Montreal City Guide
The city of Montreal is situated in the south of Canada’s Quebec province and is located only 37 miles (60km) from the country’s border with the USA. Montreal is the world’s largest inland port and is thus an important center for North American trade. Additionally, the city is home to several multinational corporations and is also an important destination for conventions and events.
Montreal is framed between its famed peak, Mont Royal and the St Lawrence River and was founded as a missionary village in 1642 by the French. The French continued to control the city and its environs until 1760 when the British arrived here. This resulted in a clash between the two European powers and today the city of Montreal continues to display influences of its British history and happens to be one of the world’s largest French-speaking cities located on a largely English speaking continent.
Montreal with its multicultural population mix however has much to offer for tourists on vacation in the form of more than 30 treasure filled museums, year round cultural events and festivals (the Fête des Neiges , the International Jazz Festival and the Film Festival), excellent shopping and dining options and several lush, verdant green spaces like the Parc du Mont Royal that was designed by the famed landscape artist, Frederic Olmsted, who was also responsible for the design of New York City’s much loved Central Park.
Where to stay in Montreal
Centre Ville/Downtown Hotels
Montreal’s city center is bounded by Rue Sherbrooke to the north, Boulevard René-Lévesque on the south, boulevard St-Laurent on the east, and rue Drummond on the west. This area is known as the Golden Square Mile and was once a domain of Scottish and English merchants who resided in grand mansions- that once littered the area. Most of these grand residences gave way to sky-touching skyscrapers, which were constructed here after World War II and today these towering edifices host the city’s best luxury and business hotels, corporate offices, transport hubs, department stores, restaurants and bars.
Also located within the city center is the labyrinth of underground pathways that extend over 18.5 miles and host offices, apartment buildings, stores, hotels, restaurants, cinemas, concert halls and metro stations. This subterranean city shields both locals and visitors from the ravages of Montreal’s winter as it renders the city accessible during the harsh climes.
The area of Vieux-Montreal is bordered by Rue Antoine on the north, Vieux-Port or the Old Port waterfront area to the south and Rue Berri and Rue McGill on the east and west respectively. The area contains the birthplace of Montreal near the River at Pointe-à-Callière and hosts several boutique hotels, shops, cafes, bars and the Place Jacques-Cartier, a popular hangout area during the Montreal summers.
Places to see in Montreal
Montreal is known to be home to more than 30 museums. If you are headed to Montreal anytime soon and would like to visit its many fantastic museums, you should consider investing in a Montreal Museum Pass. The Montreal Museum Pass in available in various permutations and combinations like the Montreal Museum Pass without Transit, which currently costs CAD 60 including taxes. This pass is valid for three days during a period of 21 days and can be used for a single visit to 33 Montreal museums including the Biosphere and the Botanic Gardens.
An even better value is provided by the Montreal Museums Pass that includes a Société de transport de Montréal (STM) tourist transit card, which affords you unlimited access to the bus and metro system for three consecutive days. The Montreal Museum Pass is well worth its price if you are on a short visit to this beautiful city. These passes are available at tourist offices, at the museums themselves and even online.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is a world renowned repository of fine art. This museum has been in existence for the past 140 years and has a collection that features 30,000 artworks. These artworks include contemporary art, the works of European masters, Canadian art, prints, drawings and decorative arts and much more. If you are an arts enthusiast, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts should be included as a must do attraction during your sight-seeing tourney in Montreal.
If you are concerned about the environment and passionate about living ‘green’ then Montreal’s famous attraction the Biosphere should be regarded as a must do on your itinerary. This museum and exhibition hall is housed in the world’s largest geodesic dome, which was erected in the city during Exop’67. The Biosphere includes displays that highlight the effect of fluctuating water levels on human kind amongst other interactive exhibits that aim to make the visitor aware of the major environmental issues that plague us today. The highly interactive exhibits are sure to interest children as well and a visit to the Biosphere can make for an enjoyable family outing during your vacation in Montreal.
Montreal’s summer park was built when the city hosted the Summer Olympic Games in 1976. The stadium was designed by French architect, Roger Tallibert and can accommodate 80,000 spectators. It is a popular venue for concerts and ball games. The stadium also hosts a tall tower that rises to 175metres (575 feet) and offers stunning vistas of Montreal and its environs.
The Montreal Botanic Gardens
The superb Montreal Botanic gardens are conveniently located in downtown Montreal near the Biodôme and Olympic Park. These gardens are the second largest botanical gardens in the world and encompass several lush beautifully maintained individual gardens and greenhouses. These individual structures contain a large variety of plants that have been sourced from all over the globe.
