Montreal (French: Montréal) 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, has an inordinate number of attractive, fashionably dressed people, and a well-deserved reputation as one of the liveliest cities in North America. Montreal is the third-largest French-speaking city in the world, behind Paris and Kinshasa. The population of Montreal is approximately 3.6 million.
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.
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 Marie-Anne and avenue Mont-Royal, with sparser, but still interesting stores as far north as rue St-Viateur. Antique buffs will find interesting stores all over the city, but they'll want to make a special pilgrimage to rue Notre-Dame, heading east from avenue Atwater. Rue Amherst, in the Gay Village, also has a significant concentration of antique dealers.
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 St-Denis and a mixed bag of neighbourhood 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 St-Laurent and avenue du Parc. Boul.
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 St-Zotique and Jean-Talon, etc.). Rue Sherbrooke, west of the Autoroute Decarie, 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.
Trendier boutiques can be found on rue Saint-Denis, north of rue Sherbrooke and south of avenue Mont-Royal, 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. Rue 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.
- Casino de Montréal, 1, avenue du Casino (metro Jean-Drapeau).
- La Ronde, (member of the Six Flags family) 22, chemin Macdonald (metro Jean-Drapeau). $33.99, $25.99 without rides, 11- pay $20.99; Season pass for individual $85 or family $199. Discounts are readily available: A Coca-Cola tin is worth a $5 discount on any rides ticket.
- Amazing Race MontrealEver wanted to be on "The Amazing Race"? Visit Montreal in a unique way by booking one of Amazing Race Montreal's self-guided tours. Solve clues to make your way around Montreal's most interesting sites.
An interactive map of the cycle path network is available at the Vélo Québec website. Particularly pleasant places to cycle and skate include:
- Parc Maisonneuve — A large park with smooth paths.
- 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.
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.
Montreal has a bewildering variety of festivals, ranging from one-day ethnic fairs to huge international productions running two weeks or more. They are generally held in the summer and autumn, though increasingly they can be found throughout the year. Here are some of the larger ones:
- Just For Laughs Festival — Comedy festival with three main components: indoor paid shows (usually stand-up, but not always), free street theatre/comedy, and a mini film festival called Comedia. July.
- Shakespeare-in-the-Park — During the summer in parks around Montreal, Repercussion Theatre puts on outdoor performances of Shakespeare plays free of charge.
- Festival du Monde Arabe — In November, an annual festival celebrating the music and culture of the Arab world takes place in Montreal. Many Arab performers, traditional and modern, take the stage.
- Festival Mondiale de la bière — Annually, in early June: Five days of tasting beers, ciders, and other beverages from all over Quebec, Canada and further afield. 2004's event boasted over 340 different beers from 130 countries. There is no admission fee (but you can buy a souvenir sampling mug for about $8) and samples typically sell for three to four tickets ($1 a ticket) for a 150-200 ml sample. There are also scheduled musical performances and food kiosks. The festival can get very busy at peak times (Friday and Saturday evening of the event), so it is advisable to arrive early to avoid possible long queues.
- Montréal en lumière — A relatively new wintertime affair, attempting to transplant the city's festival magic to the cold season. Includes three main categories of activities: food and wine, performing arts, and free activities both indoor and outdoor. February.
- Montreal International Fireworks Competition, in La Ronde amusement park (in Parc Jean-Drapeau), 514-397-2000, email@example.com. This fantastic festival features full-length fireworks displays, accompanied by orchestral music, by national teams from about a dozen countries around the world. Although the hot seats are inside the La Ronde theme park, the fireworks are visible from pretty much any clear space or rooftop in the centre of the city. Pedestrians can watch from Jacques Cartier Bridge, which is closed from 8PM on fireworks nights. Another good spot is the promenade west of the Old Port. $35-45 (seats in La Ronde, free everywhere else). Saturdays 10PM from mid-June to late July, plus Wednesdays 10PM from mid-July on.
- Fete de St-Jean-Baptiste — June 24th is Quebec's national holiday (Fête nationale). During the evening, a huge show takes place at Maisonneuve park. This is the show to go to hear Made-in-Quebec music. Free. Street parties can also be found all over the city.
- Montreal International Jazz Festival — The world's largest jazz festival, this festival is a major international event, attracting many big name artists. Many streets in downtown Montreal are closed off to traffic for two weeks and several concert stages are set up. There are numerous free outdoor shows and indoor concerts (paid). Late June - early July.
