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With one foot in North America and the other in France, Montreal is a beguiling city where almost anything goes. Riotous festivals happen year-round, despite the icy winters. The circus (aka Cirque de Soleil) plays a starring role in the city's cultural identity. And cuisine runs the gamut from lobster bisque to poutine.
Old Montreal is packed with eye candy from the past and present. You can walk the ancient crypts beneath the city's former Customs House, admire the graceful architecture of the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) or simply plunk down at an open-air bistro on Place Jacques-Cartier and watch the lively street scene unfold.
The Plateau district is dotted with sidewalk cafes, colorful shops and leafy parks, while the vast green oasis of Parc du Mont Royal provides sweeping views over downtown. For foodies, Montreal offers endless temptations, including authentic French bistros, the old-world trattorias of Little Italy, the ethnic eateries of Chinatown and sprawling farmers markets like the fruit- and pastry-filled Marché Jean Talon.