Montreal (French: Montréal) is the cultural 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. Montréal is the third-largest French-speaking city in the world, behind Paris and Kinshasa. The population of Montreal is approximately 3.6 million.
Old Montreal — The historic and (dare we say it) quaint riverfront Old Town and Old Port.
Downtown — Sky scrapers, shopping, and museums.
Quartier Latin — Restaurants, boutiques, cafes, pubs.
The Plateau — Covering McGill Ghetto, upper St-Laurent, St-Denis, and Mont Royal Ave. Don't forget Mile-End.
Gay Village — Clubs, clothes, and culture in North America's largest gay district.
Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie — Little Italy and Jean-Talon market.
Westmount — Upscale anglophone neighborhood.
Hochelaga-Maisonneuve — Olympic Park, Botanical Gardens.
Côtes-des-Neiges — Multicultural neighborhood northwest of the mountain.
Outremont — Bagels and bistros.
Parc Jean-Drapeau — The islands of Ile Ste-Helene and Ile Notre Dame and the Montreal Casino.
South West — Including Lachine canal, Atwater Market (a must!), St. Henri, and the emerging culinary hot-spot, Petite-Bourgogne.
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 Mohawk 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 Sulpician mission by Paul Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve. It soon became a centre 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 '30s 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 centre of culture, arts, computer technology, aerospace, the biotech industry, and media for all of Canada and for the French-speaking world.
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 in downtown the St Lawrence River is “south” and Mt. 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 north-west and Autoroute 40 east runs north-east.
Montreal is an extremely inviting destination for gay and lesbian tourists and it is arguably the most gay-friendly city in North America other than San Francisco. Canada's contributions to gay rights have recently become widely known, but Quebec was the first province in Canada to pass a non-discrimination law for sexual orientation and to provide same-sex civil unions. Same-sex marriage is legal in Quebec (neither residency nor citizenship are required for a marriage license, but there is a three-week waiting period after you receive the licence) as well as in the rest of Canada. Canadian and Quebec immigration law allow residents to sponsor their same-sex partners or spouses.
Montreal itself is a very safe, open, and inviting city. It has the largest gay village in North America (rue Sainte-Catherine from rue Saint-Hubert (métro Berri-UQAM) to avenue Papineau (métro Papineau). The métro station halfway between the two, Beaudry, is marked with rainbow pillars. Montreal's pride celebration, Divers/Cité(last week of July, first week of August) is the second-largest in North America after Toronto's.
Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport (IATA : YUL) (formerly Dorval Airport) is about half an hour west of the city center on highway 20. Note that travel time to the airport from the city center can be as much as an hour, depending on traffic. The airport is served by all major Canadian and U.S. airlines and is a major hub for Air Canada , Air Transat , and WestJet . There are multiple daily trans-Atlantic flights to and from (amongst others) London, Amsterdam, Paris, Geneva, Zurich, Athens, Frankfurt, Rome, Madrid, Lisbon, Munich, Moscow, Cairo, and Casablanca.
The taxi fare to and from downtown is a fixed price of $38 (a sticker on the window behind the driver gives the boundaries of the zone where the flat fare applies; for origins and destinations outside this zone, you will have to pay a metered fare). The Aérobus is a shuttle running from Dorval to the aérogare Centre-ville (777 De La Gauchetière, angle rue University) and to the city's inter-city bus station, Station Centrale (505 boul De Maisonneuve East, above the Berri-UQAM métro station), via a number of downtown hotels. It departs roughly every 30 minutes (9AM to 9PM) and every hour from 7AM to 1AM. Adult tickets are $16CAD one-way; a return (round-trip) ticket is $26CAD.
Alternatively, public bus number 204 (STM ) leaves from outside arrivals every half hour to Gare Dorval (Dorval train station - check with the driver which direction he is going in, as both bus routes stop at the same place and make sure to ask for a transfer as you will need it later). From Dorval, you can use your transfer ticket to catch bus number 211 or express bus number 221 to the Lionel-Groulx métro. Make sure it is going east as the same routes go west too. Your transfer will then let you into the métro. This costs only $2.75, but exact change must be provided to the first driver.
Another option is to take the VIA Rail AirConnect service from the airport terminal to downtown by shuttle and train. This service runs infrequently, but costs only $11. The same trip can be made on the AMT commuter train for $4.25 from Dorval Station. The public bus ($2.75) from the airport arrives here for busses to the nearest metro station as well.
