Montreal (French: Montréal) is the cultural capital of Quebec and the main entry point to the province. Once the largest city in Canada, recent years have seen it cede that distinction to Toronto. It remains a city rich in culture and history, and has a well-deserved reputation as one of the liveliest cities in North America.
Montreal is the second-largest francophone metro area in the world, after Paris.
Situated on an island in the St. Lawrence River just at its highest navigable point, Montreal has been a strategic location since before the arrival of Europeans in Canada. A First Nations village called Hochelaga was on the site of present-day Montreal when explorer Jacques Cartier first visited in 1535. A hundred years later, in 1642, the tiny town of Ville-Marie was founded as a Jesuit mission, but soon became a center of the fur trade. After its capture by the English in 1762, Montreal remained the most important city in francophone Canada, and was briefly capital of the province in the 1840s.
Prohibition on sales of alcohol in the United States during the 1920s and '30s made Montreal a mecca for cross-border fun seekers from nearby New England and New York. The city built up a seedy yet playful industry in alcohol, burlesque, and other vices. In the 1960s, an urban renewal drive centered around Expo 67. The World's Fair in Montreal brought a subway system and a number of attractive urban parks, and is considered to be one of the most successful expo's in history. The 1976 Olympics left a strikingly idiosyncratic stadium and many other urban improvements.
The opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in 1959, though much lauded as an economic boon, spelled the beginning of the end for Montreal's economic dominance in Canada. Once the transition point between western railroads and eastern sea carriers, Montreal watched helplessly as this business moved farther west, up the now navigable Seaway, to ports in Ontario and on Lake Superior. The Quebec sovereignty movement, which began to pick up steam in the 1960s, further chilled the atmosphere for Canada-wide businesses, many of which moved their headquarters to Toronto.
After an economic depression in the 1980s and 1990s -- due to automotive and aerospace plant closures in the surrounding area -- Montreal today has become more secure in its place in North America and the world. It remains a center of culture, arts, computer technology, the biotech industry and media for all of Canada and for the French-speaking world.
Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport (airport code: YUL), formerly Dorval Airport, is about half an hour west of the city center on highway 20. Taxi fare to and from downtown is a fixed price of $31 (a sticker on the window behind the driver gives the boundaries of the zone where the flat fare applies; for origins and destinations outside this zone, you will have to pay a metered fare). The Aérobus is a shuttle running from Dorval to a station at 777 de la Gauchetière West about once every half hour from 7AM to 1AM. Tickets are $12. Alternatively, public bus no. 204 leaves every half hour to Gare Dorval (Dorval train station), where bus no. 211/221 can be caught to the metro (subway). This costs only $2.50 but exact change must be provided and the trip can be rather long.
Montreal has a second airport, Mirabel, about an hour north of the city center. It has been exclusively a cargo terminal since October, 2004.
From Toronto, take Highway 401 east for about 6 hours until it becomes autoroute 20 on the Quebec side of the border. Highway 20 takes about an hour to get to downtown. Be alert for frequent speed-limit changes along this road.
From Ottawa, it's about 2 hours east along Highway 417 (which becomes the 40 in Quebec) to Montreal. From Quebec City, it's about 3-4 hours west on either Highway 40 or 20.
From New York City, take Interstate Freeway 87 north through Albany and the eastern half of New York State for about six hours. After the border crossing near Plattsburgh, the freeway becomes Highway 15, which leads directly into downtown Montreal over the Pont Champlain -- the most beautiful approach to the city.
From Boston, take Interstate Highway 93 to Highway 89 in Concord, New Hampshire, through Vermont to the border crossing near Burlington, where it turns into Highway 133 which intersects Highway 10, which taken west leads directly into downtown Montreal. The whole trip takes about 6-7 hours.
Montreal Central Station is at 895 rue De La Gauchetière Ouest, one block west of rue University.
VIA Rail Canada operates trains from several Canadian cities into Montreal. From Toronto, trains leave daily for the five-hour trip to Montreal about every 2 hours from 7AM to midnight, with adult economy round-trip fare running about $160. The train's first class car is equipped with WiFi service for those computer nuts wanting to stay in touch. There's also a regular train from Quebec City, leaving four times a day, taking about three hours. Other trains run to and from the Maritimes and various destinations in the Gaspé Peninsula.
Amtrak's Adirondack service from New York's Penn Station takes about 10 hours, leaving at 9:45AM and arriving after 7PM. The train passes through much of upstate New York and hugs Lake Champlain for a large part of the trip.
Montreal is divided east-west by boulevard Saint-Laurent. Numbered addresses start there and increase in either direction; most addresses are given as "rue Saint-Quelqu'un Ouest" (west) or "rue Saint-Quelqu'un Est" (east). Many streets are named after Catholic saints and figures from local history, both well-known and obscure.
Walking is a favored way to get around the densely-packed downtown and the narrow streets of the Old Port, especially during the warmer months. Sidewalks are icy and hazardous during the winter except on a few major streets. Jaywalking is the rule and laws against it are not enforced, but be aware that drivers will usually not stop or slow down if a pedestrian steps out in front of them. Prince Arthur Street east of St. Laurent is pedestrian-only.
Driving (SAAQ) in Montreal can be a bit of a hassle. The severe winters take their toll on the roadways, which are either heavily potholed or subject to perpetual construction. Downtown traffic is dense, and street parking is rare and subject to byzantine restrictions and regulations (tourists are well-advised to consult with a local on whether a particular spot is legal). Many downtown streets are one-way, which can complicate navigation. Freeways can also be difficult for visitors, as signage can be somewhat cryptic or ill-placed and on-ramps are sometimes much shorter than elsewhere in North America. Also, there is no right turn on red lights on the island of Montreal.
Cycling and in-line skating ('rollerblading') are very popular once the cold winter weather is over. The city is criss-crossed by 660km of well-maintained cycle paths, although outside of these paths, the potholes and generally rather manic driving style do not encourage the self-powered visitor. Skate and bike hire shops are common, particularly in the Old Port and the Plateau. (See Do for specific bike paths)
The public transit system, run by the STM, is in general safe, efficient and pleasant to use. Tickets valid for unlimited use of the metro and buses during one and a half hours are $2.50, and available for about 25% discount in strips (lisières) of six. Tourist passes offer unlimited travel on the bus and metro for periods of one day or three days. They are available from most downtown metro stations during the summer, but only at Berri-UQAM and Bonaventure stations on the off-season. Transit passes are also available for periods of a week (CAM hebdo) or a month (CAM mensuelle).
