Montreal, one of North America’s most beautiful cities, is a glorious collision of cultures. Few cities in the world can lay claim to being as authentically multi-cultural as Montreal, the second largest French speaking city on the planet.
By the numbers
Population: 1,704,700 (city); 4,098,900 (metropolitan)
Elevation: 36 meters / 118 feet
Time Zone: GMT -5; Eastern Standard Time (EST)
Country Dialing Code: +1; Area Code: 514; 438
Average January Temperature: -9°C / 16°F
Average July Temperature: 21°C / 70°F
Average Annual Precipitation: 99 centimeters / 39 inches
Average Annual Snowfall: 209 centimeters / 82 inches
Did you know?
Montreal is a sister-city to Hiroshima, Japan.
Montreal is considered one of the cleanest cities in the world.
Montreal is the 2nd largest city in Canada
Featuring hospitality with a distinctly French flavor, Montreal is the cultural and commercial epicenter of Quebec. But French is only one of 35 or so languages you will hear on the streets of this international island city of 1.6 million inhabitants.
Demographics show that Montreal residents come from 80 countries, forming an urban mosaic of vibrant ethnic communities and neighborhoods safe to walk in day or night. Visitors will detect a distinct British influence in parts of the city, inherent in the culture since the days when English merchants controlled the city’s trade. All in all, it’s easy to see why ‘cosmopolitan’ is the adjective most used in describing Montreal.
Characteristically, there’s the famous joie de vivre – the ineffable combination of spirit and ambiance Montrealers exude without even trying. You will see it in the summertime cappuccino-sippers cramming sidewalk cafés; in the long lines outside Schwartz’s, home to the city’s best smoked meat; and in the lovers holding hands on Mount Royal, the city’s parkland mountain rising 264 meters (866 feet) above the ground. The same spirit can even be felt on an outdoor skating rink in the dead of winter, in the tuxedo-ed crowd listening raptly to the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (Orchestre symphonique de Montréal), or when hockey fanatics at the Bell Centre scream and pump their fists in unison with every Montreal Canadiens goal.
The island of Montreal sits at the confluence of three rivers: the mighty St. Lawrence, the Rivière des Prairies and the Ottawa. Montrealers describe their streets as going north-south and east-west, but the island itself is askew, tilted to the northeast.
The Main (La Main)
Splitting the city in half, both physically and personality-wise, is Saint Laurent Boulevard – The Main, as it is affectionately known. It is here where waves of immigrants first settled upon their arrival in the New World. Reminders of the past still abound in family-run Polish delis tucked beside upscale restaurants and in dollar stores located next door to swank billiard emporiums. This is ground zero for the city’s addresses (streets number east and west from St-Laurent) and, historically, this was the demarcation line between English and French Montreal, with the French predominating to the east and the English to the west.
These days, the dividing line is no longer completely rigid, but there are still distinct English and French areas. You will find the English restaurant and bar scene concentrated on Bishop Street and Crescent Street; the French on St-Denis Street and areas east in the Latin Quarter (Quartier Latin) and Gay Village. The traditional French residential areas are tightly packed districts that stretch all the way to the Olympic Park and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve; English becomes more noticeable as you move west, culminating in the affluent suburb of Westmount.
Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal)
At the southern end of St-Laurent Boulevard, lies the historic district of Old Montreal, a major tourist attraction with its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn calèche rides and Old Port (Vieux-Port) activities. This is where in 1642, the city’s first European settlers staked their claim to a land they thought was theirs by divine right. You can still see the remnants of their original fortifications, and you can check out artifacts from the period at the Montreal History Centre as well as the Pointe-à-Callière Museum of archeology and history. Also found here are the oldest buildings in Montreal, with some, such as the Sainte-Sulpice Seminary, dating back to the late 17th Century.
Across the St-Lawrence River, the Expo 67 islands of Ste-Hélène and Notre-Dame still glitter from when Montreal hosted the World’s Fair in 1967. Today the site is home to La Ronde amusement park, the Gilles Villeneuve Racetrack (Circuit Gilles Villeneuve) and Montreal’s world-class Casino.
