Difference between revisions of "Montreal"
Revision as of 02:06, 1 May 2013
Montreal  (French: Montréal) the metropolis of the province of Quebec. Quebec City is the political capital but Montreal is the cultural and economic capital of Quebec and the main entry point to the province. The second largest city in Canada, it is a city rich in culture and history and a well-deserved reputation as one of the liveliest cities in North America. Montreal is the second-largest French-speaking (as a mother language) city in the world, behind Paris. The population of Montreal is about 1.9 million, with 4 million in the metro area.
From West to East neighbourhoods:
Plateau Mont-Royal district
Other Montreal districts and Montreal Island towns
Elsewhere on the island
Situated on an island in the St. Lawrence River at the historically highest navigable point, Montreal has been a strategic location since before the arrival of Europeans in Canada. A thriving Mohawk town 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 Sulpician mission by Paul Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve. It soon became a centre of the fur trade. After its capture by the English in 1762, Montreal remained (until the 1970s) the most important city in Canada and was briefly capital of the province in the 1840s.
Prohibition on sales of alcohol in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s 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 centred 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 World Fairs. Over 50 million visitors gathered to Montreal during this memorable summer. 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 boom, 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 some of 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.
Following an economic depression in the 1980s and 1990s, Montreal became more secure in its place in North America and the world. It remains a centre of culture, arts, computer technology, aerospace, the biotech industry, and media for all of Canada.
It has been said that Montréal is the only city in the world where the sun "rises in the south."
Montrealers use an unconventional compass, using the river and the mountain as cardinal points. When you are downtown, the St Lawrence River is “south” and Mount Royal is “north”; making the West Island and the East End correct in both their names and orientations. This tends to confuse visitors because the “East” End is really north and the “West” Island is south, and the St Lawrence River runs almost north-south at this location.
Most local maps use this convention as do the highways around the city. For example, Autoroute 15 north actually runs northwest and Autoroute 40 east runs northeast.
To underscore this fact, a Montreal map will show that the "south end" of Victoria Bridge is in fact further north than the "north end".
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 (although Toronto was the first municipality in Canada to do so). Same-sex marriage is legal in Quebec (neither residency nor citizenship are required for a marriage license, but there is a three-week waiting period after you receive the licence) as well as in the rest of Canada. Canadian and Quebec immigration law allow residents to sponsor their same-sex partners or spouses.
Montreal itself is a very safe, open, and inviting city. The métro station in the Gay Village, Beaudry, is marked with rainbow pillars. Montreal's pride celebration, Divers/Cité(last week of July, first week of August) is the second-largest in Canada after Toronto's.
The climate of Montreal is a true humid continental climate with 4 distinct seasons. The city has warm, to occasional hot & humid summers, generally mild spring and autumn, and often very cold & snowy winters. Montreal gets over 2,000 hours of sunshine annually. Precipitation is moderate throughout the year, with around 2 meters of snow per season.
Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport  (IATA: YUL) (formerly Dorval Airport) is west of the city centre on Expressway (Autoroute) 20. Note that travel time to the airport from the city centre can be as much as an hour, depending on traffic. The airport is served by all major Canadian and U.S. airlines and is a major hub for Air Canada , Air Transat , and WestJet .
There are multiple daily trans-Atlantic flights to and from (amongst others) London, Amsterdam, Paris, Geneva, Zurich, Athens, Doha, Frankfurt, Rome, Madrid, Lisbon, Munich, and Casablanca.
The taxi fare to and from downtown is a fixed price of $40 (a sticker on the window behind the driver gives the boundaries of the zone where the flat fare applies; if you are going from or to places outside this zone, you will have to pay a metered fare with a minmum of $17 when leaving from the airport).
STM Airport Express bus 747  offers service between the airport and downtown Montreal 24 hours a day. A single fare will cost $9 (exact change in coins only when paid in the bus) and includes unlimited use of the STM bus and metro network for the following 24 hours. There is also a ticket machine in the airport where you can purchase fares. You also have the choice of purchasing a three-day pass for $18 and a weekly pass (valid Monday through Sunday only) for $23.75 that also include the price of your 747 fare. The bus will stop at Lionel-Groulx metro station and a number of downtown stops. Free Wi-Fi service is available on most 747 buses. It is an approximately 20 minute ride to the first Métro station, Lionel-Groulx on the Orange Line, which provides easy access to many parts of downtown and other popular destinations. The bus terminates at the Gare Autocars (bus station) where you can transfer to local buses, Greyhound, Orléans Expressto, and the Métro (Orange, Green, and Yellow lines).
It is possible to go downtown by the cheaper regular public transit system. Late at night, it is all right, but during peak hours, you will need to complete several transfers with potentially crowded vehicles so it is really only best to do so only if you are on a very low budget and/or have very light baggage.
Between 5:00 AM and 1:00 AM, take bus 204 east (est) (STM ) which leaves from outside arrivals every 30 min to Gare Dorval (Dorval Train Station). Check that the driver is not going west (ouest) as both ways are served from almost the same place, and the sign does not say. You can also use the 209 on weekdays to get to Gare Dorval. Also, be sure to keep the ticket that the driver will give you as it is a transfer which you will need later. From Gare Dorval, use your transfer ticket to catch any one of buses 211, 411, 405, 425, or 485 to Lionel-Groulx metro station. Also make sure it is going east as the same routes go west too. Your transfer will then let you into the metro. This costs only $3, but exact change in coins only must be provided to the first driver. Take the Montmorency-bound orange line or the Honoré-Beaugrand-bound green line into downtown on the metro.
Between 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM, for the same price ($3, exact change in coins only), take bus 356 (again, check that the driver is going east, not west) directly into downtown via Sherbrooke. This bus runs relatively close to most downtown hotels. However, if needed, a transfer can be completed to access the rest of the city. See the STM's trip planner or Google Maps for more details.
Plattsburgh International Airport and Burlington International Airport, both located in the US, are each about two hours' ride from Montreal. Adirondack Trailways offers a bus service between Plattsburgh International Airport and Montreal. Greyhound offers a bus service from Burlington International Airport and Montreal. For travellers from the US, these airports may offer a significant cost savings compared to Trudeau but at the added inconvenience of arranging ground transportation between the US and Canada.
