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Montreal, Canada

(*cruise tour)

Montreal, Canada

Montreal (French: Montréal) is the metropolis of the province of Quebec. Quebec City is the political capital but Montreal is the cultural and economic capital of Quebec and the main entry point to the province. The second largest city in Canada, it is a city rich in culture and history and a well-deserved reputation as one of the liveliest cities in North America. Montreal is the second-largest French-speaking (as a mother language) city in the world, behind Paris. At the same time, it is also one of the most bilingual cities in Canada, with a Francophone majority and a significant Anglophone minority, and the majority of the Francophone population also being conversant in English. Montreal is sometimes referred to as The Paris of Canada.

Situated on an island in the St. Lawrence River at the historically highest navigable point,... Read more

Montreal, Canada

Destination:

Montreal (French: Montréal) is the metropolis of the province of Quebec. Quebec City is the political capital but Montreal is the cultural and economic capital of Quebec and the main entry point to the province. The second largest city in Canada, it is a city rich in culture and history and a well-deserved reputation as one of the liveliest cities in North America. Montreal is the second-largest French-speaking (as a mother language) city in the world, behind Paris. At the same time, it is also one of the most bilingual cities in Canada, with a Francophone majority and a significant Anglophone minority, and the majority of the Francophone population also being conversant in English. Montreal is sometimes referred to as The Paris of Canada.

Situated on an island in the St. Lawrence River at the historically highest navigable point, Montreal has been a strategic location since before the arrival of Europeans in Canada. A thriving Iroquoian town called Hochelaga was on the site of present-day Montreal when explorer Jacques Cartier first visited in 1535. A hundred years later, in 1642, the tiny town of Ville-Marie was founded as a Catholic mission by Paul Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve. It soon became a center of the fur trade. After its capture by the English in 1762, Montreal remained (until the 1970s) the most important city in Canada and was briefly capital of the province in the 1840s.

Prohibition on sales of alcohol in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s made Montreal a Mecca for cross-border fun seekers from nearby New England and New York. The city built up a seedy, yet playful, industry in alcohol, burlesque, and other vices. In the 1960s, an urban renewal drive centered around Expo 67. The World's Fair in Montreal brought a subway system and a number of attractive urban parks and is considered to be one of the most successful World Fairs. Over 50 million visitors gathered to Montreal during this memorable summer. The 1976 Olympics left a strikingly idiosyncratic stadium and many other urban improvements.

The opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in 1959, though much lauded as an economic boom, spelled the beginning of the end for Montreal's economic dominance in Canada. Once the transition point between western railroads and eastern sea carriers, Montreal watched helplessly as some of this business moved farther west, up the now navigable Seaway, to ports in Ontario and on Lake Superior. The Quebec Sovereignty movement, which began to pick up steam in the 1960s, further chilled the atmosphere for Canada-wide businesses, many of which moved their headquarters to Toronto.

Following an economic depression in the 1980s and 1990s, Montreal became more secure in its place in North America and the world. It remains a center of culture, arts, computer technology, aerospace, the biotech industry, and media for all of Canada.

Orientation

It has been said that Montréal is the only city in the world where the sun "rises in the south."

Montrealers use an unconventional compass, using the river and the mountain as cardinal points. When you are downtown, the St Lawrence River is “south” and Mount Royal is “north”; making the West Island and the East End correct in both their names and orientations. This tends to confuse visitors because the “East” End is really north and the “West” Island is south, and the St Lawrence River runs almost north-south at this location.

Most local maps use this convention as do the highways around the city. For example, Autoroute 15 north actually runs northwest and Autoroute 40 east runs northeast.

To underscore this fact, a Montreal map will show that the "south end" of Victoria Bridge is in fact further north than the "north end."


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Montreal, Canada: Port Information


The Port of Montreal includes the Iberville cruise terminal on the Alexandra Pier in the Old Port (Vieux-Port). Each year, about 50,000 passengers pass through Iberville terminal, which is an easy walk to and from the historic district of Old Montreal.
If you want to bike around, bicycles can be rented from Montreal on Wheels, located just five minutes' walk from the terminal.
Alternatively, you can take one of the taxis lined up at the dock. Major companies include Taxi Diamond and Taxi Coop.

Get around Montreal, Canada


Montreal has historically been divided into east and west by boulevard Saint-Laurent. Numbered addresses on streets that cross Saint-Laurent start there and increase in either direction; most addresses are given as "rue ____ Ouest" (west) or "rue ____ Est" (east). Many streets are named after Catholic saints and figures from local history, both well-known and obscure. Note that in Montreal street names, "east" and "west" refer to the direction parallel to the St. Lawrence River, and "north" and "south" refer to the direction perpendicular to the St. Lawrence River. Because the St. Lawrence River runs almost north-south near downtown Montreal, "east," "west," "north," and "south" are actually northeast, southwest, northwest, and southeast respectively. Confusingly, most maps displayed in the city have "Montreal north" on top which can be confusing with satellite navigation that uses pole north. Also, don't try to navigate by looking at the sun!

On foot

Walking is a favored way to get around the densely packed downtown and the narrow streets of Old Montreal, especially during the warmer months. However, beware during winter months, as sidewalks can be icy and extremely hazardous after winter snow and ice storms. Winter boots with good grip are essential for surviving pavements that have not been cleared. Beware also (as much as you can) of thawing ice falling from overhanging balconies and roofs. But you can always take the stairs down to Montreal's famous "Underground City" (Montréal souterrain), called RÉSO, a network of pedestrian corridors connecting Métro (subway) stations, shopping centers, and office complexes.

Jaywalking is widespread and rarely punished. However, be aware that drivers will usually not stop or even slow down if a pedestrian steps out in front of them, even at marked crosswalks. At an intersection, however, a pedestrian will have right of passage before turning traffic and most drivers respect this. Despite Montreal drivers' poor reputation for aggressiveness, they generally respect pedestrians.