On the other end of The Main is the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood, unusual in that it encompasses both ethnic shops and restaurants on Parc Avenue as well as the hip Francophone crowd along St-Denis Street. This is Canada’s most densely populated area, and its smaller streets, with their winding staircases and small BYOW (bring your own wine) restaurants, remain a picture of true Montreal life.
Little Italy (Petite Italie)
Just a little further north and you will hear Italian spoken on Montreal’s streets over in the city’s own Little Italy, the original home of the first Italian immigrants and now one of the liveliest areas in the city with its espresso bars, boutiques and authentic Italian cuisine.
Underground City (RÉSO)
No visit to Montreal is complete without a visit to the Underground City – Montreal-above-ground has been described as the tip of the urban iceberg. Beneath it lies the world’s most extensive system of interconnected pedestrian and Metro (subway) networks, linking buildings, boutiques, restaurants and even residential apartments. You could spend an entire winter in this subterranean city without ever once having to face the cold or snow.
The Metro system itself has lines running east-west and north-south (albeit, askew) to just about every part of the city. While you are down there, check out the 68 architecturally unique stations, each created by a different designer.
Dining and drinking
Montreal is the second biggest French-speaking city in the world, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it based on its restaurants. Its incredible assortment of ethnic cuisines gives an accurate reflection of the myriad of cultures that contribute to the city’s vibrancy, although unlike some other large North American centers, eateries here tend not to cluster according to cuisine type.
Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal)
Old Montreal is home to one of the city’s most popular French restaurants,Toqué!. Normand Laprise’s fusion masterpiece has garnered international attention while draining the coffers of the gastronomic elite. Eggspectation, a popular brunch spot, is a modern operation that boasts massive portions and glitzy decor. Unfortunately, this establishments sports ponderous lines on Sunday starting at around 10a. On the bright side, this good-natured eatery serves as a great place to soak up local atmosphere and gossip.
The Plateau Mont-Royal is an area of older residential buildings and is home to thousands of students, artists and young professionals. The Boulevard Saint-Laurent’s trendy clubs and pubs mingle with dozens of restaurants that run the gamut from upscale, decor-first hotspots (Buona Notte) to innovative sandwich shops, and from the cheap Italian fare to the steaks and buckets of coleslaw at Moishe’s. If you are unsure where to go, following the crowds on Saint-Laurent is a safe bet.
A 10-minute walk east from Saint-Laurent will bring you to charming and bustling rue Saint-Denis, which is not to be missed especially during the summer. This is perhaps Montreal’s most Parisian thoroughfare, offering restaurants, bars and cafés, most with cozy patios shoe-horned in wherever they can possibly fit. You could easily spend hours watching the world go by over a café au lait, a beer or a meal.
Despite a number of ethnic restaurants, Plateau Mont-Royal is home to several traditional French eateries where one can find traditional, buttery fare and old-guard opulence, and L’Express, which lays claim to the best steak-and-frites. These restaurants can be found in the restaurant-rich strip between rue Sherbrooke and Mont-Royal Avenue, along with scores of smaller establishments of every conceivable ethnicity.
Brunches or late breakfasts are extremely popular ways to start the day, though whether this is a wholesome tradition or the result of a weekend’s heroic consumption of cocktails is up for debate. Mont-Royal Avenue is home to Beauty’s, the oldest and best-known brunch spot. If you’d rather grab a quick breakfast bite on your way to work, then try these two bakeries in the Mile-End part of Plateau Mont-Royal: the Fairmount or the Saint-Viateur. These two bakeries are known for their bagels. The Montreal bagel, a skinnier and less polished version of the New York variety, is an economical staple.
For a reasonable priced lunch, try Schwartz’s Delicatessen. The city’s large Jewish community has also contributed heavily to the local cuisine. While comparing Montreal Smoked Meat to pastrami is sure to raise the hackles of any traditionalist, no visitor should neglect to visit these cramped, dingy quarters.
