Montreal - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Montreal


The world's largest inland port, Montreal was founded as a missionary village in 1642, a century after Jacques Cartier discovered the area. The French stayed in control of the growing settlement until 1760 when the British stepped in, sparking a now centuries-old French resentment of the British interference. Despite some undeniable English architectural and cultural influences, Montreal is today one of the world's largest French-speaking cities, set on an overwhelmingly English-speaking continent, and a metropolis of international repute, framed between Mont Royal and the St Lawrence River.

The city is in the south of Canada's Quebec province, only 37 miles (60km) from the United States border, and is an important hub of North American trade. It is a spacious, beautiful city characterised by a series of underground shopping and recreation complexes, linked by walkways and the metro. This subterranean city contains more than 18.5 miles (30km) of office and apartment complexes, major stores, hotels, restaurants, metro stations, parking garages, movie theatres, concert halls and more, all snugly accessible during the snowy winters.

Its population is a multicultural mix, which has fostered a vibrant cultural life, cemented by its French and British roots. There are several theatres offering year-round theatre, ballet and music performances, and a number of art galleries and museums. Like most Canadian cities, Montreal has interspersed urban development with green areas. In this case pride is taken by the spacious Parc du Mont-Royal, designed by Frederic Olmsted, the American landscape artist who also designed Central Park in New York. The city also has 30 museums and numerous other attractions of interest to visitors all year round.

Information & Facts


With predominantly wet, warm summers and cold, snowy winters, the climate of Montreal is varied and seasonal. In winter snowfall is abundant, and snow is common both in spring and autumn. Temperatures well below freezing are experienced in winter, and the bitter weather is exacerbated by wind chill. Summer brings sunshine and pleasant days, with high humidity on occasion, although highs seldom exceed 74°F (25°C). Rain can be expected any time of year in Montreal, but summer tends to be the wettest season. A feature of the climate of Montreal is the possibility of late autumn heat waves, enjoyed as 'Indian summers', which frequently occur.

Getting Around

Montreal's sensible layout combined with an extensive and super-efficient public transport system (Metro, bus and commuter rail services) make getting around the city easy. In fair weather hundreds of kilometres of bike paths that span the island offer a healthier, pleasant option. Public transport is run by the Montreal Transport Society, or STM. The pristine metro has dozens of stations along four different lines with numerous stops in the subterranean mall. The metro stops are all integrated with a comprehensive network of city bus routes. The metro and buses run between 5.30am and 1am, with a limited night bus service filling in. The inner city services in turn connect to a commuter rail network that serves the suburbs. Fares are standard on both the bus and metro and transfers are free; a discounted tourist pass is available for bus and metro. Metered taxis can be hailed in the streets downtown or ordered by telephone. There are numerous car rental firms in the city, but roads are often heavily congested and traffic jams are common.

The official languages are English and French (predominantly in Quebec).

The currency used is the Canadian Dollar (CAD), which is divided into 100 cents. One-dollar coins are also known as loonies (due to the picture of a loon, a type of bird, on the coin), and two-dollar coins as toonies. Banks and bureaux de change will change money and travellers cheques, as will some hotels, but the rate will not be as good. Major credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are plentiful. US Dollars are largely accepted, though due to fraud, larger notes might not be and change is usually given in Canadian dollars.


Montreal's nightlife has been famous for the last century, ever since it was known as a 'sin city' during Prohibition in the 1920s. is home to Canada's hottest nightlife, with more clubs, bars and nocturnal activities than the rest of country combined. The best areas for a night out are St-Laurent, with trendy, fashionable clubs and bars that are constantly being reinvented. Crescent is a popular area with those wanting an evening out involving conversation and is hence a good choice for couples and diners. The Latin Quarter lives up to its name with a lively party scene, attracting students and tourists in substantial numbers in the summer months when the good times spill into the streets. The Gay Village is a very lively cocktail of charming cafés, pumping nightclubs and gaudy strip joints, and it enjoys a reputation as the most raucous nightlife among both gay and straight crowds. Be aware that Montreal has some fairly advanced public health regulations that mean smoking cigarettes in bars or even near them is strictly forbidden. Do so at the risk of both your health and a whopping fine. A draw-card for visiting Americans is the legal drinking age of 18, as opposed to 21 across the border. Bars in Montreal close around 3am. Clubs tend to open late and close around dawn. Entrance fees are charged, but these can be avoided by calling ahead and talking your way onto the guest lists, not nearly as hard as it sounds.

Montreal is a cultural paradise as well. The city has its own symphony orchestra, dozens of theatres, and countless venues for live music concerts ranging from intimate clubs to international arena tours. The Cultural Window of Montréal sells tickets to many cultural events, and sometimes has last-minute deals. The city also hosts a number of internationally regarded festivals, including the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Montreal Film Festival, the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, and the Montreal International Fireworks Competition.

To see what's on during your visit see the listings sections of the free alternative weeklies The Mirror and Hour. Also worth a look is Nightlife Magazine, published quarterly.


