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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 glamorous 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. For those who pay Montreal a visit during winter, this subterranean retail experience will be a welcome refuge from the icy gloom above and a highlight of their trip. The Underground City has more than 20 miles (30km) of passageways connecting all the Montreal Metros with around 1,600 little boutiques, 200 restaurants and 34 cinemas. Over 500,000 local people use the underground city every day, so we'd recommend visitors plan their shopping excursion 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 market selling high-quality goods, including fresh and organic maple syrup which one can buy by the litre, perfect as an authentic Quebec gift for sweet-toothed friends back home. Marché Atwater is another good option, with wonderful baked goods, 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 boasts an array of trendy stores. The iconic shopping centre Faubourg Ste-Catherine is also nearby.

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 such as furs and Native American crafts like dream weavers, polished stone jewellery, leather goods and musical instruments. Another must is Marché Bonsecours in Old Montreal, which has an eclectic and interesting range of shops well worth visiting.

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