This Canadian City Is Bursting With European Charm (Minus the Red-Eye)

It's a crisp October morning in Montreal, and I can't help but feel a bizarre sense of deja vu. I hop over cobblestones, trying not to snag my loafers in the gaps, and jostle past a group of stylish women in wool coats chatting outside Olive et Gourmando, a bustling cafe in Old Montreal. Inside, French jazz drifts through the crowded space as locals sip their morning latte with a crumbling pastry in hand. It's a scene that transports me to the quaint streets of Paris or Toulouse—yet here I am, just an hour-and-a-half flight away from New York City. 

Of course, Montrealers will likely cringe if you make comparisons between Quebec and France. Yes, Montreal is the second largest French-speaking city after Paris, and some of its architecture and customs have European roots, but the city has developed a distinct, unparalleled identity since it changed from a French to a British colony in 1763.

"I don't eat baguettes or drink wine every day," says Francoise, a Montreal local who is my tour guide for the day. "It's a North American lifestyle with a European flare—the two combine so well." 

Perhaps it's this combination that makes Montreal one of the best cities in the world for solo travelers. It gives visitors a chance to flex their French without pressure (most locals speak English, too), it's relatively safe, is surprisingly walkable, and adopts European cafe culture, so you won't feel awkward about drinking or dining solo. 

Whether you're itching for a European getaway and can't handle the red-eye or are thinking about taking your first solo trip, this is the city to see. Add these cafes, bars, and attractions to your list, stat. 

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