The Montreal region is also served by Plattsburgh International Airport in Plattsburgh, New York, on the U.S. side of the border, about one hour away by car. Domestic US flights to Plattsburgh can be cheaper than international flights to Canada.
From Toronto, take Highway 401 east about five hours until it becomes Autoroute 20 on the Quebec side of the border. Highway 20 takes about an hour to get to downtown. Be alert for frequent speed-limit changes along this road. To reach downtown follow the Centre-Ville signs and take Highway 720 (Highway 20 continues over the Pont Champlain bridge to the South Shore).
From Ottawa, it's about two hours east along Highway 417 (which becomes the 40 in Quebec) to Montreal.
From Quebec City, it's about 2.5-3.5 hours west on either Highway 40 or 20.
From New York City, take Interstate Freeway 87 north through Albany and the eastern half of New York State for about six hours. After the border crossing near Plattsburgh, the freeway becomes Highway 15, which leads directly into downtown Montreal over the Pont Champlain, the most beautiful approach to the city. The drive time from Plattsburgh to downtown Montreal is approximately one hour.
From Boston, take Interstate Highway 93 to Highway 89 in Bow, New Hampshire, through Vermont to the border crossing near Burlington, where it turns into Highway 133, then Highway 35, which intersects Highway 10, which taken west leads directly into downtown Montreal. The whole trip takes between six and seven hours.
Montreal Central Station (Gare Centrale) is at 895 De La Gauchetière West, one block west of rue University, and is served by the Bonaventure metro (subway) station.
VIA Rail Canada operates fast and comfortable passenger trains from Montreal along the busy Quebec-Ontario corridor and to destinations in northern Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. All fares below are five-day advance booking prices for one-way travel in "Comfort" (coach / economy) class, expect to pay almost 50% more if you book on the day of travel. "VIA-1" (first / business) class is available for a premium and includes a meal, alcoholic refreshments, snacks, and pay-per-use wireless internet in both station lounges and on board the train. An ISIC student card can obtain a discount on all services (both VIA and Amtrak).
Five trains a day operate to and from Ottawa (two hours, from $35).
Six trains a day operate to and from Toronto (four and a half hours, from $85).
Five trains a day operate to and from Quebec City (three hours, from $47).
Six evenings a week, VIA's "Ocean" service departs for the overnight journey to New Brunswick (fifteen and a half hours, from $110 coach, $162 upper berth, $219 bedroom) and Nova Scotia (twenty hours, from $133 coach, $187 upper berth, $245 bedroom). The choice of sleeping accommodation varies according to the season. Along with trains between Montreal and Quebec, the Ocean is now almost exclusively operated by modern Renaissance trains that were originally built for the aborted Channel Tunnel sleeper services between Great Britain and France.
Three evenings a week, the Ocean also pulls the "Chaleur" train as far as Matapedia. The train divides in the early morning and the Chaleur follows the southern shore of the Gaspé peninsular as far as Gaspe (seventeen and a half hours, from $106 coach, $165 upper berth, $215 bedroom).
VIA also offers three weekly round trips to Senneterre, in Abitibi (eleven and a half hours, from $81), and Jonquière in the Saguenay (nine hours, from $55). Both trains operate as wilderness services: a request stop may be made at any point along the route for those who want to hike and kayak in the remoter regions of Quebec that the train passes through.
Amtrak's 'Adirondack' service to New York (11 hours, from $61) departs daily, with connections in Schenectady to (but not from) Chicago (twenty-four hours, USD$114) and in New York to Philadelphia (14 hours, USD$97) and Washington, DC (16 hours, $120). The train also passes through much of upstate New York and hugs Lake Champlain for a large part of the trip. South of Albany, the route follows the Hudson River and passes a number of historic sites. Reliability of the service has improved greatly since an extra hour was added to the previous 10-hour schedule, however one should still factor in the possibility of arriving an hour later than scheduled.
The journey to New York is cheaper but slower than by bus (see below), which takes 7-9 hours, but the superior comfort, extra legroom and ability to walk around the train and visit the cafe car for food and drink at your leisure, as well as the good view from the train of the Lake Champlain and Hudson River scenery, make up for this. While the bus is superior in terms of speed for a direct journey to New York, where getting for A to B is most important, the extra time on the train is more pleasantly spent in terms of comfort and scenery.
