Swap Paris For This Canadian City To Avoid Crowds

Ah, Paris! The iconic Eiffel Tower, world-renowned museums, and the romance of its streets have made the French capital a magnet for global tourists. But with popularity come inevitable crowds, and for some travelers, the magic of Paris is somewhat lost in the masses of selfie sticks and group tours. With nearly 30 million annual foreign visitors, the city reigns as one of the top tourist destinations in the world. For those yearning for a Parisian vibe but with fewer crowds and at a fraction of the price, Montreal awaits.

Montreal, located in the southern part of the Canadian province of Quebec, possesses an undeniable European energy. It was founded in 1642 by 50 French settlers, and after nearly 400 years, the little town once known as Ville-Marie developed into Canada's second most populous city. The moment you step into Montreal, it feels as though you are in Paris. French chatter fills the air, yet nearly 70% of the population speaks both English and French, a bilingual plus for international tourists. 

This linguistic charm is complimented by the city's passion for creativity and fun, showcased in galleries such as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, widespread street art, and performances like the Jazz Festival that takes place every year. The streets of Montreal are not just thoroughfares but storied cobblestone pathways that echo the footsteps of culture. Named after Mount Royal, a mountain that is the city's central fixture and also one of its largest green spaces, Montreal is undoubtedly the Paris of North America.

Architectural marvels and cultural delights

While Paris is globally recognized for its architectural marvels, Montreal is no slouch. For first-time visitors, the Notre Dame Basilica is a must-visit. Comparable in grandeur to Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral, Montreal's Basilica is a testament to neo-Gothic architecture. Then there's St. Joseph's Oratory, another gem that holds its ground when compared to Paris's Sacre Coeur. Overlooking the city, it offers spiritual solace and a panoramic view of Montreal, reminiscent of the Montmartre district's sweeping vistas in Paris.

In terms of culinary delights, Montreal competes fiercely with Paris. European-inspired patisseries dot the city, tempting passersby with delectable croissants, tarts, and éclairs. The food scene is a robust blend of French heritage and modern-day inspirations. Montreal has it all; a giant orange orb landmark serving creamy Orange Julep, a poutine restaurant with more than 15,000 Google reviews called La Banquise, and the nearly century-old Jewish delicatessen Schwartz with lines going down the block — Montreal is a culinary destination to behold and devour. 

Montreal is composed of 19 boroughs, each with a distinctive vibe. Old Montreal is the riverside historic district, home to some of the oldest buildings in the city. Mile End is a haven for quirky vintage stores, cafes, and iconic bagel establishments. Chinatown is a vibrant area with myriad restaurants, souvenir stands, and gathering spaces. Le Plateau-Mont-Royal is the bohemian hub, with a significant concentration of theatres, art galleries, and nightlife hotspots. The mosaic of neighborhoods in Montreal is sure to satisfy every type of explorer. 

Less crowds, more savings

One of the significant advantages Montreal has over Paris is affordability. Paris's allure comes with a hefty price tag, especially when considering accommodation. Hotels, even modest ones, can make a significant dent in a traveler's budget. On average, lodging in Montreal is about $100 less per night than in Paris. There are many affordable and comfortable options, from Airbnb to hostels to quaint bed and breakfasts. The savings on accommodation can be channeled into other experiences, be they gastronomic, artistic, or explorative.

Although Global News reported in July 2023 that Montreal tourism experts expected 9.5 million visitors to the city that year, it's a far cry from the hectic Parisian masses. The best and most popular time to visit Montreal is in the summer, as the weather is warm and pleasant. Even so, you will rarely have to wait in line or feel smothered by crowds during your travels. Between the months of December and February is Montreal's quiet period. Note that winters are notoriously freezing, with January being the coldest month.

With its unique blend of New World charm and Old World elegance, Montreal stands as a worthy alternative to the bustling streets of Paris. If your heart seeks the allure of Paris but wishes for a more laid-back, affordable, and less crowded experience, Montreal should be on your travel list. From its historical architecture to its bustling art scene, from its delectable cuisine to its warm, French-speaking locals, Montreal promises a Parisian experience with a delightful Canadian twist.