Rue Sainte-Catherine is Montreal's main commercial artery and busiest pedestrian thoroughfare. The "Underground City" and the Green Line (or line 1) of Montreal's Metro is easily accessible from all the major office complexes, shopping malls, department stores, and theater complexes that line it. Smaller chain stores and restaurants also vie for valuable commercial space. Well-kept historic churches with green space provide quiet oasis and contrast with the giant neon signs of strip clubs. Major hotels generally can be found one or two blocks north and south of Saint Catherine in the downtown core. Bars, restaurants, and dance clubs cluster within a block of Sainte-Catherine around Crescent and Bishop, catering to a mostly English-speaking clientele. Rue Saint-Denis, farther east, and the Gay Village between Berri and de Lormier, even more to the east, are mostly French-speaking. McGill College Boulevard in the downtown core from Saine-Catherine offers an open view of Mount Royal to the north and an impressive view of the Place Ville-Marie skyscraper to the south. Keep your head up and beware of following the flow of the crowd on this street: throngs of pedestrians often walk across cross streets against red lights, risking life and limb.

Rue Prince-Arthur, east of Saint-Laurent, is for pedestrians only. Another pedestrian-only locale is Montreal's Chinatown, situated on Rue de la Gauchtière Est between Saint-Urbain and Saint-Laurent. A good trick for navigating downtown Montreal is to remember that streets slope up toward Mount Royal, which is just north of downtown and easy to see from most locations.

The districts surrounding downtown Montreal are especially delightful on foot. To the south is Old Montreal (Le Vieux-Montréal) (its narrow streets and buildings dating from the 17th and 18th centuries really can make you feel like you're in Old Europe) and the Old Port (Le Vieux-Port), a waterfront strolling park with exhibits and boat tours, is very popular with the locals. To the north, the Golden Square Mile and the McGill University Campus is wedged between Mount Royal and Sherbrooke Street on the southern slope of the mountain. Old Victorian mansions and townhouses can be found along the sloping streets, many now housing McGill University's offices and libraries. Just west of downtown is affluent Westmount, a perfect example of 19th-century English-style homes and gardens (inhabited to a great extent by English-speaking people) climbing the slopes of Mount Royal's western part (the higher you climb, the larger the old mansions). Just east and northeast of downtown are the mostly French-speaking Gay Village (Le Village Gai) and Plateau (Plateau Mont-Royal) districts. Street after street displays turn-of-the-19th-century row duplexes and triplexes, replete with famous Montreal outdoor staircases, overflowing front gardens (or snow-covered gables, depending on the time of year), and tiny shops tucked into every nook and cranny. For people who like to see a culture where it lives, Le Plateau is the place to wander about in.

Mount Royal

(Mont-Royal) is also accessible from the urban core on foot. Fit pedestrians can climb Rue Peel to the southern edge of the park. A series of renovated staircases will take you directly to the Chalet near the top of the mountain, with its classic view of the downtown core. A more leisurely climb to the top awaits those on Olmsted Road (6.5 km), a wide, gently sloping bike and foot path accessible from the Plateau in

Parc Jeanne-Mance

(also known as Fletcher's Field). Smaller foot paths serendipitously branch off from this road. A cross-country ski path also winds to the top in the wintertime. Mount Royal's park was designed by Frederick Olmsted, a landscape architect who lived from 1822 to 1903 and was also responsible for the design of Central Park in New York City and the Emerald Necklace in Boston.

By car

Driving (SAAQ) in Montreal can be a challenge for many North American motorists. Although turning right on a red light is allowed across the rest of Quebec (except at intersections where a sign indicates this is not permitted), right turns on red are strictly prohibited on the island of Montreal. The stop lights at most of the downtown intersections are located on the opposite side of the intersection, not at the actual stop line as in some of Europe.

The use of road salt to keep roads ice-free during severe winters takes its toll on the roadways, which are either heavily potholed or subject to perpetual construction. Downtown traffic is dense. Street parking can be difficult. Parking meters are in use seven days a week in most districts (9 am-9 pm Mon-Fri, 9 am-6 pm Sat, 1 pm-6 pm Sun), including statutory Holidays. Parking tickets may be appealed in court only by the owner of the car that was subject to the infraction, so if a rented car is ticketed, the person who rented may be unable to contest the charge. Parking signs are all in French and will describe a day and hour (based on 24h clock) along with conditions for parking. Many arterial roads prohibit parking on one side during rush hour, and vehicles are subject to fine plus towing costs and other fees. Also be aware that Montreal does not paint curbs red next to fire hydrants, but it is still illegal to park there.

There are also many private and public parking lots, and their prices vary widely.

During the winter months, heavy snowfalls are common. In the aftermath of a snowstorm, an intensively-prepared "déneigement" (snow removal) process begins with intimidatingly large snow plows and trucks clearing, chewing up, and transporting away the snow. If you leave your car parked on a street, pay close attention to any orange "no parking" signs that will appear on roads to be cleared. Tow trucks will sound a loud 2-tone horn siren just before clearing. This is an announcement that a street is about to be cleared and that all parked cars will be cited/and or towed if they are not moved. For this reason, it's important to be able to check your vehicle at least once daily after a snowfall. It is best to use indoor or underground parking if snow clearing is likely.

Many downtown streets are one way, which can complicate getting around. If you see a sign at an intersection that has direction arrows in a green circle, that means those are the only directions you are allowed to turn. Left turns are allowed on a green light provided there are no other signs prohibiting. Visitors should be familiar with the flashing green light, which indicates a protected left-turn (priority), which is equivalent to a green arrow in other parts of the world. Some signals are green arrows that flash, this is the same meaning. Autoroutes (expressways or freeways) can be challenging for visitors, as most signs are French, but most symbols are the same as in English Canada and the United States.

By bike

Cycling is the best way to visit the City, especially its central neighborhoods like the Plateau Mont-Royal; it is a very popular mode of transportation once the coldest winter weather is over. The city is crisscrossed by 660 km of cycle paths, including some which cross the St. Lawrence onto the island of Montreal. By far the nicest path is the Lachine Canal path that stretches from Lachine, along Lac St-Louis, down to Old Montreal along the canal. You can cross over to the South Shore either on the

Jacques Cartier Bridge

, Île Notre-Dame, or via the Estacade ice bridge from Île des Sœurs.