The narrow, residential streets of the Plateau also conceal some gems, most notably a tight-knit community of French bistros where patrons are invited to bring their own wine. Exemplified by Le P’tit Plateau, Bistro l’Entrepont and Au Petit Resto, these intimate, romantic spots serve some of the best food in the city at table d’hôte prices rarely exceeding CAD20. They are great places at which to appreciate local life and practice your French. Prince Arthur Street, located between Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Avenue Laval, also offers many BYOW (bring your own wine) options; however, with a few exceptions, the food at these heavily tourist-oriented establishments is fairly middle-of-the-road.
Downtown, many bars and restaurants are found on rue Crescent and rue Bishop. In the past, this was where the Anglophones came to eat, drink and be merry. This area overflows with tourists in summer, so it is best to know where you are going before you go; mediocre food is an unfortunate but avoidable fact of life here, as are high prices. Other downtown hotspots include the Old Dublin, which whips up great pub grub and fiddles each night away with live music.
And no trip Downtown is complete without a visit to the chic Golden Square Mile section where you will find the fancy Ritz Carlton hotel which houses the popular restaurant, Maison Boulud.
Though hardly comparable to the Spanish or Italian, Montrealers do eat late, especially on weekends. Most restaurants will be open to diners by 6:30p, but it’s best to make reservations for 8p or later if you want company. Downtown hotels tend to direct their guests toward downtown restaurants and nightlife, not out of any animosity or collusion but simply because many tourists are reluctant to venture farther afield. The key to enjoying the hundreds of restaurants and bars that the city has to offer is to be adventurous; you are unlikely to be disappointed.
Entertainment means just as many things in Montreal as it does elsewhere, but the city is perhaps most famous for its justifiably legendary nightlife. Bars stay open until 3a here, which is later than anywhere else in Canada, and even then, few customers leave willingly. As with dining and accommodations, however, the visitor will benefit greatly from exploring the less heavily touristed areas of the city.
Bars & Clubs
On Friday and Saturday nights, locals either make a beeline towards rue Crescent and rue Bishop or they avoid them like the plague. Traditionally known as the center of Montreal’s Anglophone nightlife, they are now known mostly for their numerous dance clubs/meat markets (Winnie’s being one of the most famous). Those in search of a more sedate pint in the area can find one at the Irish pub Hurley’s, the charming Brutopia brew-up, and at numerous other places that are popular among an older, English-speaking crowd.
The Boulevard Saint-Laurent is the city’s most famous street, as it is the traditional dividing line between the city’s English and French-speaking areas. Nowadays, booze serves as a very effective lingua franca, especially on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, when things don’t cool down until dawn. The strip between rue Prince-Arthur and Mont-Royal Avenue features dozens of pubs, clubs, bars and assorted other dives that defy generalization.
In the latter category are the Bifteck and Sir Winston Churchill Pub, two friendly, endearing, impossibly smoky taverns attracting a mixture of students and 20-somethings. Cut a rug at the Belmont sur le Boulevard, lounge among the hipsters at Tokyo, or just enjoy the quiet serenity of Else’s, an arty but unpretentious pub full of Plateau-dwellers. It’s all within a 20-minute walk around the Boulevard Saint-Laurent.
You can complete a similar if somewhat less bohemian pub crawl on St-Denis Street, St-Laurent’s more French, polished cousin, located one major street to the east. The action on St-Denis is clustered around Ontario Street in the Latin Quarter (Quartier Latin), where mind-boggling bars such as the Saint-Sulpice compete with the quieter allure of pubs such as l’Ile Noire, Cheval Blanc, Pub Quartier Latin and the Sainte-Élisabeth. The funky, eclectic bars and cafés situated farther north between Rue Rachel and Avenue Mont-Royal attract a suitably diverse crowd: check out Barouf, Quai des Brumes and Bily Kun. This street is home to dozens of patios (or terraces, in local parlance) that are perfect for watching the world go by.