- POP Montréal International Music Festival 514-842-1919 — A massive feast of up-and-coming bands in a variety of popular genres. In early fall, host to more than 80 events, 300+ artists, a conference, an arts fair, and more! POP Montreal showcases emerging and innovative artists alongside rising international stars and is committed to encouraging vibrant indie communities.
- Francofolies — A festival celebrating French music. Similarly to the jazz festival, many free outdoor concerts are offered in a section of downtown that is closed off to traffic for a week. June.
- MUTEK — An annual gathering, held in Montreal, during the first week of June. The MUTEK festival showcases emerging forms of electronic music and the latest trends in sound creation.
- Heavy MTL — Is billed as a two-day heavy music festival taking place in Parc Jean-Drapeau on Île Sainte-Hélène. The 2010 edition will take place 24-25 July. Confirmed artists as of February 2010 include Megadeth, Slayer, and Testament on 24 July and Korn, Rob Zombie, Lamb of God, Five Finger Death Punch, Hatebreed, Chimera, 3 Inches of Blood, Winds of Plague, Atreyu, In this Moment, and Norma Jean on 25 July.
- Osheaga Music and Arts Festival — Is a two-day indie & alternative rock festival held annually in Parc Jean-Drapeau on Île Sainte-Hélène. The 2010 edition is scheduled for July 31st and August 1st. Additionally, the Osheaga in the City concert series will take place from July 28th to July 30th
- World Film Festival — The Festival is open to all cinema trends. The eclectic aspect of its programming makes the Festival exciting for the growing number of participants from the five continents. Every year, films from more than 70 countries, including well-known and first-time filmmakers alike, are selected. There are usually free outdoor projections every night. Late August to early September.
- Fantasia (Asian and fantasy), July.
- Image + Nation (gay and lesbian), September.
- Festival du nouveau cinéma de Montréal (new filmmakers, well-known auteurs, new media), October.
- Cinémania (French cinema with English subtitles), November.
- Les Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (documentaries), November.
- Les Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois (Quebec cinema), February.
- 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.
- 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 theatre 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org). This beautiful, immense urban park tops the "mountain" (at 232 metres, 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 extention 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, (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, 1260 rue De La Gauchetière (metro Lucien-L'Allier or Bonaventure),. 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, avenue des Pins at University (playoffs: Olympic Stadium),. A dominant team in recent regular seasons, the Als have won the Grey Cup twice since being reborn in 1996, including the recent 2009 championship. 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 located at 4750 Sherbrooke street East and Viau in the Olympic Park (metro Viau),. Consistent contenders, first in the USL First Division and its current league, the USSF Division 2 Pro League (both at the U.S./Canada second level). In 2012, the Impact will become the third Canadian team in Major League Soccer.
- Tennis — Montreal hosts Master's ATP series event (men) every two years. The other year, Montreal hosts a WTA event (women),.
- Formula 1 Grand Prix — Circuit Gilles Villeneuve hosts a race of so called 'pinnacle of the motorsport' almost ever year. The best drivers of the world compete during a three days event which gathers about 100,000 spectators and is considered one on of the classics of this discipline,.
- 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 know 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.
- 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 kilometres Metro ride to the north, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve offers the Olympic Stadium, Insectarium, Jardin Botanique, and Biodôme. Allow four hours to see all four.
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 and you should make sure to lock your doors and keep your valuables with you. Take extra care if you want to visit Montréal-Nord, Saint-Michel, or other eastern parts of the island. These neighbourhoods are the worst of the city and shootings are heard of in these areas.
Part of Montreal's Ste. 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 3a.m. when closing clubs and bars empty their drunkcrowds 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. The Metro is generally safe. While written instructions are in both English and French, most announcements in the Métro are in French only so if you think you heard something in the announcement that may affect you, just ask a fellow passenger for a translation.
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. Otherwise, see below if you are allergic.
The closest hospital to the PET airport is The Lakeshore General Hospital located at 160 Stillview Avenue in Pointe Claire. If you do not have Quebec Health Insurance, be prepared to pay by credit card at the door as they do not accept traveller's insurance (but you will be reimbursed when you return home). The number is 514-630-2225.
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.