From Toronto, take Highway 401 east about 5 h until it becomes Autoroute (Expressway) 20 on the Quebec side of the border. It will then take about an hour to get to downtown. Be alert for frequent speed-limit changes along this road. To reach downtown follow the Centre-Ville signs and take Autoroute 720 (Autoroute 20 continues over the Pont Champlain bridge to the South Shore).
From Quebec City, it's about 3 hours west on either Autoroute 40 or Autoroute 20.
From New York City, take Interstate Highway 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 Autoroute 15, which leads directly into downtown Montreal over the Pont Champlain, the most beautiful approach to the city. The drive time from Plattsburgh to downtown Montreal is approximately one hour.
From Boston, take Interstate Highway 93 to Highway 89 after you cross into New Hampshire. Follow Interstated 89 north to and through Vermont to the border crossing, where it turns into Highway 133. This secondary road continues to Autoroute 10, which leads directly into downtown Montreal. The whole trip takes about 5 hours. Once you cross the border it is about 1 1/2 hours to Montreal.
Montreal Central Station (Gare Centrale) is at 895 rue de la Gauchetière Ouest, one block west of rue University, and is served by the Bonaventure metro (subway) station. Note that prices are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise specified.
VIA Rail Canada  operates fast and comfortable passenger trains from Montreal along the busy Quebec-Ontario corridor and to destinations in northern Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. All fares below are five-day advance booking prices for one-way travel in "Comfort" (coach / economy) class, expect to pay almost 50% more if you book on the day of travel. Check the VIA website for "express deals" , which are posted every Thursday. Highly discounted tickets are available, typically for long distance train routes or short distance trips at non-peak hours. Express deals on short distance trips (e.g. Montreal-Toronto) are typically offered only for the upcoming weeks, whereas long distance deals (e.g. Montreal to Winnipeg) may be available several weeks in advance. "VIA-1" (first / business) class is available for a premium and includes a meal, alcoholic refreshments, snacks, and pay-per-use wireless internet in both station lounges and on board the train. An ISIC student card can obtain a discount on all services (both VIA and Amtrak). Bicycles can also be brought aboard as is on certain Corridor trains during the summer months. See Rail travel in Canada for more information.
Six evenings a week, VIA's "Ocean" service departs for the overnight journey to New Brunswick (fifteen and a half hours, from $110 coach, $162 upper berth, $219 bedroom) and Nova Scotia (twenty hours, from $133 coach, $187 upper berth, $245 bedroom). The choice of sleeping accommodation varies according to the season. Along with trains between Montreal and Quebec, the Ocean is now almost exclusively operated by modern Renaissance trains that were originally built for the aborted Channel Tunnel sleeper services between Great Britain and France.
Three evenings a week, the Ocean also pulls the "Chaleur" train as far as Matapedia. The train divides in the early morning and the Chaleur follows the southern shore of the Gaspé peninsular as far as Gaspe (17.5 h, from $106 coach, $165 upper berth, $215 bedroom).
VIA also offers three weekly round trips to Senneterre, in Abitibi (eleven and a half hours, from $81), and Jonquière in the Saguenay (nine hours, from $55). Both trains operate as wilderness services: a request stop may be made at any point along the route for those who want to hike and kayak in the remoter regions of Quebec that the train passes through.
Amtrak's  'Adirondack' service to New York (11 hours, from $65 US) departs daily, with connections in Schenectady to (but not from) Chicago (24 h, $114 US) and in New York to Philadelphia (14 h, $97 US) and Washington, DC (16 h, $120 US). The train also passes through much of upstate New York and hugs Lake Champlain for a large part of the trip. South of Albany, the route follows the Hudson River and passes a number of historic sites. Reliability of the service has improved greatly since an extra hour was added to the previous 10 h schedule, but one should still factor in the frequent possibility of arriving an hour later than scheduled.
The journey to New York is cheaper but slower than by bus (see below), which takes 7-9 h, but the superior comfort, extra legroom and ability to walk around the train and visit the cafe car for food and drink at your leisure, as well as the good view from the train of the Lake Champlain and Hudson River scenery, make up for this. While the bus is superior in terms of speed for a direct journey to New York, where getting for A to B is most important, the extra time on the train is more pleasantly spent in terms of comfort and scenery.
Train passengers leaving from Boston may take the Regional Service to Penn Station, New York, and transfer to the Adirondack line to Montreal, but this method requires significant layover times in New York.
There are extensive services to Montreal from cities in Ontario, Quebec, New York, Vermont, and Maine. Buses arrive and depart from the Station Centrale d'autobus (not to be confused with the Gare Centrale or central train station) at 505 boulevard de Maisonneuve est, (directly above the Berri-UQAM metro station]. Call 514-842-2281 for schedules and prices.
Intercity bus services to Montreal are offered by Megabus , Coach Canada , Adirondack Trailways , Greyhound Canada , Greyhound Lines , Voyageur , and Orléans Express . Orléans Express is the principal bus carrier in the St. Lawrence Valley, including the Montreal—Quebec City route. Its sister company Acadian Lines  provides connections from eastern Quebec to destinations in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Voyageur, a subsidiary of Greyhound Canada, provides service to Ottawa, connecting with other bus routes to points in western Canada. Coach Canada provides service to Toronto, connecting with other bus routes to western New York, southern Ontario, Michigan and Illinois. Other regions of Quebec are served by various companies.
Greyhound Lines offers three daily direct services and Adirondack Trailways offers two daily direct services, from New York, with additional trips operated on weekends and in summer (8 h, from $76.50 US). Vermont Transit, a subsidiary of Greyhound Lines, offers four daily direct services from Boston, though Vermont Transit is now operating under the name of Greyhound Lines (seven hours, from $72 US). Note that there is no student discount on the Montreal-New York service.
