The Canadian island of Montreal is not only Canada's second largest city,
it's the second largest French-speaking city in the world outside of France!
Although about two thirds of Montreal's population is of French ancestry,
Francophones (French-speakers) account for over 80 percent of the population
and have long asserted their French roots and pride. Quebec actively seeks
special status from the Canadian government to preserve its unique cultural
heritage. Three times the voters have put down referendums proposing Quebec's
separation from Canada, but the margin of loss narrows each time, from a
60/40 split in 1980 to less than one percent difference (!) in 1995. So,
the heated debate over Quebecois separatism continues.
"Discovered" in 1535 by French Explorer Jacques Cartier, who claimed
the city for King Francois I of France, Montreal has long been a prosperous
place. Montreal has long been a center of conflict as well, from the bloody
battles with the first inhabitants, the St. Lawrence Iroquois, to warring
between the British and the French. In the 18th century, Montreal became
a vital port of call for ships traveling the St. Lawrence Seaway to the
Great Lakes and for those heading toward the Atlantic. The island continues
in that role today while also serving as a business and cultural center.
Montreal reflects a certain globalism that sums up the enigmatic mix of
ingredients that make this fascinating place what it is. Montreal sits below
Mount Royal, the ancient volcano for which the city is named, along the
Saint Lawrence Seaway. Equidistant from the coast of Europe and the western
coast of Canada, the city is a mix of historic, Old World monuments and
contemporary, New World sights; old churches and stone and brick buildings
sit in the shadows of modern, metropolitan glass and steel structures.
An incredibly modern solution to an age-old problem can be seen in la
ville souterraine, the Underground City. Created so residents wouldn't
have to face the elements of Montreal's punishing sub-zero winter months
(four to five months each year), the Underground Pedestrian Network is
perhaps one of Montreal's most remarkable sights, not to mention one of
the places to shop. Stretching across dozens of city blocks, with nearly
20 miles of walkways entirely below street level, you'll find exactly
what the name says: an underground city. It's possible to browse the internationally
recognized retail stores, have lunch, watch a movie, and enter a hotel
without ever going outside!
Of course there is plenty to see above ground, and you won't be here during
the brutal winter months, so be sure to come up from down under. Downtown
you'll discover luxury hotels, outdoor cafes, museums and cultural neighborhoods,
such as Chinatown, that can be explored on foot, bike, bus, or by horse
and carriage. The famed Sainte-Catherine Street, connected to the underground
malls, is the heart of commercial downtown, and calls out to shoppers
to explore the shops, boutiques, and restaurants that have been making
Montreal proud for over 100 years.
from all over Canada travel to Montreal for it's fantastic array of festivals.
From the late spring Festival de Théâtre de Amériques,
an international film festival to rival any in the world, to the mid-summer
Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, two among many, the
city celebrates the arts in a big way. The jazz festival hosts over 400
concerts, with at least three-quarters of them offered for free. For a
different type of festival, the Parc Jean-Draper offers summer days and
evenings full of family fun with Quebec's largest amusement park and the
Montreal International Fireworks Competition. Nations from all over the
world compete, providing pyrotechnic displays to light up the night's
sky for over a month. July brings the Dragonboat Festival, with competitions
and races. The festivities are conducted in French, English, and Chinese,
reflecting the international flavor of Montreal. Check your calendar.
If the festival dates correspond with your cruise schedule, take advantage
of the opportunity to experience one of Montreal's cultural offerings.
Be sure to sample poutine: fresh-cut French fries served up piping hot
with cheese curds and rich, brown gravy. It's a positively delicious,
gooey mess! Street vendors on nearly every corner sell it.
The Great Outdoors
For an outdoor education, visit some of Montreal's beautiful parks. The
Montreal Botanical Garden, one of the largest in the world, contains,
in addition to its more traditional areas, an informative new section,
the First Nations Garden. It highlights the province's eleven Inuit and
Amerindian groups and their connection to the plant world. Mount Royal
Park, designed by the famous Frederick Law Olmstead who also designed
New York City's Central Park, opened in 1876 and has provided over a century
of visitors with a view of the natural beauty of Montreal. The park offers
outdoor activities close to the heart of the city; it can easily be reached
by car and the buses make regular runs to the park. Carefully maintained
paths crisscross the park; walkers and cyclists can explore the area,
observing nature in a "school without walls."