The STM website offers a trip-planner service called Tous azimuts.
Old Montreal and the Old Port(Vieux-Montréal, Vieux-Port): South of rue Saint-Antoine between rue McGill and rue Berri (metro Champ-de-Mars or Place-d'Armes). Old Montreal's cobblestone streets lined with buildings dating from the 17th through 19th centuries make it a scenic and popular tourist attraction. However, it is largely cut off from the rest of the city and lacks the flavor of routine local life. The Old Port is a large waterfront greenspace with attractions such as Cirque du Soleil's home base.
St. Joseph's Oratory(Oratoire Saint-Joseph): 3800 chemin Queen Mary (metro Côte-des-Neiges). The largest church in Canada. A favorite pilgrimage for devotees of Frère André, who was reputed to have healed the sick and handicapped. Includes a remarkable collection of crutches and canes from the healed.
Basilique Notre-Dame: 116 rue Notre-Dame ouest (metro Place-d'Armes). Probably the city's most spectacular church.
Mary Queen of the World Cathedral(Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde): 1065, rue de la Cathédrale (metro Bonaventure). A 1/4 scale copy of St. Peter's in Rome.
Musée des Beaux-Arts/Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: 1380 rue Sherbrooke Ouest (metro Guy-Concordia). Free permanent exhibitions and many prominent traveling shows.
Biodôme: 4777 avenue Pierre-De Coubertin (metro Viau). The former Olympic Velodrome is now a showcase of different ecosystems.
Jardin Botanique: 4101 rue Sherbrooke Est (metro Pie-IX). Huge and stunning botanical garden, featuring numerous theme gardens. Admission is about $8, but after 5 PM the indoor section closes and the outdoor part is free until it closes at sundown. During winter only the indoor greenhouses are open to visitors.
Olympic Stadium: 4141, avenue Pierre de Coubertin (metro Pie-IX), 877-997-0919. 9AM-5PM every day. Created for the 1976 Montreal Olympics, this amazing and controversial building's tower (from which the roof is suspended) is the world's tallest leaning structure. No major pieces have fallen off in the last ten years. You can take a cable car to the top of the Montreal Tower for an incredible view of the city. http://www.rio.gouv.qc.ca/
Parc Jean Drapeau: metro Jean-Drapeau. Part of the site of the 1967 World's Fair, now devoted to green space and a large outdoor concert venue.
Habitat 67, 2600 avenue Pierre-Dupuy (take Chemin du Moulins exit from Hwy 10 south), 514-866-5971. This visually striking residential building was created by architect Moshe Safdie for Expo 67. The result was an amazingly modern dwelling that challenged the way architects created urban homes. Compared alternately to a beehive, a Taos pueblo, and a crystalline growth, the complex's 154 units are composed of prefabricated concrete cubes assembled on site. The apartments here are highly prized and a number of prominent Montrealers make Habitat 67 their home. http://cac.mcgill.ca/safdie/habitat/
Montreal Insectarium, 4581 rue Sherbrooke Est (metro Pie-IX or Viau), (514) 872-1400. 9 AM to 5 PM every day usually. The insectarium is a museum of sorts centered on the insect world. A few living specimens and many displays are always occasional, with occasional special exhibits, often offering visitors the opportunity to eat various insect-based dishes from around the world. The insectarium is attached to the botanical gardens and the same ticket purchases entry to both. http://www2.ville.montreal.qc.ca/insectarium/insect.htm
The Montreal Metro, in addition to being a good way to get around, is worth seeing in its own right. Each station was constructed in a unique architectural style.
Cross-country skiing During the winter, many parks offers the possibility to do cross-country skiing with traced paths.
Parc regional de l'Ile-de-la-Visitation (ski rent available)
Parc du Mont-Royal (ski rent available and usually the best ski conditions)
Parc Maisonneuve and Jardin Botanique (no ski rent).
Year-round ice-skating, 1000, rue De La Gauchetière (metro Bonaventure),
Canoeing and kayaking,
Casino de Montréal: 1, avenue du Casino (metro Jean-Drapeau).
La Ronde (Six Flags): 22, chemin Macdonald (metro Jean-Drapeau). $33.99, $25.99 without rides, 11- pay $20.99; Season pass individual $85 or family $199. Discounts are readily available -- for instance, a Coca Cola tin is worth a $5 discount on any rides ticket. http://www.laronde.com/
Parc Jean-Drapeau Particularly the Île Notre-Dame on the Formula One race track: a fantastic view across the water to downtown Montreal.
Paths along the Lachine Canal, west of the Old Port.
Paths along the Riviere-des-Prairies. You can ride across Montreal Island from west to east along the river on the north of Montreal. Many sites have incredible views. A stop at Perry Island is a must.
Carré Saint-Louis, corner of rue Saint-Denis and rue Prince-Arthur, slightly north of rue Sherbrooke (metro Sherbrooke). A charming little park with majestic trees and a lovely fountain, lined with charming houses on three sides (St-Denis is the fourth side).
Parc Jean Drapeau. The former Expo 67 fairgrounds, Parc Jean Drapeau is spread across two islands in the Saint Lawrence River. (metro Parc Jean Drapeau)
Parc Lafontaine, from avenue Papineau to avenue du Parc Lafontaine and from rue Rachel to rue Sherbrooke. Ice skating on the lake in the winter, baseball, boules, and outdoor theater in the summer. (metro Sherbrooke)
Parc Maisonneuve and Jardin botanique, from rue Sherbrooke to boulevard Rosemont and from boulevard Pie-IX to avenue Viau (metro Pie-IX or Viau).