The train is slower but significantly cheaper; around $62 CA compared to about $75 CA for the bus. However, for about $15 CA extra, the bus makes for a much quicker journey with a much quicker passage through customs; so for speed, the bus is far superior; but for comfort and scenery, the longer train journey is more pleasantly spent.
Montreal is an island in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River, accessible only by bridge. Not all bridges are bike accessible, however, several are including the breathtaking Jacques Cartier bridge. Prominent bike lanes exist throughout the city, most notably along the Lachine Canal, Rue Rachel, boulevard de Maisonneuve, rue Brébeuf, rue Berri, rue Cherrier and most recently along rue Laurier. The Plateau-Mont-Royal is where most of these bike paths are and is the neighbourhood, along with neighbouring Mile-End, where there are the most people who cycle and walk as a means of day to day transport. It has the highest density population wise and the lowest car ownership rate per household. However, bike theft is an issue, especially in the Plateau. Most locals can recall a time when they witnessed bike theft, though the situation is getting better now that the public bike share program, Bixi, has been implemented. It was not uncommon to have somebody offer you a stolen bike for sale on the street. Be equally aware of the peripheral articles of your bicycle; seats, baskets, and wheels can often be easily detached if not properly secured to the bike's frame or locked with a u-lock.
From Montreal Central Station (Gare Centrale)
Upon disembarking the train, go to the baggage claim area and wait there for a baggage attendant to bring your bicycle to you. If you have checked other baggage, claim it at the conveyor belt. The easiest way to exit the station is at the main entrance near the baggage claim through the parking garage onto rue de la Gauchetière. All other exits require you to carry your bike up flights of stairs. At the west side of the station is the entrance to the Underground City and access to Bonaventure metro station on the Orange line. However, there is no elevator access to the metro from the train station, which means that you have to carry your bike and luggage down several flights of stairs.
From Montreal-Trudeau International Airport
The airport  is on the western part of the island. From the main terminal, exit onto the main access road and turn right. Wind along the access road until the first major interchange and turn right. You will reach Albert de Niverville Boulevard and be forced to turn left (south) towards the main highway (Autoroute 20). At the end of this Boulevard, turn right on Cardinal Avenue. To your right, you will come to a pedestrian underpass that takes you under the railway tracks and leads to the Dorval Circle, a very busy traffic circle. This looks intimidating, but the traffic lights will allow you to ride safely under Autoroute 20 to Dorval Boulevard (Boulevard Dorval). Continue south down Dorval Boulevard until the end. Turn left on Lakeshore Drive (Chemin Lakeshore) towards the city. This road turns into Boulevard St. Joseph. You will eventually come to a bike path to your right that winds along the shores of Lac-Saint Louis (part of the Saint Lawrence river) through the town of Lachine. Continue down this path until you reach the entrance of the Lachine Canal. Cross the canal and continue down the Lachine Canal Bike Path (Piste Cyclable Canal Lachine) and follow the signs to the Old Port (Vieux Port) in Old Montreal (Vieux Montreal). The Lachine Canal Bike Path can be quite busy on weekends and holidays, so be ready to take your time. It is paved over its entire length.
Cyclists approaching Montreal from the west should take secondary highways to Dorion, where Autoroute 20, inaccessible to bicycles over most of of its length, becomes accessible as it crosses bridges first to Île Perrot (Perrot Island) and then to the Island of Montreal (at Saine-Anne-de-Bellevue). Bicycles should use the sidewalk on these bridges as traffic is usually heavy. From here, cyclists may take Lakeshore Boulevard and the Lachine Canal Bike Path (see Airport section above) to Old Montreal and the downtown core.
The Isle-aux-Tourtes Bridge on Autoroute 40 is not accessible by bicycle.
From the United States
Cyclists approaching Montreal from the South Shore to the south and east of Montreal may access the Island of Montreal a number of ways (See map: ).
The surest (but not foolproof) way is using the sidewalk Jacques Cartier Bridge. When it is not closed for repairs, it is open year round and all day. A paved bike path along the shores of the Saint Lawrence River provides the most scenic approach to the bridge.
An equally popular route is from the Saint Lambert Locks (Ecluses Saint-Lambert) of the Saint Lawrence Seaway near the Victoria Bridge (Pont Victoria) east of Montreal. The bike drawbridge may be blocked by the entertaining spectacle of a ship passing through the seaway. From here, cyclists take the Grand Prix racing track (Gilles-Villeneuve circuit) on Île Notre Dame to the Concord Bridge to Montreal. This route is closed sometimes for car racing events . In this case, cyclists can take a circuitous detour down a gravel causeway dividing the seaway and river to the Estacade, an ice boom that crosses the river parallel to the Champlain Bridge to Nun's Island and eventually Montreal. A lesser known crossing involves one at the Sainte Catherine Locks (Ecluses Sainte-Catherine) at Saint Catherine south of Montreal. These bridges cross the seaway to the same causeway as the Saint Lambert locks. In this case, the road to the Estacade ice boom is paved. These bike links from the South Shore are open from 15 April to 15 November, from 6:30AM to 10:00PM. .
The Champlain Bridge, Mercier bridge, and Lafontaine Tunnel are definitely inaccessible to bicycles. These can be dangerous, even in a car. A bicycle path crossing the Mercier Bridge is under construction and is expected to be open by the Spring of 2012.
Montreal has historically been divided into east and west by boulevard Saint-Laurent. Numbered addresses on streets that cross Saint-Laurent start there and increase in either direction; most addresses are given as "rue ____ Ouest" (west) or "rue ____ Est" (east). Many streets are named after Catholic saints and figures from local history, both well-known and obscure. Note that in Montreal street names, "east" and "west" refer to the direction parallel to the St. Lawrence River, and "north" and "south" refer to the direction perpendicular to the St. Lawrence River. Because the St. Lawrence River runs almost north-south near downtown Montreal, "east", "west", "north", and "south" are actually northeast, southwest, northwest and southeast respectively. Confusingly, most maps displayed in the city have "Montreal north" on top which can be confusing with a satellite navigation that uses pole north. Also, don't try to navigate by looking at the sun!
