Montreal is the second-largest city in Canada but the largest and the cultural midpoint of the province of Quebec, located on the central and eastern portions of the Island of Montreal at the confluence of the Saint Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers. Montreal got its name after a three-head hill called Mount Royal.
Although having a reputation of the liveliest city, it also one of the safest and the most inviting cities in North America, ranked the 10th cleanest city in the world.
The official language of Montreal is French. It is among the five largest French-speaking cities in the world.
Montreal is under the influence of several climatic regions. The climate is classified as humid continental or hemiboreal (between the temperate and subarctic).
With a daily average temperature of −10.4 °C (13 °F), January is the coldest month. When the wind starts blows, it gets even colder. This so called wind chill is often included in the weather forecasts. July is the warmest, with an average daily high of 26.3 °C (79.3 °F) but high humidity, which makes the air seem warmer.
Montreal is the main entry point to the province.
One can reach Montreal by plane, bus, train, car or even bicycle depending on from where you are coming from and how trained you are.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport is the only public airport. There is another airport, Mirabel, but this one is only used as a cargo terminal.
Additionally, Plattsburgh International Airport in Plattsburgh, New York, on the U.S. side of the border also serves the Montreal area. It is just an hour ride away.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport is half an hour west of the city centre on highway 20. It takes as much as 1 hour to get to the city center either you choose to take a cab ($35), the Aerobus shuttle ($14 one-way, $24 return), public bus number 204 (exactly $2.75) or by Rail AirConnect ($11 but is infrequent).
You can get to Montreal by car too from all major cities in Canada as well as New York City and Boston. From Toronto, it may take about 6 hours. Highway 401 becomes Autoroute 20 on the Quebec side of the border. This route is famous for its frequent speed-limit changes, so pay attention. Highway 417 will take you from Ottawa to Montreal in 2 hours and Highway 40 or 20 for 2.5-3.5 hours from Quebec City. It takes around 7 hours to get to Montreal from NY City through Albany and the eastern half of New York State and 6 to 7 hours from Boston. You can also decide on rideshare, if you are on a budget trip. There are daily rides from Toronto to Montreal and back for $30-50.
Cities like Ontario, Quebec, New York, Vermont and Maine have extensive bus services to Montreal. While Station Centrale d’autobus is reserved for bus arrivals and departures, Montreal Central Station (Gare Centrale) serves trains. By train, one can reach Montreal from the major cities such as Ottawa, Quebec City and Toronto but also from Matapedia on Gaspe, and New York.
Transportation in the city
The City itself has a developed public transportation that includes train and metro rides but you can also get around by a car, bicycle, and on foot.
Montreal has a developed network of metro and bus stations. The public transportation is safe and easy to use. Bus and metro tickets are valid for one trip and cost $2.75 each, but are also available for 25% less in strips of six for $12.00. If you are planning to use the services quite often, you may get one of the tourist passes that offer unlimited travel on the bus and metro for periods of one day ($9) or three days ($17).
Commuter trains are most likely used for getting to suburbs and neighbouring towns.
Going on foot is a favored way to get around the downtown and the narrow streets of Old Montreal.
Many people enjoy taking the stairs down to Montreal’s famous “Underground City”, which is a vast network of pedestrian walkways spread out below the city. IT is crowded with Métro stations, shopping centers and office complexes.
In The City
There are over 1,700 boutiques and businesses. The underground provides access to about 40 theatres, cinemas and other entertainment venues, as well as restaurants, tourist attractions and museums.
Ste-Catherine Street is Montreal’s renowned commercial thoroughfare and the main street. It stretches for 15 km and is constantly thronged with a diverse crowd of pedestrians from around Montreal. Nine metro stations run through the Street, one bus route through the street alone but dozens of routes connect to it via the cross streets. Taxis cruise down Ste-Catherine and can be easily caught.
Ste-Catherine combines residential, business and enormous range of cultural activities. There are five multiplex cinemas located on or just off Ste-Catherine; the large performing arts complex of Place-des-Arts; live theatres; and many nightclubs and bars.
For getting around on foot, there are two more pedestrian-only places; Prince Arthur Street east of Saint-Laurent and Montreal’s Chinatown.
Montreal is defined as the most gay-friendly city in North America. This is why this city is an extremely inviting destination for gay and lesbian tourists. It has the largest gay village in North America (rue Sainte-Catherine from rue Saint-Hubert (métro Berri-UQAM) to avenue Papineau (métro Papineau). It’s pride celebration, Divers/Cité, takes place in the last week of July and first week of August, and is the second-largest in North America after Toronto’s.
