Montreal is unique amongst North American cities, comparable perhaps to New Orleans in depth and pervasiveness of European history. Visitors can enjoy a modern city with all its conveniences, outstanding shopping and dining, but also get a taste of Europe and a glimpse back into Canada's rich French heritage.
Montrealers also know how to have a good time and approach most things they do with a joie de vivre. The uncalculated chic and spontaneity of Montreal differs from Toronto, which tends to be a little stuffier.
The city of Montreal has a history dating back to 1642 when settlers from France landed at the edge of St. Lawrence River. The group, led by Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve, of Champagne, founded Ville Marie - later re-named Montreal - and began to build a model Catholic community and convert the natives. The waterside town became a major trading and military post and at one time even housed Canada's parliament.
Montreal grew inland, attracting immigrants from England, Scotland and Ireland. Today, the city is as diverse as Toronto or New York City. Seventeenth century Montreal is still apparent today in what is known as Old Montreal or Vieux-Montréal; it has retained much of its charm through cobblestone streets and original architecture.
- Montreal is about a three-hour drive west from the provincial capital, Quebec City.
- Montreal is about a six-hour drive east from Toronto and six hours north of New York City.
Montreal has one of the largest French-speaking populations in the world. Nevertheless, visitors to Montreal can get by easily only speaking English. Of course, it's nice to know a few useful French expressions when you're there.
Read in more detail about language in Canada.
Montreal has many well-known hotel chains, including several Marriott hotels, Hiltons and Fairmonts among others.
The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth is a particularly convenient as it sits above the city's main train terminal as well as subway and shops. Great location especially in cold Montreal winters when you want to stay indoors for as long as possible.
Hilton Garden Inn, opened in 2008, offers Hilton quality at a reasonable rate in a safe, central location. The Hotel Omni is a pleasant, tasteful hotel in downtown Montreal with good specials during low season.
Old Montreal has recognizable hotel names as well as small, charming boutique hotels, some of which will have a view of the St. Lawrence River.
Where to Eat in Montreal
Montreal cuisine is some of the best in Canada. From French cuisine to every other type of international cuisine, Montreal is a foodie's dream.
To find Montreal restaurants, see New York Times recommendations, including the comments section with hundreds of suggestions
Shopping in MontrealMontreal has a European chic and sophistication that makes for great shopping.
- Ste-Catherine St is the retail center of Montreal - lots of department stores, bars and restaurants. Don't miss Simons - three floors packed with stylish clothes and housewares at great prices. English is commonly spoken all along Ste-Catherine.
- Saint-Denis St & Saint-Laurent Blvd have shops with a younger edgier feel.
- Sherbrooke St runs parallel to St. Catherine a few streets north. West Sherbrooke is an upscale shopping area with designer boutiques, antique stores, and art galleries (Guy-Concordia metro stop).
- The Underground City is a sheltered complex, which covers over 12 kms in Montreal's downtown.
Montreal Events & Festivals
Getting to Montreal
- Montreal's Trudeau International Airport (Dorval) is about a 20 min drive from downtown Montreal.
- By air, Montreal is only an hour from Toronto and New York, two hours from Chicago and six hours from Paris.
- VIA Rail and AMTRAK bring visitors to Montreal's Central Station, which is connected to the Bonaventure métro station in downtown Montreal.
- Greyhound Lines serves Montreal from numerous cities in the US and Canada. Busses arrive at Montreal Bus Central Station, which is connected to the Berri-UQAM métro station.