Walking is a favoured way to get around the densely packed downtown and the narrow streets of Old Montreal, especially during the warmer months. However, beware during winter months, as sidewalks can be icy and extremely hazardous after winter snow and ice storms. Winter boots with good grip are essential for surviving pavements that have not been cleared. Beware also (as much as you can) of thawing ice falling from overhanging balconies and roofs. But you can always take the stairs down to Montreal's famous "Underground City" (Montréal souterrain), called RÉSO , a network of pedestrian corridors connecting Métro (subway) stations, shopping centres, and office complexes.
Jaywalking is widespread and rarely punished. However, be aware that drivers will usually not stop or even slow down if a pedestrian steps out in front of them, even at marked crosswalks. At an intersection, however, a pedestrian will have right of passage before turning traffic and most drivers respect this. Despite Montreal drivers' poor reputation for aggressiveness, they generally respect pedestrians.
Rue Sainte-Catherine is Montreal's main commercial artery and busiest pedestrian thoroughfare. The "Underground City" and the Green Line (or line 1) of Montreal's Metro is easily accessible from all the major office complexes, shopping malls, department stores, and theatre complexes that line it. Smaller chain stores and restaurants also vie for valuable commercial space. Well-kept historic churches with green space provide quiet oasis and contrast with the giant neon signs of strip clubs. Major hotels generally can be found one or two blocks north and south of Saint Catherine in the downtown core. Bars, restaurants, and dance clubs cluster within a block of Sainte-Catherine around Crescent and Bishop, catering to a mostly English-speaking clientele. Rue Saint-Denis, farther east, and the Gay Village between Berri and de Lormier, even more to the east, are mostly French-speaking. McGill College Boulevard in the downtown core from Saine-Catherine offers an open view of Mount Royal to the north and an impressive view of the Place Ville-Marie skyscraper to the south. Keep your head up and beware of following the flow of the crowd on this street: throngs of pedestrians often walk across cross streets against red lights, risking life and limb.
Rue Prince-Arthur, east of Saint-Laurent, is for pedestrians only. Another pedestrian-only locale is Montreal's Chinatown, situated on Rue de la Gauchtière Est between Saint-Urbain and Saint-Laurent. A good trick for navigating downtown Montreal is to remember that streets slope up toward Mount Royal, which is just north of downtown and easy to see from most locations.
The districts surrounding downtown Montreal are especially delightful on foot. To the south is Old Montreal (Le Vieux-Montréal)  (its narrow streets and buildings dating from the 17th and 18th centuries really can make you feel like you're in Old Europe) and the Old Port (Le Vieux-Port) , a waterfront strolling park with exhibits and boat tours, is very popular with the locals. To the north, the Golden Square Mile and the McGill University Campus is wedged between Mount Royal and Sherbrooke Street on the southern slope of the mountain. Old Victorian mansions and townhouses can be found along the sloping streets, many now housing McGill University's offices and libraries. Just west of downtown is affluent Westmount, a perfect example of 19th-century English-style homes and gardens (inhabited to a great extent by English-speaking people) climbing the slopes of Mount Royal's western part (the higher you climb, the larger the old mansions). Just east and northeast of downtown are the mostly French-speaking Gay Village (Le Village Gai) and Plateau (Plateau Mont-Royal) districts. Street after street displays turn-of-the-19th-century row duplexes and triplexes, replete with famous Montreal outdoor staircases, overflowing front gardens (or snow-covered gables, depending on the time of year), and tiny shops tucked into every nook and cranny. For people who like to see a culture where it lives, Le Plateau is the place to wander about in.
Mount Royal (Mont-Royal) is also accessible from the urban core on foot. . Fit pedestrians can climb Rue Peel to the southern edge of the park. A series of renovated staircases will take you directly to the Chalet near the top of the mountain, with its classic view of the downtown core. A more leisurely climb to the top awaits those on Olmsted Road (6.5 km), a wide, gently sloping bike and foot path accessible from the Plateau in Parc Jeanne-Mance (also known as Fletcher's Field). Smaller foot paths serendipitously branch off from this road. A cross-country ski path also winds to the top in the wintertime. Mount Royal's park was designed by Frederick Olmsted, a landscape architect who lived from 1822 to 1903 and was also responsible for the design of Central Park in New York City  and the Emerald Necklace in Boston.
Driving (SAAQ ) in Montreal can be a challenge for many North American motorists. Although turning right on a red light is allowed across the rest of Quebec (except at intersections where a sign indicates this is not permitted), right turns on red are strictly prohibited on the island of Montreal. The stop lights at most of downtown intersections are located on the opposite side of the intersection, not at the actual stop line as in some of Europe.
The use of road salt to keep roads ice-free during severe winters takes its toll on the roadways, which are either heavily potholed or subject to perpetual construction. Downtown traffic is dense. Street parking can be difficult. Parking meters are in use seven days a week in most districts (9am-9pm Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm Sat, 1pm-6pm Sun), including statutory Holidays. The standard parking ticket cost is $52. Parking tickets may be appealed in court only by the owner of the car that was subject to the infraction, so if a rented car is ticketed, the person who rented may be unable to contest the charge. Car parking downtown is expensive at around $3 an hour at parking meters or $25 per day at commercial parking lots. Parking signs are all in French, and will describe a day and hour (based on 24h clock) along with conditions for parking. Many arterial roads prohibit parking on one side during rush hour, and vehicles are subject to $150 fine plus towing costs and other fees. Also be aware that Montreal does not paint curbs red next to fire hydrants, but it is still illegal to park there.
Many downtown streets are one way, which can complicate getting around. If you see a sign at an intersection that has direction arrows in a green circle, that means those are the only directions you are allowed to turn. Left turns are allowed on a green light provided there are no other signs prohibiting. Visitors should be familiar with the flashing green light , which indicates a protected left-turn (priority), which is equivalent to a green arrow in other parts of the world. Some signals are green arrows that flash, this is the same meaning. Autoroutes (expressways or freeways) can be challenging for visitors, as most signs are French, but most symbols are the same as in English Canada and the United States.
