Discover Montreal like a local!
Welcome to Montreal, Bienvenue à Montréal! The bilingual city is the perfect mix between a charming western European city and a modern North American city. Between great food, beautiful views and 100+ festivals year-round, the city offers plenty of activities to do in winter as well as during summer. Known simultaneously for being a party city, a foodie heaven and being a highly cultural and historic destination, the metropolis never ceases to marvel locals and visitors alike.
Montreal can either be the perfect weekend getaway or a week-long destination combined with other day trips. The whole charm of the city really uncovers when you live in it. So, I decided to do a series of posts so you can to be seduced by the city as Montrealers do.
Be sure to scroll all the way down for all the blog articles!
Since I’m a full-time 9to5er, I will be writing about Montreal, my adoptive hometown, when I’m not travelling. Through these local guides #BRBinMontreal, I take you through my favourite neighbourhoods, where to eat the famous bagels and bike paths that will take you off the beaten path. Explore parks that are not Mount Royal, see the great murals and graffiti that embellish our streets among other tips.
Through this series, you will explore Montreal like a local!
Montreal at a glance
Montreal is the second most populous city in Canada (after Toronto) and the biggest francophone city in the Americas. It is a metropolis of almost 2 million people.
Montreal is an island in the middle of the St-Lawrence River and it is situated in the province of Quebec, the only 100% francophone province in Canada.
In Montreal we speak French and English. Don’t worry if your French is a little rusty, however, we do appreciate people going the extra mile to speak a little French. You don’t speak any French? No worries, you can at least learn a few words like Merci (thank you) and Bonjour (Hello).
The French created the city more than 375 years ago. However, the First Nations have inhabited the land long before the Europeans arrived to claimed it their own.
The city has more than 800 public art.
Montreal hosts more than 110 festivals per year!
In June 2006, Montreal was officially designated a UNESCO City of Design, joining the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.
Best time to visit Montreal?
The weather in Montreal can be unpredictable, to say the least. Summers are very hot and winters are extremely cold. However, every season has its own charm and things to do.
In my opinion, the best time to visit Montreal is during the Summer months (May to August). It feels like Montrealers cannot get enough of the good temperatures and live outside on the bar patios and parks. The Summer is home of the best festivals such as the Montreal International Jazz Festival and the Montreal’s Just For Laughs Comedy Festival. During the summertime, you can also enjoy outdoor patios (called terraces in Montreal) with breathtaking views of the city or enjoy the fireworks competition at one of these pop-up terraces. Here is the list of the Top 7 things to do in Montreal during the Summer!
Autumn is also a great time to visit with the beautiful fall foliage. Also, the temperatures are a little chilly but very pleasant. One of the major events is the POP Montreal, mishmash festival of music, art and fashion. If not, my favourite, MTL à table, a foodie festival.
Ahh Winter! The longest season in Montreal. I must admit that I hate Winter so I might not be the best ambassador for this season. However, the city does look beautiful under the white veil. If you love winter sports or just winter in general, then this is for you! The biggest event is the Montréal En Lumière, a foodie and entertainment event, with la Nuit Blanche being held outside.
You will see that Spring disappears in the blink of an eye. One day you will have positive temperatures, the next you will have snow and then it will feel like Summer again. The city comes alive in this season as everyone cannot wait to go outside and leave their boots and jacket behind. Beware that if you are allergic to pollen this could be a horrible season to come due to our seasonal allergies.
My main advice will be to look up at the temperature before coming to the city so you can pack accordingly. If you don’t have the appropriate winter gear, I would suggest coming during Summer or Autumn.
Know the Lingo!
Montrealers, we love to mix both languages so don’t be surprised to hear a converstation half in French, half in English! Here are words or expressions that will help you understand us better:
The Dep: The dep is a convenience store or a corner store. It comes from the French verb “dépanner” which means to help out or to fix. If you are from New York, these will be similar to the Bodegas.
Terrasse: These are outdoor patios. We locals love to hang out outside, enjoy the sun with a beer in our hands.
5@7: This is the term for "Happy Hour". We are Bon Vivants so 1 hour of good time was not enough for us!
Metro: This is the subway, we use the french word Métro.
