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Montreal Travel Information
Montreal is the second largest city in Canada and the largest city in the province of Quebec. At the 2001 Canadian Census, there were 1,583,590 people living on the current territory of the city of Montreal proper (new 2006 demerged territory). The population of the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area (also known as Greater Montreal Area) is estimated at 3,635,700 in 2005 (Statistics Canada), making it one of the largest French-speaking metropolitan area in the world. Montreal is ranked as the 15th largest metropolitan area in the Americas and 77th in the world. The city is the largest part of the Quebec region of Montréal. It is the second most densely populated city in Canada.
Festivals and Events in Montreal
As in most parts of Quebec, French is the most common spoken language in the city. Nevertheless, Montreal has a substantial anglophone population and many of the residents are bilingual. Montreal is a "Gamma" global city, hosting a multitude of international festivals and events including the XXI Summer Olympiad, Juste pour Rire (Just for Laughs) comedy festival, the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix, the Montreal World Film Festival, and many others. During the period of prohibition in the United States, Montreal became well-known as one of North America's "sin cities" with unparalleled nightlife, a reputation it still holds today. In 2005, only 35 homicides were committed in the city, one of the lowest numbers in its history. Montreal has the highest concentration of post-secondary students of all major cities in North America. The city is a centre of health and aerospace science. In 2005, it won the distinction of being chosen UNESCO's "World Book Capital City 2005–2006" due to its vibrant literary scene.
Montreal is situated in the south western corner of Quebec approximately 270 kilometres (168 miles) southwest of Quebec City, the provincial capital, and 190 kilometres (118 mi) east of Ottawa, the federal capital, and 539 kilometres (335 mi) northeast of Toronto.
The city is located on the Island of Montreal at the confluence of the Saint Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers. The port of Montreal lies at one end of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which is the river gateway that stretches from the Great Lakes up into the Atlantic Ocean. Montreal is surrounded by the St-Lawrence river.
Downtown Montreal lies at the foot of Mount Royal, which is designated as a major urban park. The Downtown area contains dozens of notable skyscrapers — which, by law, cannot be higher than Mount Royal — including the aforementioned 1000 de La Gauchetière and 1250 René-Lévesque. The Tour de la Bourse is also a significant building in Montreal, as it is where all stock and derivative trades take place, and is also home to a successful program to encourage nesting peregrine falcons.
Shopping in Montreal
Place Ville-Marie, an I. M. Pei-designed cruciform office tower built in 1962, sits atop an underground shopping mall that forms the nexus of Montreal's underground city, one of the world's largest, with indoor access to over 1,600 shops, restaurants, offices, businesses, museums and universities, as well as metro stations, train stations, bus terminals, and tunnels extending all over downtown. The central axis for downtown is Saint Catherine Street.
Other streets like Peel, de la Montagne, de Maisonneuve and Crescent are very popular as well. Downtown Montreal is located between the mountain Mount Royal and the St Lawrence River. Two islands are located in front of the Montreal Skyline panorama, Île Ste. Hélène, and Ile Notre-Dame. The Notre Dame island hosts the Canadian Grand Prix and Formula One car races, as well as the Champ Car tournament. La Ronde (now owned by American company Six Flags) is the biggest amusement park in Montreal and is located on Île Ste. Hélène. The International Fireworks Festival is held there every summer.
The basic Skyline view may be seen from one of two lookouts on Mount Royal. The lookout at the Belevedere takes in downtown, the river, and the Montérégien Hills, and on clear days the Green Mountains of Vermont are visible. The view of eastern lookout on Remembrance Rd. sweeps out toward the Olympic Stadium, and beyond. Many tourists visit these lookouts. Montreal is known for the contrast between old and new. The Maison des Cooperants (a 146 m / 479 ft tall building) is right in front of an old church. Much of Old Montreal has been kept the way it was back in the day Montreal was first established. Old Montreal was a worldwide port, but shipping has been moved further east to the Port de Montreal site, leaving the Old Port/Vieux-Port as an historical area. The Montreal Skyline is ranked eighth in the Emporis in skyline views, a focal point in Montreal's recognition. The reason the Olympic Stadium was built 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) from downtown is that the owners thought that Montreal's downtown would expand to where the Olympic Stadium now stands.