Parc du Mont-Royal, North of avenue des Pins between avenue du Parc and chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges, 514-843-8240 (email@example.com). This beautiful, immense urban park tops the "mountain" (at 232 meters, it's more like a hill) that overlooks all of Montreal and lends the city its name. Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, creator of Central Park in New York, the park is elegant and accessible, and has hundreds of nooks and crannies for exploring. A broad and gradual 5-mile bike and pedestrian path begins at the corner of avenue Mont-Royal and avenue du Parc, wending its way around the mountain and culminating at the Belvédère (lookout), with incredible views of downtown, the St. Lawrence and the Eastern Townships. Numerous smaller paths and trails crisscross the park. Every Sunday during the summer, thousands of people get together at the monument on avenue du Parc to enjoy the big tam-tam jam. http://www.lemontroyal.qc.ca/
Parc Jeanne-Mance, bordered by avenue du Parc, avenue Duluth (with a small extention south as far as avenue des Pins), rue de l'Esplanade and avenue Mont-Royal, across from Parc du Mont-Royal. Includes tennis courts, baseball/softball diamonds, a soccer/football pitch, beach volleyball courts, a skating rink in winter. Also a very popular dog-walking venue.
Parc de l'Ile-de-la-Visitation, rue d'Iberville and boulevard Gouin, (514) 280-6733 (metro Henri-Bourassa, Bus 69 east). This regional park is along the Riviere-des-Prairies. Quiet and enjoyable place to bring a lunch and relax for an afternoon. Good starting point for a cycling tour along the river.
Montreal has a bewildering variety of festivals, ranging from one-day ethnic fairs to huge international productions running two weeks or more. They are generally held in the summer and autumn, though increasingly they can be found throughout the year. Here are some of the larger ones:
Francofolies International festival dedicated to French music from all around the world. Late July - early August. http://www.francofolies.com
Montreal International Jazz Festival One of the world's largest festivals of its kind, featuring both indoor concerts (paid) and many free outdoor shows, including at least one by a major act. Late June - early July. http://www.montrealjazzfest.com
Festival Juste pour Rire/Just For Laughs Festival Comedy festival with three main components: indoor paid shows (usually standup, but not always), free street theatre/comedy, and a mini film festival called Comedia. June. http://www.hahaha.com
Montreal International Fireworks Competition (Le Mondial SAQ), in La Ronde amusement park (in Parc Jean-Drapeau), 514-397-2000 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org/). If Montreal feels like a non-stop party during the summer, twice-weekly fireworks events definitely contribute to it. This fantastic festival features full-length fireworks displays, accompanied by orchestral music, by national teams from about a dozen countries around the world. Although the hot seats are inside the La Ronde theme park, the fireworks are visible from pretty much any clear space or rooftop in the center of the city. Pedestrians can watch from Jacques Cartier Bridge, which is closed from 8PM on fireworks nights. Another good spot is the promenade west of the Old Port. $35-45 (seats in La Ronde, free everywhere else). Saturdays 10PM from mid-June to late July, plus Wednesdays 10PM from mid-July on. http://www.lemondialsaq.com/en/
Montréal en lumière/Montreal High Lights A relatively new wintertime affair, attempting to transplant the city's festival magic to the cold season. Includes three main categories of activities: food and wine, performing arts, and free activities both indoor and outdoor. February. http://www.montrealenlumiere.com
Festival des films du monde/World Film Festival The Festival is open to all cinema trends. The eclectic aspect of its programming makes the Festival exciting for the growing number of participants from the five continents. Every year, films from more than seventy countries, including well-known and first-time filmmakers alike, are selected. Late August - early September. http://www.ffm-montreal.org
St-Jean-Baptiste fiesta June 24th is Quebec's national holiday (Fête nationale). During the evening, a huge show takes place at Maisonneuve park. The show to go to hear Made-in-Quebec music. Free. Street parties can also be found all over the city.
Festival du Monde Arabe In November, an annual festival celebrating the music and culture of the Arab world takes place in Montreal. Many Arab performers, traditional and modern, take the stage.
Festival Mondiale de la bière In Early June yearly: 5 Days of tasting beers, ciders and other beverages from all over Quebec, Canada and further afield. 2004's event boasted over 340 different beers from 130 countries. There is no admission fee (but you can buy a souvenir sampling mug for about $8) and samples typically sell for 3-4 tickets ($1 a ticket) for a 150-200 ml sample. There are also scheduled musical performances and food kiosks. (http://www.festivalmondialbiere.qc.ca/)
Sports to watch
Canadiens, Ice hockey, Canada's national winter sport: Bell Centre, 1260 rue De La Gauchetière (metro Lucien-L'Allier or Bonaventure). One of the greatest institutions in Quebec culture. Also called le Tricolore, le bleu-blanc-rouge (both nicknames refer to the team's red-white-blue color scheme), les Glorieux (because of their many championships, the most recent being in 1993) or la Sainte Flanelle (loosely, "holy cloth", because the Canadiens' uniform is revered by fans and, the fans hope, by players). Anglophones commonly refer to the team as the Habs, short for habitants, meaning Quebec rural folk. This nickname probably originates from a misunderstanding of the H in the team logo, which consists of two nested C's enclosing an H (for Club de Hockey Canadien). In recent years, the Canadiens have fallen on hard times in the standings and playoffs, but the arrival of new ownership, management and team-building strategies have given hope that better days are not far off. There is unlikely to be any Canadiens hockey in the 2004-2005 season, because of the NHL lockout. http://www.canadiens.com
Alouettes, Football (Canadian Football League). Percival Molson Stadium, avenue des Pins at University (playoffs: Olympic Stadium). A dominant team in recent regular seasons, the Als have only won the Grey Cup once since being reborn in 1996. Molson Stadium is an excellent place to see a game, but tickets can be hard to come by; the team has sold out all 46 games in the facility since moving there in 1998. http://www.alouettes.net
Expos, Baseball: Olympic Stadium, 4141 avenue Pierre de Coubertin (metro Pie-IX). (1969-2004) Moved to Washington, D.C. for the 2005 season. In the franchise's final decade, inept (arguably even hostile) ownership and management drove fans away, starting with the handling of the 1994 strike.
