Montreal: The Complete Travel Guideadmin
Montreal Vacation Ideas | Things to do in Montreal
Last Updated December 14th, 2018
Introducing the City of Montreal
Montreal has a reputation as one of the liveliest cities of Canada and also its second largest. Once there used to be a great divide between (literally, the boulevard St-Laurent) separating the French and Anglo sections of the population, but that’s a thing of the past.
Today Montreal is bilingual and multi-ethnic with populations of Scottish, Haitian, Italian, Chinese, Greek, Jewish, Arabic immigrants among others.
It has a vibrant art and indie rock music scene, swank French-Canadian eateries and a Parisian air of decadence that runs through the city.
It is the main point of entry to the province of Quebec, and offers plenty of urban and natural delights, besides opening up the beautiful surrounding forests, lakes and villages to tourists.
General information and over-view
The province of Québec is primarily a French society thanks to its language and its culture. In 1974, the National Assembly (Québec’s parliament) proclaimed French to be the official language of Québec .
The population is 83% francophone, while 11% of Québecers speak English in the home and 6% another language, i.e. Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Vietnamese or Portuguese.
More than 40% of Québec’s population is bilingual, i.e. speaks French and English. In Montréal, where this percentage is 64%, a full 16% of the population also knows a third language.
Located at the north-eastern tip of the North American continent, Québec covers an immense territory. Its 1,667,926-km 2 (643,990-sq. mi.) surface is equivalent to three times the size of France, five times the size of Japan, twice the size of Texas and seven times the size of the United Kingdom, making it Canada’s largest province .
Québec’s majestic St. Lawrence River is bordered by the Canadian Shield to the north and the Appalachian mountains to the south. Its vast forests shelter more than a million lakes and rivers.Further north, the deciduous forest makes way for the coniferous forest of the taiga, followed by the shrubs and lichens of the tundra.
Québec City, the province’s capital, is perched atop Cap Diamant, from where it overlooks the St. Lawrence. The cradle of French civilization in North America and the only fortified city north of Mexico, Québec City has been on UNESCO’s prestigious World Heritage List since 1985.
The province’s metropolis, Montréal, is the second-biggest French-speaking city in the world and boasts the largest inland port on the planet. Its architecture combines North American modernity with European charm. Extremely cosmopolitan , it has its own Little Italy, Latin Quarter, Chinatown and Gay Village.
Plan Your Trip: Getting in and Around
- By plane: Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport is about an hour from the city center. Most major US and Canadian airlines serve the airport. There are several daily trans-Atlantic flights to major European cities. The STM Airport Express Bus will shuttle you down to the city from the airport 24/7.
- By car: If you’re driving in, you’ll find the city is about 6 hours from Toronto, 2 hours from Ottawa, 3 hours from Quebec City, about 7 hours from New York City and 5 hours from Boston.
- By train: VIA Rail Canada operates trains from all major northern cities including Quebec City, Toronto, Ottawa, and New Brunswick to Montreal Central Station, near the University. Amtrak operates its ‘Adirondack’ train service to New York daily with several connections along the way.
- By bus: A great system of bus services exists between Montreal and New York, Quebec, Ontario, Maine and Vermont. Service providers include Megabus, Voyageur, Adirondack Trailways, Greyhound Canada and Coach Canada to name a few.
Getting around Town
It’s incredibly easy getting around Montreal on its green and cheap public transport. You don’t need a car around the city – the chairman of the public transit body doesn’t own one himself, nor do a third of the city’s households!
The STM (Societe de Transport de Montreal) controls the bus and Metro (Montreal’s underground subway) services. Get the $6 OPUS card at any Metro station and you can simply fill it up and use it for your bus and Metro travel. If you’re not staying for too long, there are transfer passes you can buy or pay exact change on board a bus.
Areas that don’t have Metro or bus coverage run taxibuses. For longer distances, you can use the five AMT commuter train lines that cater to the North Shore and the South Shore.