Even if you are on a bike path, beware of drivers especially if they are turning, as lines of visibility at intersections are not well enforced in the city. Generally, Montreal drivers in the central neighborhoods are used to sharing the road with bikes and so are courteous, there are always a few, usually from outlying neighborhoods, who give all drivers a bad name. Some downtown bike paths are separated from the road by parked cars, which decreases visibility, both yours and the drivers. The often crowded bike path on rue Rachel one is the worst for this, however, the Plateau part of the path will be renovated soon to make it safer and greener. If one is comfortable driving in Montreal, one generally can feel comfortable biking there as well. Montreal pedestrians are known for not waiting for a light to change if there are no cars coming; cyclists are a bit like that too and often treat the many stop signs on residential streets more as yield signs than as stop signs. Wearing a helmet is not required under the law, though, for children especially, it's better to be safe than sorry.

The Bixi system is a public bike share system. Rated the best in the world, it was designed and developed in Montreal and has since been exported to many cities around the world including London, UK, and Sydney, Australia. Major credit cards are accepted. The Bixi was conceived for local active transit but is accessible to tourists as well. You can use Bixi bikes as much as you like for 24 hours provided you don't use a particular bixi bike for more than 30 minutes at a time before returning it to a docking station. After returning the bike to a docking station, you can get another bike (even at the same station) after a 2 minute waiting period. There are over 400 Bixi stations with over 5000 bikes around the city concentrated in the downtown and central neighborhoods like the Plateau (though it's expanding all the time). The tourist information center has maps of the stations. Helmets are not provided nor are locks. You could use your own lock, but there is usually a station not more than a block away on a commercial strip so returning the Bixi to the nearest stand is always the safest and most cost-effective choice. Be aware that stations fill up and empty quickly; you may have to bike to the next station to find an empty docking spot. If you have a smartphone, there is an app that shows you real-time the nearest stations, how many bikes are docked, or whether there is a free docking spot available.

Skate and bike rental shops are common, particularly in the Old Port and the Plateau. Visit La Maison des Cyclistes (the cyclists' house) at 1251 rue Rachel Est for all info on cycling in Montreal.

By metro or bus

The public transit system, run by Société de transport de Montréal (STM), is safe, efficient, and is overall pleasant to use. Tickets have been replaced by cards with magnetic stripe containing one trip, called an à la carte ticket. These are valid for one trip (including unlimited transfers in the same way for 90 min) on the metro and buses. Signs and announcements are only in French, though ticket machines are bilingual in French and English. Many, but not all, Métro counter staff are also able to speak English.

Note that Montreal metro stations and train cars lack air conditioning, the Metro can sometimes get uncomfortably hot, in every season. It does however still exist as the best transport option in the city.

Note that metro tickets are not valid in Laval and Longueuil.

You need to keep your payment card as it is both your transfer and your proof of payment (correspondance); fare inspectors may give you a large fine if you are unable to show it when they request it.

If you are using cash to pay your fare on the bus, it is important to have the exact fare since the driver does not give change; you will receive an à la carte ticket, your proof of payment and your transfer. Pictures and specific instructions can be found here. 

Tourist passes offer unlimited travel on the bus and metro for periods of one day or three days and are well worth it to avoid fumbling for change, checking transfer times and restrictions, and worrying about getting off at the wrong stop and having to repay.

The OPUS card is a smart card with a chip that contains your fare and transfer information. The OPUS card can be purchased at all metro stations and transit fare points of sale.

OPUS cards can be refilled at metro stations using the automated machines or at the ticket booth.

The STM website offers an online trip-planner service. Trip planning can also be done using Google Maps. Free bus and Metro system maps are available from the ticket booth at most metro stations. These are useful to find where you are on the island. 

At each subway station, directions are not indicated by compass directions, such as westbound or eastbound. Instead, trains go in the direction of a subway line's terminus. The green line runs from Angrignon in the west to Honoré-Beaugrand in the east. If you were to travel eastbound, for example, you would look for Honoré-Beaugrand on the platform. If you were to travel westbound, you would look for Angrignon. There are four interchange stations at which commuters can change subway lines without extra charge: Snowdon (blue/orange), Lionel-Groulx (orange/green), Berri-UQAM (green/yellow/orange), and Jean-Talon (orange/blue).

Bicycles are permitted aboard metro trains outside of the rush hours such as 10:00 am to 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm to end of service on weekdays and all day Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. Bikes are only allowed in the lead car of the train up to a maximum of 6. STM staff may deny bikes aboard the metro for safety reasons such as special events that might generate a high level of ridership. Lists of such events are posted on the STM website and at the entrances to metro. During festival season in Montreal, bikes are seldom allowed at all.

Bike riding inside stations or the Underground City is strictly prohibited.

By train

Montreal has a commuter train system run by the Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT) with termini at the Montreal Central Station (Gare Central) and at Lucien-L'Allier (both are accessible from the metro). Commuter trains are handy for getting to suburbs and neighboring towns.

Commuter train stations are divided into six zones that radiate out from downtown. Stations have automated machines from which you must purchase a ticket appropriate to the zones of the station you are traveling to or from, whichever is farther (for example, a trip from Zone 1 to Zone 3 or vice versa would require a Zone 3 ticket). A prepurchased ticket card (SOLO) must be validated at the card scanners at the entrance to the platform. In general, reduced fares (for students and seniors) require ID that is not available to travelers, but if you are staying in the area, ask an employee for more details as the rules are complicated, but you can get good savings.

There are no ticket machines on the train and ticket inspections are random. Incorrect tickets sometimes go unnoticed because inspectors check only occasionally. However, it is best to avoid taking chances as if the ticket is not valid, the customer can get a fine. Note that the ticket machines should now all be bilingual in English and French. The two downtown stations have staffed ticket booths Monday to Friday, but not in the evenings. Other stations may also have booths but generally only during either the morning or afternoon rush hour.