Impact, Football association (soccer): Complexe sportif Claude-Robillard, 1000, rue Émile-Journault (metro Crémazie). Consistent contenders. http://www.montrealimpact.com/
Grand Prix du Canada/Grand Prix of Canada Formula 1 race held every June. The city buzzes with events including several large street parties. http://www.grandprix.ca
Montreal has the continent's largest proportion of students, due mainly to its four urban universities. Montreal is home to one of Canada's oldest and most prestigious universities, McGill, which many people refer to as "Canada's Harvard" (to the point that joke T-shirts have started to appear, branding Harvard as "America's McGill"). Concordia University is the city's other English-language university and has over 20,000 students. Its student population is generally more multicultural than McGill's, and the school's origins in and continuing emphasis on adult education make it popular for mature students, since it still holds many graduate-level courses at night. The Université du Québec à Montreal (UQAM) and the Université de Montréal cater mainly to Francophone students. The Université de Montréal is the second largest French-language university in the world, after the Sorbonne in Paris, and is one of the largest research institutions in Canada.
Illegal factory work paying around $7.50 per hour is fairly easy to find in Montreal. Painting during the summer and moving furniture in June can be interesting alternatives. McGill and Montreal universities are always in search of research subjects, and so are the many biotech firms located in Montreal.
Although Montreal's economy has bounced back in recent years, the city remains remarkably affordable compared to the rest of Canada and the United States. There's shopping for every taste and budget here.
Rue Ste-Catherine, between rue Guy and boulevard St-Laurent, has most of the big department and chain stores as well as a few major malls. Avenue Mont-Royal has funky consignment and gothic clothing stores from boulevard St-Laurent to rue St-Denis, and a mixed bag of neighborhood stores, used record shops, and gentrified boutiques heading east towards avenue Papineau. Rue St-Viateur is one of the city's most interesting streets, with its amazingly varied range of businesses crammed into the short stretch between St-Laurent and avenue du Parc. Boul. St-Laurent remains one of the city's prime shopping streets, more or less along its whole length. Just about anything can be found there, with different blocks having different clusters of businesses (Asian groceries and housewares near de La Gauchetière, cheap electronics a little farther up, hip boutiques between Prince-Arthur and des Pins, anything and everything Italian between St-Zotique and Jean-Talon, etc.). Rue Sherbrooke, west of the Autoroute Decarie, boasts an increasingly interesting concentration of largely food-oriented businesses.
Trendier boutiques can be found on rue Saint-Denis, north of rue Sherbrooke and south of avenue Mont-Royal. Rue Sherbrooke itself has a number of high-end stores (notably Holt Renfrew) and commercial art galleries in a tony strip running approximately from McGill University west to rue Guy. Farther west, Sherbrooke intersects with Greene Ave. in Westmount, which boasts a short but luxurious retail strip. Rue Laurier, between St-Laurent and its western end, is one of the city's prime spots for eating and shopping in high style, though there are still a few affordable spots here and there.
Furniture and antiques
On boul. St-Laurent, a cluster of high-end home furnishing stores has grown up in recent years. It starts roughly at the corner of rue Marie-Anne and is very prominent in the block between Marie-Anne and avenue Mont-Royal, with sparser but still interesting stores as far north as rue St-Viateur. Antique buffs will find interesting stores all over the city, but they'll want to make a special pilgrimage to rue Notre-Dame, heading east from avenue Atwater. Rue Amherst, in the Gay Village, also has a significant concentration of antique dealers.
Montreal has a huge variety of food options, from diners and fast food to low-cost ethnic restaurants to haute cuisine. The large local Jewish population has contributed local specialties including huge smoked meat sandwiches (beef brisket) and small, crusty bagels, of which the sesame variety is the most popular, poppy a distant second and all others decidedly marginal (worth remembering -- Montreal bagels are best when very fresh). Other specialties are "all-dressed" pizza (pepperoni, mushrooms and green peppers), pizza and spaghetti with smoked meat, and Quebecois favorites like split pea soup.
No visit to Montreal is complete without at least one plate of poutine (possibly from a French word meaning "mess"). This unique dish is a plate of French fries drowned in gravy and topped with chewy curds of white cheddar. There are variations on the theme -- adding chicken, beef, vegetables or sausage, or replacing the gravy with tomato sauce (poutine italienne). Every Montrealer has their favorite poutine restaurant where you can get "the real stuff."
Many Montreal restaurants allow you to bring your own wine (you'll see an apportez votre vin sign in the window). This may sound like a hassle, but you end up paying much less for wine with dinner if you bring it yourself. Note that if you can bring it yourself, you can't buy it there; conversely, if the restaurant is licensed to sell wine, you can't bring your own. There's usually a SAQ (government liquor store) or a dépanneur (convenience store, with a limited selection of typically mediocre wine) nearby; ask your waiter. Your waiter will open your wine for you; corkage fees are rare, but don't forget to factor this service into your tip. In some cases, you may be able to bring beer instead of wine, but check first -- it's not a given.
To buy your own food or regional products, the Jean-Talon public market, 7075 avenue Casgrain (metro Jean-Talon or De Castelnau), is the place to go. Open daily from 8 AM to 6 PM. The Jean-Talon market is especially noteworthy for its selection of produce; though not strictly part of the market, the many stores lining it on the north and south sides complete it wonderfully with superb selections of cheese, meat and just about anything edible. In particular, a store specializing in Quebec products (Produits du terroir), Le Marché des Saveurs, is located near the southeast corner of the market. On the north side, Fromagerie Hamel has a terrific selection of cheeses. The surrounding streets are heavily Italian-flavored and feature a number of excellent grocery stores, butchers, bakeries and restaurants. Across town, the Atwater Market is also superb, though quite different from (and much smaller than) Jean-Talon. Here, you'll find the city's best butchers, as well as good selections of cheese, fish and produce. Located on avenue Atwater, just south of rue Notre-Dame (metro Lionel-Groulx).
Restaurants lie thick on the ground in Montreal. Here is a very small sampling:
Futenbulle, 273 rue Bernard Ouest (metro Rosemont), 514-276-0473. A unique restaurant serving an incredible variety of beers from all over the world, and a selection of venison and other game dishes - often made up modestly as venison steaks or caribou burgers or boar sandwich.
La Banquise, 994 rue Rachel Est (metro Mont-Royal), 514-525-2415. Open 24 hours. La Banquise consistently tops locals' lists for best poutine in town (perhaps because it's open for post-bar-hopping munchfests when judgment is slightly impaired). The clientele is hip and clubworn, and the staff is friendly. Poutine makes up most of the menu, but if you insist there are hamburgers and other fast-food fare. $6-10.
