Montreal - A City Like No Other

Stephen Marche recently questions Montreal's character as a world city in 'Welcome to the New Toronto.'

To imply that Montreal is somehow provincial because of its French-Canadian identity is wrong and to fundamentally misunderstand exactly what makes Montreal special.

Montreal's French-Canadian identity is hugely significant in making Montreal Montreal. Toronto has much to celebrate, and I do not wish to detract from that. But Montreal's wonders are utterly distinctive and frankly unique not only in Canada but globally.

Here is a city that is extremely multi-cultural but that is also bilingual and bicultural, lending it a cultural vitality and beguiling spirit that stems from having two major cultural and linguistic reference points, rather than one. Architecturally, Montreal has an abundance of well preserved buildings that lend it character and a sense of being more than exclusively North American. Its European heritage is integrated into its physicality and to the lifestyle of its residents; from Montreal's bistros, cafes, bagel shops, and delis to its vital downtown core, walkability, and street life. Old Montreal and the Plateau have very different atmospheres but both share a sense of history, of being built to human scale, and in so being enabling and encouraging social interaction and a powerful local identity and sense of place.

Montreal has a crackling avant-garde cultural effervescence and flair, a creative and playful spirit that is exuberant, open, dynamic, and welcoming - from its endless summer arts festivals of jazz and other music, street art and world film, comedy and circuses, folk culture and drumming, tango and First Nations indigenous culture - to its insistence that winter is a time to celebrate the outdoors with music, igloos, art & ice and continuous cultural expression and celebration despite and through the cold. In Montreal one frequently wanders into extraordinary and unexpected art installations, public sculpture and all sorts of cultural expressions that tickle, challenge, probe and enrich daily life.

Montreal has more students (and all the openness and energy they bring) than any city in Canada and the United States - with Boston being its only potential competition. It offers housing amongst the most affordable in all of North America, incredible gastronomy, ethnic and religious diversity that continues to grow, plenty of parks and natural beauty, and, of course, Mount Royal itself.

Montreal is easy to love because it has so much personality and enthusiasm for life and utterly lacks pretense. It is a spirited place where everyone can find a sense of home and belonging, wherever they're from. There is no place like it and while Torontonians may consider Montreal provincial it is anything but; they really should just come to the great Canadian and Quebecois world city with a soul and laissez les bons temps rouler.