Map

MapArt produces an excellent map in book-form of downtown Montreal and environs, including Vieux Montréal, Mount Royal, the Plateau as well as areas as far north as the University of Montreal and as far south as Parc Jean-Drapeau. That form is handy as you can avoid always folding a map of the whole island.

What to see in Montreal, Canada


  • Old Montréal contains the vast majority of historical buildings, most dating from the 17th - 19th century, and many museums. At night several of the buildings are beautifully lit up. A Tourist Office brochure lays out a walking map. Consider following it once during the day, and again at night.
  • Le Plateau combines scenic residential streets with hip shopping and dining.
  • Downtown Skyscrapers, McGill campus, churches, and museums. Several blocks are connected by 30 km of underground arcades and malls, allowing comfortable walking and shopping when the weather is foul.
  • Parc Jean-Drapeau, site of the 1967 World's Fair, now devoted to green spaces and a large outdoor concert venue. The Gilles Villeneuve racing circuit, home of the Montreal Formula 1 Grand Prix. An artificial beach, a huge outdoor pool complex, and the Montreal Casino are also located on or around the park.
  • A few kilometers Metro ride to the north, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve offers the Olympic Stadium, Insectarium, Jardin Botanique, and Biodôme. Allow four hours to see all four.
  • Churches - Montreal is home to four Roman Catholic basilicas, all of which have interiors that are among the most impressive in North America. Downtown Montreal is home to Saint Joseph's Oratory (Oratoire Saint-Joseph), the largest church in Canada, Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral (Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde) and Saint Patrick's Basilica (Basilique Saint-Patrick), which was built to serve Montreal's Anglophone Catholic community. In Old Montreal, the Notre-Dame Basilica (Basilique Notre-Dame) at Place d'Armes is undoubtedly the most famous in Montreal and is known throughout the world for its lavishly decorated and colorful interior. Although rather small and not a basilica, another church of note in Old Montreal is the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel (Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours) near the Bonsecours Market, the first church to be founded in Montreal, which is known for its maritime theme and beautiful frescoes on the inside.
  • Rialto Theatre, 5723 ave du Parc. The Rialto Theatre is one of the most iconic buildings in Montreal. Its graceful proportions and elegant details are a delight to behold. For too long the theater had laid dormant and unused. Recently, it has been reanimated and revitalized. It is a center for the performing arts: open and inclusive, multilingual and multicultural, grounded in the present yet not afraid to wink at the past. The Rialto hosts tours, events, plays, bands, movies and more.
  • Mosaicultures internationales, seasonal

What to do in Montreal, Canada


  • Casino de Montréal, 1, avenue du Casino (metro Jean-Drapeau).
  • La Ronde (member of the Six Flags family), 22, chemin Macdonald (metro Jean-Drapeau).

Cross-country skiing

During the winter, many parks offer the possibility to do cross-country skiing with groomed paths.

  • Parc regional de l'Ile-de-la-Visitation — Ski rental available.
  • Parc du Mont-Royal. Ski rental available and usually the best ski conditions.
  • Parc Maisonneuve and Jardin Botanique — No ski rental.

Ice skating

  • Year-round ice-skating, 1000, rue De La Gauchetière (metro Bonaventure).
  • Free skating, Lac aux Castors (Beaver Lake), in the Parc Mont-Royal.
  • Free skating, Connected ponds of Lafontaine Park, in Plateau Mont-Royal.
  • Winter skating, in the Old Port (Vieux-Port) in front of the Bonsecours Market and many parks.

Water sports

  • River surfing — Although the Saint Lawrence River is frozen nearly solid for four to five months out of the year, the waterway has become a magnet for aficionados of this new sport. Unlike their oceanic brethren, river surfers ride the standing waves in fresh waterways. The Saint Lawrence has two main hot spots for the sport: Habitat 67 is close to the bridge between Montreal and Ile des soeurs, the site of the 1967 expo and the Montreal Casino. (This wave is also known as Expo 67). The Surf 66 Boardshop at the 1952 rue Cabot offers lessons.
  • Kayaking — Just off the shore of the park in Lasalle are the Lachine Rapids. Huge waves, fast water, and loads of fun for Kayaks. Lessons are available on site in the huge eddy formed by the peninsula. Annual surf (rodeo) competitions at "Big Joe" (formerly called and sometimes still referred to as "Beneath the Wheel" by old schoolers). Other famous play waves on this set of rapids on the St. Lawrence River are Istambul and Constantinople, Pyramid, Slice and Dice, Black and Decker, as well as HMF on the other side of the islands. For those seeking less of an adrenaline rush, there is always the Bunny Wave (La Vague a Guy) upstream near the bike path at Park Rene Lesvesque. Rafting these same rapids is also a fun option.

Bike

An interactive map of the cycle path network is available at the Vélo Québec website.16 Particularly pleasant places to cycle and skate include:

  • Parc Jean-Drapeau — Particularly the Île Notre-Dame on the Formula One race track: a fantastic view across the water to downtown Montreal.
  • Lachine Canal — Bike paths west of the Old Port.
  • Riviere-des-Prairies — You can ride across Montreal Island from west to east along the river on the north of Montreal. Many sites have incredible views. A stop at Perry Island is a must.