For those unwilling or unable to go softly into the night, after-hours clubs such as Stereo Nightclub will let you stay until at least 10a on Saturday or Sunday morning.
Museums & Galleries
Of course, Montreal is more than a university town on a bender. Museums, galleries, theater, cinema and unclassified fringe elements enjoy great public interest from a citizenry for whom the arts represent an integral component of having a good time. An impressive if not overwhelming collection of the European masters awaits visitors at the Musem of Fine Arts, whose magnificent premises also host first-class touring exhibitions. The Museum of Modern Art, itself an amazing building, offers a fascinating glimpse into Quebec’s thriving community of modern artists. There are also dozens of smaller galleries, museums and exhibition spaces that dot the cityscape and remain relatively undiscovered by tourists. One of Montreal’s most iconic and stunning landmarks include the Montreal Biodome located at the Olympic Park. Here, treat yourself to a fascinating tableau of America’s ecosystems. The Canadian Centre for Architecture (Centre Canadien d’Architecture) presents exhibitions and multimedia displays that range from the straightforward to the thoroughly bizarre, and as a result has gained a worldwide reputation.
Montreal is at the center of the province’s vibrant cinema community, as evidenced by its fine repertory houses and state-of-the-art first-run theaters. The Scotiabank Theatre Montréal offers stadium seating, state-of-the-art sound and IMAX screens. The Cinéma du Parc, an indie theater spread out over two floors, showcases an impressive program of rare Canadian and international films.
Montreal also hosts the Festival International Nouveau Cinéma every autumn. That’s just one of the festivals Montreal has to offer. Other film fests include the World Film Festival, International Festival of Films on Art and FANT-ASIA. The Just For Laughs Festival is a joyous yearly tradition, while locals flock downtown to Place des Arts for the outdoor shows associated with the Montreal International Jazz Festival and the FrancoFolies .
Theater and Concerts
Theater buffs will find both English and French productions in the city. Well-known companies include the Centaur, whose program features in-house Canadian and international dramas; the predominantly French Infinithéâtre; and the National Theatre School, which hosts occasional presentations. Many smaller companies exist in the city, and though some are ethnically oriented, most enjoy a pleasantly diverse audience.
The Place des Arts is home to the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and l’Opéra de Montréal.
Montreal is filled with precious landmarks that can be admired as you stroll along the city’s beautiful layout. Some of the attractions include:
To get an idea of life in New France during the 18th and 19th Centuries, a walking tour of Old Montreal is a must. A good place to start would be the Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel, which is located at the corner of the rue Saint-Paul and rue Bonsecours in the eastern end of Old Montreal. The nearby Bonsecours Market (Marché Bonsecours), built in 1847, is a testament to Montreal’s influence in British North America. The building, comprising of a Greek Revival portico, a tin-plated dome and cast-iron columns imported from England, is a good example of that era’s Neo-Classical style. Today it houses boutiques and exhibits.
A few blocks to the west lies Place Jacques Cartier, named after the French explorer who discovered the island of Montreal in 1535. The square is the central part of Old Montreal; City Hall (Hôtel de Ville) and the Château Ramezay Museum on Notre-Dame Street are situated just to the north, while de la Commune Street and the Old Port of Montreal are a block south. The square is especially enjoyable in summer, with street musicians, jugglers, artists and cafés lining both sides. Calèche drivers beckon strollers to hop on their carriages for a romantic guided tour of the old city. This would be a good time in your busy day to grab a bite for lunch and rest your feet.
Moving west along tiny St-Amable Street, which is filled with shops and artists, you will find the Pointe-à-Callière museum of archeology and history. It protects and displays the remains of the city as far back as when the first buildings were erected by French settlers in 1642. The old Customs House, now part of the museum, was designed by British architect John Ostell, who was also responsible for the Old Courthouse.
At the north-western edge of Old Montreal you will find the World Trade Centre (Centre de Commerce Mondial), which integrates a number of old buildings through the use of a spectacular atrium that stands several stories high over the former Rue des Fortifications; it’s well worth a stroll. St-Jacques Street, one street south, features several buildings with stately architecture and lavish interiors: the Bank of Montreal, opened at the corner of rue Saint-Jacques and Avenue Jeanne-Mance in 1847, is a notable example.