Amtrak sadly no longer offers a Thruway Motor Coach connection from Montreal to St-Albans, Vermont, and the Vermonter service, and with it the opportunity to link to Boston by rail; a Boston-bound passenger will as a result be better off traveling by Greyhound instead.
There are extensive services to Montreal from cities in Ontario, Quebec, New York, Vermont, and Maine. Buses arrive and depart from the Station Centrale d'autobus (not to be confused with the Gare Centrale or central train station) at 505 boulevard De Maisonneuve Est, (directly above the Berri-UQÀM métro station). Call 514-842-2281 for schedules and prices.
Intercity bus services to Montreal are offered by Coach Canada (regular fares: ; sale fares to certain cities only: ), Adirondack Trailways , Greyhound Canada , Greyhound Lines , Vermont Transit , Voyageur , TheLuxBus , and Orléans Express . Orléans Express is the principal bus carrier in the St. Lawrence valley, including the Montreal—Quebec City route. Its sister company Acadian Lines provides connections from eastern Quebec to destinations in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Voyageur, a subsidiary of Greyhound Canada, provides service to Ottawa, connecting with other bus routes to points in western Canada. Coach Canada provides service to Toronto, connecting with other bus routes to western New York, southern Ontario, Michigan and Illinois. Other regions of Quebec are served by various companies. A map of the intercity routes and carriers in Quebec can be found on Intercar's site .
Greyhound Lines offers three daily direct services and Adirondack Trailways offers two daily direct services, from New York, with additional trips operated on weekends and in summer (eight hours, from $76.50USD). Vermont Transit, a subsidiary of Greyhound Lines, offers four daily direct services from Boston, though Vermont Transit is now operating under the name of Greyhound Lines (seven hours, from $72USD). Note that there is no student discount on the Montreal-New York service. TheLuxBus also offers service from New York.
The train is slower, but significantly cheaper; around $62 compared to $70-80 for the bus. However, for $10-15 extra for the bus makes for a much faster journey with a much quicker passage through customs; so for speed the bus is far superior; but for comfort and scenery, the longer train journey is more pleasantly spent.
Montreal is an island in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River, accessible only by bridge. Not all bridges are bike accessible, however, several are including the breathtaking Jacques Cartier bridge. Prominent bike lanes exist throughout the city, most notably along the Lachine Canal, Rue Rachel and most recently along de Maisonneuve Blvd. However, bike theft is rampant, especially in the Plateau. Most locals can recall at least one time of observing a bike theft; many have seen rows of bikes pilfered at a time. It is not uncommon to have somebody offer you a stolen bike for sale on the street. Be equally aware of the peripheral articles of your bicycle; seats, baskets, and wheels can often be easily detached if not properly secured to the bike's frame.
The airport is on the western part of the island. From the main terminal, exit onto the main access road and turn right. Wind along the access road until the first major interchange and turn right. You will reach Albert de Niverville Boulevard and be forced to turn left (south) towards the main highway (Autoroute 20). At the end of this Boulevard, turn right on Cardinal Avenue. To your right, you will come to a pedestrian underpass that takes you under the railway tracks and leads to the Dorval Circle, a very busy traffic circle. This looks intimidating, but the traffic lights will allow you to ride safely under Autoroute 20 to Dorval Boulevard (Boulevard Dorval). Continue south down Dorval Boulevard until the end. Turn left on Lakeshore Drive (Chemin Lakeshore) towards the city. This road turns into Boulevard St. Joseph. You will eventually come to a bike path to your right that winds along the shores of Lac-Saint Louis (part of the Saint Lawrence river) through the town of Lachine. Continue down this path until you reach the entrance of the Lachine Canal. Cross the canal and continue down the Lachine Canal Bike Path (Piste Cyclable Canal Lachine) and follow the signs to the Old Port (Vieux Port) in Old Montreal (Vieux Montreal). The Lachine Canal Bike Path can be quite busy on weekends and holidays, so be ready to take your time. It is paved over its entire length.
