Bienvenue à Montreal! Montreal, Canada is the largest French-speaking city outside France. The city is located on the Island of Montreal which sits amid three rivers: the mighty St. Lawrence, the Rivière des Prairies and the Ottawa. It is this spectacular location that makes Montreal so irresistible and charming. From picturesque landscapes to weathered walls with exciting stories to tell, Montreal opens the door for you to explore its grace and elegance, past and present.
Demographics show that Montreal residents come from 80 countries, forming many vibrant ethnic communities and neighbourhoods. Historically Montreal has been split right in half, The main – St Laurent Boulevard being the dividing line between English and French Montreal, with the French predominating to the east and the English to the west. Today this separation is no longer rigid, but there are still distinct English and French speaking areas. In the east end, Francophones reside in tightly packed districts that stretch all the way to the Olympic Park and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, while the Anglos are more noticeable in the suburb of Westmount as you move west. "Cosmopolitan" is the adjective most used in describing Montreal. All in all, bilingualism is a part of Montreal’s strong cultural tradition and you can feel it in the city’s art, music, literature and innovative technology.
While the city’s official language is French, Montreal is easy to get around for both English and French speakers. Thanks to the constant influx of immigrants, it’s not uncommon for residents to speak not one or two, but three languages in their daily life. French is one of 35 languages you will hear on the streets of this cosmopolitan city. Road signs are in French and occasionally in English. English on any signage will always be in smaller print. Menus in restaurants are usually bilingual. But don't worry; Montrealers are used to visitors who only speak English. It won't hurt to learn a few basic French words or phrases and use them. The locals will quickly ascertain that you don't speak French but will appreciate you making an effort. If you are moving to Montreal to work you will need a good level of both French and English.
Montreal has a semi-continental climate, just like many other Canadian cities, with warm, humid summers and cold winters. Due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, the climate gives changeable weather throughout the year. Compared to the cities in northern Canada, Montreal's general climate is warmer, with average highs of 26° Celsius in the summer and lows of -5° Celsius in the winter.
Montreal is in the Eastern Time Zone of North America. The Eastern Daylight Time Zone which is Greenwich Mean Time minus 4 hours. When Daylight Savings Time ends in winter, Montreal will be Greenwich Mean Time minus 5 hours.
Montreal has an extensive and accessible public transportation system. The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) and the Agence Métropolitaine de Transport cover the entire island with a network of buses, Canada's longest subway system and trains. Montreal has a reputation as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. A large network of bike paths makes cycling a fast and safe option. Why not take advantage of the hugely popular BIXI public bike share system? The BIXI system operates between May and November with easy access around the city centre for a small fee.
Flights to Montreal will land at Montréal–Trudeau International Airport which is located on the Island of Montreal, 20 km from Montreal's downtown area. The airport has a flight network with many Canadian and International airports. The 747 bus line service runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, between the Montréal-Trudeau airport and the central bus station in Montreal. Contact [email protected] for cheap flights to Montreal.
Jobs available in Montreal include office support and IT, Engineering, Finance, Sales, Marketing and other sectors. In most cases working in Montreal will require a high level of French fluency. Check the Go4less online jobs boards for Montreal jobs!
There are hostels and some cheap hotels in Montreal to stay in the first few days while you search for longer term accommodation. Parc Suites Hotel and Alexandrie Hostel at are highly rated.
As a general rule, the Western side of the city is more English speaking and the East side is almost exclusively French.
An unusual thing to note when house hunting in Quebec is that apartments and houses are described by the total number of rooms they have and the bathroom added as half a room. So, an apartment with one bedroom, a sitting room, kitchen and a bathroom is a 3½, while a house with three bedrooms, a sitting room, kitchen and a bathroom is a 5½. Properties for rent are not always advertised online so it’s best to visit your chosen area and look out for ‘To rent’ or ‘à louer’ signs outside the buildings.
Areas close to downtown to consider for renting include the popular Plateau-Mont-Royal, Griffintown which is traditionally seen as an Irish community, around Mc Gill University is awash with students, Westmount which is largely English orientated and Côte-des-Neiges which is so multi-cultural that neither English nor French are dominant. Rents for a one bedroom apartment are from $500-900 and a room in a shared house starts from $300 per month.
For first timers in Montreal, the main tourist information centre, or Infotouriste Centre, will help you get orientated in the city. Located at the corner of Peel and Ste-Catherine in downtown Montreal, the office is well equipped with brochures, maps and information not only for Montreal but also Quebec.
With 40% of Quebec residents having links to the Emerald Isle, the Irish are well thought of here in Montreal. Even the shamrock has magically made its way onto the city’s flag. The Montreal Shamrocks GAA Club and the Montreal Irish Rugby Football Club are two of the biggest Irish sporting clubs in the city and they are incredibly popular with new visitors from Ireland. Both of these clubs play a very important role in the cultural and sporting life of the Irish community here in Montreal.
Old Montreal, located southeast of downtown, is the oldest part of the city where you can find the historical buildings of Montreal. The Sainte-Sulpice Seminary dates back to the late 17th Century. You can go for a history lesson at the Pointe-à-Callière Museum of Archaeology and History or watch jugglers, musicians and magicians perform on the lively Place Jacques-Cartier with a drink in hand. Then, stroll over to the Quays of the Old Port which is now one of the city's hottest spots for nightlife. In Summer, cyclists, roller-bladers and pedal-boats make the harbour front a hive of activity while in Winter, ice-skaters flock to a mile-long giant ice rink.