Taxis can be hailed easily on most busy streets. Cabbies are friendly, though they may be aggressive drivers. Tipping is usually 15% or more, by cash. And remember that while most drivers will understand street names in English, some may not.
Bikes are the best transport around the city’s central neighborhoods, and there are 660 km of cycling paths crisscrossing across the city. You can rent the popular Bixi bike for a flat fee of $7 for an entire day with some preconditions.
You can also walk around the packed Downtown, through the narrow, charming European streets of Old Montreal, or through the waterfront parks and exhibitions of the Old Port in summer.
Walking is one of the most popular ways to explore the busy Rue Sainte-Catherine and the pedestrian-only Rue Prince-Arthur and Montreal’s Chinatown. And climbing Mount Royal to look down on the city is one of the first things that most visitors to the city do.
Just north of Downtown is Mount Royal, the highest part of the city at 234 meters and also the greenest park. The Belvedere Kondiaronk lookout at the top will give you a stunning bird’s eye view of the North American skyline of Downtown Montreal and its river.
You can take the staircases up for the shortest climb, or leisurely walk up (or bike up) the 6.5km long Olmsted Road. The more athletic tourists can tackle Rue Peel up to the hill’s southern edge.
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Things to Do
The majority of the city’s historic 17th and 18th century buildings and museums lie in Old Montreal. A visit to this part of town can transport you back to a vintage Europe. Grab a Tourist Office brochure for a walking route map, visit once by day and then once by night to see many of the buildings light up. There are museums and churches to be visited in Downtown as well.
You can head to Beaver Lake for picnic to reward yourself after a busy morning of sightseeing. Or get out to the neighborhood of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve to take a look at the Olympic Stadium, the Biodome, the Botanical Gardens and the Insectarium.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you could rollerblade along the canal at the Old Port along with the locals, or even river surf the St Lawrence River.
You can also take lessons at the Surf 66 Boardshop if you’ve never done this before. It is also possible to kayak or go rafting in the Lachine Rapids off Lasalle’s park in the south-west along the river.
If you’re in Montreal in winter, several of the city’s parks, including Parc du Mont Royal, offer groomed paths for cross-country skiing. There are also several year-round and winter skating rinks in the city, and a couple of free ones at Beaver Lake and Lafontaine Park.
Montreal’s Parisian heritage is very much visible in the fancy terraced eateries of the Quartier Latin, and the posh restaurants of the Quartier International and Downtown. But Montreal also has a flurry of quality delis and bakeries for travelers looking to make their dollar go a long way.
The most popular of Montreal’s fast food is poutine, which is a greasy but delicious dish of French fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. Combine with a smoked meat sandwich for a delicious meal for under $10. Also don’t forget to sample some of Quebec’s famous local ales.
Le Plateau is the bohemian neighborhood where you will find some of the hippest shopping streets with antique and vintage boutiques. Other similar neighborhoods include Little Burgundy and Mile End.
For high end fashion, head to Rue St-Catherine’s busy thoroughfares where several major labels have their handsomely lit stores. For French boutique shopping and eateries, try Rue Dt-Denis. And picturesque Rue St-Paul with its cobblestones and art will charm the arty side of you.
Montreal: The Complete Travel Guide https://t.co/dFHDtwozPd
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Entertainment & Nightlife
To appease your thirst for culture, catch a performance at the multicultural and architecturally splendid Rialto Theatre. Or turn up for one of Montreal’s several comedy (Montreal gave us Just for Laughs), theater, music and film festivals, many of them free and held outdoors in Montreal’s many parks in summer.
For more decadent night entertainment, head to boulevard St-Laurent or Rue Crescent for its infamous bars, restaurants and nightclubs which expect you to come dressed to the nines.
Joint Post by Eva Krakowski and Angella Grey, the marketing manager at The Vacation Rentals Experts – an online and offline digital marketing agency that creates marketing solutions for vacation rentals, holiday homes and brands.