Cyclist approaching Montreal from the west should take secondary highways to Dorion, where Autoroute 20, inaccessible to bicycles over most of of its length, becomes accessible as it crosses bridges first to Île Perrot (Perrot Island) and then to the Island of Montreal (at Saine-Anne-de-Bellevue). Bicycles should use the sidewalk on these bridges as traffic is usually heavy. From here, cyclists may take Lakeshore Boulevard and the Lachine Canal Bike Path (see Airport section above) to Old Montreal and the downtown core.
The Isle-aux-Tourtes Bridge on Autoroute 40 is not accessible by bicycle.
The surest (but not foolproof) way is using the sidewalk Jacques Cartier Bridge. When it is not closed for repairs, it is open year round and all day. A paved bike path along the shores of the Saint Lawrence River provides the most scenic approach to the bridge. As of July 2007, the sidewalk is closed for repairs .
An equally popular route is from the Saint Lambert Locks (Ecluses Saint-Lambert) of the Saint Lawrence Seaway near the Victoria Bridge (Pont Victoria) east of Montreal. The bike drawbridge may be blocked by the entertaining spectacle of a ship passing through the seaway. From here, cyclists take the Grand Prix racing track (Gilles-Villeneuve circuit) on Île Notre Dame to the Concord Bridge to Montreal. This route is closed sometimes for car racing events . In this case, cyclists can take a circuitous detour down a gravel causeway dividing the seaway and river to the Estacade, an ice boom that crosses the river parallel to the Champlain Bridge to Nun's Island and eventually Montreal. A lesser known crossing involves one at the Sainte Catherine Locks (Ecluses Sainte-Catherine) at Saint Catherine south of Montreal. These bridges cross the seaway to the same causeway as the Saint Lambert locks. In this case, the road to the Estacade ice boom is paved. These bike links from the South Shore are open from 15 April to 15 November, from 6:30AM to 10:00PM. .
The Champlain Bridge, Mercier bridge, and Lafontaine Tunnel are definitely inaccessible to bicycles. These can be dangerous, even in a car.
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 Saint-XXX Ouest" (west) or "rue Saint-XXX 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. Don't try to navigate by looking at the sun!
Walking is a favoured way to get around the densely packed downtown and the narrow streets of Old Montreal, especially during the warmer months. However, beware during the winter months, because 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 centres, and office complexes.
Jaywalking is widespread and rarely punished. However, be aware that drivers will usually not stop or 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' reputation for aggressiveness, they generally respect pedestrians.
Saint Catherine Street (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 Saint Catherine around Crescent and Bishop streets, catering to a mostly English-speaking clientele. Saint Denis Street (Rue Saint-Denis), further east, and the Gay Village between Berri and de Lormier even further to the east are mostly French-speaking. McGill College Boulevard in the downtown core from Saint Catherine Street 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.
Prince Arthur Street (Rue Prince-Arthur), east of Saint-Laurent, is pedestrian only. Another pedestrian-only locale is Montreal's Chinatown, situated on Rue de la Gauchtiere 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 Peel Street (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 , an 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.
Driving (SAAQ ) in Montreal can be a challenge for many North American motorists. Although turning right on a red light is authorized across Quebec (except at intersections where a sign indicates this is not permitted), rights on reds are strictly prohibited on the island of Montreal. The stop lights at most of downtown intersections are located on the far end of the intersection, not at the actual stop line.
The use of salt to provide grip 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 until 9PM, including statutory Holidays. Parking tickets can only be contested in court 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. Car parking downtown costs $3 an hour at parking meters or $25 per day at commercial parking lots.
North — Nord, East — Est, South — Sud, West — Ouest, Exit — Sortie, Bridge — Pont
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 signs that might appear on the banks of snow on the sidewalk and listen out for horn sirens. This is the announcement that a street is about to be cleared and that all parked cars should be moved. If you do not move your car, it will likely be towed to the nearest street with space (with a $100 fine) or it could be impounded. 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 go. Most left turns are prohibited, although a flashing green light indicates a left-turn priority. Autoroutes (expressways or freeways) can be challenging for visitors, as signs are mostly in French.
Cycling and in-line skating are very popular once the cold winter weather is over. The city is criss-crossed by 660km of well-maintained 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, Ile Notre Dame, or via the Estacade ice bridge from Nun's Island.