Just southeast of downtown is Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal), an historic area with such attractions as the Old Port, Place Jacques-Cartier, City Hall, the Marché Bonsecours, Place d'Armes, Pointe-à-Callière Museum, and the Notre-Dame de Montréal Basilica. Architecture and cobbled streets in Old Montreal have been maintained or restored to keep the look of the city in its earliest days as a settlement, and horse-drawn calèches help maintain that image. Old Montreal was a worldwide port, but shipping has been moved further east to the Port de Montreal site, leaving the riverside area of Old Port/Vieux-Port as a recreational and historical area now maintained by Parks Canada. The most recent trip to the North Pole departed from this port. Old Montreal is also accessible from the downtown core via the underground city and is served by several STM bus routes and metro stations, ferries to the South Shore and a network of bicycle paths.
The Olympic Stadium, in the city's eastern section. Montreal was host to one of the most successful World's Fairs in history, Expo '67. Partially based upon the success of the World's Fair, Montreal was awarded the 1976 Summer Olympics. The Olympic site was built 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) from downtown in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district. Montreal's Olympic Stadium has the world's tallest inclined tower at 175 meters high and leaning at 45 degree. Until the end of the 2004 season, the stadium was the home of the Montreal Expos baseball team. The Olympic complex also includes the Montreal Biodome, Montreal Insectarium, and the Montreal Botanical Garden, one of the largest botanical gardens in the world, second only to Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in England. Two pyramidal towers, known as the Olympic Village, were built to house athletes. They now serve as apartments and offices. Today, the CFL's Montreal Alouettes play their last game of their season and playoff games in the Olympic Stadium. The anglophones nickname it the "Big O" because of its oval shaped roof. It has a capacity of up to 56 040 fans for a football game (45 000 for baseball) and it may hold more in the future when temporary overflow stands are added to the dugout pits and centre field for football. Locals also sometimes refer to the stadium as the "Big Owe" — a reference to its exorbitant total cost, which was only recently completely paid off.
Museums and cultural centres
Montreal is the centre of Quebec culture and a major centre of Canadian culture in general. It has many specialized museums such as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), the Musée d'art contemporain (MAC), the Redpath Museum, the McCord Museum of Canadian History, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. The Place des Arts cultural complex houses the MAC and several theatres, and is the seat of the Montreal Opera and for the moment the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, which is slated to receive a new concert hall adjacent to Place des Arts.
The Saint Joseph's Oratory is the largest church in Canada. Nicknamed "the city of saints," or "la ville aux cent clochers" (the city of a hundred belltowers), Montreal is renowned for its churches. As described by Mark Twain, "This is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window." The city has four Roman Catholic basilicas: Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, the aforementioned Notre-Dame Basilica, St. Patrick's Basilica, and Saint Joseph's Oratory. The Oratory is the largest church in Canada, with the largest dome of its kind in the world after that of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.
Other well-known churches include the pilgrimage church of Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Secours, which is sometimes called the Sailors' Church, and the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral, which was completely excavated and suspended in mid-air during the construction of part of the Underground City. All of the above are major tourist destinations, particularly Notre-Dame and the Oratory.
An impressive number of other churches can be found, as such that a five-minute walk is usually enough to find another one. A common expression of Montrealers is that we stumble into them walking.
Montreal has a small but active Chinatown (Quartier chinois) just south of downtown, featuring many Chinese shops and restaurants, as well as a number of Vietnamese establishments. Several of these restaurants offer dim sum from as early as 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and can be quite crowded, especially on Sundays. The principal axes of Chinatown are Saint Lawrence Boulevard and La Gauchetière Street.
The Gay Village
Montreal is known as a Queer or Gay-friendly city. Its pride festival, Divers/Cité, is claimed to be the largest in North America; organizers estimate that it drew 1.4 million people in 2002. It benefits from financial support from all three levels of government. Montreal is home to one of the largest gay villages in North America, centered around the downtown Beaudry metro station (known in French as le Village gai). Montreal is a centre of Queer life and culture in Canada and hosts several circuit parties every year. The 2006 World Outgames are to be held in Montreal.
Montreal's trendy and colorful Plateau neighborhood is located on the twin North-South axes of Saint Laurent Boulevard and Saint Denis Street, and East-West axis of Mount Royal Avenue. The cobbled, pedestrian-only Prince Arthur Street is also located in this neighborhood. In the summer, night life often seems as active as in the day in this area. It boasts the highest population density of all Montréal and the greatest number of creative people in Canada, according to Statistics Canada. The same source also states that it is the urban place where the most people travel mainly by foot, bicycle or public transport. The Plateau Mont-Royal has been dubbed the "coolest neighborhood in North America" by Wallpaper Magazine. The exterior staircase is a distinctive feature of the city's architecture.