Loony/Toony: This is specially for our Americans friends. A loony is a one-dollar coin and a toony is a two-dollar coin.
Practical information about Montreal
Tools to help you plan your trip:
Download these apps to help you navigate the city and help you plan your itinerary
You can buy MTL Passport which allows you to visit up to 28 of Montreal's must-see attractions at great rates, including public transit.
If you have specific dates in mind, use this tool to see what is going on in the city within that time frame.
Montreal can be easily visited by foot, public transportation and bike.
The Public transportation system works fairly well. The STM is the name of the public transport company and has buses as well as a subway system. The STM offers great deals on weekends and weekly passes to help you see the city by public transportation. Please be aware that the subway is not 24h and it closes between 11 pm or 1 am depending on the day and the line. You also have 23 bus lines that work at night. Here is all the info you need for public transportation.
Did you know that the city has around 850 km of bike paths? You can use BIXI, they are self-service bike system that helps you explore the city easily! It costs $ 5.25 access fee to take a bike to one of the 540 terminals scattered in the city. The first 30 minutes, regardless of the number of trips made in a day, are always free! If you want to, you can also rent bikes for the duration of your trip, however, you will need to google the stores that allow you to do that. Bicycles are allowed in the first metro car in the summer, outside festival days or special events. The city just welcomed JUMP, electric bikes, and Lime, electric scooters. I have not had the chance to try them yet. Be sure to read where you can park them to avoid getting a ticket.
Taxis and Uber are also widely used in the city.
Transportation in and outside the city by car can be difficult since the city is undergoing a major infrastructure makeover so I would suggest to leave the car and embrace discovering the city by foot, bike or public transport. Also, the signs for parking can be extremely confusing, so you can skip having a headache of where to park. If you decide to drive in the island, you need to know that you cannot turn right when the red light is on.
Where to stay?
Montreal is a city of neighbourhoods, much like New York, every neighbourhood feels like its own little city. Most hotels are located in Old Montreal and Downtown. Other great places to stay are The Plateau, Little Italy and the South West, if you are looking for vacation rentals. All of these parts of the city are filled with great restaurants, bars and shops.
The currency is the Canadian Dollar, the sign is $. The dollar can be easily found abroad at any currency exchange offices. Credit and debit cards are accepted everywhere.
It is customary to tip around 15% of the final price. If you are horible at math like me, you can sum the 2 taxes and it will give you a ball park amount of what you have to tip.
The voltage in Canada is 110 Volt, the same as in the rest of Canada and the US.
Montreal is among the safest cities in the world (according to SafeAround's global ranking).
Articles about Montreal
GETTING in and out of the city
Whether you are looking for a day trip or a multi-day trip, here is the ultimate list for great getaway trips from Montreal that you have been looking for!
Centrally located, Montreal is 6-hour drive away from Toronto, 2-hour from Ottawa and 3-hour from Quebec City. These destinations can also be easily reached by train, car and by bus.
If you are more into nature and small towns, you can visit the Laurentides with Mont-Tremblant being the leading destination. On the south shore, you can visit the Eastern Townships and Quebec’s wine route. The townships are my favourite region outside of Montreal.
Lastly, Montreal is only 1:00 away from the U.S. border. Bordering states are New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
Below are some useful information to get in and out of the city:
Airport: Montreal has an international airport called Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL). From the airport, you can take the bus 747 that will leave you in the main subways stations like Lionel Groulx and Berri-Uqam. However, I would suggest taking an Uber or a Taxi since the bus doesn’t come very often and often gets delayed due to the roadwork. How much do these costs? The bus costs $10 to get in and out of the city. Taxis have a flat fee of $41 to get to downtown. The airport is located around 25km away from the city center.
Train: Unfortunetly, the rail system in North America is not develop at all when compared to Eastern Europe and Japan. In Canada is Via Rail that operatd the trains from coast to coast. The train can be taken at the Gare Centrale (Central station), located at the Bonaventure metro station.
Bus: The are several buses that connect the city. You can take the buses at the Gare d'autocars de Montréal, it is near the Berri-Uqam metro station.
Looking for day trips or weekend getaways from Montreal?
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