Directly across from the bank is Notre-Dame Basilica, a Gothic Revival church built in 1829 and modelled after Notre-Dame in Paris. It’s one of the most popular attractions in Montreal, welcoming over one million visitors a year. After a full day of sight-seeing (and a lot of walking) treat yourself to an up-scale dinner at Marée (La). This charming French restaurant serves exceptional seafood-try the scallops or the lobster.
The museum district is perhaps the most attractive area of downtown Montreal. The Musée des Beaux-Arts, the city’s most prestigious, is situated at the corner of rue Sherbrooke and Avenue du Musée. While in the area, visitors can enjoy eyeing or buying from chic boutiques along Victorian Crescent Street, especially between rue Sherbrooke and Boulevard de Maisonneuve. This area is also loaded with excellent dining choices, with many restaurants situated between Boulevard de Maisonneuve and Boulevard René-Lévesque.
Continuing east on Rue Sherbrooke, natural history aficionados can observe modern and prehistoric animals, rocks, crystals and precious stones at the Redpath Museum on the McGill University campus. The McCord Museum, just east of the University’s Roddick Gates, boasts a permanent exhibition entitled “Simply Montreal.” This eclectic exhibit offers a glimpse of yesteryear, with a selection of First Nations’ (American Indian) objects, a collection of photographs, sports equipment, toys and magnificent gowns worn by the who’s who of Montreal.
Oscar Wilde once remarked that there are so many churches in Montreal that if you threw a rock in any direction you would probably break a church window. Three of the better known churches are Saint Patrick’s Basilica, Christ Church Cathedral and Mary Queen of the World Cathedral (Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde), all located within a stone’s throw of each other and more or less downtown. Christ Church Cathedral stands over Les Promenades de la Cathédrale, an attractive underground shopping complex linked to the Underground City. If the weather proves too inclement for an outdoor stroll, enjoy 30 kilometers (20 miles) of underground shopping and dining facilities. Every day, an estimated 500,000 people pass through this network, which links some 60 buildings and provides access to nearly 2000 retail outlets.
A tour of downtown Montreal would not be complete without a visit to trendy, multi-ethnic Boulevard Saint-Laurent, with its hopping bars and restaurants, and eclectic shopping. rue Saint-Denis, one major thoroughfare to the east, is the home of the city’s Francophone upper crust and is equally essential on any itinerary. Originally a residential street, it is now home to fashionable and sometimes monumentally expensive boutiques, bistros and shops.
The Plateau Mont-Royal is Montreal’s most quintessential neighborhood, comprising of Saint-Laurent and Saint-Denis, quiet residential streets, beautiful green-spaces (notably Parc Lafontaine, Mont-Royal Park and St-Louis Square), charming BYOB bistros and an overwhelming sense of civility and grace. Tourists are thin on the ground here, but one can hardly claim to have experienced Montreal without spending a day wandering through the real heart of this unique city. To wrap up your day in the Plateau, try the best steakhouse in Montreal-Moishe’s. These steaks will melt in your mouth.
Guided Walking Tours
Old Montreal Ghost Trail. (+1 514 868 0303)
Balade de Vieux Port. (+1 514 496 7678/ http://www.quaisduvieuxport.com/)
Montreal Harbour Cruises. (+1 514 842 9300/ http://www.croisieresaml.com/)
Although Montreal’s history goes back long before Jacques Cartier “discovered” the island in 1535, the intrepid explorer can certainly lay claim to being the first European to see it from the top of Mount Royal, the city’s centrally located mountain park.
Amerindians referred to these grounds as Hochelaga, and used the island as a meeting place where tribes could discuss trade and other important matters. The official founding date for Ville-Marie (later to become Montréal in honor of the King of France) is May 18, 1642, at which time Jeanne Mance and Paul de Chomedey Sieur de Maisonneuve came ashore with about 40 colonists and proceeded to drive out the Iroquois.