Cycling is the best way to visit the City, especially its central neighbourhoods like the Plateau Mont-Royal; it is a very popular mode of transportation once the coldest winter weather is over. The city is criss-crossed by 660km of cycle paths, including some which cross the St. Lawrence onto the island of Montreal. By far the nicest path is the Lachine Canal path that stretches from Lachine, along Lac St-Louis, down to Old Montreal along the canal. You can cross over to the South Shore either on the Jacques Cartier Bridge, Île Notre-Dame, or via the Estacade ice bridge from Île des Sœurs.
Even if you are on a bike path, beware of drivers especially if they are turning, as lines of visibility at intersections are not well enforced in the city. Generally Montreal drivers in the central neighbourhoods are used to sharing the road with bikes and so are courteous, there are always a few, usually from outlying neighbourhoods, who give all drivers a bad name. Some downtown bike paths are separated from the road by parked cars, which decreases visibility, both yours and the drivers. The often crowded bike path on rue Rachel one is the worst for this, however the Plateau part of the path will be renovated soon to make it safer and greener. If one is comfortable driving in Montreal, one generally can feel comfortable biking there as well. Montreal pedestrians are known for not waiting for a light to change if there are no cars coming; cyclists are a bit like that too and often treat the many stop signs on residential streets more as yield signs than as stop signs. Wearing a helmet is not required under the law, though, for children especially, it's better to be safe than sorry.
The Bixi system is a public bike share system. Rated the best in the world, it was designed and developed in Montreal and has since been exported to many cities around the world including London, UK and Sydney, Australia. Major credit cards are accepted. The Bixi was conceived for local active transit but is accessible to tourists as well. For a flat $7 fee, you can use Bixi bikes as much as you like for 24 hours provided you don't use a particular bixi bike for more than 30 minutes at a time before returning it to a docking station. After returning the bike to a docking station, you can get another bike (even at the same station) after a 2 minute waiting period. There are over 400 Bixi stations with over 5000 bikes around the city concentrated in the downtown and central neighbourhoods like the Plateau (though its expanding all the time). The tourist information centre has maps of the stations. Helmets are not provided nor are locks. You could use your own lock, but there is usually a station not more than a block away on a commercial strip so returning the Bixi to the nearest stand is always the safest and most cost-effective choice. Be aware that stations fill up and empty quickly; you may have to bike to the next station to find an empty docking spot. If you have a smart phone, there is an app that shows you real-time the nearest stations, how many bikes are docked, or whether there is a free docking spot available.
Skate and bike rental shops are common, particularly in the Old Port and the Plateau. Visit La Maison des Cyclistes (the cyclists's house) at 1251 rue Rachel Est for all info on cycling in Montreal. (See Do for specific bike paths).
By metro or bus
Montreal is home to one of the three public subway/metro systems in Canada, the others found in Vancouver and Toronto. The public transit system, run by Société de transport de Montréal (STM) , is safe, efficient, and is overall pleasant to use. Tickets have been replaced by cards with magnetic stripe containing one trip, called an à la carte ticket. These are valid for one trip (including unlimited transfers in the same way for 90 min) on the metro and buses, costing $3.00 each (exact fare in coins is required on the buses but not on the metro) but are also available for less when you purchase six for $14.25 either from the metro agent or the automatic fare vending machine located in metro stations.
Note that Montreal metro stations and train cars lack air conditioning, the Metro can sometimes get uncomfortably hot, in every season. It does however still exist as the best transport option in the city. Announcements are in French only as is the vast majority of signage.
You need to keep your payment card as it is both your transfer and your proof of payment (correspondance); fare inspectors may give you a large fine if you are unable to show it when they request it.
If you are using cash to pay your fare on the bus, it is important to have the exact fare since the driver does not give change; you will receive an à la carte ticket, your proof of payment and your transfer. Pictures and specific instructions can be found here. 
Tourist passes offer unlimited travel on the bus and metro for periods of one day ($9) or three days ($18) and are well worth it to avoid fumbling for change, checking transfer times and restrictions, and worrying about getting off at the wrong stop and having to repay. They are available from most downtown metro stations during the summer but only at Berri-UQAM, Peel, and Bonaventure stations off-season (Update 3-2011: tourist passes available pretty much everywhere there is an OPUS machine, pay cash or use Canadian credit cards only). Weekly ($23.75 regular, $14.00 for students under 18; valid from the nearest Sunday of purchase) and monthly ($77.00 regular, $45.00 for students under 25) passes are also available; unlike one day and three day passes, weekly and monthly passes must be loaded onto an OPUS card (see below) and are not available in paper ticket form. Only students studying at a recognized academic institution in Montréal may benefit from student fares, and a special card must be obtained from the STM.
The OPUS card is a smart card with a chip that contains your fare and transfer information. The OPUS card can be purchased at all metro stations and transit fare points of sale. As of December 2010, the card costs $6. You can find your nearest seller here. 
OPUS cards can be refilled at metro stations using the automated machines or at the ticket booth.
The STM website offers an online trip-planner service.  Trip planning can also be done using Google Maps. Free bus and Metro system maps are available from the ticket booth at most metro stations. These are useful to find where you are on the island. 
At each subway station, directions are not indicated by compass directions, such as westbound or eastbound. Instead, trains go in the direction of a subway line's terminus. The green line runs from Angrignon in the west to Honoré-Beaugrand in the east. If you were to travel eastbound, for example, you would look for Honoré-Beaugrand on the platform. If you were to travel westbound, you would look for Angrignon. There are four interchange stations at which commuters can change subway lines without extra charge: Snowdon (blue/orange), Lionel-Groulx (orange/green), Berri-UQAM (green/yellow/orange), and Jean-Talon (orange/blue).
Bicycles are permitted aboard metro trains outside of the rush hours such as: 10:00am to 3:00pm and 7:00pm to end of service on weekdays and all day Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. Bikes are only allowed in the lead car of the train up to a maximum of 6. STM staff may deny bikes aboard the metro for safety reasons such as special events that might generate a high level of ridership. Lists of such events are posted on the STM website and at the entrances to metro. During festival season in Montreal, bikes are seldom allowed at all.