Chu Chai, 4088 rue Saint-Denis (metro Sherbrooke), 514-843-4194. M-Sa 12PM-3PM, 5PM-10PM, Su 12PM-3PM, 5PM-9PM. A treat for vegetarians, vegans, and those who love them, Chu Chai specializes in Thai cuisine made with soy or vegetable protein to simulate meat. The roast "duck" is delicious, and the tom yum gai (lemongrass soup with "chicken") warms the heart. A bistro and takeout counter next door called "Chuch" has many of the same dishes in a more casual setting. Bring your own wine. $15-20 (per person, not including wine). http://www.chuchai.com/
Toqué!, 900 place Jean-Paul-Riopelle (metro Square-Victoria), 514-499-2084. In 1993, chef Normand Laprise put Montreal cuisine on the map with this landmark restaurant, and after more than 10 years it's still going strong in a new location. Combining the latest trends in fine dining with local and regional produce, the chefs create spectacularly complex dishes in tiny but strangely satisfying portions. The house specialty is an 8-course surprise menu, made up of many small dishes that continue to delight over and over. This restaurant will take a bite out of your wallet, but serious foodies will find it worth the reputation. $30-50 ($80 menu, $100 with wine). http://www.restaurant-toque.com/
Le 2, 2 rue Sherbrooke Est (metro Saint-Laurent), 514-843-8881. Tu-W 5PM-11PM, Th 5PM-1AM, F-Sa 5PM-3AM, Su 6PM-11PM. Le 2 (pronounced luh DOO) provides what it calls "international tapas": small, satisfying appetizer-sized plates of grilled fish and meat as well as salads, fries, and breads with spreads. One or two makes a light meal, but it's more fun to get a few plates and share them with friends over cocktails. The space isn't large, but there's an airiness to it - you don't feel squished here. A great place to start, or end, a bar-hopping evening on Saint-Laurent. $8-12 (per plate).
La Queue de Cheval, 1221 boulevard René-Lévesque Ouest (metro Lucien-L'Allier), 514-390-0090. La Queue de Cheval is for serious steak aficionados. It is quite possibly the best steak in North America. The ambiance is excellent, the service is absolutely incredible (they literally wait on you), the food (even non-steak items) is to-die-for. The downside is that it's not cheap and will run you $75-120 a person. http://www.queuedecheval.com/
Casa Galicia, 2087, Rue Saint-Denis (corner of Sherbrooke), 514-843-6698. Casa Galicia Restaurant in Montreal is one of the best Spanish restaurants in North America. Casa Galicia has a unique cave of reserve wines from Spain's finest wine making regions. The many customers can also wash down their paella, zarzuela or other typical plates from Galicia, with a pitcher of fresh sangria (said to be some of the best in Montreal). The staff is friendly and the decor unique. Flamenco shows with a professional Spanish guitarist on weekends. http://restomontreal.ca/portal/casagalicia/
Milos, 5357 avenue du Parc (metro Laurier), 514-272-3522. Arguably one of Montreal's finest restaurants, Milos specializes in Greek seafood. You can order a wide variety of fresh fish by the pound, sample one of their many seafood choices or try the lamb. Milos' hallmark is the freshness of the food served and the quality of the service offered. Reservations are only essential during world-class events (Formula 1, Jazz and Comedy festivals) when Milos is overrun by visiting celebrities. Milos is also a bit on the pricey side - dinner for two with wine can easily cost over $100 per person - but dining here is an exquisite experience. Best tomatoes ever - a testament to how even the most modest ingredient is considered.
La Binerie, 367 avenue Mont-Royal Est (metro Mont-Royal), 514-285-9078. A small unpretentious eatery that became a legend. It features traditional meals for under $10, especially fèves aux lard (beans cooked overnight with bacon).
Ouzeri, 4690 rue Saint-Denis (metro Laurier), 514-845-1336. A wonderful Greek restaurant that is somewhat off the beaten path. While it is on Saint-Denis, it is far away from the shops and restaurants for which the street is well known. Ouzeri is particularly fun in the evening. Prices are very reasonable.
Au Petit Extra, 1690 rue Ontario Est (metro Papineau), 514-598-0709. Exquisite French bistro cuisine.
Fresco Bar & Grill, 6040, Boul Des Grandes-Prairies (corner of Lacordaire), 514-329-1904. Located in the St-Leonard area, Restaurant Fresco Bar & Grill is a restaurant that serves traditional Italian cuisine. Fresco has a great selection of dishes ranging from grilled meats, seafood, veal and pizzas. The atmosphere is very modern, elegant and sophisticated, and surrounded with an artistic decor of light brown and blue. This restaurant is a beautiful place for any occasion : family dining, romantic evening, birthday parties, outdoor dining, etc... Fresco has seating for up to 110 people without counting the terrace. For a taste of Italy, Fresco is the place to be. http://restomontreal.ca/portal/fresco/
Bombay Mahal, 1001 rue Jean-Talon Ouest (metro L'Acadie). Excellent dirt-cheap Indian cuisine.
Thaïlande, 88 rue Bernard Ouest (metro Rosemont). Great Thai. Good bang for the buck for lunch.
Pushap, 5195 rue Paré (metro Namur), 514-737-4527. Great vegetarian Punjabi food. The thali plate makes a big dinner for about $5; be sure to try some of their excelent desserts - they double as a take-out sweet shop.
La maison du kebab, 820 avenue Atwater (metro Lionel-Groulx). Persian. With their meal for two, you'll have enough for three!
Soupe Soup, 80 avenue Duluth Est (metro Sherbrooke). Best soup and sandwich in town. Not cheap though but great quality and definitely original.
Khyber Pass, 506 avenue Duluth Est (metro Sherbrooke). Afghan.
Le Roi du Plateau, 51 rue Rachel Ouest and Chez Doval, 150 rue Marie-Anne Est, are arguably the best of the many Portuguese grill restaurants in town.
Claude Postel, 433 rue Saint-Vincent (metro Champ-de-Mars). Amazing food, somewhat cheap for lunch. Definitely not a snack bar though.