The buzzing colony, known as Nouvelle-France, became a major jumping-off point for fur traders, explorers and settlers who wanted to venture further inland towards the Great Lakes and down into the Mississippi Valley. In 1760, Montreal had a mostly French population of about 4000. The architecture of this period can be seen in buildings such as the Sulpician Seminary (Vieux Séminaire Saint-Sulpice) and Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel.
The second event that would eventually shape modern Montreal happened in 1763 when, following the British victory in the Seven Years War (1756-1763), France was forced to relinquish its North American territories.
Under British rule, Montreal became an important port (the largest inland port in the world, in fact) as well as Canada’s largest city and commercial hub. It was home to Canada’s first banks, mercantile houses and fur-trading companies, all of which centered around the rue Saint-Jacques (St James Street to the English speakers) in what is now Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal). You can get a good look at buildings still standing from this era, including the Bank of Montreal.
Between 1800 and 1850, the city experienced a population explosion, increasing from around 9000 up to 57,000. For five years, between 1844 and 1849, the city even served as Canada’s capital, until a rampaging crowd burned down the buildings that housed the legislature. The mid-19th Century saw the city expand into manufacturing and heavy industry, and Montreal became Canada’s railway hub. A flood of job opportunities drew both immigrants from overseas and rural Quebecois, and the population continued to soar, reaching half a million by 1911.
By that time, the city’s Golden Square Mile area – Atwater to the west, Parc to the east, Mount Royal to the north and René Lévesque to the south—contained some 70 percent of all Canada’s wealth. Huge properties such as the 60-room Ravenscrag Mansion on Avenue des Pins West were commonplace.
It was also around this time that non-British immigration brought in the third wave of Montreal’s development. European Jews, Italians and Greeks joined Irish and Scottish immigrants to make the city a much more cosmopolitan place.
Shortly after World War II, Montreal began a slow, steady decline in influence and power as the Canadian economy looked southward to the United States and away from a weakening Great Britain. Corporate headquarters migrated to Toronto, which began to receive the bulk of new investment.
The shift was accelerated by two factors: the building of the St-Lawrence Seaway, which allowed ships direct access to the Great Lakes, and the revival of Quebec nationalism, which started with the so-called Quiet Revolution in the 1960s and culminated in the election of a separatist government in the late 1970s. This led to a further exodus “down the 401,” referring to the highway between Montreal and Toronto.
Despite these woes, however, Montreal managed to hold its head high through the 1960s and 1970s thanks to its tenacious mayor, Jean Drapeau. A man with grandiose visions, Drapeau orchestrated the building of the city’s subway system (the Metro) in 1966, snagged the prestigious Expo 67 international exhibition, and then sold the city as the site for the even more illustrious 1976 Summer Olympics.
While Montreal may have relinquished the honor of being Canada’s largest and most economically influential metropolis, it still relishes its role as the nation’s most spirited and international city, in addition to being the French gastronomic center of North America and a place where historical strands join to create a potent mix of pride, art and culture.
Getting there and getting around
From the Airport
Car Rental: From the airport, pick up Highway 20 and merge with Highway 520 to get into downtown. Rental car companies include:
Alamo (+1 800 327 9633/ http://www.goalamo.com/)
Avis (+1 800 321 3652/ http://www.avis.com/)
Budget (+1 800 268 8900/ https://rent.drivebudget.com/)
Hertz (+1 800 263 0678/ http://www.hertz.com/)
National (+1 800 387 4747/ http://www.nationalcar.com/)
Thrifty (+1 800 367 2277/ http://www.thrifty.com/)
Taxi & Limo: Taxis and limos are readily available outside the ground level of the terminal. Both services have a flat rate to downtown: taxi CAD28, limo CAD48.