Parks

  • Square Saint-Louis, corner of rue Saint-Denis and rue Prince-Arthur, slightly north of rue Sherbrooke (metro Sherbrooke). A charming little park with majestic trees and a lovely fountain, lined with charming houses on three sides (the Institute of Hotel Techniques of Quebec hotel school is the fourth side). This was the site of the first water reservoir in Montreal.
  • Parc Jean Drapeau — The former Expo 67 fairgrounds, Parc Jean Drapeau is spread across two islands (Ile Ste-Helene and Ile Notre Dame) in the Saint Lawrence River. On Sundays in the summer, join thousands of Montrealers reveling in the sunshine and music outdoors at Piknik Électronique. People enjoy riding a bicycle around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve race track on Ile Notre Dame. La Ronde and the Montreal Biosphere are located here. (metro Parc Jean Drapeau)
  • Parc Lafontaine, from avenue Papineau to avenue du Parc Lafontaine and from rue Rachel to rue Sherbrooke. Ice skating on the lake in the winter, baseball, boules, and outdoor theater in the summer. (metro Sherbrooke)
  • Parc Maisonneuve and Jardin Botanique de Montreal (from rue Sherbrooke to boulevard Rosemont and from boulevard Pie-IX to avenue Viau (metro Pie-IX or Viau)). The Jardin Botanique is one of the largest botanical gardens in the world and features the First Nations Garden, the Insectarium, and the Tree House, as well as 16 different themed gardens and greenhouses.
  • Parc du Mont-Royal, North of avenue des Pins, between avenue du Parc and chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges, 514-843-8240 (info@lemontroyal.qc.ca). This beautiful, immense urban park tops the "mountain" (at 232 meters, it's more like a hill) that overlooks all of Montreal and lends the city its name. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, creator of Central Park and Prospect Park in New York, the park is elegant and accessible, and has hundreds of nooks and crannies to explore. A broad and gradual five mile bike and pedestrian path begins at the Monument Georges-Étienne Cartier (on Avenue du Parc, opposite the western end of rue Rachel, where the bike path continues), winding its way around the mountain and culminating at the Belvédère (lookout) and Chalet Mont-Royal, with incredible views of downtown, the St. Lawrence River, and the Eastern Townships. The Belevedere and Chalet are also accessible from downtown by the newly restored staircase, access via the path at the top of rue Peel. Numerous smaller paths and trails crisscross the park. For lazy visitors or those with limited mobility, you can enjoy a wonderful view from the mountain by taking bus route 11, which stops at the lookout on Chemin Remembrance, as well as Beaver Lake. Every Sunday during the summer, thousands of people get together at the monument on Avenue du Parc to enjoy the big tam-tam jam.
  • Parc Jeanne-Mance, bordered by avenue du Parc, avenue Duluth (with a small extension south as far as avenue des Pins), rue de l'Esplanade and avenue Mont-Royal, directly across from Parc du Mont-Royal. Includes tennis courts, baseball/softball diamonds, a soccer/football pitch, beach volleyball courts, a skating rink in winter. Also a very popular dog-walking venue.
  • Parc de l'Ile-de-la-Visitation, rue d'Iberville and boulevard Gouin, +1 514 280-6733 (metro Henri-Bourassa, Bus 69 east). This regional park is along the Riviere-des-Prairies. Quiet and enjoyable place to bring a lunch and relax for an afternoon. Good starting point for a cycling tour along the river.

Sports to watch

  • Canadiens, Ice hockey, Canada's national winter sport: Bell Centre (Centre Bell), 1260 rue De La Gauchetière (metro Lucien-L'Allier or Bonaventure), 17. One of the greatest institutions in Quebec culture. If you want to see a game, it helps to know someone with tickets, as they generally sell out within minutes of going on sale. They are widely available through unofficial channels and scalpers, but be prepared to shell out as they don't come cheap! You can also get cheaper tickets if you're a resident of the HI youth hostel. You can also stay in front of the hostel and ask a resident to buy a ticket for you if you aren't staying at the hostel!
  • Alouettes, Football (Canadian Football League), Percival Molson Stadium (Stade Percival-Molson), avenue des Pins at University (playoffs: Olympic Stadium), 18. A dominant team in recent regular seasons, the Als have won the Grey Cup three times since being reborn in 1996, including back-to-back in 2009 and 2010. Molson Stadium is an excellent place to see a game, but tickets can be hard to come by. The team has sold out every game in the facility since moving there in 1998.
  • Impact, Association football (soccer), Saputo Stadium (Stade Saputo) located at 4750 Sherbrooke street East and Viau in the Olympic Park (metro Viau), 19. One of the newer teams in Major League Soccer, and the league's third team in Canada, joined MLS in 2012. The previous version of the Impact was a consistent contender in several different leagues (including three in the last three seasons before the team joined MLS) at the U.S./Canada second level. The Impact occasionally uses nearby Olympic Stadium for matches that are expected to draw unusually large crowds.
  • Tennis — Montreal hosts an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event (men) every odd-numbered year. In even-numbered years, Montreal hosts a WTA event (women), 20.
  • Formula 1 Grand Prix — Circuit Gilles Villeneuve hosts the Canadian Grand Prix weekend every year, with pre-race practice and qualifying on Friday and Saturday and the race on Sunday. The event gathers about 100,000 spectators and is considered a motor racing classic.

What to eat and drink in Montreal, Canada


Eat

Montreal is a culinary mecca and has a huge variety of food options, from diners and fast food to low-cost ethnic restaurants to haute cuisine. The city was recently ranked 2nd best dining city in North America after San Francisco and ahead of New York. The large local Jewish population has contributed local specialties including huge smoked meat sandwiches (beef brisket) (Schwartz's is indisputably the most authentic smoked meat restaurant) and small, crusty bagels (the undisputed classic bagel places are St-Viateur's and Fairmount Bagels). Other specialties are "all-dressed" pizza (pepperoni, mushrooms and green peppers), pizza and spaghetti with smoked meat, and Québécois favorites like split pea soup and poutine.

Many Montreal restaurants are "apportez votre vin" (bring your own wine). This may sound like a hassle, but you end up paying much less for wine with dinner if you bring it yourself. There's usually an SAQ (government liquor store) or a dépanneur (convenience store, with a limited selection of typically inexpensive wine) nearby; ask your waiter where it is. Your waiter will open your wine for you; corkage fees are rare but don't forget to factor this service into your tip so make sure to ask. If you are driving from the United States, you may find Canadian liquor prices quite frightening. Even the duty-free shops along the border are rarely cheaper than an American liquor store (although these are still cheaper than the SAQ). Visitors can bring in 40oz of hard alcohol, 1.5L of wine, or a 24-pack of beer.

Separate bills (l'addition or "facture" in French) are common and you may be asked ensemble ou séparément? (together or separately?) The standard tip for acceptable restaurant service is 15% and is not included.