Euro-Déli, 3619 boulevard Saint-Laurent (metro Sherbrooke). Very cozy deli/cafe in the middle of the trendy section of St-Laurent. Excellent fresh pasta, meatballs, lasagna, salads, etc. Very affordable.
L'Académie, 4051 rue Saint-Denis (metro Sherbrooke). Italian food in a trendy decor. Comfortable, affordable, bring your own wine, and conveniently located beside an SAQ (Quebec liquor store). St-Denis at Duluth.
Eduardos, 404 avenue Duluth Est (metro Sherbrooke). Good Italian restaurant, bring your wine!
Aux Vivres, 4631 boulevard Saint-Laurent (metro Mont-Royal). Alternative vegetarian cuisine.
Byblos, 1499 avenue Laurier Est (metro Laurier), (514) 523-9396. One of the best unknown restaurants in Montreal. Prices are amazingly reasonable for the food quality. Middle Eastern food.
Au Pied de Cochon, 536 avenue Duluth Est (metro Sherbrooke), (514) 281-1114. Modern restaurant with casual ambiance. Huge meals. The place to go for lamb and original Quebec cuisine for a reasonable price.
Schwartz's, 3895 boulevard Saint-Laurent (metro Sherbrooke). Famous delicatessen for smoked meat. Cash only. No reservations. Expect to wait for a table at most times.
Vents du Sud, 323 rue Roy Est (metro Sherbrooke), (514) 281-9913. Bring your own wine. French restaurant with Basque country meals (St-Jean-de-Luz, Biarritz). Duck and Cassoulet exquisite.
Café Presto, 1244 Stanley (Peel metro), (514) 879-5877. The best downtown deal for a very inexpensive and very satisfying casual/cozy Italian fare (main courses are all 3,95$ CDN. Calculate approx. 10$ CDN if you add a glass of wine and an espresso). Mon–Sat 11:30am–2:30pm & 4:30pm–9pm, closed Sundays. Very busy during lunchtime on weekdays. Arrive before noon or after 1:30pm to avoid the longest lines. Cash only (no credit or debit cards, but there are a few ATMs on the same block).
Separate cheques are common, and you may be asked ensemble ou séparément? (together or separately?) The standard tip for acceptable restaurant service is 15%, and is not included. The calculation is done for you, though, since sales taxes are 15% and will be shown on your check.
Never call a waiter "garçon"! Use "monsieur" or "madame".
Quality wine and hard alcohol can only be purchased at SAQ shops, most of which are open until 6pm Sunday - Wednesday and 8 or 9pm on weekends; the smaller SAQ Express outlets are open daily from 11am to 10pm, but selection is restricted to the SAQ's most popular items. Beer, and a small selection of lower-quality so-called "dep wine" (not what you'd usually bring to a dinner party, but sometimes drinkable -- it's plonk that has been imported in bulk and bottled and sometimes blended in Quebec) can be purchased at corner stores and supermarkets. All retail alcohol sales stop at 11pm and bars and clubs stop serving at 3am.
Montrealers are largely unaware of how blessed they are by the selection of beer to be found in the humble corner store. Two local breweries in particular are world-class: McAuslan (brands include St-Ambroise and Griffon) and Unibroue (Belgian-style ales such as Maudite, La Fin du Monde, etc.; the U and U2 lagers are rather ordinary). Boréale also makes a good if unspectacular range of brews. Other micros and imports jostle for shelf space with the mass-market stuff; visitors with the time and inclination would do well to sample and to shop around a little, as selection will vary from store to store. The SAQ does not carry domestic beer, and generally has few imports that can't be found elsewhere. Again, selection varies by outlet, so it can pay to shop around, but in general the SAQ is simply not the place to buy beer.
Montreal has two main strips for bar-hopping. rue Crescent, just west of downtown, caters mostly to anglophones and tends to be trendy and expensive, while boulevard Saint-Laurent, especially between rue Sherbrooke and avenue des Pins, has trendy clubs and bars with more of a francophone clientele. Farther up St-Laurent it's relatively downscale and linguistically mixed. There are also many good bars away from the main strips -- you should never have to line up to go have a drink, because there's virtually unlimited choice.
SAT (Société des arts technologiques), 1195 boulevard Saint-Laurent (metro Saint-Laurent), 514-844-2033 (email@example.com). M-F 5PM-10PM, Sa-Su various hours. This one-of-a-kind venue is supported by the province of Quebec and the federal government to display and promote digital art. With high ceilings and low couches, it has the feel of a funky uberhip techno club, and in fact there is quite a bit of great club music on weekend nights. But there's also fascinating computer art installations going on at all times, with some video and live performances. A great place to meet people in Montreal. $4.50 draft beer, $5 well drinks, $5-25 cover (no cover before 10PM). http://www.sat.qc.ca/
Pub Sainte-Élizabeth, 1412 rue Sainte-Élizabeth (metro Saint-Laurent). Best terrasse for a drink. Feels like a greenhouse.
Foufounes Électriques, 87 rue Sainte-Catherine Est (metro Saint-Laurent), 514-844-5539. 3PM-3AM every day. The name means "Electric Ass" in English, which is always worth a few laughs. But Foufounes is more than just a funny name: it's ground zero for Montreal's rock-and-roll scene. The cavernous bar hosts shows from local bands as well as lots of touring shows from around the globe. Reasonable prices and a down-to-earth attitude make Foufounes popular with residents and visitors alike. $3 draft beer, $4 well drinks. http://www.foufounes.qc.ca/
Les Bobards, 4328 boulevard Saint-Laurent (metro Mont-Royal). Good happy hour. Great dancing on very diversified music on Friday nights.
Bily Kun, 354 avenue Mont-Royal Est (metro Mont-Royal), 514-845-5392. 3PM-3AM every day. Bily Kun -- the name is Czech -- is an institution in Montreal's Plateau district. Dim lighting, candles, and a huge bar give an intimate atmosphere, but Bily Kun gets hopping after 10PM with Montreal's hippest francophones practically every night. Some of the area's top DJs spin experimental or loungey techno, but there's really no dance floor to speak of. Bar staff is kooky and nice, even if no one can quite explain the ostrich heads lining the walls. $4.50 draft beers, $5 well drinks. http://www.bilykun.com/
Old Dublin, 1219 rue University (metro McGill), 514-861-4448. 11:30AM-3AM every day. Don't let the Vieux Dublin sign outside fool you -- this pub is as Irish as it gets. There's not a lot of Emerald Island schlock around, but the pints are good, and homestyle meals for lunch and dinner really hit the spot. There's live music on weekends on the miniscule stage, but during the week it's quiet and comfy. Staff is polite and nice. $6 draft beer.
