A Visit to Montreal – Canada’s Truly International City


When I think of Montreal, I picture the city in North America which reminds me the most of Europe. For one thing Montreal is old. It dates back to 1642. The second thing is French is spoken as the first language by almost 67% of her residents. With this in mind, let’s plan our next trip with an eye and ear to the international flavor of the city, as well as its history.

The city covers most of the Island of Montreal. It is located where the St. Lawrence River and the Ottawa River converge. It is named after Mount Royal which is a hill sitting just west of downtown. As with many city names, there are several versions of how Mount Royal became Montreal. One fact is known though: the original name of the city was Ville-Marie and was called that on all official documents until 1705 when the name Montreal appeared.

Montreal is located in the Canadian province of Quebec. It was once the capitol of Canada until the capital was moved to Ottawa in 1849 after a Tory mob of protesters burned the Parliament building. It is the second largest city in Canada and is the ninth largest in North America. It is also the second largest French speaking city in the world, second only to Paris.

Montreal is made up of 19 large boroughs further subdivided into neighborhoods. Some of these boroughs were actually separate cities until they were incorporated into the city in 2002. The borough with the most neighborhoods is Ville-Marie (there’s that name again) which includes downtown, Chinatown and Old Montreal among others.

Old Montreal via Dickbauch via WikiMedia Commons

Old Montreal is the historic district in the southeast area of downtown. This is where you will find the Old Port of Montreal, Montreal City Hall, the Bonsecours Market and the Notre Dame de Montreal Basilica. This is the area I picture when I think of Montreal as a European city.

There are many stops you will want to make in Montreal. Among them is the Biosphere which is an environmental museum. The Biodome de Montreal has the ecosystems of the Americas recreated complete with plants and animals. There is a fragment of the Berlin Wall on display downtown which was donated by the city of Berlin on Montreal’s 350th anniversary.  You will want to see the Bell Centre which is the perfect venue for hockey, concerts and stage shows.

Montreal is well known for its sports teams. If you are an ice hockey fan, then you have heard of the Montreal Canadiens.  The Canadiens have won 24 NHL trophies. The Montreal Alouettes have won the Grey Cup of Canadian Football seven times. In baseball the Montreal Expos were a member of the National League for 36 years before moving to Washington, D.C. and becoming the Washington Nationals. Montreal is also the home of the Canadian Gran Prix of the Formula One series. It takes place on the famous Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Gran Prix via Colocho via WikiMedia Commons

You can reach Montreal by air. The Montreal-Pierre Trudeau International Airport is the home of Air Canada and Air Transat. This is the fourth busiest airport in Canada. You may reach Montreal by train. Both VIA Rail with trains to Toronto and Quebec City and the Amtrak’s Adirondack and its daily trips to New York City operate out of Central Station. Eighteen million passengers use this station yearly.

If you are traveling to Montreal from the United States, remember that you will need a current passport to enter Canada and to return home. Gone are the days when you could cross the border with only a driver’s license issued by your home state.

There is much more to be said concerning Montreal and the province of Quebec, but I will leave that for another day. For now I will just encourage you to visit our lovely neighbor to the north of us, and for sure, do not miss visiting the city of Montreal.

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