Never call a waiter "garçon"! Use "monsieur" or "madame".

Montreal originals

There are several Montreal original foods.

  • The Montreal-style bagel, where bagel worshippers flock Saint-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel, and pontificate about which is better. Both are within blocks of each other in the Plateau Mont-Royal district, on Saint-Viateur and Fairmount streets, respectively.
  • Montreal-style smoked meat, a type of corned beef, distinct from other forms such as pastrami, is available at many restaurants, but by far the most highly esteemed is that available at Schwartz's on the Main (Boulevard Saint-Laurent) in the Plateau Mont-Royal district.
  • Steamé (steamie), a steamed hotdog on steamed bun, with mustard, sauerkraut, and onions. Some locations may replace sauerkraut with coleslaw.
  • Montreal-style pizza, a pizza where the meat component is smoked meat
  • Montreal-style Michigan hotdog, a steamed hotdog on a steamed bun covered with a tomato-based meat sauce, where the meat is smoked meat, or where after application, is covered in ground smoked meat and then topped with onions.
  • Montreal-style spaghetti, spaghetti with tomato-based meat sauce, where the meat is smoked meat, or where after application, is covered in ground smoked meat.
  • Montreal-style egg rolls, a specialty of the Chenoy's Montreal area deli restaurant chain, replaces the meat in an egg roll with smoked meat
  • Smoked meat poutine, a regular poutine or Italian poutine topped with ground smoked meat.

Montreal Ethnic Restaurants

As Montreal has a very ethnically diverse population, it has various quality ethnic restaurants which are endorsed by the city.

  • Indian: The Indian community in Montreal are located around Parc metro station where many Indian restaurants can be found. An example is Bombay Mahal.
  • Portuguese, Portuguese and Latino community are located around Quartier Latin neighborhood.
  • Persian: An Iranian cafe-resto is Byblos cafe.
  • Arabic
  • Haitian
  • Chinese: A Szechuan restaurant is Kan Bai.
  • Japanese: A Japanese non-sushi restaurant is Kazu.

Montreal variants

Several local variants of foods are found in Montreal.

  • The Shish Taouk, is the local styling of the chicken shawarma
  • "Montreal-style" is where the meat is augmented, replaced by, or sprinkled on top with smoked meat.

Markets

To buy your own food or regional products, the public market at Jean-Talon, 7075 avenue Casgrain (metro Jean-Talon or De Castelnau), is the place to go. Open daily from 8 AM to 6 PM, the market is especially noteworthy for its selection of produce. Even though they're not strictly part of the market, the many stores lining it on the north and south sides complete it wonderfully with superb selections of cheese, meat, and just about anything edible. The surrounding streets are heavily Italian-flavored and feature a number of excellent grocery stores, butchers, bakeries, and restaurants.

Across town, the Atwater Market is also superb, though quite different from (and much smaller than) Jean-Talon. Here, you'll find the city's best butchers, as well as good selections of cheese, fish, and produce. Located on avenue Atwater, just south of rue Notre-Dame Lionel-Groulx station.

Restaurants

Montreal claims to have the most restaurants per capita in North America.

With delis and bakeries and diners galore, Montreal offers great budget dining. Venues are scattered all over the city, but the largest concentration of restaurants is along boul Saint-Laurent, rue Saint-Denis and ave du Mont-Royal in the Plateau. Tasty and cheap ethnic food, lots of Indian buffets, can be found around the Jean-Talon market.

Several kosher restaurants can be found within a few blocks of each other on Queen Mary road not far from the Snowdon Métro station in and boul Décarie near Villa-Maria-des-Neiges in Côte-des-Neiges. The other greatest concentration of kosher food in along Bernard in Outremont.

Smoked-meat and sausage poutine aside, Montreal is vegetarian-friendly with several veggie and vegan restaurants and veggie options on most menus.

Montreal has a number of excellent ice cream parlours, many of which make their own ice cream. There are also a number of restaurants dedicated to desserts.

Restaurant chains

Local restaurant chains that travelers might not be familiar with, with various locations throughout the city, include:

  • Bâton Rouge. Steakhouse. Renowned for their fall-off-the-bone ribs. Casual ambiance.
  • La Cage Aux Sports. Sports Bar & Grill. Great place to watch Montreal Canadiens hockey games, the atmosphere gets crazy during the NHL playoffs!
  • St-Hubert. Rotisserie chicken, some locations have a bar/bistro section. Family friendly.
  • Les Trois Brasseurs (The Three Brewers). Microbrewery with a pub-style menu and a European flair.
  • Juliette et chocolat. Specialized in chocolate desserts and famed for its very rich drinking chocolate.
  • Rockaberry. Enormous portions of cakes, pies, crumbles, and brownies.

Alternate

If you are really on a budget, there are a few community restaurants (like chicrestopop) which serves very cheap meals. Usually, these locations are reserved for the homeless.

If you are staying in Montreal, there are several collective cooking locations where a group of people cook larger portions to freeze and stock for worker's lunch breaks.

Drink

The legal age to purchase alcohol in Québec is 18 and the Québécois are now much more rigid in enforcing this age limit. All retail alcohol sales stop at 11 PM and bars and clubs stop serving at 3 AM

Quality wine and liquor (but only a small selection of imported beers) can only be purchased at SAQ shops, most of which are open until 6 PM Sunday to Wednesdays and 8 PM or 9 PM on other days; the smaller SAQ Express outlets are open daily from 11 AM to 10 PM. Beer and a small selection of lower-quality wine are also sold at convenience stores (dépanneurs) and grocery stores. Some supermarkets have partnered with the SAQ to offer a few selection bottles, so if you are caught outside business hours or are in a hurry, places like IGA Extra and MÉTRO generally offer a better variety of wine than the local dépanneur.