Even if you are on a bike path, beware of drivers as they are not always aware that there are bikes around. Some downtown bike paths are separated from the road by parked cars, which decreases your visibility. If one is comfortable driving in Montreal, one generally can feel comfortable biking there as well. While wearing a helmet is not required under the law, it is highly recommended.
As of May 2009, the has been introduced. These are communal bikes you can rent with a Visa card. For $5, you can use Bixi bikes as much as you like for 24 hours, provided you don't use it more than 30 minutes at a time. There are some 200 Bixi stations around: the tourist information center has maps of the stations. You probably want to bring a helmet and you may also want to bring a lock so you can leave your Bixi to go into a shop if there is no station around. Be aware that stations fill up and empty quickly; you may have to bike around a bit to find an empty stand.
Skate and bike hire shops are common, particularly in the Old Port and the Plateau. Visit La Maison des Cyclistes (the cyclists's house) at 1251 rue Rachel Est for all info on cycling in Montreal. (See Do for specific bike paths)
The sounds produced by electrical equipment when a Montreal Metro train is departing are actually the first three notes of Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland.
The public transit system, run by Société de transport de Montréal (STM) , is safe, efficient, and pleasant to use. Tickets valid for one trip (including transfer) on the metro and buses cost $2.75 each, but are also available for 25% less in strips (lisières) of six for $12. On the buses, it is important to have the exact fare since the driver does not give change. If you are taking a bus which leads to a metro station you can ask the driver for a transfer (correspondance), which will then allow you to take the metro without having to pay the fare twice. Equally, if you are taking the subway and then plan on taking the bus, take a transfer stub from one of the dispensing machines from your starting station. This is important as some bus drivers may refuse transfers stamped with the name of the metro station where you are taking the bus (the rationale behind this is to prevent someone from soliciting exiting subway passengers for a transfer and then taking the bus for free).
Tourist passes offer unlimited travel on the bus and metro for periods of one day ($9) or three days ($17) and are well worth it. They are available from most downtown metro stations during the summer, but only at Berri-UQAM, Peel, and Bonaventure stations on the off-season. Weekly ($19.25 regular, $11 for students under 18; valid from the nearest Sunday of purchase) and monthly ($66.25 regular, $37 for students under 25) passes are also available. Only students studying at a recognized academic institution in Montréal may benefit from student fares and a special card must be obtained from the STM.
The STM website offers an on-line trip-planner service called Tous azimuts. 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.
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 Honore-Beaugrand in the east. If you were to travel eastbound, you would look for "Honore-Beaugrand" on the platform. There are four interchange stations at which commuters can change subway lines: Snowdon (Blue/Orange Line), Lionel-Groulx (Orange/Green), Berri-UQAM (Green/Yellow/Orange), and Jean-Talon (Orange/Blue).
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 neighbouring 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 (e.g. a trip from Zone 1 to Zone 3 or vice versa would require a Zone 3 ticket). Trips in zones 1 and 2 can be reduced in price if you have an STM transfer from the city bus or metro. You must then purchase the tarif combiné ticket at a lower cost. Pre-purchased tickets must be validated in the stamping machines at the entrance to the platform. In general, reduced fares (for students and seniors) require ID that is not available to travelers.
There are no ticket machines on the train and ticket inspections are random. If the ticket is not valid, the customer can get a fine of up to $400. In some cases, incorrect tickets will go unnoticed because the security agents pass through only occasionally. Note that instructions for paying are clearly displayed in French only.
MapArt produces an excellent map of downtown Montreal and environs, including Vieux Montréal, Mt. Royal, the Plateau as well as areas as far north as the University of Montreal and as far south as Parc Jean-Drapeau. This is handy so you don't have to keep folding a map of the whole island.
Below is a basic map of the primary areas of interest to visitors.
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.
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.
During the winter, many parks offer the possibility to do cross-country skiing with groomed paths.
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.
The greater Montreal area offers a number of large parks for year-round outdoor recreation. The most accessible are Parc du Mont Royal and Parc Lafontaine in the Plateau, Parc Jean-Drapeau offers the closest beach park, and Parc Maisonneuve, next to the Olympic Sports complex and Botanical Gardens. Further afield, Parc des Rapids and Parc Angrignon are in Le Sud-Ouest and Parc Rene-Levesque further West, with miles of bike paths and access to river surfing.
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.
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.
