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Home to incredible restaurants, music, and art, Montréal is Canada’s cultural capital and the best city for cycling in North America. One of the first cities on the continent to build bike lanes, it runs one of the world’s most successful bike-sharing programmes. The local racing scene is superb. In 1974, Montréal became the first non-European city to host the world road race championships—Eddy Merckx won the rainbow jersey—and in 1976 it hosted the Olympic Games. The Grand Prix Cyclistes de Montréal is raced every September on the same course that was used for those events.
If you’re in town, here are five places that we recommend:
Mount Royal rises above McGill University in downtown Montréal. A leafy park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who drew up the plans for Central Park in New York, it is a forested haven in the centre of the city and a favourite training ground for cyclists. The 1.7-km climb to the top of the Voie Camillien-Houde is not an alpine col, but successive repeats on its 7% slope certainly add up. The professional peloton does it 18 times during the Grand Prix Cyclistes de Montréal, which features 4734 metres of climbing.
Beef brisket that’s been salted and cured with spices before being hot smoked, Montréal smoked meat is one of the city’s great delicacies. Invented in kosher delis founded by Jewish immigrants, it’s been embraced by all of Montréal’s communities. For the full experience, go to Schwartz’s and order a medium-fat sandwich with yellow mustard and a pickle.
An experimental housing project designed by Moshe Safdie for Expo 67, Habitat 67 is one of Montréal’s most iconic buildings. A 12-story jumble of concrete residences located on the shore of the Saint-Lawrence River, it creates a dense mix of private and natural spaces in the centre of the city. Reserve a tour of the complex and Safdie’s penthouse apartment.
Every Tuesday evening through the summer, Montréal’s racers gather in the borough of Lachine for Les Mardis Cyclistes. Founded by Italian immigrant and Québécois cycling legend Tino Rossi in 1978, the criterium series has thrived for over four decades. Each week, races for boys and girls and elite women are capped off by a 50-km event for pros and elite men. On any given Tuesday, Tour de France racers will sprint for primes against local heroes in what is surely one of the fastest and most competitive crits in North America.
An old-school French bistro with a checkerboard floor and mirrored walls, L’Express is a Montréal institution. Open every night till three a.m. (two on Sundays) to serve the theatre-going crowd, it serves a classic menu and has the best value-for-money wine list in the city. Artists and business people have been meeting here since 1980.
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Cover photo: QuébecOriginal