The selection of beer to be found in grocery stores and even the humble corner store have exploded in the last decade in and around greater Montreal. Two micro-breweries, in particular, are world-class: McAuslan (brands include St-Ambroise and Griffon) and Unibroue (Belgian-style ales such as Blanche de Chambly, Maudite, La Fin du Monde, as well as simpler, more affordable U lagers). Boréale makes a good, if unspectacular range of brews, while Rickard's and Alexander Keith's domestics are gaining popularity among locals. Most stores also sell a few major imports such as Stella Artois, Sapporo, Guinness, Leffe and of course, Heineken.

Bars

Montreal has three main strips for bar-hopping. Rue Crescent, in the western part of downtown, caters mostly to Anglophones and tourists. It tends to be trendy and expensive. On the edge of the bar-heavy Plateau, Boulevard Saint-Laurent gets extremely busy when McGill and Concordia students are back in town for a new session. Between rue Sherbrooke and avenue des Pins you'll find trendy clubs and bars with more of a Francophone clientele. Farther up St-Laurent, it's relatively downscale and linguistically mixed. Rue Saint-Denis, between rue Sherbrooke and de Maisonneuve, is the strip with the strongest Francophone feel. There are also many good bars away from the main strips, like on Avenue Mont-Royal, and even nowadays on Rue Masson et Rue Ontario in the eastern part of town. You should never have to line up to go have a drink because there's virtually an unlimited choice. Depending on the day of the week, the best events vary. For example, on Tuesday you should go to Les Foufounes Électriques for cheap beer and a unique experience in a Montréal institution.

Dance clubs

Dance clubs can be found all over the downtown area, with hotspots on boulevard Saint-Laurent and rue Crescent.

  • Time Supper Club, 997 rue St Jacques. The first Supper Club in the city, Time Supper Club starts as a restaurant and slowly turns into a night club.
  • Saphir, 3699 Boulevard Saint-Laurent. Goth and punk nights on two floors.
  • La Boom, 1254 rue Stanley. One of the trendiest club in Montreal. Be well-dressed and have a well-dressed wallet.
  • Cafe Campus, 57 rue Prince-Arthur est. Best known for its Tuesday night pitchers, retro music, and lack of memories.
  • Club Tokyo, 3709 St-Laurent. Dress to impress. Offers various rooms with comfortable couches and an outdoor terrasse. Plays a mix of club music/retro/hip hop that will keep you dancing all night long.
  • Altitude 737, 1 boulevard Rene-Lévesque. Expensive lounge club and restaurant located in the penthouse of Place Ville-Marie (the skyscraper with the rotating beacon whose lights are viewable 50 km around); offers a unique view of the city's skyline. Has a large rooftop terrace.
  • Muzique 3781 Boulevard Saint-Laurent. Montreal's new high-end destination, 2 rooms and a rooftop patio overlooking Mount Royal
  • La Tulipe4530 Papineau Ave

After-hours clubs

After-hours clubs, for those who aren't tired out by 3 AM. Note that they do not, by law, serve alcohol at this time.

  • Stereo, 858 rue Sainte-Catherine est. Mainly plays house music and occasionally trance/techno. Stereo was once voted #5 of the top 10 clubs in the world by Muzik magazine, as it has welcomed several of the top DJs from around the world. The venue is known to have one of the best sound systems in North America. The crowd is mostly gay/lesbian depending on the night, the age ranges between 20-35, and is often at full capacity. A great place to end the night if you're still not tired after 2 AM.
  • Circus, 915 rue Sainte-Catherine est. Electronica and hip-hop. The most recent and most luxuriously decorated after-hour in Montreal. Lots of space and hidden corners. The crowd is a bit younger (18-25), and doesn't always pack to full capacity. The venue had welcomed a number of big DJs such as Tiesto in 2005.

Karaoke

  • Pang Pang Karaoke Bar, 1226 rue Mackay. 514-938-8886. Very comfy rooms in a range of sizes can be hired by the hour.
  • K-Karaoke, 2110 Rue Crescent. 514-903-7799. Large rooms with clean decoration.
  • K-100, 1231, rue Sainte-Catherine O. 514-284-4288. Many rooms. Can be hired by the hour or at a happy hour rate.

Gay and lesbian

Montreal has as many gay and lesbian bars as San Francisco and every October on Canadian Thanksgiving (Columbus Day in the U.S.) hosts the "Black and Blue" circuit party, attracting thousands to enjoy the thrill of harder dance music and hordes of pretty, shirtless men. Most popular gay bars can be found in the city's Gay Village, located on the eastern stretch of Ste-Catherine and easily accessible by the Beaudry metro, between Amherst and Papineau. Unity, Parking (now moved and named Apollon), and Sky are the dance club favorites, while Cabaret Mado offers excellent drag performances. There are also numerous pubs, male strippers, restaurants, saunas, and karaoke in the area. The four main strippers bars are Stock, Campus, Taboo, and Adonis. The most popular sauna is Oasis. A good place to start any search is with this gay owned and operated link 24 for Montreal, Quebec, Canada with gay travel info in easy-to-use listings as a directory.

Shopping in Montreal, Canada


Although Montreal's economy has been booming in recent years, the city remains remarkably affordable compared to other major cities in Canada and the United States. Shopping in Montreal ranges from eclectic budget stores to high-end fashion, with a wide spectrum in between.

General

Rue Ste-Catherine, between rue Guy and boulevard St-Laurent, has many of the big department and chain stores as well as a few major malls. Avenue Mont-Royal has funky consignment and gothic clothing stores from boulevard St-Laurent to rue Saint-Denis and a mixed bag of neighborhood stores, used record shops, and gentrified boutiques heading east towards avenue Papineau. Rue St-Viateur is one of the city's most interesting streets, with its amazingly varied range of businesses crammed into the short stretch between Boulevard St-Laurent and Avenue du Parc.

St-Laurent remains one of the city's prime shopping streets, more or less along its whole length. Just about anything can be found there, with different blocks having different clusters of businesses (Asian groceries and housewares near de La Gauchetière, cheap electronics a little farther up, hip boutiques between Prince-Arthur and Mount Royal, anything and everything Italian between Saint-Zotique and Jean-Talon). Rue Sherbrooke Ouest, west of the Autoroute Décarie, boasts an increasingly interesting concentration of largely food-oriented businesses. Jean-talon market, located near the intersection of Jean-talon and St-Laurent boasts a wide variety of local produce and food products (maple syrup, cheese, etc.) at very good prices.

