Welcome to Montreal!
A North American city with a little European flair, Montreal, Canada, was once the capital of the country and its most important economic hub. All kinds of people, from the Queen of England to Mark Twain and Salvador Dali, have come to Montreal to take in its unique charms, laid back atmosphere, and “joie de vivre.” Now, this guide will help you find those charms as well, so you can be a worldwide local in La Métropole.
Where Did Montreal Get Its Name?
Montreal was founded in the 1500s, and by 1642, the city was named Ville Marie, after the Virgin Mary. Afterwards, the name “Montreal” was given to the island because of the mountain in the heart of the city (0ne you can fully appreciate as you fly into the Montreal airport), essentially combining the words “Mount” and “Royal.”
Worldwide Local Tip: Despite the fact that the French language is the majority language in Montreal, signs will always be written in both French and English, making the city effectively bilingual. This helps anyone working in the service industry have the ability to accommodate you in both languages. It always helps, however, to brush up on your French.
Begin Your Visit With a Walk to the Top of the City
If you’re visiting this incredible city, start your visit at its heart. A walk up Mount Royal is the best way to see the city, and one of the most breathtaking things to do in Montreal. Make sure you wear your hiking shoes because it is quite a walk. There are ways to drive up the mountain, but locals will tell you that the walk is a lot more pleasant, and when you’re in Montreal, time is to be savored. There is a lookout at the top which offers some fantastic views of the city, so bring your camera. Despite the fact that tourists come here, it is never too crowded or busy, and it is free. A little higher up the mountain is a giant cross, marking where one of the city’s founders planted a wooden cross to honor the Virgin Mary. Local legend has it that no building in Montreal is to ever be built higher than the cross on the mountain.
Worldwide Local Tip: Every Sunday during the summer months, the park at the foot of the mountain hosts it’s weekly Tam-Tam sessions. Locals come and play hand drums, hang out, and picnic, enjoying the lovely Montreal weather. It is always a diverse crowd of people and is very liberal on its marijuana use (which, as of October 2018, is legal). If jam sessions aren’t your thing, there is also LARP-ing with giant foam weapons.
Where and What to Eat
Montreal is home to some of the best restaurants in Canada. In fact, next to New York City, Montreal has more restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the world. No matter what you’re craving, chances are there’s a spot in Montreal where you can get it. Because of the city’s large and diverse culture, locals know the food scene here is unbeatable. Take a walk through Little Italy, Chinatown, or up to St Laurent, and let the sights and smells decide which are the best restaurants in Montreal to you.
Worldwide Local Tip: The Montreal transit system is cheap and can take you anywhere. Don’t be afraid to leave the downtown area and to explore some of the outer neighborhoods, and find the best spots to grab a bite.
Locals know that no matter what time of the year it is, whether it is the dead of winter or the scorching heat of summer, there’s always a festival going on. Montreal is known as the city of festivals. From music, like Osheaga and the Montreal Jazzfest, to comedy, like the legendary Just For Laughs or racing with the F1 Festival, there is almost always an event happening--and those just barely scratch the surface. Locals know that these are some of the best summer fests, but also don’t be afraid to check out Montreal during its winter festivals, like Nuit Blanche or the outdoor EDM festival Igloofest.
Worldwide Local Tip: Festival season attracts a lot of tourists from around Canada and the world. Always make sure to book accommodations in advance because the Montreal hotels will fill up fast, and will charge a premium during these times.
Enjoy Montreal as a Worldwide Local!
Tourists come to Montreal to take in its unique culture, delicious food, and fun atmosphere. A worldwide local, however, knows how to make the most out of visiting this slice of Europe in North America. Locals love a person who tries to fit in, so don’t let the language scare you, and definitely don’t let the winter frighten you off. If you don’t, you’ll be treated to some of the best the city has to offer.