Montreal is a proudly French city. It began as a French fur trading post. Its official language is French, and many Montrealers insist on speaking it. Even the way the city looks and feels is often described as Parisian. Montreal’s colorful townhouses, bohemian lifestyle and love of dining and the arts all mirror the French capital. Check out the cafés and bookstores of Plateau-Mont-Royal in the city’s northeast for the purest taste of Montreal’s Parisian spirit.
Thanks largely to its Old Port, Montreal has historically been a wealthy trade city and much of the city’s elegant architecture was built on a grand scale. Step inside massive churches like Notre-Dame Basilica, where Celine Dion was married, and St. Joseph’s Oratory, the largest church in Canada. Head for the glistening silver dome of the Bonsecours Market, which was built to show off the city’s grandeur to visitors. Explore and shop in the extensive Underground City, which is the largest subsurface complex in the world.
Montreal is a city of festivals and features a year-round calendar that peaks in the summer months. Festivals dedicated to jazz, fireworks and stand-up comedy annually attract millions of visitors from across the world. Many are held in the Quartier des Spectacles among the skyscrapers of Downtown. Thanks to Montreal’s world-class concert halls and outdoor stages, many of these festivals are considered the best of their kind.
Montreal is located in the very south of the Canadian province of Quebec, only 45 miles (72 kilometers) from the U.S. border. The city rests on an island between the St. Lawrence River and the Rivière des Prairies with a hill at its center, called Mount Royal.
Though Montreal is spread wide across the island, an excellent public transportation system makes it easy to navigate without a car. The metro is the most convenient option, with 68 stations throughout the city and cheap visitor deals like three-day or weekend passes available. Montreal’s creativity is clear even on the metro: each station was designed by a different architect in a distinct style, so the metro is as vibrant as the city itself.