For electronic stuff, the largest chain store is FutureShop. You can also find many smaller ones on Boulevard St Laurent (between Ontario and Sherbrooke).

Budget

They are options for budget people, traveler or other:

  • Village des Valeurs, 2033 Pie IX (Métro Pie IX). They have multiple shops inside and outside of Montreal
  • Le coffre aux trésors "Chainon", 4375 Boulevard St Laurent (Métro Sheerbrooke).
  • L'Aubainerie Concept Mode, 1490, av du Mont-Royal E (metro mont royal).
  • Friperie St. Laurent, Friperie St. Laurent, ☎ +1 514-842-3893.

For trekking and outdoor, you also have many options

  • MEC, 8989, boulevard de l'Acadie, Montréal, ☎ +1 514-788-5878.
  • Altitude Sports, 4140 Saint-Denis St., Montreal (Métro Mont-Royal).
  • La cordée, rue ste catherine.
  • Kanuk, 485 Rachel St E, Montreal.

Luxury

Trendier boutiques can be found on rue Saint-Denis, north of rue Sherbrooke and south of avenue Mont-Royal est, as well as rue Saint-Laurent (continuing as far north as Bernard). The latter is in the process of becoming more upscale, so the range of shopping is highly variable and lower in density as one goes north of Mont-Royal. Rue Sherbrooke itself has a number of high-end stores (notably Holt Renfrew) and commercial art galleries in a short strip running approximately from McGill University west to rue Guy. Farther west, Sherbrooke intersects with Greene Avenue in Westmount, which boasts a short, but luxurious retail strip. Avenue Laurier, between St-Laurent and its western end, is one of the city's prime spots for eating and shopping in high style, though there are still a few affordable spots here and there.

Furniture and antiques

On boul. St-Laurent, a cluster of high-end home furnishing stores has grown up in recent years. It starts roughly at the corner of rue Marie-Anne and is very prominent in the block between rue Marie-Anne and avenue Mont-Royal, with sparser, but still interesting stores as far north as rue Saint Viateur. Antique buffs will find interesting stores all over the city, but they'll want to make a special pilgrimage to rue Notre-Dame est when you head east from avenue Atwater. Rue Amherst, in the Gay Village, also has a significant concentration of antique dealers.

Safety in Montreal, Canada


For emergencies call 9-1-1.
Although Montreal is Canada's second largest city, it shares Canada's low violent crime rates making it relatively safe. However, property crimes, including car theft, are remarkably high: make sure to lock your doors and keep your valuables with you. Take extra care if you want to visit Montréal-Nord or Saint-Michel. These neighborhoods are the worst of the city and shootings are not unheard of in these areas. There is, however, little for tourists to do and they are unlikely to enter by accident.

Part of Montreal's Sainte-Catherine downtown corridor is arguably the grittiest part of the city, especially east of Place des Arts. There are homeless people panhandling during the summer and fall. Although most of them are polite, there are some that are more aggressive. Avoid individuals wandering on the streets that appear intoxicated. The street is at its most dangerous around 03:00 when closing clubs and bars empty their drunken crowds into the street. You may also come across occasional pockets of street prostitution, especially around strip clubs.

In Montreal, pickpockets are not very common, but keep an eye on things when watching street performances in the Old City or in other crowds.
If you are concerned about safety on the metro, use the first metro car where the driver is. Emergency intercoms are on every metro car. Emergency phone booths are on every platform throughout the metro system, which is generally safe. While written instructions are in both English and French, most announcements (usually about delays) are in French only so if you think you heard something in the announcement that may affect you, just try asking a fellow passenger for a translation.

The STM offers a "between stops" (entre deux arrêts) service that allows women traveling alone at night to get off the bus between two regularly designated stops if the bus driver feels they can stop the bus safely.
Pedestrians and bike-riders should be especially careful. Crosswalks are rarely respected. Motorists have a general contempt for pedestrians, especially when they are trying to make a right turn at an intersection.
Wasps are a considerable menace during the height of summer. Consider carrying vinegar on your person in case of stings to help neutralize the sting. 

Weather
Montreal is often icy and cold in winter, be careful by dressing appropriately for the conditions and be mindful of ice or snow anytime you are driving or walking. Street clearing of snow is generally effective. Summers are warm to hot and can be quite humid. Being surrounded by rivers adds to this effect.

Language spoken in Montreal, Canada


The official language of the province of Quebec is French. Although Montreal has a long history of being a bilingual English and French city, French continues to be the primary language of the city. There is a sizeable community of Anglophones (English as their mother tongue) and Allophones (a language other than English or French as their mother tongue). For this reason, 53.4% of the population is bilingual in English and French. In recent years, many of the immigrants who settle in Montreal already come from French-speaking countries, so you will notice many of the diverse ethnic groups speaking in French.
Road signs, billboards, and metro announcements are only in French. However, services can be provided in both English in French in many restaurants, hotels, museums, taxis, etc.
As French is the official language of business, you will usually be greeted in French. So even if you don't speak French, it's a good idea to know basic French phrases such as "bonjour", "merci", and "bonne journée" as a sign of politeness. In neighborhoods that have many anglophones and/or tourists, you are more likely to encounter English spoken. In these neighborhoods, even if all of the signs are written in French, you may be surprised to hear that most people are speaking in English. All signs must be in French due to language laws.
If you are caught in a situation where you cannot communicate in French, it's often easy to find someone who is bilingual. Just ask "est-ce que vous parlez anglais?".
The French in Quebec is not a different language - it is still standard French. However, it has its own unique pronunciation, expressions, and vocabulary dating largely from 17th century France. This may make listening to a challenge to those who are not accustomed to it. It is not by any means a "fake French", and be warned not to call it this as it is quite insulting to Quebecers. Quebec French is simply an older French.

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