Some of the smaller gardens at the Botanical gardens include the Japanese Garden and Pavilion, the Perennial garden, the Rose Garden, the Chinese Garden and even some rather unusual gardens like the Toxic Plant Garden, the Marsh and Bog garden and the Shade Garden.
The Botanic Garden also hosts a small Insectarium, which offers displays of live and mounted insects. This attraction is especially popular with young children so if you are on a visit to Montreal with your kids, you may want to include a trip to the Montreal Botanic gardens on your itinerary. Additionally, the garden offers a mini train service for those patrons who would rather ride the train than walk around the garden.
Mont Royal Park
Yet another activity worth indulging in while on vacation in Montreal is hiking to the top of the city’s famous mound Mount Royal to take in the gorgeous vistas of the city skyline. A walk up to the summit of the over 200 meter tall peak is extremely pleasant especially during the summer months when the park located at the top of Mont Royal is a hub of activity with live entertainment et al. If you rather not walk, you can bike up to the summit or even take a bus. Walking tours of the park and its many attractions are also available and conducted in both French and English. These tours are suitable and interesting for both children and adults.
Best time to visit Montreal
Montreal is bestowed with a weather pattern that features wet, warm summers and cold snowy winters. The city receives abundant snowfall during its winter months, which are further characterized by below freezing temperatures and a strong wind chill.
Summers in Montreal feature much sunshine and pleasant days with temperatures that rarely exceed 74F (25C). Montreal’s summer months often feature much rain; though it is during these summer months (May to September) that the city hosts most of its festivals and welcomes the maximum number of tourists.
One would think that travel to Montreal would be avoided during its cold and inhospitable winter months but the city’s architectural marvel, which takes the form of its subterranean inner city, actually renders Montreal as a year round destination. Fare Buzz often announces fantastic flight deals for Montreal and if the city’s weather is not a deterrent to your travel plans, you should try and take advantage of these cheap air tickets. Moreover you should also connect with Fare Buzz on Facebook and Twitter so as to get advance information about these cheap air flights which are bound to help you save a bundle on your Montreal vacation.
Getting around in Montreal
Montreal is served by its Montreal-Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport- located 15 miles (24km) to the west of Montreal. This airport welcomes a whole host of air carriers from round the world. Montreal’s airport is connected to the city center by way of a shuttle bus and taxis. This airport shuttle bus serves most of the city’s downtown hotels.
Montreal is a well laid out city and is also equipped with an extensive and efficient public transport system made up of the bus, Metro and commuter rail services. The city also has an abundant fleet of taxis, which can be hailed in the street or ordered on the phone.
Most visitors who come on vacation in Montreal choose to avail of its public transport system rather than hire a car for their stay in the city.
Traffic conditions in the city are not the most ideal and Montreal’s city streets are often congested and gridlocked with traffic, which makes navigating its streets quite challenging for a visitor to the city.
Where to shop in Montreal
Like any urban metropolis, Montreal offers a plethora of shopping opportunities. The city is home to burgeoning fashion industry that has its origins in fur and leather products. Montreal is equipped with several shopping locales like Crescent Street( home to hip boutiques and cafes), Rue Sherbrooke ( luxury goods stores, art galleries and the famed Holt Renfrew department store), Rue Ste-Catherine and Rue St-Paul in Vieux-Montreal.)
Where to eat in Montreal
Montreal is equipped with a wide variety of restaurants that offer fine French dining as well as native Quebecoise comfort eats like Poutine ( frites with gravy), pizzaghetti (pizza topped with spaghetti) and smoked meat sandwiches (Schwartz's, a deli on Montreal’s Saint-Laurent Boulevard is renowned for its delicious smoked meat sandwiches). However the many Montreal restaurants offer a wide array of diverse cuisines and some of the best restaurants in Montreal according to recent dining surveys include eateries like Aix Cuisine de Terroir, Globe, Toqué!, June I, Beaver Club, Gibby’s, Moishes and Chez L’Epicier.
Nightlife in Montreal
Montreal offers a varied and thriving nightlife scene that features Irish pubs, neighborhood bars, trendy lounges and thumping dance clubs. Popular nightlife haunts in Montreal currently include joints like the Wunderbar at the W hotel, Suite 701, Club 1234, Stereo, Jello Bar, Foufounes Electrique, Upstairs Jazz Bar and Grille, Hurley’s Irish Pub and Sir Winston Churchill Pub Complex.