Bike riding inside stations or the Underground City is strictly prohibited.
Montreal has a commuter train system run by the Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT)  with termini at the Montreal Central Station (Gare Central) and at Lucien-L'Allier (both are accessible from the metro). Commuter trains are handy for getting to suburbs and neighbouring towns.
Commuter train stations are divided into six zones that radiate out from downtown. Stations have automated machines from which you must purchase a ticket appropriate to the zones of the station you are traveling to or from, whichever is farther (for example, a trip from Zone 1 to Zone 3 or vice versa would require a Zone 3 ticket). A prepurchased ticket card (SOLO) must be validated at the card scanners at the entrance to the platform. In general, reduced fares (for students and seniors) require ID that is not available to travelers, but if you are staying in the area, ask an employee for more details as the rules are complicated, but you can get good savings.
There are no ticket machines on the train and ticket inspections are random. Incorrect tickets sometimes go unnoticed because inspectors check only occasionally. However, it is best to avoid taking chances as if the ticket is not valid, the customer can get a fine of $400. Note that the ticket machines should now all be bilingual in English and French. The two downtown stations have staffed ticket booths Monday to Friday, but not in the evenings. Other stations may also have booths but generally only during either the morning or afternoon rush hour.
MapArt produces an excellent map in book-form of downtown Montreal and environs, including Vieux Montréal, Mount Royal, the Plateau as well as areas as far north as the University of Montreal and as far south as Parc Jean-Drapeau. That form is handy as you can avoid always folding a map of the whole island.
Below is a basic map of the primary areas of interest to visitors.
During the winter, many parks offer the possibility to do cross-country skiing with groomed paths.
An interactive map of the cycle path network is available at the Vélo Québec website. Particularly pleasant places to cycle and skate include:
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:
International Festival of Film on Art - organization devoted to the promotion and presentation of the finest productions on art and media art. A ten-day competitive festival, it is the most important annual event of its kind in the world. FIFA has become a focal point for artis and artisans from the art and film communities, as well as for art and cinema enthusiast.
Sports to watch
Montreal is a popular destination for language-immersion programs in French and English. Many schools arrange accommodations — either in dorms or with a family and provide cultural programs with trips around the city and beyond. Prices are usually higher for non-Quebecois and higher-still for non-Canadians. Most are located in Downtown and the Old City. Intensive, non-resident programs are also offered by the YMCA and Quebec government.
Montreal is home to one of Canada's oldest and most prestigious universities, McGill University. McGill is consistenly ranked as one of the top 20 universities in the world. Concordia University is the city's other English-language university, and has over 40,000 students. The school's origins in and continuing emphasis on adult education make it popular for mature students, since it holds many graduate-level courses at night. Both universities are research focused.
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. The Université de Montréal has two affiliated schools, Polytechnique Montréal (engineering), and HEC Montréal (business school) that offer undergraduate and graduate studies.
Université Laval and Université de Sherbrooke also have campuses in the Montreal area. Every university, with the exception of Laval, lends its name to a subway stop to indicate the university's approximate location. For example, the Guy-Concordia subway station, located at the intersection of Rue Guy and boulevard de la Maisonneuve ouest, is no more than two minutes away from its namesake university (Concordia).
As Montreal is in the province of Quebec, which has its own immigration policies, persons wishing to work in Montreal will have to go through two processes, once with the Quebec government, then finally with the Canadian government. If you are employed with a foreign company which has a Montreal office, you can seek a transfer. You can also seek a job with a Montreal employer and they can sponsor you for a temporary work visa. If you are a skilled worker (see CIC website) you can immigrate based on your own skills.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) allows skilled U.S. and Mexican professionals to obtain Canadian work visa provided they are qualified in certain professions. The American Consular Services website  provides an up-to-date list of qualifying professions.
If you are an U.S. Citizen aged 18-30 and a full-time student, you can obtain a Canadian work visa valid for six months through BUNAC . Students from France, Britain, New Zealand, and Australia can also benefit from BUNAC work programs. As well, if you obtain a degree from a Canadian university, you are eligible to remain in Montreal and work for up to one year.
For anyone else, the Immigration Canada (CIC) website  explains a number of ways foreigners can legally work in Canada.
Student jobs include babysitting, painting during the summer, and moving furniture in June. McGill and Montreal universities are always in search of research subjects and so are Montreal's many biotech firms. Montreal also has many call centres, which constantly seek to hire new employees and offer flexible working hours.
Although Montreal's economy has been booming in recent years, the city remains remarkably affordable compared to other major cities in Canada and the United States. Shopping in Montreal ranges from eclectic budget stores to high-end fashion, with a wide spectrum in between.
Rue Ste-Catherine, between rue Guy and boulevard St-Laurent, has many 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 Saint-Denis and a mixed bag of neighbourhood 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 Boulevard St-Laurent and Avenue du Parc.
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 Mount Royal, anything and everything Italian between Saint-Zotique and Jean-Talon). Rue Sherbrooke ouest, west of the Autoroute Décarie, boasts an increasingly interesting concentration of largely food-oriented businesses. Jean-talon market, located near the intersection of Jean-talon and St-Laurent boasts a wide variety of local produce and food products (maple syrup, cheese, etc.) at very good prices.
Trendier boutiques can be found on rue Saint-Denis, north of rue Sherbrooke and south of avenue Mont-Royal est, as well as rue Saint-Laurent (continuing as far north as Bernard). The latter is in the process of becoming more upscale, so the range of shopping is highly variable and lower in density as one goes north of Mont-Royal. Rue Sherbrooke itself has a number of high-end stores (notably Holt Renfrew) and commercial art galleries in a short strip running approximately from McGill University west to rue Guy. Farther west, Sherbrooke intersects with Greene Avenue in Westmount, which boasts a short, but luxurious retail strip. Avenue 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 rue Marie-Anne and avenue Mont-Royal, with sparser, but still interesting stores as far north as rue Saint Viateur. Antique buffs will find interesting stores all over the city, but they'll want to make a special pilgrimage to rue Notre-Dame est, when you head east from avenue Atwater. Rue Amherst, in the Gay Village, also has a significant concentration of antique dealers.