Montreal is one of those rare international cities where shopping actually enhances one's experience of the destination. Rather than kitsch souvenirs from plastic chain stores, the shopping in Montreal is as cultured and glamourous as any othe aspect of the city. Not only does Montreal have boutiques and organic markets in equal measure, but it is the world's only underground city in which to shop. If you're here in winter this subterranean retail experience will be a welcome refuge from the icy gloom above and a highlight of your trip to Montreal. The Underground City has over 20 miles (30km) of passageways connecting all the Montreal Metros with over 1,600 little boutiques, 200 restaurants and 34 cinemas. Over 500,000 local people use the city every day, so plan your visit during office hours when it is much quieter. Montreal's two best markets are at opposite ends of the city. Marché Jean-Talon is an enormous open-air produce market selling high-quality goods, including fresh and organic maple syrup which you can buy by the litre - a truly authentic Quebec gift for sweet-toothed friends back home. Marché Atwater is another good option; it has wonderful baked goods like artisanal breads and other fresh produce on offer. The best Montreal shopping districts are Avenue Laurier Ouest, a centre of designer boutiques and foodie stores; Cours Mont-Royal for its haute couture and fashion accessories; and Ste-Catherine Street which attracts trendy stores and their customers. You can also find the iconic shopping centre Faubourg Ste-Catherine near here. For unique Montreal gifts, don't miss the Canadian Guild of Crafts Québec, which sells aboriginal art and local artisan works. This is a good place to pick up classic Canadian souvenirs like furs and Native Indian crafts like dream weavers, polished stone jewellery, leather goods and musical instruments. Another must-visit is Marché Bonsecours in Old Montreal, which has an eclectic and interesting range of shops that are well worth visiting. Explore the side streets for other interesting outlets, the perfect opportunity to pick up a unique memento of your visit to Montreal. To get the ultimate selection of maple products head to Les Délices de l'Erable in Old Montreal. And if you want a main course to go with it get some Brome Lake Duck, which is considered by many chefs to be North America's finest, and associated products like pate and foie gras. (If sealed, customs in most countries will have no objection to you importing these foodstuffs.)


Despite its harsh winters, Montreal is in fact a year-round destination, and travellers will be able to enjoy the bustling city's attractions and festivities no matter what season they choose to visit. Whether you enjoy outdoor sports or a trip to the opera, there are plenty of things to see and do in Montreal.

Check out Olympic Park, which hosts baseball games and concerts, or visit Old Montréal which contains beautiful historical buildings dating from the 17th to 19th centuries as well as a few museums. The nearby old port (Vieux Port de Montreal) is a popular place for tourists as it features a huge open-air skating rink, Imax cinema, and a Science and Technology Center as well as plenty of restaurants and cafés. Many tourists also take boat tours from here; a good option is to take a ferry ride across to the Parc des Iles, where the 1967 World's Fair site offers outdoor family activities like picnic facilities, swimming, skating or skiing in winter.

One sight that cannot be missed is dome of St Joseph's Oratory which can be seen perched on the flank of Mont Royal from miles away. This famous pilgrimage site attracts over two million visitors each year. In downtown Montreal, several blocks are connected by 18 miles (30 km) of underground arcades and malls, where shoppers will be able to enjoy enclosed walking areas and great shopping opportunities even when the weather is bad.

Visitors should purchase the STM Tourist Card which allows unlimited access to the bus and metro service for either one or three consecutive days.

Canada covers six time zones, from GMT 8 in the west to GMT -3.5 in the east.

In close proximity to the Olympic Park, the Montreal Botanical Garden is one of the largest of its kind, home to over 22,000 plant species and roughly 30 exquisitely mapped out gardens, making it well worth a visit any time of year. Begun in 1931 in the midst of a financial crisis in the city, the Garden provided work for thousands of unemployed Montrealers and has since developed into a popular tourist attraction, with its astounding array of plants and trees. An array of interesting sights and sounds await the visitor, including the Tree House (highlighting the important role of trees in our lives), a First Nations Garden (illustrating the interaction of Inuit and Amerindians with nature), a Chinese Garden, the Quebec Butterfly House, a Medicinal Plant Garden, Planetarium and so much more.

During the past 140 years the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has assembled one of North America's finest encyclopaedic collections, totalling more than 30,000 objects. The collections include Canadian art, contemporary art, Inuit and Amerindian Art, European Masters, prints and drawings and decorative arts. The museum also regularly features special exhibitions and activity programmes for adults, students and children.

Montreal's futuristic Olympic Park was built for the 1976 Summer Olympic Games and still serves as a showpiece today. Designed by French architect, Roger Tallibert, it is impressive in both size and shape, able to hold up to 80,000 spectators who now gather here for concerts and baseball games. The landmark tower on the main stadium, standing at 575 feet (175m), is the world's tallest inclined tower. Visitors can enjoy a spectacular view of Montreal and its surroundings from the observation floors, accessible by a funicular-type elevator. Pop over to view the wonderful Botanical Gardens opposite the park, which are the second largest in the world.

St Joseph's Oratory is a landmark in Montreal, its imposing dome on the northwest flank of Mont Royal visible for miles. This Oratory is a famous pilgrimage site, despite only being completed in 1967, attracting over two million visitors and pilgrims each year. It was founded by Brother Andre, a beloved monk who was known as the miracle-worker of Mount Royal because of his healing abilities. Work began on the basilica after his death in 1937. Its dome is the second largest in the world, being 318 feet (97m) high; it is second only to St Peter's in Rome. The Oratory's carillon is made up of 56 bells that were originally cast for the Eiffel Tower in Paris; the Oratory acquired them in 1956. Visitors can climb the 283 steps from street level to the basilica's portico for beautiful vistas over the city.

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