Montreal is one of those rare international cities where
shopping actually enhances one's experience of the destination.
Rather than kitsch souvenirs from plastic chain stores, the
shopping in Montreal is as cultured and glamourous as any other
aspect of the city.
Not only does Montreal have boutiques and organic markets in equal measure, but it is the world's only underground city in which to shop. If you're here in winter this subterranean retail experience will be a welcome refuge from the icy gloom above and a highlight of your trip to Montreal. The Underground City has over 20 miles (30km) of passageways connecting all the Montreal Metros with over 1,600 little boutiques, 200 restaurants and 34 cinemas. Over 500,000 local people use the city every day, so plan your visit during office hours when it is much quieter.
Montreal's two best markets are at opposite ends of the city. Marché Jean-Talon is an enormous open-air produce market selling high-quality goods, including fresh and organic maple syrup which you can buy by the litre - a truly authentic Quebec gift for sweet-toothed friends back home. Marché Atwater is another good option; it has wonderful baked goods like artisanal breads and other fresh produce on offer.
The best Montreal shopping districts are Avenue Laurier Ouest, a centre of designer boutiques and foodie stores; Cours Mont-Royal for its haute couture and fashion accessories; and Ste-Catherine Street which attracts trendy stores and their customers. You can also find the iconic shopping centre Faubourg Ste-Catherine near here.
For unique Montreal gifts, don't miss the Canadian Guild of Crafts Québec, which sells aboriginal art and local artisan works. This is a good place to pick up classic Canadian souvenirs like furs and Native Indian crafts like dream weavers, polished stone jewellery, leather goods and musical instruments. Another must-visit is Marché Bonsecours in Old Montreal, which has an eclectic and interesting range of shops that are well worth visiting. Explore the side streets for other interesting outlets, the perfect opportunity to pick up a unique memento of your visit to Montreal.
To get the ultimate selection of maple products head to Les Délices de l'Erable in Old Montreal. And if you want a main course to go with it get some Brome Lake Duck, which is considered by many chefs to be North America's finest, and associated products like pate and foie gras. (If sealed, customs in most countries will have no objection to you importing these foodstuffs.)
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