McKibbin's Irish Pub, 1426 rue Bishop (metro Guy-Concordia), 514-288-1850. Being next door to Concordia U. may or may not be a point in its favor, but there's no denying that this friendly pub is a great place for a pint. The food is above-average for a pub, too.
Hurley's, 1225 rue Crescent (metro Lucien-L'allier or Guy-Concordia), 514-861-4111. Probably the best Irish pub in Montreal, with live traditional music every night and excellent food at fair prices. There's an upstairs as well for the busy nights, and a part of the pub is non-smoking, in addition to outdoor patios in the front and back. Very cozy with a highly authentic feel, and friendly professional staff. http://www.hurleysirishpub.com/
Casa Del Popolo/La Sala Rossa, 4873 boulevard Saint-Laurent (metro Laurier), 514-284-3804. Established in September 2000, Casa Del Popolo is Montréal's only family-run neighborhood vegetarian hot-spot! Part fair-trade café, part music venue, part bar, part foozball hall... The Casa and its sister venue, La Sala Rossa, frequently host touring indie artists. Shows are cheap, or even free. Try the goat cheese sandwich! http://www.casadelpopolo.com/
Le Réservoir, 9 avenue Duluth Est (metro Sherbrooke), 514-849-7779. Brewpub. Amazing snacks.
L'Amère à Boire, 2049 rue Saint-Denis (metro Sherbrooke), 514-282-7448. Brewpub.
Le Cheval Blanc, 809 rue Ontario Est (metro Sherbrooke), 514-522-0211. Brewpub.
Les 3 Brasseurs, 1658 St-Denis (metro Berri-UQAM), 514-845-1660. Brewpub and restaurant.
Brutopia, 1219 Crescent (metro Peel), 514-393-9277. Brewpub. English-speaking college crowd.
Bifteck, 3702 boul. St-Laurent. Some of the cheapest beer in town, served with some of the saltiest popcorn in all Creation, consumed by bohemians and students from near and far (and the occasional honest-to-God rock star). Great place to start or end a St-Laurent pub crawl: to the south, you'll find trendy, relatively expensive places; to the north, some of the best dive bars anywhere. Or you can just stay and get tanked.
Go Go Lounge, 3682 boul. St-Laurent. It's on the trendier part of St-Laurent, it looks trendy outwardly, the martini menu is certainly hip and happenin', but there's something missing: attitude. Anyone is made to feel welcome here, and if there's a velvet rope and a doorman, it's only because the place really is full.
Else's, 156 rue Roy est. Small, cozy space with a great selection of draft beers and fine whiskies. Technically, it's a restaurant, but you're better off eating elsewhere and just picking at the mandatory nosh (bowl of olives, etc.).
Dance clubs are often found all over the downtown area, hotspots being on st. laurent and crescent streets. Last call is 3 am for serving alcohol.
Saphir. St. Laurent. Goth and punk nights on two floors, usually very crowded.
After Hours Clubs: 2am-10am, no alcohol
Sona Electronica and other live shows.
Stereo. Electronica and other live shows.
Aria. Electronica and other live shows.
Gay and lesbian
Montreal is an extremely inviting destination for gay and lesbian tourists. Canada's contributions to gay rights have recently become widely known, but Quebec was the first province in Canada to pass a non-discrimination law for sexual orientation and to provide same-sex civil unions.
Montreal itself is a very safe, open, and inviting city. It has the largest gay village in North America (rue Sainte-Catherine from rue Saint-Hubert to av. Papineau - metro Beaudry, whose entrance is marked with rainbow pillars). Montreal's pride celebration, Divers-Cité (last week of July, first week of August) is the second-largest in North America after Toronto's.
Montreal has as many gay and lesbian bars as San Francisco, and every October on Canadian Thanksgiving (Columbus Day in the US) hosts the Black and Blue circuit party, attracting thousands to enjoy the thrill of crystal meth and hordes of pretty people dressed the same as you.
Trendy gay establishments include Unity (Ste-Catherine and Montcalm), Sky (Sainte-Catherine and Alexandre-de-Sève), and Parking (Ste-Catherine and Amherst), all in the Village. Le Drugstore (1366 Ste-Catherine)is more casual and attracts a large lesbian clientele for happy hour on Fridays.
Bars catering to a male leather clientele include Stud (Sainte-Catherine and Papineau - not exclusively leather) and Aigle Noir (Sainte-Catherine and Panet).
Cabaret Mado (Sainte-Catherine and Wolfe) is a drag show with outrageous spectacles every night, run by the city's chief drag queen, Mado Lamotte.
Outside the Village, gay bars include Agora (René-Lévesque and Mackay, metro Lucien-L'Allier) and Mystique (Stanley between Sainte-Catherine and De Maisonneuve, metro Peel), both quiet, friendly neighbourhood bars in the west end of downtown.
To find out everything about what's going on, pick up a copy of Fugues, the free monthly gay magazine with a complete listing of what's on where. You can get it at Priape, the gay sex shop and unofficial information clearinghouse in the Village on Sainte-Catherine between de la Visitation and Panet. Fugues is in French; if you don't read French, ask the staff at Priape for help.
Home-exchange, http://www.echange-de-maison.com/search.htm, this site offers you to exchange your house with another one in the country you would like to visit. It can save you lots of money. Around 50$ for a 1 year/membership.
