Canada isn’t the only one having a big birthday in 2017. Montréal turns 375 and the city will be having its own celebratory bash that will rival the national goings-on from coast to coast. And that’s a typical move for the world’s second-largest francophone city (after Paris). Always the rambunctious member of the Canadian family, Montréal loves to dance to its own drum and remind its Anglophone siblings that while Montréal may technically be Canadian, its heart is Quebecois.
Settled as a French mission in 1642 by Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve and Jeanne Mance (both of whose names you’ll see on street signs and parks around the city), the Montréal of today gives a taste of both Anglo and French influence to it's visitors. It’s like the Canadian New Orleans with a vibrant and fun-loving nightlife scene that attracts American bachelor and bachelorette parties in droves due to the much more liberal nature with which Montréalers live life. With the strong American dollar, and inexpensive flights in comparison to those that cross the Atlantic, Montréal's other persona is a hot destination for tastemakers looking for an affordable version of Europe.
The festivities through 2017 will unite legions of travelers with so many events taking places in the city that there’s practically something to do every day in honor of the anniversary. Events will be as grand as the illumination of the Jacques Cartier Bridge, which will set a record as the most costly and ambitious bridge installation on earth, and as down-to-earth as Curling en Lumière, where you can have a chance to give the sport a try under the warm glow of a dynamic sound and light performance. This favorite Canadian ice sport along with other out-of-the-box winter activities are part of the array of events that fall under the umbrella of the internationally acclaimed Montréal en Lumiere.
For a complete list of events being in held as a part of Montréal's 375th anniversary visit www.375mtl.com.
In addition to 2017’s special events, Montréal's evergreen attractions are enticing enough on their own to lure every type of traveler. Some top favorites are the ever-evolving culinary scene, farm-fresh markets, an incredible collection of architectural marvels dotting the cityscape, and the Gay Village, a thriving LGBTQ scene anchored in a vibrant neighborhood.
Historical records show the emergence of gay culture centralized around the current-day Gay Village as early as the 1860s, and the city has been a beacon of free expression ever since. Today, while the famous nightlife still roars down rue Ste-Catherine (as does the wildly popular Pride Parade each summer), the welcoming attitude towards LGBTQ travelers and locals extends to all the neighborhoods around town.
Montréal has a proud history of championing LGBT equality. And this year will be particularly prideful. From August 10 – 20, Quebec's most populous city will host the first annual Canada Pride celebration. Montréal Pride is organizing the event, which will be the largest Pride festival in the Francophone world. Canada Pride spans 11 days, includes 150 exciting events, and is expected to welcome more than 2.5 million guests.
The city’s food, too, has deep roots older than most other metropolises in North America. The French penchant for farm-fresh markets is still an important part of everyday life. And these culinary traditions blend together seamlessly with the rich tapestry of other cultures that have brought their own recipes to Canada as well.
Try the maple drizzled salmon at Jean Talon Market, then stop for espresso at Cafe Olimpico before devouring a fresh bagel at St-Viateur that’ll surely change your mind about which city in the world has the best bread ring…
Like Montréal's dynamic food scene, the city’s architectural gems run the spectrum from historical relics to modernist masterpieces. Wander down the cobblestone streets of the Vieux Port to uncover the old-world charm tucked behind cathedral spires and thick-cut brick. Then turn your attention to some of the most daring contemporary design found anywhere on the planet.
In a way, Montréal's ultra-modern persona also has an anniversary this year—it’s been five decades since Montréal hosted The World Expo and all eyes were on the burgeoning cityscape. Its forward gaze ushered in a brand new era of modernist architecture throughout the city and Canada that largely started with a small collection of architectural statement pieces like Moshe Safdi’s Habitat housing project. Safdi later went on to design some of Canada’s most important architecture including the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.
The city’s inspired design spirit continues to alter the visual culture as new urban projects continue to unveil themselves, from an outdoor spa built in an old barge, to the incredible graffiti art lining rue St-Laurent.
The mix of permanent institutions with Montréal's one-time-only events held in honor of its 375th anniversary will surely make 2017 the most lively and entertaining year in the city's history.
Want to know more? Check out Destination Canada's LGBT travel page for more awesome travel experiences.