The tiny "Mile End" district, officially part of the Plateau borough but generally considered distinct, is home to many Montreal artists and filmmakers. The city's two famous bagel emporia, the Fairmount and St-Viateur bakeries, are located on the streets of the same names. Fairmount Street is also home to Wilensky's, immortalized in Mordecai Richler's novel "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz" and Saint-Viateur is the site of several hipster cafés of note. The area has become noticeably more cash-rich in recent years, due in part to the presence of the Ubisoft studios in the district, on Saint Lawrence Boulevard.
Parc Outremont in the summerThe Outremont district is 3,84 km² with a population of 23 241. It used to be an independent town but is now part of the greater Montreal. Since the end of the first half of the 20th century, Outremont has been the host of the French upper middle-class and of a strong Jewish orthodox community.
Mount Royal is Montreal's outstanding urban park, designed in 1876 by Frederick Law Olmsted, best known as the designer of New York's Central Park. Mount Royal's features include the Chalet and the Kondiaronk Belvedere overlooking downtown Montreal (the most famous view of the city), and man-made Beaver Lake with its recently renovated pavilion. Mount Royal is topped by an illuminated cross that has become a Montreal landmark.
Observant hikers on the park's many trails will find an abundance of small wildlife. In the winter, the park is the site of numerous cross-country ski trails and a new, refrigerated skating rink near Beaver Lake.
Once, a funicular railroad brought sightseers to its peak. Unfortunately, that attraction has long since vanished. A tramway also went up the mountain on the north side, replaced in the late 1950's by the Camillien Houde Parkway, which now bisects the mountain (the parkway is named for long-time but controversial former mayor, jailed during World War II for his opposition to conscription in Canada). The "11-Montagne" bus line perpetuates the route of the tram.
Every Sunday in the summer, hundreds of people gather at the statue of Confederation co-founder George-Étienne Cartier at the foot of Mount Royal for several hours of drumming, dancing, and juggling (among many other activities), in an event that has come to be known as the Tam-Tams. It is unclear how this event started; but, as it has no formal organization and has carried on both in a lively and peaceful way since at least the late 1980s, it remains a popular event. The statue is currently undergoing extensive and long-needed renovations but the partying continues all around the construction area.
The intersection of Park and Pine Avenues (in French : Avenue du Parc, Avenue des Pins), just to the south, formerly a winding urban interchange (inspired by the New York parkways of Robert Moses), is also undergoing a major transformation to become more pedestrian-friendly.
Saint Denis Street is also the heart of the Latin Quarter of Montreal (Quartier latin), just south of the Plateau, and filled with clubs, bars, and street festivals. The principal east-west axes of this district are Saint Catherine Street and Boulevard de Maisonneuve, with Saint Denis Street as its north-south axis. The mood is bohemian.
Crescent Street is "party central" for Montreal's Anglophone population, lying at the edge of the Concordia University campus. Throughout the summer, it features street fairs and festivals. The Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix unofficially starts off Montreal's non-stop festival season in the summer. Crescent Street also features many clubs and bars. The clientele of Crescent nightclubs and bars are mostly students, tourists and in general a younger crowd looking for exhilaration and excitement. Most venues will play Top 40, rap and hip hop music. The nearest subway stops are Peel and Guy-Concordia.
Boulevard Saint-Laurent (Saint Lawrence Boulevard, known locally as "The Main") is one of the best places to find nightlife, with many bars and nightclubs and a wide range of restaurants. Saint-Laurent street night spots are often less mainstream than those on Crescent street, with a great variety; from Top 40 and urban music to electronica and techno, from underground and alternative rock to live bands. South of Prince Arthur Street, towards Sherbrooke Street, one is likely to encounter a "posher" clientele. From Prince Arthur Street north (to Mount Royal avenue & beyond), one should expect to rub shoulders with an "edgier" crowd. The nearest subway stop is Saint-Laurent.
Another notable night life spot is Ste-Catherine Street between St-Hubert and Papineau, where many gay night clubs are concentrated.
Montreal's bustling nightlife is enabled in part by its relatively late "last call" (3 a.m.), and the many restaurants and fast food joints that are open late into the night. Some bars and nightclubs charge a cover charge varying from 5 to 15$ CAD. You are expected to tip 1$ per drink. Popular late-night fare includes 99-cent pizza slices, Lebanese-style falafel sandwiches, shish taouk, and the local favourite, poutine.
Montreal Tourism Information Courtesy of Wikipedia
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