Montreal is a culinary mecca and has a huge variety of food options, from diners and fast food to low-cost ethnic restaurants to haute cuisine. The city was recently ranked 2nd best dining city in North America after San Francisco and ahead of New York. The large local Jewish population has contributed local specialties including huge smoked meat sandwiches (beef brisket) (Schwartz's is undisputably the most authentic smoked meat restaurant) and small, crusty bagels (the undisputed classic bagel places are St-Viateur's and Fairmount Bagels). Other specialties are "all-dressed" pizza (pepperoni, mushrooms and green peppers), pizza and spaghetti with smoked meat, and Quebecois favorites like split pea soup and poutine. Old Montreal beacons with many a authentic French themed cafe and old world French themed restaurants that specialize in both imported wines and provincial cuisines.
Separate bills (l'addition or "facture" in French) 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.
Never call a waiter "garçon"! Use "monsieur" or "madame".
To buy your own food or regional products, the public market at Jean-Talon, 7075 avenue Casgrain (metro Jean-Talon or De Castelnau), is the place to go. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m, the market is especially noteworthy for its selection of produce. Even though they're 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. 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 Lionel-Groulx station
Montreal claims to have the most restaurants per capita in North America.
With delis and bakeries and diners galore, Montreal offers great budget dining. Venues are scattered all over the city, but the largest concentration of restaurants is along boul Saint-Laurent, rue Saint-Denis and ave du Mont-Royal in the Plateau. Tasty and cheap ethnic food, lots of Indian buffets, can be found around the Jean-Talon market.
Two Montreal classics, poutine and the smoked meat sandwich, can make a filling meal for under $10. Pizza-by-the-slice can be had for a toonie (2$), and there's always the option of rolling your own picnic with fresh produce from Marché Atwater or Jean Talon Market.
Several kosher restaurants can be found within a few blocks of each other on Queen Mary road not far from the Snowdon Métro station in and boul Décarie near Villa-Maria-des-Neiges in Côte-des-Neiges. The other greatest concentration of kosher food in along Bernard in Outremont.
Smoked-meat and sausage poutine aside, Montreal is vegetarian-friendly with several veggie and vegan restaurants and veggie options on most menus.
Montreal has a number of excellent ice cream parlours, many of which make their own ice cream. There are also a number of restaurants dedicated to desserts.
Local restaurant chains that travelers might not be familiar with, with various locations throughout the city, include :
The legal age to purchase alcohol in Québec is 18 and the Quebecois are now much more rigid in enforcing this age limit. All retail alcohol sales stop at 11 p.m. and bars and clubs stop serving at 3 a.m.
Quality wine and liquor (but only a small selection of imported beers) can only be purchased at SAQ shops, most of which are open until 6p.m. Sunday to Wednesdays and 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. on other days; the smaller SAQ Express outlets are open daily from 11AM to 10PM. Beer and a small selection of lower-quality wine are also sold at convenience stores (dépanneurs) and grocery stores. Some supermarkets have partnered with the SAQ to offer a few selection bottles, so if you are caught outside business hours or are in a hurry, places like IGA Extra and MÉTRO generally offer a better variety of wine than the local dépanneur.
The selection of beer to be found in grocery stores and even the humble corner store have exploded in the last decade in and around greater Montreal. Two micro-breweries in particular are world-class: McAuslan (brands include St-Ambroise and Griffon) and Unibroue (Belgian-style ales such as Blanche de Chambly, Maudite, La Fin du Monde, as well as simpler, more affordable U lagers). Boréale makes a good, if unspectacular range of brews, while Rickard's and Alexander Keith's domestics are gaining popularity among locals. Most stores also sell a few major imports such as Stella Artois, Sapporo, Guinness, Leffe and of course, Heineken.
Montreal has three main strips for bar-hopping. Rue Crescent, in the western part of downtown, caters mostly to Anglophones and tourists. It tends to be trendy and expensive. On the edge of the bar-heavy Plateau, Boulevard Saint-Laurent gets extremely busy when McGill and Concordia students are back in town for a new session. Between rue Sherbrooke and avenue des Pins you'll find trendy clubs and bars with more of a Francophone clientele. Farther up St-Laurent, it's relatively downscale and linguistically mixed. Rue Saint-Denis, between rue Sherbrooke and de Maisonneuve, is the strip with the strongest Francophone feel. 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 an unlimited choice. Depending on the day of the week, the best events vary. For example, on Tuesday you should go to Les Foufounes Électriques for cheap beer and an unique experience.
Dance clubs can be found all over the downtown area, with hotspots on boulevard Saint-Laurent and rue Crescent.
After-hours clubs, for those who aren't tired out by 3 a.m., are open a.m.-10a.m.. Note that they do not, by law, serve alcohol at this time.
Gay and lesbian
Montreal has as many gay and lesbian bars as San Francisco and every October on Canadian Thanksgiving (Columbus Day in the U.S.) hosts the "Black and Blue" circuit party, attracting thousands to enjoy the thrill of harder dance music and hordes of pretty, shirtless men. Most popular gay bars can be found in the city's Gay Village, located on the eastern stretch of Ste-Catherine and easily accessible by the Beaudry metro, between Amherst and Papineau. Unity, Parking (now moved and named Apollon), and Sky are the dance club favourites, while Cabaret Mado offers excellent drag performances. There are also numerous pubs, male strippers, restaurants, saunas, and karaoke in the area. The four main strippers bars are Stock, Campus, Taboo, and Adonis. The most popular sauna is Oasis. A good place to start any search is with this gay owned and operated link  for Montreal, Quebec, Canada with gay travel info in easy-to-use listings as a directory.
For the budget traveler, Montreal offers youth hostels with dorms or private rooms as well as budget bed and breakfasts (sometimes with very skimpy breakfasts). The densest collection of budget hotels are in the Latin Quarter, in the streets east of Berri-UQAM metro and the long distance bus station. Old Montreal has a couple of quality hostels, but you'll pay more to be there. Montreal is also the city with the most Couch Surfing members, so it is easy to find a hospitable local host for a few nights.