For an education in the history of Montreal, take the walking tour, offered
in the summer months, of Old Montreal, which features some of North America's
most impressive 17th, 18th, and 19th century buildings. The Notre-Dame
Basilica is a must-see. Built in the 1820s, the Gothic Revival style of
the interior with intricate woodcarving, paint, and gold leaf is almost
as amazing as the stunning stained glass windows, sculptures, and paintings
depicting Bible stories. Check out Saint-Paul Street, the main thoroughfare
of Old Montreal for years. The street is cobbled and many of the buildings
on each side have been restored to their original glory. Montreal's sizzling
nightlife is accessible here, with jazz clubs adding characteristic zest
to the historical neighborhood.
The old town is also home to a Parisian-style quarter where you will find
croissants, French bread, and restaurants serving up French delicacies
such as duck foie gras and caviar. Your culinary adventures need not be
limited, however. Take your pick; across the cityscape you will find thousands
of restaurants to choose from (there are over 5,000 in Montreal) serving
various ethnic cuisines. You could actually take a round-the-world gastronomic
tour without ever leaving the city!
It may come as no surprise to many that Montreal has so much to offer.
After all, it's one of the most cosmopolitan areas in North America; it's
like the Paris of the western hemisphere. It's true, Quebec is part French
and part English, but it is 100 percent Canadian … at least for
More than three million people make their home in Greater Montreal. This
number makes up nearly half of the province of Quebec's population.
The Port of Montreal. Cruise ships dock at the city's Iberville Terminal
on the St. Lawrence Seaway. The cruise port is within walking distance
of many sights and attractions in Montreal.
Late spring, summer, and early autumn are ideal for visiting Montreal,
although July and August can be somewhat hot and humid.
French is the official language, but English is almost as common. There
are language laws that require French text in commercial settings to be
twice as large as the English (when the English is even allowed). Grab
an English newspaper and amuse yourself with the reports of fines for
improperly printed signs. The city's Anglophone press loves to report
the minor violations that the French-speaking government nabs people for
When Poussez Comes to Shove:
A news story highlighting the language law controversy reported the case
of a business that was fined $200 for a handwritten (in English) “Push”
sign attached to a tough-to-open bathroom door.
The Canadian dollar.
Places to visit in montreal (coming soon)
List of downtown hotels (coming soon)
January F -10/15 C --15/-6
April F 34/52 C 1/11
July F 59/79 C 15/26
October F 39/55 C 2/11
Legal tender is the Canadian dollar, which divides into 100 cents. Bills come
in 2, 5, 10, 20,
50 and 100-dollar denominations; coins in use are 1, 5, 10 and 25 cents and
1 and 2 dollars.
Banks & ATM:
Banks are generally open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. An extensive
automatic banking machines is also accessible at all times.
Tips in hotels and restaurants range normally between 10% to 15%, excluding
tax. Cab drivers,
hairdressers and bellhops are tipped at the customer's discretion.
Stores open from 9:30 a.m to 9:00 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 9:00 a.m. to
Saturday and from noon to 5:00 p.m. Sundays. Some stores close all Sunday and
after 6 p.m.
during the week.
Emergencies and Medical Services:
Make sure that your insurance covers you abroad before you go on vacation. In
call ' 911' within the Montreal urban community to reach a doctor, police or
Montreal, like everywhere else in North America, uses 110-volt, 60-cycle AC
Visitors with otther types of electrical outlets must bring an adaptor.
In 1980 Montreal (and all of Canada) traded in pounds and inches for the metric
system. Gas is
sold by the litre. There are 4.5 litres in one Canadian gallon and 3.8 litres
in one American
gallon. Time is generally indicated using the 24-hour system: 8 h means 8 a.m.
and 20 h means