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 (email@example.com). 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.
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:
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, firstname.lastname@example.org . 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 center 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.
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.
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 only won the Grey Cup once since being reborn in 1996. 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.
Montreal is a popular destination for language-immersion programs in French and English. Many schools arrange accommodations — either in dorms or with a family and provide cultural programs with trips around the city and beyond. Prices are usually higher for non-Quebecois and higher-still for non-Canadians. Most are located in Downtown and the Old City. Intensive, non-resident programs are also offered by the YMCA and Quebec government.
Montreal is home to one of Canada's oldest and most prestigious universities, McGill University. Concordia University is the city's other English-language university, the largest East of Toronto, and has over 40,000 students. Its student population is generally more multicultural than McGill's and the school's origins in and continuing emphasis on adult education make it popular for mature students, since it still holds many graduate-level courses at night.
The Université du Québec à Montreal (UQAM) and the Université de Montréal cater mainly to Francophone students. The Université de Montréal is the second largest French-language university in the world, after the Sorbonne in Paris and is one of the largest research institutions in Canada. The Université de Montréal has two affiliated schools, Polytechnique Montréal (engineering), and HEC Montréal (business school) that offer undergraduate and graduate studies.
Université Laval and Université de Sherbrooke also have campuses in the Montreal area. Every university, with the exception of Laval, lends its name to a subway stop to indicate the university's approximate location. For example, the Guy-Concordia subway station, located at the intersection of Rue Guy and Boulevard de la Maisonneuve, is no more than two minutes away from its namesake university (Concordia).
As Montreal is in the province of Quebec, which has its own immigration policies, persons wishing to work in Montreal will have to go through two processes, once with the Quebec government, then finally with the Canadian government. If you are employed with a foreign company which has a Montreal office, you can seek a transfer. You can also seek a job with a Montreal employer and they can sponsor you for a temporary work visa. If you are a skilled worker (see CIC website) you can immigrate based on your own skills.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) allows skilled U.S. and Mexican professionals to obtain Canadian work visa provided they are qualified in certain professions. The American Consular Services website provides an up-to-date list of qualifying professions.
If you are an U.S. Citizen aged 18-30 and a full-time student, you can obtain a Canadian work visa valid for six months through BUNAC . Students from France, Britain, New Zealand, and Australia can also benefit from BUNAC work programs. As well, if you obtain a degree from a Canadian university, you are eligible to remain in Montreal and work for up to one year.
Student jobs include babysitting, painting during the summer, and moving furniture in June. McGill and Montreal universities are always in search of research subjects and so are Montreal's many biotech firms. Montreal also has many call centers, which constantly seek to hire new employees and offer flexible working hours.
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 electric budget stores to high-end fashion, with a wide spectrum in between.
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 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 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.
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.
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 undisputably 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 Quebecois favorites like split pea soup and poutine.
No visit to Montreal is complete without at least one plate of poutine (possibly from a French word meaning "mess"). This unique dish is a plate of French fries drowned in gravy and topped with chewy curds of white cheddar. There are variations on the theme — adding chicken, beef, vegetables, or sausage, or replacing the gravy with tomato sauce (poutine italienne). Every Montrealer has their favourite poutine restaurant where you can get "the real stuff" but La Banquise, on the Plateau at 994 rue Rachel est, usually tops the list.
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 a SAQ (government liquor store) or a dépanneur (convenience store, with a limited selection of typically inexpensive wine) nearby; ask your waiter. Your waiter will open your wine for you; corkage fees are rare, but don't forget to factor this service into your tip. 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 1l of hard alcohol, 1.5l of wine, or a 24 pack of beer.
Separate bills (l'addition 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".
To buy your own food or regional products, the Jean-Talon public market, 7075 avenue Casgrain (metro Jean-Talon or De Castelnau), is the place to go. Open daily from 8AM to 6PM. The Jean-Talon market is especially noteworthy for its selection of produce; though 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 (metro Lionel-Groulx).
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 St. Laurent, St. Denis and Mont Royal in the Plateau. Tasty and cheap ethnic food — lots of India buffets — can be found around the Jean-Talon market.
Two Montreal classics, poutine and the smoked meat sandwich, can make a filling meal for under $10. Pizza-by-the-slice can be had for a loonie, and there's always the option of rolling your own picnic with fresh produce from Marché Atwater or 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 and boul Décarie near Villa-Maria-des-Neiges. The other greatest concentration of Kosher food in along Bernard in Outremont.