Mid-range options include Downtown chain hotels to "gîtes", guest houses that range from a single room in an apartment to elegant historic homes with three to five rooms. Gîtes are usually found in the more residential neighbourhoods like the Plateau.
Montreal is home to four major universities and numerous smaller schools. Students routinely sublet apartments in the summer months.
Montreal has four area codes: the long-standing 514, the newer 438, and 450 as well as now 579 for surrounding, off-island areas. The area code must be used for all calls: even if it's the same one you're calling from and even if calling next door. For example, calling a 514 number from within 514, use "514-123-4567". Dialing the same number from outside 514 area would be 1-514-123-4567.
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 are also long-standing cyber/internet cafés (minus the café part) such as Battelnet 24 at many locations in Montreal including one at mezzanine level in the rue Guy entrance of Guy-Concordia metro.
Of course, free internet access is the best kind of internet. The organization Île Sans Fil  provides free wireless internet in cafes and other locations throughout the city. Look for the sticker outside participating venues. The Eaton Centre downtown offers free wireless access in the food court.
Also, the Grande Bibliothèque (Great Library) has many freeinternet terminals: you can get a library card (free to Quebec residents with proof of address) to use it there.
Red Canada Post mailboxes are found along most main streets. Post offices are often located inside pharmacies: look for the Canada Post logo.
For emergencies call 9-1-1.
Although Montreal is Canada's second largest city, it shares Canada's low violent crime rates making it relatively safe. However, property crimes, including car theft, are remarkably high: make sure to lock your doors and keep your valuables with you. Take extra care if you want to visit Montréal-Nord or Saint-Michel. These neighbourhoods are the worst of the city and shootings are not unheard of in these areas. There is, however, little for tourists to do and they are unlikely to enter by accident.
Part of Montreal's Sainte-Catherine downtown corridor is arguably the grittiest part of the city, especially east of Place des Arts. There are homeless people panhandling during the summer and fall. Although most of them are polite, there are some that are more aggressive. Avoid individuals wandering on the streets that appear intoxicated. The street is at its most dangerous around 3:00 a.m. when closing clubs and bars empty their drunkcrowds into the street. You may also come across occasional pockets of street prostitution, especially around strip clubs.
In Montreal, pickpockets are not very common, but keep an eye on things when watching street performances in the Old City or in other crowds.
If you are concerned about safety on the metro, 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, which is generally safe. While written instructions are in both English and French, most announcements (usually about delays) are in French only so if you think you heard something in the announcement that may affect you, just try asking a fellow passenger for a translation.
As well the STM, Société de transport de Montréal offers a "between stops" (entre deux arrêts) service that allows women travelling alone at night to get off the bus between two regularly designated stops when/if the bus driver feels they can stop the bus safely.
In the winter months homeless and transients tend to gather in the various metro stop stations. Proceed with caution and don't travel alone late at night into these zones. The entrance to Square Victoria on Beaver Hall is one such place.
Pedestrians and bike-riders should be especially careful. Crosswalks are rarely respected. Motorists have a general contempt for pedestrians, especially when they are trying to make a right turn at an intersection.
Wasps are a considerable menace during the height of summer. Consider carrying vinegar on your person in case of stings to help neutralize the sting. Otherwise, see below if you are allergic for the nearest hospital.
Montreal is often icy and cold in winter, be careful by dressing appropriately for the conditions and be mindful of ice or snow anytime you are driving or walking. Street clearing of snow is generally effective but watch out for ever present black ice! Summers are warm to hot and can be quite humid. Being surrounded by rivers adds to this effect.
The closest hospital to Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport International airport is the Lakeshore General Hospital located at 160 avenue Stillview in Pointe-Claire. (514-630-2225)
The Montreal General Hospital is located at 1650 avenue Cedar. (514-934-1934)
The Royal Victoria Hospital is located at 687 avenue des Pins ouest. (514-843-1650)
The Jewish General Hospital is located at 3755 rue Côte Ste-Catherine. (514-340-8222)
If you do not have Quebec Health Insurance, be prepared to pay by credit card at the door as it does not accept traveller's insurance (but you will be reimbursed when you return home). (514-630-2225)
GoAbroad.com Has a mostly comprehensive list of all consulates in Canada listed by country indicating which cities have a consulate. The consulate's contact information, address, phone, fax e-mail and web page, is included.
The Gazette is the city's English-language daily.
If you have some French, hit the "voir.ca" website for good resto reviews and an overview of what is happening.
As in the rest of Quebec, language politics and Quebec sovereignty are contentious issues in Montreal. Don't make the assumption that all Quebecers are in favor of Quebec's separation from Canada as some are against it. If you really want to discuss those topics with locals, be sure you are well-informed. It is still safer to avoid the subject, as it is still a very emotional issue. Use common sense and be respectful.
The first language in all of Quebec is French. Making an attempt to use the language is a great way to show respect for locals, whether or not they can speak English, even if you can manage only a few words with a very strong accent. However, it should be noted that Montreal is considered to be one of the world's most bilingual cities with a significant minority of residents whose primary language is English. In case of doubt, you may want to open with a warm "Bonjour!" (Good day) and see what language is used in response. Most likely you will be answered in English, if your French accent does not sound local. Try not to be offended if you are trying to speak French and locals respond to you in English. Since most Montrealers speak both French and English, with ease, they are simply trying to make things easier for you.
Many people in the city and especially those working in the tourist and service industries are completely bilingual speaking either language without any accent making the city very cosmopolitan. Don't make jokes about French people (especially since francophones in Montreal are mostly Québécois with a few Acadiens and Franco-Ontariens, all of whom consider themselves different from the French from France and from one another and its just plain uncivilized!). Also, do not assume that all Québécois are francophones. Montreal has a significant English-speaking community with a long history in Quebec and many immigrants whose first language is neither English nor French.
Montreal makes an excellent entryway for visiting other cities and destinations in Quebec and northern United States. Remember that you will have to pass the border control if you go to the US, and arm yourself with the appropriate Visas and papers. Add at least one extra hour for the border control.