As Canada's most densely populated area, Plateau Mont-Royal, simply known as the Plateau, is the best window to view the real Montreal. Here you'll see winding wrought-iron staircases, old-style stone masonry, designer fashion boutiques, funky handcraft stores and small BYOW (bring your own wine) restaurants. Surrounded by grand colourful houses, tree-shaded streets and perfectly groomed parks, the Plateau is home to an eclectic mix of artists, students, young professionals and young families with various cultures and languages.
In the eastern shadow of Mount Royal, you'll find Saint-Laurent Boulevard or "the Main". This is where Montreal's ethnic cultures meet under historical buildings. Heading south on the Main, you'll get to Prince-Arthur Street where street performers, artists and musicians light up the blocks of terraces and restaurants. Walking along the Prince-Arthur Street, you'll encounter the architecturally rich Square Saint-Louis with its stunning 19th century homes, one of which belonged to the famous poet, Émile Nelligan. Across the Square, you'll step onto Saint-Denis Street with its attractive boutiques showcasing the contemporary fashions from Québec's popular designers.
Just a little further north from Mount Royal and you will see gardens with tomato plants and grapevines, store windows with sausages and tins of olive oil, and you will also notice the smell of espresso from cafés. These are the sights of Little Italy which is the home to Montreal's Italian community of nearly a quarter of a million people. This is definitely a foodies' heaven with renowned restaurants, fine grocery stores and most importantly, Jean-Talon Market, the largest open-air market in North America.
Safely nestled between the river and the mountain, downtown Montreal is dynamic and alive any time of day. It is an area for socialising, shopping and sight-seeing. It is also a spot for clubbing, dancing and culture. Walking through the soaring skyscrapers and heritage buildings, you will notice Sainte-Catherine Street full of shoppers, while upscale Sherbrooke Street is home to fashionable boutiques and cultural institutions such as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the McCord Museum and the Musée d'art contemporain.
No visit to Montreal is complete without a visit to the Underground City! Above-ground has been described as the tip of the urban iceberg. Directly below the city, the Underground City, or the Underground Pedestrian Network, has the world's most extensive system of interconnected pedestrian and Metro (subway) networks. It links boutiques, restaurants, hotels, office buildings, and even universities and residential apartments with 33km of passageways used by over 500,000 people per day. Perfect for Winter when you don’t want to face the cold or snow.
Just a little jump from downtown, the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district, or "HoMa" as it’s called by locals, is a great natural escape and an exciting adventure for visitors of all ages. Like most of Montreal, this area is safe and can easily be navigated by foot.
If you are an animal lover, then you'll love a tour in the Biodôme! With an amazing variety of plant and animal species, the Biodôme houses five ecosystems of the Americas – a Tropical rainforest, a Laurentian woodland, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Arctic-Antarctic Islands. While the tropical zone is especially popular within the young and the old in the winter, the penguins are absolutely a major hit for the kiddies at any time of the year.
If you are interested in botany, then don't miss out one of the world's largest and finest Montreal Botanical Garden. Thanks to its 10 exhibition greenhouses, 30 theme gardens from Chinese to Japanese, and the extensive collection of 22,000 plant species from all over the world, the Botanical Garden is a fantastic place to enjoy the charm of nature.
If history is your thing, why not take a tour around the Olympic Park - host of the 1976 Olympics - with an experienced guide who will reveal all the big and small historical secrets of this modern masterpiece. Or else, you can take a ride with the Stadium's funicular to the top of the Montreal Tower - the world's tallest inclined tower - for a spectacular view of the city.
No matter what language you speak or what interest you have, when it comes to finding something to do in the evening, Montreal has something for everyone. Each Montreal neighbourhood has a personality of its own by night. The most popular area for bars and clubs is definitely downtown, especially on rue St. Laurent and rue Crescent, which are full of dance clubs, lounges, resto-bars and supper clubs. St. Laurent is currently the busiest street for nightlife. You can find some of the most popular spots such as the supper clubs Buona Notte, Globe and Wood 35. If you are looking for a more traditional Montreal night, there are club Muzique and club Rouge. Don't miss out rue Ste-Catherine, the infamous bar and nightlife district, if you are an Irish. There is Hurley's, which is a fun Irish pub near Ste-Catherine, or try O'Regans Irish Pub which is Montreal's only Irish-owned and operated Irish pub.
Then you'll have the Old Montreal which is now becoming a major spot for trendy restaurants and upscale bars. If "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" is your thing, then you should hit the clubs like the famous Velvet, U.N., Bains Douches and Bassment. For fantastic live music and delicious signature martinis there is le Piano Rouge, a sleek piano bar.
One small tip - When planning a night out on St-Laurent, it is always a good idea to visit Montrealnightlife.ca to register for their free VIP guest list which allows you access to all the best clubs for FREE.
Montreal is known for its festivals which run one after another in the summer, but festival season never really ends, in this city there is always something to celebrate! Ranging from music to comedy to art to film to sports to fashion, Montreal hosts more than 100 events and festivals all year long. Starting with the biggest International Jazz Festival in the world in July to hear legends and discover new sounds, to the International Fireworks Festival to watch different nations compete for the most creative and exceptional shows, then followed by the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival to let your funny bone get tickled, the streets are packed with hundreds of thousands of partiers. Other popular summer crowd-pleasers include the elite Montreal Formula 1 Grand Prix and the unique Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, an international event that brings spectators to discover the music and cultures from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. The festival fever continues through the winter with the Montreal en Lumière festival, a celebration of exceptional gastronomic with wine tasting activities, shows, exhibits and concerts.