Montreal / Montréal – Quebec

Montreal is a beautiful diverse well- located city

Montreal is not that old but has a European cachet that offers a distinctive charm. Is it the French accent, the cobblestone streets, the castle-like architecture, its diversity or the colorful festival that makes it so special, everyone has its penchant.

The island of Montreal is not that exotic island in fact it is a cosmopolitan with very cold winter days. However, being by the water definitely played a major role in the settlement and the development of the city. The Saint-Laurence (Saint Lawrence) River welcomed its first European visitor in 1535, Mr. Jacques Cartier. Archeologists and evidence undeniably confirm the presence of the First Nations in and nearby the current old Montreal.

Originally named Hochelaga and then Ville-Marie (City of Mary) it gets its current name from the only hill on the island Mont-Royal (Mount Royal). Montreal was officially founded in 1642.

The French and British communities brought a certain rivalry among the most prosperous with some businesses and battles. Today, the province makes all that is possible to maintain the French language but Montreal has always been a bilingual and now a multilingual city. The French accent makes our place special thus the reason it asks to make an effort to keep the language alive in a surrounded English environment (US and other Canadian Provinces) and neighbour.

French Canadians are the majority of the population in Quebec but don’t worry if you do not speak the language the English is spoken widely and by most for business reasons.

There are many things to see in Montreal that you will have to select and it will be conditional on the time of the year that you visit. 

For sure, the Vieux Montreal (Old Montreal) is the absolute most place to visit.  Its cobblestone streets, historical buildings, the architecture and museums make it a nice place to even just walk around. 

For years, the navigable river allowed Montreal to have an envious place in the trading and railway industries. Canals were built to help boats access the region. The Canal Lachine is an example of a bypass and offers today a nice bike path and walkways.

The Mont-Royal (Mount Royal) only rises about 760 feet (230meters) but sure offers a nice view of Montreal.  Year-round, the ground of the hill provides a place to appreciate fresh air in the city.

Montreal hosted some international events that made a difference in the recognition and the development of the city.

The 1967 Expo (World’s Fair) which commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Canadian confederation, expedited the completion of the underground metro system, an advanced modern habitation was built and is still distinctive, a new man-made island was created and the Biosphere was built.

The second event was the Montreal 1976 summer Olympic was an expensive event/ financial fiasco but a unique stadium, infrastructure and upgraded sports installations served for years after. 

Something fun about the metropole, the underground system connecting the metro to shops, offices, restaurants and skyscrapers is nice on cold winter days.

A rule in the city is skyscrapers can’t be higher than the Mont-Royal. So some of the tallest buildings in Montreal include Place Ville-Marie, the IBM-Marathon Building, le 1000 de la Gauchetiere, the Montreal Trust just to name a few.

Montreal is also known for colorful festivals: Just for Laughs Festival, the International Jazz Festival and the Francofolies (focused on French music). The Quartier des Spectacles has improved and offers a nice summer way to enjoy the city. Outdoor events occur here and there for entertainment.

Like most major cities, pleasant neighbourhoods offer a different taste of Montreal.  La petite Italie (little Italy) proposes good Italian restaurants options.  The Plateau is a trendy area where parks and cafes are busy. The Chinese square is clearly defined with the lion gates and Outremont welcomes a large Jewish Hasidic community.

If you stroll around Montreal you will notice a distinctive residential aspect, its staircases. Straight or curvy or spiral outdoor staircases are unique features in an environment that is subject to be hazardous conditions, I will do a special blog on this topic.  While the two, three-story townhouses offer multi-lodging options or a single-family house are far to be redundant. They all have their special touch.

If you are looking for some impressive housings within the city, direct yourself to Westmont and Outremont where some wealthiest wallets have established their property.

Another fun activity is to visit the markets. They are colorful and full of fresh and delicious treats.  A great place to find an eatable gift or flowers.  The Marche Jean-Talon, Maisonneuve and Atwater are the ones that come to mind. They are open daily. It is a place to meet farmers and buy directly from them. Of course, there is more variety in the summer months.

Montreal also counts numerous churches. If you appreciate the religious architecture, the Notre-Dame Basilica in Old Montreal, the Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral, le Gesu, the Christ Church Cathedral (next to the underground access) and the St-Joseph Oratory are the ones to not miss.

When visiting you will encounter a series of public art everywhere in the city. Finding them is an inexpensive way to enjoy a city.

If you are traveling with kids, the Biodome, the Redpath Museum and the Science Center are good options.

If you are traveling for partying, well I will be honest, my knowledge of this subject is obsolete.  There are options, I used to have great fun and meet amazing people but I believe these places are no longer in business.

Montreal can also be a good place to stay if you want to visit other nearby regions: Quebec City, Mont Tremblant, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Ottawa, Bromont and more.

It is true, the climate of the city gives it a bit of a challenge. Montreal has warm hot summer and cold snowy winters. Ice storm, snowstorm occurs every year making your way in the car can be puzzling and even frustrating. Depending on the time you choose to visit will directly affect the options available.

To me, Montreal should definitely be on your bucket list of places to visit.

For an overview of Montreal click here.

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