame Street West), built in 1683.