Places of interest
Montreal is a city for everybody’s taste.
If you enjoy long walks and nature, you will love Montreal’s parks.
- Square Saint-Louis is located on the corner of rue Saint-Denis and rue Prince-Arthu. The park is full of majestic lined with charming houses on three sides
- Parc Jean Drapeau, spreads across two islands, Ile Ste-Helene and Ile Notre Dame, in the Saint Lawrence River. People love wondering around the park or riding a bicycle around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve race track
- Parc Lafontaine is famous for ice skating on the lake in the winter and baseball, boules, and outdoor theatre in the summer.
- Parc du Mont-Royal overlooks all of Montreal and lends the city its name. The parks creator has also created Central Park in New York. It is full of elegance and easily accessible. There’s a broad 5-mile bike and pedestrian path that offers incredible views of downtown, the St. Lawrence river and the Eastern Townships as well as numerous smaller paths and trails crisscross the park. In the summer, Sundays are reserved for gathering at the monument on avenue du Parc to enjoy the big tam-tam jam.
- Parc Jeanne-Mance is especially interesting for sports lovers. It has tennis courts, baseball/softball diamonds, a soccer/football pitch, beach volleyball courts, a skating rink in winter and a dog-walking venue.
- Parc de l’Ile-de-la-Visitation is for those looking to spend a quiet and enjoyable afternoon and possibly have lunch in the park. It is also a good starting point for a cycling tour along the river.
If you love eating out, or just enjoying your coffee, you can choose from numerous cafés and restaurants all over the city.
Montreal has recently been ranked 2nd best dining city in North America after San Francisco. The city offers a wide range of eating places, from diners and fast food to low-cost ethnic restaurants to haute cuisine. The Jewish specialties are quite famous. They include smoked meat sandwiches (beef brisket) and small, crusty bagels, “all-dressed” pizza (pepperoni, mushrooms and green peppers), pizza and spaghetti with smoked meat, and Quebecois favourites like split pea soup.
While in Montreal, you must not miss a plate of poutine. Poutine is a plate of French fries drowned in gravy and topped with chewy curds of white cheddar. You can also add chicken, beef, vegetables or sausage, or replace the gravy with tomato sauce.
Something you have probably never experienced before is bringing your own wine to the restaurant. Many Montreal restaurants allow you to do so but only because they are not licensed to sell wine. If they are licensed, then you can’t have your own but are entitled to pay for one.
There is a large number of Italian-flavored grocery stores, butchers, bakeries and restaurants.
Do not be surprised if you are asked ensemble ou séparément? (together or separately?) because separate bills are common in Montreal. Remember that the standard tip for the service is 15% and is not included in the bill. The waiters should be addressed with “monsieur” or “madame”.
Wherever you go, you will not miss galleries, museums, antique shops, sports facilities and other places of interest.
Your children will love Montreal too.
The nightlife is amazing.
Montreal still has a reputation of a “sin city” dating from the Prohibition period in the United States. The last drink calls are made at 3 am and you even don’t have to be 18 to get the drinks most of the time.
Many restaurants and after-hours clubs stay open well on into the morning.
What makes the city’s nightlife unique is a large university population, excellent public transportation system and the already mentioned rarely enforced drinking age.
The city has three main strips for bar-hopping.
Rue Crescent is trendy and expensive. Boulevard Saint-Laurent has trendy clubs and bars and is relatively downscale and linguistically mixed. Rue St-Denis has the strongest Francophone feel.
There are also many good bars away from the main strips — you should never have to line up to go have a drink, because there’s virtually unlimited choice. Dance clubs can be found all over the downtown area, hotspots being on St. Laurent and Crescent St.
Lying at the edge of the Concordia University campus, Crescent Street is “party central” for Montreal’s tourist population. In the summertime, this street is a host to many fairs and festivals but also to many clubs and bars.
Saint-Laurent street night spots are often less mainstream than those on Crescent street, with a great variety: from Top 40 and urban music to electronica and techno, from underground and alternative rock to live bands.
Montreal has a very good position for side trips to other cities and destinations in Quebec.
Quebec City could be made a day trip but you’ll certainly want to stay over.
Mont Tremblant and Eastern Townships are about the same distance.
Ottawa is 2 hours west by car, Toronto 6 hour drive and Boston five and a half hour drive to the southeast.
A nice resort known as Chateau Montebello, located in Montebello only 1.5-2 hours west in the countryside of Quebec. There is good in the Laurentians and in the Eastern Townships from December to March. Ski Bromont and Mont-St-Sauveur are additional good skiing centers.