Montreal Travel Guide

Find out the basics of visiting this unique and vibrant city in Quebec.

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Montreal or Montréal (French prononciation: Mawn-ray-al)

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 past and 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 more conventional.

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    Montreal History

    Notre-Dame Basilica, Montreal.
    ••• Visions Of Our Land/The Image Bank/Getty Images

    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.

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    Location

    ••• Location of Montreal in North America. Map courtesy Tourisme Montréal .

    Montreal is in the southwest part of the province of Quebec. The city is actually an island, bordered by the St Lawrence River to the south and Rivière des Prairies to the north.

    • 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.
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    Language

    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.

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    Montreal Weather & Climate

    Winter_Montreal.jpg
    ••• Winter in Montreal is cold and snowy. Photo of Montreal in Winter © Tourisme Montréal

    Montreal has four distinct seasons, with the height of summer being warm to hot and winter months extremely cold and snowy. Winter months are likely to see several large snowstorms with a foot or so of snow. Springtime is warm and lovely and fall is my personal favorite with comfortable temperatures and spectacular fall foliage.

    Read More: Montreal Weather

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    Old_montreal_Hotel_Nelson.jpg
    ••• Photograph by Alan Marsh / Getty Images

    Montreal has many well-known hotel chains, including Marriott hotels, Hilton and Fairmont among others. Popular for visitors with big budgets are the boutique hotels in Montreal

    The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth is particularly convenient as it sits above the main train station (VIA Rail), subway stops and underground 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 on Montreal's Rue Ste-Catherine with good specials during low season.

    The Hilton Bonaventure is a central hotel that connects to the VIA Rail station, Bonaventure subway stop, and Underground network of pathways and shops. 

    Old Montreal has recognizable hotel names (Embassy Suites, InterContinental) as well as small, charming boutique hotels, some of which will have a view of the St. Lawrence River.

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    Where to Eat in Montreal

    Poutine.jpg
    ••• Foie Gras-Topped Poutine at Au Pied de Cochon is french fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy and topped with foie gras (duck liver). Photo courtesy This is Gonna Be Good

    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.

    Try a range of foods, from local market offerings to outdoor dining on a Montreal patio to authentic French bistro dining.

    To find Montreal restaurants, consult message boards like Trip Advisor, Urban Spoon or Chowhound.

    Related reading:

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    Montreal Attractions

    ••• Place Jacques Cartier in Old Montreal. Photo courtesy Old Montréal

    Montreal is rich with culture and offers plenty for visitors.

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    Shopping in Montreal

    Simons_montreal3.jpg
    ••• Simons is a budget-friendly Quebec department store that has trendy clothing and houseware. Photo © Simons

    Montreal 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.
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    Montreal Events & Festivals

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    Getting to Montreal

    ••• Map courtesyTourisme Montréal

    By Air:

    • 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.
    By Train:By Bus:By Car:
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    Maps & Pictures of Montreal

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    Good to Know about Montreal

    Although Montreal has one of the largest French-speaking populations in the world, visitors to Montréal can get by easily only speaking English.