As Canada's 2nd largest city, Montreal has stayed true to its French roots, while also moving forward with a North American way of life. Throughout the city, you will hear people speaking both French and English.
The city is located in the mainly French-speaking province of Quebec and more than half of the inhabitants have French as their main language. The city takes its name from Mont Royal, the mountain located in the heart of the city. Montreal enjoys hot summers, very cold winters, and is often considered the cultural heart of Canada.
Top Things to do and see in Montreal
If you are looking for a great view of the city, there is no better place to get it than Mont Royal. Called simply “The Mountain" by locals, it offers a panoramic view, along with trails for jogging, hiking, and skiing. This area also comprises a great deal of parkland, which makes it the ideal day out for all the family. The views are not to be missed.
No trip to Montreal would be complete without checking out the Notre-Dame Basilica. It may be the city's oldest Catholic Church, but the Notre-Dame Basilica is a great experience for people of any religious affiliation. Once you're inside, you can see absolutely splendid architecture, complete with stained glass that chronicles the history of the city. As an added benefit, there are plenty of Montreal hotels within walking distance.
If you want a taste of Europe in the Americas, head to Old Montreal. The area has a strong French background, so you will get a sense of being in Europe. Unlike the rest of Montreal, practically everyone in Old Montreal only speaks French. While you are there, you can check out the variety of fine French restaurants, art galleries, museums, and even take a horse-drawn carriage ride!
Visitors can also choose to spend some time in the downtown area of the city. This has a mix of old and new buildings and this can be clearly seen in the section known as the Golden Square Mile. Large parts of the downtown area are commercial. It is also home to the Underground City, which features a variety of shops and restaurants, and is unique in design. Several places in the city have an access point to the underground city.
Chinatown is also a popular attraction with tourists. There are many shops here where traditional Chinese goods are sold such as jewellery and ornaments. There are also plenty of restaurants for visitors who prefer Chinese food. This area is particularly popular with tourists and the restaurants there are suitable for all budgets. Locals shop at the Chinese grocery stores, and there are several shops that sell traditional-style clothing. Chinatown is marked by a traditional Chinese gate at the entrance.
The different neighbourhoods in Montreal vary a great deal in style. The Downtown area of the city is a commercial district, although there are some residential areas too. In addition, there are a number of museums and shopping malls, as well as easy access to Mont Royal. The district of Old Montreal is worth a visit, but travellers will need to brush up on their French as hardly anyone in the area speaks anything else. However, it is ideal for seeing the city as it used to be.
The area of Plateau Mont-Royal is perfect for those who want to do a little boutique shopping or spend time in one of the city's fine restaurants. For similar attractions the areas of Outremont and Westmount also have a variety of eateries and shops. Ste. Helene and the Notre Dame islands are where visitors can spend time in a casino or visit the city's old fort.
As Montreal is a mainly French-speaking city, there is no escaping the numerous French restaurants, bistros, and cafes in almost every area of the city. These serve traditional French dishes and wines. The quality of the French food served is very good, even at the cheaper bistros, and the restaurants do not skimp on portion sizes.
The Latin quarter of the city has a number of Italian restaurants. The food here is considered to be a good value, and the area is popular with both locals and tourists.
In total, Montreal boasts more than 5000 restaurants with cuisines from all over the world, so no matter what the taste of the traveller, there will be something to suit.
Arts and Entertainment
For those who want to have an evening out, there are plenty of options in Montreal. The Opera de Montreal is particularly popular with visitors to the city. The shows change regularly and there is a resident opera company. There are a number of other theatres which regularly stage plays, musicals, and host comedy nights, making for an ideal night out in the city.
The Museum of Fine Arts is one of the most popular places for tourists to visit, and is home to a variety of exhibits featuring artists from all over the world. The collection held by the Museum is so large that only a fraction of it can be shown at any one time.
Montreal is famous for the variety of architecture offered, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture is located in the city. Visitors can see the exhibits, and there are regular temporary exhibitions held there. The building also houses a study centre for students of the discipline.
Parks and The Great Outdoors
There are several great parks in Montreal, not the least of which is Parc Olympique, which was built for the 1976 Olympic Games. Many activities and events are held in the park each year and there still remains the Olympic stadium and Olympic sized pool. Parc Jean-Drapeau is made up from several islands located in the St Lawrence River. There is also a beach and a wide range of activities for all ages including cycling, windsurfing, and canoeing.
The Montreal Botanical Gardens are truly a sight to see. With over 21,000 species of plants and flowers, and 10 exhibition greenhouses, it is a great place to pass a few hours while in the city. The Montreal Botanical Garden is considered one of the largest in the world, and there are regular activities available making it a great place for families to visit.
Sports fans might prefer to visit the Parc Louis-Reil as this is the park that is home to a baseball diamond and 12 tennis courts. The park is located behind a school and is a very popular place for younger visitors.
Montreal's hotels are spread out all over the place. However, the most picturesque place to stay is on the St. Lawrence River, on the east side of the city.
Finding accommodation in the city should not be a problem as there are plenty of hotels to choose from. These include smaller establishments that have a family atmosphere and are child-friendly, to larger international chains of hotels, which are favoured by business travellers. Many offer the comforts that travellers expect, including tea-making and coffee-making facilities in the rooms, access to the internet, and additional amenities such as room service or a laundry service. Families may want to try a hotel that has a baby-sitting service, while business travellers may want conference facilities. In Montreal, there is something for everyone.