Smoked-meat and sausage poutine adside, 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.
Havre aux Glaces 7070, rue Henri Julien (Gelato; situated in the Jean Talon market)
Meu Meu 4458 St-Denis (Gelato)
Ripples 3880 St-Laurent (Gelato)
Bilboquet 1311 Bernard W. (Ben and Jerry's-style ice cream - sweet, with chunky bits)
Kosher refers to Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with Jewish law is termed kosher in English, meaning "fit" (in this context, fit for consumption by Jews according to traditional Jewish law).
Morty's Steakhouse 5395 Queen Mary
Yakimono sushi bar 4210 Boulevard Décarie
Exception II 5039 Queen Mary Rd
Chez Benny 5071 chemin Queen-Mary
Chez Benny Express 2075 rue Saint-Louis
Pizza pita 6415 Décarie
Casalinga 5625 Décarie
Famouse Pizza 2145 rue St Louis
Yoel's Dizenogff grill 3460 Stanley, 2ND Floor
Tatty's Pizza 6540 Darlington
Paradise Kosher 11608 De Salaberry
Milk 'N Honey 5756 Avenue Du Parc
Ristorante Maestro 6136 Cote Saint Luc Rode (nice shirt, nice pants)
Pizza Maestro 5800 Cavendish (This is in a mall, located in the food court near Mac Donalds)
Jerusalem express 5800 Cavendish (This is in a mall; it is next to Subway)
Le Grill 6445 Décarie (In the Quality Hotel Midtown)
Ernie And Ellie’s 6900 Décarie (In a mall called Caré Décarie (Décarie Square) but is a buisness-casual type place)
El Morrocco 3450 Drummond (buisness-casual)
Café Dizengoff 5500 Westbury (in the Jewish YMCA) (it has two (2) sepertate kitchens so mornings are the dairy menu and afternoons are the meat menu)
The legal age to purchase alcohol in Québec is 18 and the Quebecois are usually not very rigid in enforcing this age limit. All retail alcohol sales stop at 11PM and bars and clubs stop serving at 3AM.
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 6PM Su—W and 8PM or 9PM on weekends; the smaller SAQ Express outlets are open daily from 11AM to 10PM. Beer, and a small selection of lower-quality wine, are also sold at convenience stores (dépanneurs) and grocery stores (usually the same selection as the dépanneurs). Wine sold outside of the SAQ, known as "piquette" by the locals, has been imported in bulk, bottled, and sometimes blended in Quebec —not the best choice to bring to a dinner party.
Montrealers are largely unaware of how blessed they are by the selection of beer to be found in the humble corner store. Two local breweries in particular are world-class: McAuslan (brands include St-Ambroise and Griffon) and Unibroue (Belgian-style ales such as Blanche de Chambly, Maudite, and La Fin du Monde, etc. The U and U2 lagers are rather ordinary). Boréale also makes a good, if unspectacular range of brews.
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 St-Denis, between Sherbrooke and de Maisonneuve, is the strip with the strongest Francophone feel. There are also many good bars away from the main strips. You should never have to line up to go have a drink, because there's virtually an unlimited choice.
Dance clubs can be found all over the downtown area, with hotspots on St. Laurent and Crescent St.
Saphir, 3699 St. Laurent. Goth and punk nights on two floors, usually very crowded.
L'Opéra, 32, Ste-Catherine W. New club, formerly called Le Dôme. Biggest one in the city.
La Boom, 1254, Stanley. One of the trendiest club in Montreal. Be well-dressed and have a well-dressed wallet.
Cafe Campus, 57, Prince Arthur E. Best known for its Tuesday night $7 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, Rene-Levesque. 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.
After hours clubs, for those who aren't tired out by 3AM, are open 2AM-10AM. They don't serve alcohol.
Stereo, 858 East St. Catherine. 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 2AM.
Circus, 915 East St. Catherine. 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.
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, and Sky are the dance club favourites, while Cabaret Mado offers excellent drag performances. There are also numerous pubs, male strippers, restuarants, saunas, and karaoke in the area. The four main strippers bars are Stock, Campus, Taboo, and Adonis. The most popular sauna is Oasis.