Alternative Hostel, 358, rue Saint-Pierre (metro Place-d'Armes), 514-282-8069 email: firstname.lastname@example.org Unique layout and friendly staff in the old area of Montreal; kitchen and laundry facilities. $19/night for a bed in a dorm. http://www.auberge-alternative.qc.ca/
Armor Manoir Sherbrooke, 157, rue Sherbrooke (metro Sherbrooke). US$ 50-75
Hotel St-Denis, 1254, rue Saint-Denis (metro Berri-UQAM). US$60 - 150
Rent an Apartment, A very affordable and money-saving way to stay in Montreal is to rent an apartment/condo/loft/studio etc. whatever your soul desires. Montreal offers a big variety of rental accommodations (fridge, stove, appliances included) in every corner of the city.
Hotel-studio Anne ma soeur Anne, 4119, rue Saint-Denis (metro Mont-Royal). Brand-new boutique studio-hotel. $60-150 Budget, superior, and large suites.
A la Bonne Heure, 4425, rue Saint-Hubert (metro Mont-Royal). Charming new B&B just above Parc Lafountaine, two blocks from Mont Royal shopping, restaurants, nightlife. Only 4 rooms, so book ahead. US$60-100 double occupancy.
Hotel de Paris, 901, rue Sherbrooke Est (metro Sherbrooke), 514-522-6861. Private bathrooms, cable TV, telephone, air-conditioning. $75 (single room, seasonal; suites $175). http://www.hotel-montreal.com/
Hotel Lord Berri, 1199 Rue Berri, 1-888-363-0363. Located within walking distance of Vieux-Montreal, Chinatown and Saint-Laurent, and one block away from the Berri-UQAM Metro stop that touches three of the four lines. Average cost US$75, plus US$10 parking per day.
Auberge de La Fontaine, 1301, rue Rachel Est. Fun B&B with 25 rooms. Located on the Plateau and across the street from Parc Lafontaine. CND$ 100-280.
Montreal Intercontinental, 360, rue Saint-Antoine Ouest (metro Place-d'Armes).
Auberge Vieux Port, 97, rue de la Commune Est (metro Champ-de-Mars).
Hotel St-Paul, 355, rue McGill (metro Square-Victoria) is a recently renovated hotel in the heart of Old Montreal. Ultra-modern and sleek design. http://www.hotelstpaul.com/
Montreal Hyatt Desjardins
Photocopy shops often have internet terminals available, as do many cafés and some bookstores. The Bell phone company has installed public internet terminals (cash or credit cards) in McGill and Berri-UQAM metro stations; there is also a long-standing internet café (minus the café part) at mezzanine level in the rue Guy entrance of Guy-Concordia metro.
Although Montreal is Canada's second largest city and has some problems with crime, it shares Canada's low crime rates; therefore, problems are unlikely. A traveller's usual common sense will suffice.
For emergencies call 9-1-1.
Muggings and Pick Pocketers
If muggings or pick pocketing were to occur, the metro system would be their most likely location. South of Lionel-Groulx Metro on the green metro line is where you'll find the most consecutive stations of lower income neighborhoods. If this concerns you, police would advice you to use the first metro car where the driver is. Emergency intercoms are on every metro car. Emergency phone booths are on every platform throughout the metro system.
Pick pocketers have been known to stand in line at fast food restaurants and other crowded locations.
Most homeless are harmless, they sleep downtown with their hand open, or they quietly ask you for change. The top of metro station escalators are a favoured local for these individuals (especially Guy-Concordia metro). In some rare cases they may walk with you, talking friendly, eventually asking for change. If they are intimidating or pushy, be firm and say no, they will then leave you alone.
St. Catherine Street, Montreal's main shopping artery, has strip clubs advertised in plain view. Completely nude (not hardcore) posters or huge billboards are visible from the sidewalks . This may be a concern for you if you have young children.
Quebec is renowned for its dangerous drivers. Drivers are quite assertive on the highway. Lane changes often occur without signaling. The slow lanes will be really slow and the fast lanes are not for the faint of heart or light of foot. Accelerating and decelerating can occur rapidly so prudence should be used. Pedestrians are equally assertive when crossing the street, especially downtown. They generaly expect oncoming drivers to slow down. Oddly enough, according to the Canadian Automobile Association, rates of traffic accidents are not overly high in Montreal.
Also, potholes are a fairly common sight on Montreal roads, so be prudent and leave enough space between a car in front of yours.
Montreal has been touted as car-theft capital of Canada. 24,088 cars were stolen in Montreal in 2002; a rate of 7 cars per 1000 persons.
Confrontations with French Quebeckers
Nationalism in Quebec is a contentious issue with its primary argument for succession as language. Therefore consideration should be taken when interacting with French Speakers (Les Quebecois). Some, not all, may feel offended by your inability to speak French. If this is the case, it is best to be apologetic rather than offended yourself. Any attempt to speak their language, no matter how terrible, would be appreciated. Learning some key French words for your trip to Montreal would be a good idea. In most cases, if a French person sees you struggling, they will switch to English. Some Nationalists who see you struggling may become more patient with you and help you along. But remember, there is a small percentage of Montrealers who actually do not understand English; they are not refusing to speak English to you, they truly can't! All the above mentioned individuals will also be behind service desks, so don't be surprised if an information clerk cannot speak English properly. Quebec law states that employees must be able to address customers in French; English is permitted but not legislated.
AMT train system
The Agence Metropolitain de Transport, offers extremely confusing fare systems for commuter train customers. Based on zones and age/current education, this aboveground train system accumulates fines for those that do not pay properly. To board, a customer must first purchase a train ticket from a machine at the platform. There are no ticket machines on the train. A security agent sweeps the train on occasion looking for infractions. If the incorrect zone is typed in, the customer can get a fine of up to $400. If the correct ticket is purchased, a fine can be given for not stamping it with the date/time on a second machine. In some cases, incorrect tickets will go unnoticed because the security agents pass through only occasionally. In most cases the fine is $100. Instructions for paying are clearly displayed-in French only. To further confuse things, payment procedures are often changed or updated.
Montreal makes an excellent entryway for visiting other cities and destinations in Quebec. Quebec City, about 3 hours to the north east on Highway 40, is almost but not quite a day trip -- you'll want to stay over, anyways. Mont Tremblant lies less than 2 hours north in the Laurentides, while the Eastern Townships are about the same distance straight east. If you're continuing to Ontario, Ottawa is 2 hours west by car, and Toronto is more distant, but still doable, 6 hour drives. Boston is a five and a half hour drive to the southeast.