Shuttlebus: L’Airbus (+1 800 465 1213) is a good alternative to a cab, especially for those not chugging along too much luggage. For CAD12 one way/CAD21.75 round trip the bus links the airport and Central d’Autobus Montreal via the Aerobus Station at 777 de la Gauchetière Ouest, which has access to hotel shuttles. Buses run daily every half hour from 7a-1a.
Bus: Montreal’s diverse coach empire begins and ends at Central d’Autobus Montreal (bus station) (+1 514 843 4231). Bus companies include: Acadian Lines (+1 800 567 5151/ http://www.smtbus.com/), with service to and from cities in the Maritimes. Greyhound (+1 800 661 8747/ http://www.greyhound.ca/), serving all points across Canada and the United States. Voyageur (+1 800 668 4438/ http://www.voyageur.com/), which links Montreal and Ottawa. InterCar (+1 418 627 9108/ http://www.intercar.qc.ca/), which links Montreal with Quebec City. Orleans Express (+1 418 525 3000/ http://www.orleansexpress.com/), serving destinations throughout the Quebec province.
An excellent network of motorways converges on Montreal, although traffic is heavy during the peak rush hours. Highway 20 runs northeast toward Quebec City and southwest toward Toronto. Hwy 40 heads northeast along the St. Lawrence to Quebec City and west to Ottawa. Highway 15 enters the city from the south and veers northwest ascending the hills to the ski resorts. Highway 10 jaunts due east for Sherbrooke.
From June to October, numerous cruise lines sail up the St. Lawrence and dock at the Iberville Passenger Terminal (+1 514 283 7011/ http://www.port-montreal.com/) in the Old Port. From there, the streets of Old Town are just steps away.
From the US, the most direct route by rail to Montreal is on Amtrak’s (+1 800 872 7245 / http://www.amtrak.com/) Adirondack train. The 11-hour scenic journey begins in New York City and ends at Gare Centrale (+1 514 871 1331) in the middle of downtown. The highlight reel of the trip as the train wanders though upstate New York is the chug along the shores of Lake Champlain. A couple of other routes, one from New York City and another from Chicago, will put you as close as Toronto, where you need to transfer to a Via (Canada’s national rail company) train (+1 888 842 7245/ http://www.viarail.ca/). Via trains, which also arrive and depart from Gare Centrale, link Montreal with every major city in Canada.
Vamos a Canada (+1 905 326 2880/ http://www.vamosacanada.com/) offers services, information, and authorizations for transferring employees, students, immigrants, or visitors to Canada. Such authorizations include employment and student authorizations, visitors visa, permanent resident cards, passports, and much more.
Société de transport de Montreal (STM) (+1 514 280 5100/ http://www.stm.info/) controls the metro and bus lines in the city. The metro consists of four lines (Green/Orange/Yellow/Blue) and 65 stations. Trains dart into stations every four to ten minutes daily from around 5:30a until just after midnight. More than 150 bus routes complement the subway system including an array of night buses. A single fare runs CAD2.50 and monthly and weekly passes are obtainable. A Tourist Card costs CAD7 for one day and CAD14 for three days. Both buses and the metro merge at points with the five commuter train lines (+1 888 702 8726/ http://www.amt.qc.ca/) which extend all directions off the island, way into the various bedroom communities.
Although you do not need a car to get around town, having one is by no means a drawback considering the road system is straightforward, parking is simple to come by (both curbside and lots), and traffic is limited to rush hours, and even then the only headaches are on the major expressways.
From late spring to mid-October, ferries (+1 514 281 8000) cruise the St Lawrence between the Old Port, St. Helen’s Island and Longueuil. Fares begin at CAD3.75 one way.
Montreal is continually ranked as the one of the best cities to ride a bike in, and once you get a look at the expansive urban and recreational trail system, you’ll be convinced. Sure, you will still face the thrills (and possibly spills if riding in winter) and the intensity of maneuvering through the urban landscape, but the city set-up of bike lanes (many of which even have a separate left turn lane), makes pedaling just as effective as any other form of transport. If leisure is more your style, opt for a ride around Mount Royal, along the trails of Lachine Canal or the trails and roads on St. Helen’s Island.