For the budget traveler, Montreal offers youth hostels with dorms or private rooms as well as budget bed and breakfasts (sometimes with very skimpy breakfasts). The densest collection of budget hotels are in the Latin Quarter, in the streets East of Berri-UQAM metro and the long distance bus station. The Old Town has a couple of quality hostels, but you'll pay more to be there.
Mid-range options include Downtown chain hotels to "gites", guest houses that range from a single room in an apartment to elegant historic homes with three to five rooms. Gites are usually found in the more residential neighborhoods like the Plateau.
On the upper-end, four and five-star luxury and boutique hotels are mostly concentrated in the Old City and Downtown.
Montreal is home to four major universities and numerous smaller schools. Students routinely sublet apartments in the summer months.
Montreal has three area codes. The long-standing 514, the newer 438, and 450 for surrounding, off-island areas. The area code must be used for all calls — even if it's the same one you're calling from. For example, calling a 514 number from within 514, use "514-123-4567". Dialing the same number from outside 514 area would be 1-514-123-4567.
Photocopy shops often have internet terminals available, as do many cafés and some bookstores. The Bell phone company has installed public internet terminals (cash or credit cards) in McGill and Berri-UQAM metro stations.
There are also a long-standing cyber/internet cafés (minus the café part) such as Battelnet 24 at many locations in montreal including one at mezzanine level in the rue Guy entrance of Guy-Concordia metro.
The Grande Bibliothèque has many internet terminals, a library card (free to Quebec residents with proof of address) is required.
Of course free internet access is the best kind of internet. The organization Île Sans Fil provides free wireless Internet in cafes and other locations throughout the city. Look for the sticker outside participating venues. The Eaton Center downtown offers free wireless access in the food court.
Red Canada Post mailboxes are found along most main streets. Post offices are often located inside pharmacies — look for the Canada Post logo.
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.
Hospital 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.
As in the rest of Quebec, language politics and Quebec sovereignty are contentious issues in Montreal. Don't make the assumption that all French Canadians and Quebecois are in favor of Quebec's separation of Canada. If you really want to discuss those topics with locals, be sure you are well informed. It is still a very emotional issue. Use common sense and be respectful.
The first language in Quebec is French. Making an attempt to use the language is a great way to show respect for locals, whether or not they can speak English. However, it should be noted that Montreal is considered to be one of the world's most bilingual cities with many residents whose primary language is English. In case of doubt, you may want to open with a warm "Bonjour!" and see what language is used in response. Most likely you will be answered in English, if your French accent does not sound local. Try not to take offense if you are trying to speak French and locals respond to you in English. Since most Montrealers speak both French and English they are simply trying to make it easier on you.
Many people working in the tourist and service industries are completely bilingual without accents. But don't make jokes about French people (especially since francophones in Montreal are mostly Québecois with a few Acadiens and Franco-Ontariens, all of which consider themselves different from the French). Also, do not assume that all Quebecois are francophones. Montreal has a significant English speaking community with a long history in Quebec and many immigrants whose first language is neither English nor French.
See also Quebec, Quebec and the French phrasebook.
Montreal makes an excellent entryway for visiting other cities and destinations in Quebec and northern United States. Remember that you will have to pass the border control if you go to the US, and arm yourself with the appropriate Visas and papers. Add at least one extra hour for the border control.
Quebec City, about 3 hours to the north east on Highway 40, is almost but not quite a day trip. You'll want to stay over, anyway.
Mont Tremblant lies less than two hours north in the Laurentides.
Eastern Townships is two to three hours straight east.
Ottawa is two hours west by car, assuming one drives below speed limit.
Toronto is more distant, but still a doable six hour drive (or a faster 4.5-hour train trip).
Adirondacks is a two and a half hour drive to the south. Adirondacks is the largest park in the contiguous United States and offers outdoor activities like hiking, rafting and skiing.
Boston is a five and a half hour drive to the southeast.
The Chateau Montebello, located an hour and a half west in Montebello, makes for a romantic getaway or stop on the trip to Ottawa.
Between December and March there is good downhill skiing in the Laurentians and in the Eastern Townships. There are some very good night-skiing centers such as Ski Bromont and Mont-St-Sauveur.
Tadoussac, a few hours away, has great whale-watching
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