Every year the International Retail Design Conference (IRDC) selects a city that is a leading curator of retail trends. This year’s host was Montréal – a city that celebrates its history while exuding a contemporary flair, edgy style and a thriving cosmopolitan energy. Combined with a plethora of retail stores, an expansive range of dining options and diverse neighborhoods to explore, this year’s host city was the total package. 

Montréal is the largest city in Canada’s Québec province and set on an island in the Saint Lawrence River and named after Mt. Royal, the triple-peaked hill at the heart of the city. While Montréal is made up of many diverse boroughs, it was Vieux-Montréal – or Old Montréal – that stole my heart.  With some of the older buildings dating back to the 1600’s, Vieux-Montréal oozes European character. Cobblestone streets, a café culture and historic 17th and 18th century architecture all contribute to its quaint charm.

There was no lack of dining options in Vieux-Montréal but some of my favorites were Jardin Nelson on the charming Place Jacques-Cartier square, the rooftop of the Hotel William Gray and any excuse for coffee at TommyLe Marché Bonsecours is a must visit – a public market housing local retail brands and restaurants. But it was the architecture that was the most inspiring. Churches like Cathedral of Marie Reine du Monde and Notre Dame Basilica were breathtaking, with exquisite details and craftsmanship, celebrating the classic Baroque style.

If you have never visited Montréal, I highly recommend it. A hidden North American gem, that evokes all the magic of an unspoiled French city, in our own backyard.